Radio Memories – Tommy Boyd.

Tommy Boyd is someone who I remember watching on the TV, but by the mid-90s he had left the screen and got into radio. Because I still had a lot of goodwill for him following his time on TV-am and CITV, I thought that I would give him a listen. I was rather surprised to discover that he was someone who was often let go from radio stations for his antics. Tommy hosted a live phone-in on Talk Radio on weekday afternoons, and he seemed to be interested in why people had particular opinions and attitudes, and what the world was all about.

He could be classed as being something of a wind-up merchant, but at least he was a good one. He would begin shows by making a statement like “I think that this should be banned”, and then wait for the response. He would often get callers who said “Tommy, you’re talking rubbish”. The next day, he would state “I think that this should be legalised”, and he’d get a different group of people say “Tommy, you’re talking rubbish”. It was as if they hadn’t actually heard him hold exactly the opposite opinion just a day earlier, and I think that he got a thrill out of doing that, even if this meant that it was difficult to know what his actual views on anything in the news were. vlcsnap-00005

He would often end up saying to inarticulate callers “you have poor communication skills!”, and this came alarmingly close to being a catchphrase. He also seemed to attract a rather large share of dotty old ladies who simply wanted to shout at him. He would often end the week with The Wonderful Hour, that was full of touching anecdotes, and was rather a contrast to the usual debate.

After this, Tommy was briefly on LBC, often presenting alongside Anne Diamond, which brought back more memories of TV-am. By the early-2000s, Tommy returned to the newly-named TalkSport, now on weekend evenings. Features included a football questions competition. And he also dedicated an hour to younger listeners, and discovered that most of them wanted to talk about wrestling (I must admit that I did occasionally watch WWF on Sky One at the weekend so I knew a little about this myself).

This was then turned into a full hour, featuring fans and pundits offering their views on what was happening on the wrestling scene (and occasionally having an argument with Tommy and pretending to throw him through a table). This resulted in Tommy putting on a big live event featuring lots of famous wrestlers grappling it out including Eddie Guerrero. Yes, the Eddie Guerrero!

And there was The Human Zoo, which put callers straight to air. Most of them seemed to be bored teenagers who had put together comedy sketches or songs, and rather a lot of them seemed to admire Tommy’s colleague Mike “I’ve had a gutful” Dickin. He also often bickered with his producer. Being in my teens at the time as well, I did enjoy this. Most of the calls were rather weird, but after having managed to put up with Timmy Mallett for many years, Tommy was ready for anything.

There was also an opening sequence which boasted of Tommy’s career achievements, including meditating within the ancient walls of Machu Pichu, and also being good showbiz friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, not like you, no. By this point, Tommy had attracted something of a cult following, although this only really meant that there was a website dedicated to his work, and about 50 men thought that he was brilliant.

Then he left again, and even briefly turned up on the BBC Local Radio circuit, before he ended up on increasingly small-time internet radio stations, talking to almost nobody at all, which was rather disappointing for someone of his stature in the business. I do hope that we haven’t heard the last of him yet though, and he can continue to share his hard-earned wisdom for a long time to come.

Radio Memories – Nick Abbot.

I thought that it was about time to look back at some more radio presenters who I have enjoyed over the years. Nick Abbot was among the launch line-up on BBC GLR in the late-80s. This was long before I was a regular radio listener, and this station has gone on to have lots of of relaunches. I first came across Nick in the late-90s, when he was a presenter on both Virgin and Talk Radio, and I can’t think of many other people who have been on two separate national radio stations at the same time.

Nick was on Saturday evenings on Talk Radio, following Baker and Kelly’s football phone-in. I did enjoy his style, he often said “we don’t do topics”, and he didn’t usually discuss what was on the news agenda. For some reason that even he didn’t know, his opening theme was the rather noisy “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. I remember that he said that on the first radio show he did, he received no calls at all. And even by this point he always seemed to get the same three callers, which was rather awkward for a national station. vlcsnap-00443

One of them was some woman from Cheddar who always thought that Nick was “very ‘fessional”. Nick also often bickered with his producer who he claimed was “useless”. And he was very found of his sound clips, often playing strange noises, and some were taken from early episodes of South Park, including Cartman saying “what?!” when he didn’t know what a caller was on about, which was rather often.

One of the most surreal moments that I’ve heard on the radio happened on Nick’s show. During the news, there was a report on sheepdip, which the presenter mispronounced as “sheepdick”. Nick found this amusing and turned this into a sound clip that was often played. Then not long after, the presenter made the same mistake again, and then made it even worse when trying to correct himself: “sheepdick… oh, er… sheep… dick… er, ooh”. And when they went back to Nick he laughed for about a minute.

Nick would often end his show with “screenless”, where callers were put to air without being asked what they wanted to talk about in advance (Tommy Boyd later got a whole three-hour show out of this idea). He could only put up with people for a few seconds though because of their bizarre outbursts, and he often wondered “who are these people?”. Not long after, Nick was moved to weekday evenings, so he was on five days a week on two stations, which was good.

But this only lasted for a short time as he was let go from Talk Radio following some schedule restructuring. And then he resurfaced on LBC (when this was still a London-only station) where he presented a Saturday evening show alongside Carol McGiffin, an ex-wife of Chris Evans. Nick and Carol did get on well, having worked together on Talk Radio too, but once again they only ever seemed to get the same three callers every week.

And once again he left after a short while, and I didn’t hear much about him for years. But then he returned to LBC on weekend evenings, where although he did now discuss the news agenda, he did have a little more light-hearted take on politics than most of the other presenters. It’s good to know that he’s still out there, and he is still playing those silly South Park clips all the time.

Radio Memories – Hawksbee And Jacobs.

Hawksbee And Jacobs (Talk Radio/TalkSport, 1999-present)

A while ago I used to listen to various shows on TalkSport, and one of them that I enjoyed was Hawksbee And Jacobs, a double-act who took a more light-hearted look at what was happening in sport in a similar style to Baker and Kelly, and indeed it could be said that they were their replacements on that station. Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs had previously worked on sport magazines including 90 Minutes and TV shows, including Fantasy Football League, where Paul was a writer, and Andy was the producer.

One of their first shows was The Friday Night Kickabout (although this was in various other slots) looking back at the latest football (Paul is a Spurs fan, Andy is a Chelsea fan). As they hadn’t really developed any regular features or running gags by that point, I remember that most of their stories began “when I worked on Fantasy Football League…”, as they had met plenty of footballers on that show. handj

And around the same time, they also hosted Under The Floodlights, a late-night show about cricket, which included playing the dice game Howzat!, with the umpire doing an impression of a writer from The Mail On Sunday for some reason. I’ll never think of the song “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Rainbow in the same way again. By now they were beginning to establish themselves on the station, and in 2000 they were given a regular weekday afternoon slot.

There were now some regular features, and there were plenty of highlights. These included the competitions The Birthday Spread, where Andy had to guess the ages of various people that were listed in that day’s newspaper (with a song from the non-flag waving Pele), and Sport Or No(r)t, where callers had to guess whether people with unusual names were famous for sport or they weren’t, and remember the rule, “it’s just a horse”.

Inbetween the adverts for prune juice, there were plenty of other features too (and a bonus to them for using “There’s No Other Way” by Blur as one of the songs they came out of the break to). These included a review of American sport, The Fools Panel, where callers had to guess the weekend’s football results, and they even occasionally had a computer game review with Jonathan Ipswich, who was an Ipswich Town fan but didn’t like to go on about it, and also hosted the tough competition The Answer Is Ipswich.

Also memorable was when they would play the audio versions of various sportpeople’s autobiographies. These included the cricketer “Fiery Freddie” Trueman, who wanted to give something back to the game because he felt that he had an obligation to do so, and he often informed us “this man was being so blasé into the bargain, that I were really furious. And I’m afraid I hit him in the mouth, and he had to be carried off” (yes, that was his catchphrase).

There were also the Australian tennis player John Newcombe, who had won a huge amount of tournaments over the years, including “The World Championship Of Tennis”, which doesn’t seem to actually exist, and horse racing commentator Peter O’Sullevan, who reminisced about people who liked to “imbibe in the morning”, and I’m sure that they were just all great guys who loved their racing.

Friday editions always concluded with The Clips Of The Week, some of the more unusual moments and gaffes that had recently happened on the station. Most of these were provided by Alan Brazil, the Scottish ex-footballer turned red-faced boozy breakfast show host (when he turned up) and freeloader, with his show often coming live from Lord Vestey’s Box, marvellous. One highlight was when he slurred something like “spuhwuhwuh”, and then they deliberately played that all over the travel report to put the host off, which didn’t work by the way. ab

Alan was also fond of golf, ending interviews with “we must do lunch sometime!”, and liked to inform us when the time was 9:32. His co-host at this time was Mike “Porky” Parry, who often came out with some bizarre statements (I remember an often-played trail where a caller said “I am currently sat in the car bent-up double, laughing at this feller. He cannot be real”).

Also featuring was Joe Holland (or “Dutch” as he was known in the dressing room), a short-lived late-night host who had some very bizarre observations on life, the unsurprisingly unsuccessful Poker On The Radio with Graham “Beaky” Beacroft, and The Caller Of The Week, which made Andy laugh a lot. All of this would be produced by “The Ploughman”, and some guy who laughed like Basil Brush.

People have noted that the style of Hawksbee And Jacobs is rather similar to Baker and Kelly, and some will always consider them to be second-best by comparison, but there’s no doubt that they’ve provided lots of amusing moments. Paul would also go on to be a writer for Harry Hill’s TV Burp. Two decades on they are still there, although I haven’t listened much lately, as they seem to have taken on a more serious style. There’s just enough time to say “pie”.

Radio Memories – Baker And Kelly United.

Baker And Kelly United (Talk Radio, 1997-1999)

Danny Baker is someone whose TV work I have followed over the years, ranging from adverts to game shows. Baker has also been working in radio since the late-80s, but I didn’t hear much of his early work, so I missed out on shows he did on various stations including BBC GLR, BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 5. He became known for taking calls on unusual subjects and playing a variety of songs.

Baker had also hosted a lot of radio shows about football (and was also a columnist in The Times), usually alongside Danny Kelly, who has been the editor of various magazines about music and sport. After this double-act were kicked off yet another station, they were hired by Talk Radio to host a show about football, which was increasing its coverage of sport at the time. I thought that it was about time I finally had a listen to them, and I definitely enjoyed it.

Now I remember that Baker once said that he only “went” once on the radio, that is he laughed so much he was unable to regain his composure. He said “Danny Kelly made me do it”, but he didn’t say what it was. I wonder if it was this moment that I wanted to tell the story of, as it is one of the funniest and most remarkable things that I have ever heard on the radio (I know some people consider their “wooden bowtie” incident to be their pinnacle, but I didn’t hear that live). The memory is a little hazy, but it went something like this.

Baker and Kelly were hired to do a phone-in on Saturday evenings, and this became popular enough for them to have an extra slot in the afternoon, so they would be on for about two hours before and after the 3pm matches. During their break, did they stay in the studio, listen to the live coverage and make some notes of the results, or did they even go to watch their teams (Baker being a Lions fan, and Kelly a Spurs fan)? Well no, it seems they spent that time in the pub enjoying a cocktail or two, which might go some way to explaining what happened here.

For a while at the end of the evening show, Kelly used to read an email from Trevor, who wrote terrible jokes. This was accompanied by graveyard-style sound effects like heavy rain and tolling bells, and Baker would deliberately not laugh, and then pause and say goodbye. One week, they received a call from someone which turned out to be one of the all-time classics. bk

They had attended an event, and among the guests was Jeff Astle, who was a famous footballer in the late-60s/early-70s for West Bromwich Albion, and he was having a second wave of fame following his appearances on Fantasy Football League (as co-host Frank Skinner is a big WBA fan). Presumably he was there to give an award or do some after-dinner speaking, but afterwards, the caller noticed he stretched out his empty plate to a passing waiter and asked “any more pie?”. Well that was fine and amusing, but it was what happened next that was really great.

About a week later Trevor emailed again and Kelly began with something like “Hello. I enjoyed your story about Jeff Astle last week. Here’s what I think other famous and historical figures would’ve said in that situation”. And these were just the most awful and ridiculous puns, and rather than not laughing, Baker couldn’t stop, and he made some rather remarkable noises, to the point he was so overcome he couldn’t finish the show, and as he was still laughing they just ran out of time and tumbled off the air.

For many weeks after, loads more of these puns were read out by Kelly that were sent in by various people, such as “Babe the talking pig – any more sty?” and Sir David Lean the film director – any more Kwai?”. It caused a sensation. Then they were dropped about halfway through the season because supposedly they weren’t talking about football enough. When they were delivering solid radio gold like this!

There was more though, as Baker and Kelly went around a few more radio stations, and Baker hosted the compilation Own Goals And Gaffs that was released on DVD. They also did a book together that was very entertaining, and they even briefly appeared on TV on BT Sport at about 2am. Baker has written a lot of great and witty things about football, in much contrast to his rather grumpy and irritating views on the modern game online. He has promised that he will reunite with Kelly once again one day soon though.