Air­waves odd­i­ties

Costa Levante News - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Chris Ashley, writer and broad­caster

Time flies faster than a rob­ber's dog af­ter a rab­bit. It's half a cen­tury ago when I strut­ted my funky stuff through the au­gust por­tals of the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion's lo­cal out­let in Brighton. An­other ad­di­tion to the staff was a dap­per chap named – Des Lynam – won­der what hap­pened to him?

There is much wrong with the BBC, but then for this clod­hop­per, it was a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for which I'm eter­nally grate­ful. My job prior to it was as a free­lance case­ment-pu­ri­fy­ing op­er­a­tive – all right, a win­dow cleaner. In re­al­ity, at the Beeb, I was lit­tle more than a wa­ter car­rier (well, I did have my own bucket af­ter all). Hav­ing said that I learnt a great deal from some fine broad­cast­ers. How­ever, there were to be some very quirky broad­cast­ing out­fits on the hori­zon.

A cou­ple of years later I went back to my adopted coun­try, Aus­tralia. My first ra­dio job there was in Katan­ning, WA. When I told some cob­bers they were less than forth­com­ing with op­ti­mism. They told me it's the kind of town with­out a bank. As soon as some­one gets enough money – they leave. The sort of town that is named af­ter ev­ery­one's dis­tant rel­a­tive. It's the type of place you can't help think­ing the scriptwrit­ers of 'The League Of Gen­tle­men' got in­spi­ra­tion for Roys­ton Vasey; “This is a lo­cal shop for lo­cal peo­ple. There's noth­ing here for you.” Or maybe The Eagles got their idea for 'Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia.' “You can check out any­time you like. But, you can never leave.” Ac­tu­ally, that could be about Brexit.

The ra­dio sta­tion was way out­side the one horse town down a dirt track and then a dry riverbed. Sud­denly out of nowhere, a whack­ing great mast with a car­a­van parked un­der­neath it. Be­hold, 'The Tower of Power.' The car­a­van was not only the stu­dio it was also the ac­com­mo­da­tion for four of us DJ's and this was the mid­dle of an Aus­tralian sum­mer – Unilever Armpit Snif­fers would have had a sweat-fest orgy (yes, this is a gen­uine job - test­ing de­odor­ant re­sults).

Some­thing that preyed on my mind, it was ru­moured, if a chap spends time near a trans­mit­ter mast his Mother is never go­ing to be a Grand­mother. As I'm a fa­ther of three, it ap­pears I beat the seed­less odds – which my off­spring may feel is a mixed bless­ing.

Around the mid 70s I got an in­ex­pli­ca­ble urge to re­turn to dear old Blighty – by way of Is­rael. Not the bright­est idea I've ever had, it was the week be­fore the Yom Kip­pur War com­menced. Moored some 6 miles off the coast was a pi­rate ra­dio sta­tion called 'The Voice of LIS­TEN TO CHRIS MON-FRI 9-12 ON BR2 GOLD 91.1 FM TOR­RE­VIEJA OR Peace.' I fan­cied the swash­buck­ling life of a mav­er­ick mo­tor­mouth. Stupid boy. The VoP was ru­moured to have been bankrolled by John Len­non or the CIA, or both, and trans­mit­ted in mainly English, He­brew and Ara­bic an­chored on a very salty bit of the Med. Vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to drown. Now, I don't wish to start a the­o­log­i­cal punch up, es­pe­cially this time of year, but could this salty phe­nom­e­non ex­plain the walk­ing on wa­ter mir­a­cle some 2000 years back? It cer­tainly would have given Natalie Wood a fight­ing chance.

So here I am with a bunch of scurvy knaves and Cap­tain Cod­piece who was as camp as a pink 2-man tent from Mil­lets. On my first evening, I went on deck to take the air. Sud­denly in the dis­tance, I heard the sound of a craft ap­proach­ing at speed and out of the mist came a heav­ily armed – Uzi's 'R' Us - pa­trol boat with the real deal Rambo. It started cir­cling and a search­light came on, it was like Sun­day Night at The Pal­la­dium. The bull­horn boomed “Lis­ten care­fully now – this is a non-ne­go­tiable or­der – play Phil Collins for my fi­ancé Sarah in Haifa. Tell her I miss her.” Let me tell you, good old Phil got more spins than a dervish on speed.

Those were the days of tape ma­chines the size of a ce­ment mixer. Turnta­bles the di­am­e­ter of a pot­ter's wheel. Var­i­ous vol­ume knobs that needed both hands to twid­dle and of course – vinyl. Now, I present a show on a ra­dio sta­tion that broad­casts dig­i­tally to Nor­wich, Birm­ing­ham and Glas­gow, from my back bed­room in Spain with some kit that fits into a bis­cuit tin.

Time for a gra­tu­itous com­mer­cial plug for my show on Big Ra­dio 2, play­ing some ter­rific tunes from your murky past. Get in touch – ash­ley­bob­[email protected]­ – with a spe­cial tune­ful mem­ory and I'll give it a spin. Here's to the next 50 years.

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