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 www.br2fm.co 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]mail.com – with a special tuneful memory and I'll give it a spin. Here's to the next 50 years.