My heart’s beating like a steam hammer, the pounding in my head is growing stronger all the time and the cold sweat envelops my body like a damp, chilled carapace. My fingers fumbling, I reach for the packet of white powder and arrange it in the familiar manner, my body screaming for the relief it will provide, my throat already dry with anticipation. Pour into a cup, add hot but not boiling water and stir thoroughly. When you’ve got a bad head cold and you’re feeling a bit fluey, there’s nothing like a Lemsip to perk you up.
We are due at the British Broadcasting Corporation’s outpost in deepest Ipswich to record a few songs to be broadcast ‘as live’ (i.e. there’s not really much scope for going back and redoing your individual mistakes, but if everyone buggers it up, you’re in with a chance of a retake) on their early evening show. Having a wealth of new material in the locker we’ve decided to do mostly them, and have included one cover version - an old soul and country classic which we will later suggest might work on one of the other shows in the BBC Suffolk stable. While warming up we have naturally decided to do none of these and are instead working around a lengthy improvisation of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”.
Today we are six – Me, Gibbon, James, Helen, Turny Winn and Fiddly, and the room in which we have been billeted is as a result quite cosy in terms of elbow and/or knee room. Our Glorious Leader is rocking backward and forwards on a chair not designed for someone with legs as long as his, and our host and studio engineer, the similarly enlengthened Dave, expresses sympathy whilst telling tales of times perched on a primary school chair in governor’s meetings, chatting knowledgably about the SM58 Beta with OGL and setting up a plethora of mics, stands, and a weaveworld of cables and leads. There are two microphones on each guitar (“Due to the unique way in which the BBC is funded…”) and once he is satisfied that everybody will be adequately heard he retreats to the Outside Broadcast truck parked in the bowels of the building, which is to serve as the mobile control room and nerve centre.
Dave issues edicts and encouragements from this underground lair and we respond in kind, talking to a small speaker in the room which acts as our conduit to the otherword which he inhabits, not unlike Charlie’s Angels in Bosley’s office. “Are you very far away?” someone asks. “Not quite far enough” he responds drily, before interjecting to spark a brief discussion on whether we will be allowed to include the word ‘pissing’ in a song which is due to be broadcast during the drive time hour. Apparently there are any number of ways around this, including simply denying that the word had occurred, as they had previously successfully done when a surreptitious ‘fuck’ made it’s way onto the airwaves and a caller whose “Did I just hear what I thought I heard?” enquiry was gently but firmly patted away with a reassuring “No”. La Mulley asks for a set of headphones. “I’m doing the folky thing with one finger in my ear and I’m concerned it looks a bit wanky” she avers. “I’m down here with fingers in both ears, to be honest” responds Dave agreeably, before Turny Winn points out that we’re on radio, and so the wankiness or other of her aspect is a point moot at best.
A couple of hours, several takes of five different songs and a few coughing fits later, we have finished up for the evening to everyone’s satisfaction and are thanking Dave for his time, consideration and general all-round good humour and sunny demeanour. He, in turn, is pretty much doing the same for us. "Don't forget the PRS form..." exclaims OGL in a moment of clarity "...this could be worth up to a fiver for us!"