Thursday, December 20, 2012

"It's all quiet, especially on the trains".

Through a series of circumstance long and complicated, I found myself in the studios of BBC Radio Suffolk at half five this morning, preparing to deputise live on air for regular Breakfast Show traffic and travel guru Simon “If it’s safe and legal to do so” Talbot under his beneficient tutelage and softly gaze. On the surface, this seemed like an easy gig – all I had to do was review the front pages of the daily papers, contribute a couple of quirky sideways sound bites concerning at the news, and then every fifteen minutes pop into the studio and read out some updates on the state of the roads, whilst remembering not to say ‘fuck’ on air (the sanctity of the control room is a different matter – it was like a Yorkshire navvies’ convention in there at times).
That my super-ego was taking it seriously can be inferred from the classic pre-exam anxiety dream from which I woke at three in the morning, the developing scenario having progressed to the point where I had imagined that Breakfast Show host Terry Baxter had not turned up and that Simon had stepped in and was presenting the show in the face of an ever more serious spiral of technical mishaps until, Nero-like, he pulled out a violin and started playing a mournful air amidst the collapsing studio soundproofing, giving the show the aspect of the dinner party scene at the end of Carry On Up The Khyber. It wasn’t until I remembered that Si can’t actually play the violin that I was stirred from my slumber. I know, and you’d think being in the studio naked apart from a dressing gown would have triggered a reaction first, wouldn’t you?
Thanks to astute time management, gentle praise and the generous dispensation of tips and tricks from The I-Spy Presenters’ Book of Making It Look Easy by the regulars I managed to at least give the impression of someone who knew what they were doing, even though I didn’t get to broadcast my pre-prepared introductory shtick regarding the late substitution (“Simon can’t be here as he is currently in lockdown at a Mayan Apocalypse-proof bunker in the West Midlands, which has been stocked almost entirely with Bovril and Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies”) and I also didn’t get to throw in his trademark “You know me, Terry – I love a survey” in tribute to my mentor. I remarked on this slight regret as I repeatedly pressed F5 on the keyboard controlling the travel computer monitor, trying for a last update on the burgeoning crisis on the Chelmsford by-pass before close of play. “You should get your own catchphrase” he said, mentally trying one on for size. “Had you considered finishing your reports with ‘…and it’s all quiet on the trains…TADAAAH!’?” I admitted that I hadn’t, but would certainly consider it in case of any future engagements.
“Is he being paid for sitting around out there?” queried Terry at one point. I relayed this to a reflective Simon. “My role, you see…” he began “…is very much like that of a fire fighter. There may well be long periods of inactivity, but when the call comes I have to leap instantly into action, keeping pace with the intensity of developments whilst at all times maintaining an untroubled exterior, inspiring confidence in others and providing a beacon of calm amidst the brouhaha. This is how I regard my role, be it ever so humble. That…” he concluded “…or as being like one of the Thunderbird pilots”.     

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"...and then Shane went away and wrote about someone who'd annoyed him that day..."

Our Glorious Leader was interviewed on the radio last week. I touched on the subject of our recording experience at the BBC a couple of blogs ago and I was looking forward to the broadcast as, along with the Radio Suffolk drive time listenership, this was when I’d be able to listen to our performance for the first time, the band having eschewed such bourgeois concepts as playbacks and monitors in the studio in favour of the wholesome and robust “Well, that one felt okay” approach so beloved of recording engineers the network over - especially ones who’ve already put in a full shift that day and are required to hang about for an extra few hours in order to preserve these sorts of occasions for posterity due to the unique way in which the BBC is funded. 
Unfettered from the need to defer to the rabbit-mouthed talk show interventionist who usually accompanies him on such occasions (*waves*) James was free to converse in a leisurely fashion with host Stephen ‘Foz’ Foster not only about Songs from The Blue House, but on matters such as the perils of gig promoting, the opportunities that technology affords the modern music archivist (an aside concerning The Who and Little Richard during a diversion regarding the processed nature of modern recordings was particularly apposite) and how much it cost him to pay off Carly Simon over that little matter of the single.   
Obviously all of these recordings remain the property of the BBC, although I’m sure we’re meant to have signed some sort of form in case they want to release them as part of a boxed set or something in future. Not everyone would ‘fess up with such a disclaimer - avuncular recording guru Dave ‘Butch’ Butcher (to whom OGL rightly pays fulsome tribute in the interview itself) noted at the time of our original visit that he only realised that he’d just recorded one band’s next album when he counted back the number of songs they’d crammed into the session and after they insisted on taking a CD copy away with them at its conclusion.
So, here are four acoustic session songs by SftBH and an interview of about a half hour’s duration as originally broadcast, during which Foz also plays our version of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain;
You can, of course, purchase your very own copy of the single here;