For five years I was the co-curator of a show called Why the Long Face? on Ipswich Community Radio. Initially we (Neale Foulger) and I started it as a pretty much like-for-like replacement of The Urban Sofa Beat Collective, a two hour ramble through the tangled undergrowth of the collected sub consciousness’s of (initially) James Kindred and latterly Simon Talbot – formerly of agit-Dada comedy collective Chimps in Suits - and Matt Marvel, the weird one. When Matt and Simon went on to host their own show on BBC Radio Suffolk Neale and I stepped in to fill the vacuum and recruited one Phil Bryer to be our disassociated Letter from America-type punctuation in the middle of a two hour chat show (to paraphrase Seinfeld) about nothing.
We had a darned good time, too. Occasionally we scripted things - Neale's Simon and Garfunkel skit was borderline pornographic, and I may even have declined the opportunity to take part in that one - there was a surrealistic Shipping Forecast, a weekly Soup Review and occasionally visitors and guest hosts would pop in when one or other of us took the week off. Lucy Sampson brought her boyfriend in, AloneMe offered to play live but were confused by Neale's insistence on counting the number of kidneys in the room, Dylan Hearn forgot to plug his book and regular listeners like our Catalan Correspondent Simon, Big Jan from New Zealand, Daron - the King of North East Minnesota, Izzy, Chloe, Lord Tilkey from Coggeshall and countless others enlivened our inbox on a weekly basis.I went fortnightly first, my weeks off being filled by Martyn Brown, and the show drew to its inevitable conclusion when Neale came to the same conclusion that I had, in that we’d said pretty much everything we could think of saying – whether scabrous, poignant, whimsical, completely in error or simply in the voice of Brian Blessed. Our last show went out this week and was a mix of the usual oblique ramblings, uninformed conjecture and lyric quizzes. One of the first questions we received from our listening public ran “Jesus – how drunk are you?!” We leave behind an archive of shows which, as Neale once pointed out, if intercepted by aliens monitoring broadcasts from Earth, is likely to bring down a shit-storm of Ming-like proportions in response. “Puny Earthlings!” they will ejaculate in fury. “No-one needs a fourth album from The Sundays – it’s the rule of three!”*
As I say, the end of an era – what with the Picturehouse reunion having gone the way of the end-of-term school play and Songs from The Blue House being on indefinite hiatus I was pretty much bereft of projects, and for a self-proclaimed creative like me, that’s an issue. The phone rang. It was Tony Shevlin, latterly of Nashville Tenn. (for a couple of weeks, at least) and progenitor of forthcoming album Songs from The Last Chance Saloon. “Can you be round mine on Tuesday?” he said. “We’ve got a gig on Sunday week”.
*Neale has a theory that any - and every - band should only ever release three albums. "If they haven't said it by then, it doesn't need saying" is his reasoning. We had quite a few conversations like that.