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I am pleased to be able to report that the second volume of Philip Bryer's contributions to the notorious Sony Award-dodging late night hit ICRFM radio show Why The Long Face? is now available at a reputable online bookshop near you. For almost all of our five year run on air Phil's lugubrious monologue, presaged by an announcement that we were handing over live to the studios of Radio Somerset and heralded by the curtailed intro to Rickie Lee Jones' Chuck E's in Love*, marked the mid-point of the show, giving us a chance to reflect, regroup and, if nothing else, put the kettle on and relax, say as a couple of PG Tips chimps given the keys to a broadcast suite might do. Bryer's slot soundtracked the consumption of innumerable cakes, a plethora of sweets and many, many cigarettes - these were the days when you could still smoke without fear of one of your lungs exploding, although an early episode cured us of that particular misconception. In written form it presents itself as a series of vignettes, snapshots, selfies even. From Led Zeppelin to Laurel and Hardy, he walks a pith-strewn path in his William Connor gumboots and Keith Waterhouse mackintosh. Why not join him for a stroll?
*Just as you're expecting her to start singing co-curator Neale burst in with a barely-compressed "...Bryyeerrrr!". I heard the intro on the radio the other day and was almost surprised to find that there was still a song following on behind it.
Some time ago, we recorded some tunes and put them on CDs (remember them?). As I recall, it was frosty and cold outside, I had an hour's drive to and forth the studio and at times we had what we in the post-HR world call 'opportunities' with the session staff. Luckily, Our Glorious Leader was on hand with a recording device in order that future generations should be able to recall what life in a typical noughties recording environment was like. Watch and learn, kids, one day you might have to coax a septugenarean into playing on a track he's only just heard that day...
I have had a piece included in the Fairport's Cropredy Convention programme. They get about twenty thousand folk in on a good year and the 2014 festival was a sell out, so at a conservative estimate I'd say that was the most readers I've ever had in one hit. In case you couldn't make it, or you didn't buy a copy, I've included the full text below. And if you did so, yes, I am 'SK from Ipswich'.
"Simon Nicol is round the back of the bus, parking
the Tiger". That was the first time I saw reference to Fairport Convention
founder member, singer, guitarist and de facto office administrator, in print.
Q magazine, it was. Some time later I was at the bar at the Cropredy Festival
(and let's face it, who hasn't?), anxiously awaiting the arrival of the winner
of the Talkawhile forum's All Round Good Egg Folkie award, me having been
nominated by a quick show of hands of those present to hand the self-style 'Norm'
the glittering stained glass plinthette, and say a few words. He ambled up, all
bonhomie and beard, and waited patiently as I relayed a story I'd heard from my
friend Paul, who had written to Fairport towers expressing his appreciation
regarding how the music of a group of chums from Muswell Hill had helped him
through a difficult time in his life - a bereavement, as it happened. Simon had
written back enclosing a unique mash-up mix of two versions of an old song,
mixed on his own time, with a kindly but firm entreaty that this not be shared.
As I said in my address, that's the sort of thing that you don't have to do.
Simon was generous with his time, gracious, and very kind to a toungestruck
fanboy like me. In between times I'd enjoyed his contributions a number of my
favourite records, not least those of his friend Richard Thompson. That
anecdote about having too loud a guitar strap for Art Garfunkel's sensitive
ears tickled me, and his rendition of Rosemary's Sister reduces me to tears to
this day. My first Glastonbury was defined by hearing that rock steady rhythm
guitar holding down Sloth. When I watched a BBC documentary wherein a
pink-faced post-Cropredy Simon confessed that he'd quit Fairport (for the first
time) at the age of twenty one I was astonished that he'd packed so much in to
that short a life. At twenty one, I was working in a record shop and trying to
sell people Expletive Delighted (and explain why there was no lyric sheet...).
There is an old saw that you should never meet your heroes. You should.
Especially if they are Simon Nicol.