Skip to main content
A Magazine for
Sound

Radio Rodeo

I love radio. There, I’ve said it. More than TV; more than theatre; more than film. In fact, my misunderstanding of aural sex has led me down some dark and winding roads.

My love was born at about 10pm in the late 70s under the covers with John Peel. But, don’t worry, it was the 70s and things were different then. What? But I was hundreds of miles away and safe from the clutches of BBC employees.

With a radio next to my ear, it was me, and John, and The Fall, The Undertones and Lee Perry. All very intimate and personal.

I would hate to see the death of radio and see it go down the path of print. Do newspapers still exist? I don’t know. I mean, I see them as I pass through the haze, but are they real?

I hope I’ve caught your modern-day short attention span. Jesus, keep up, I promise a car crash or a helicopter chase – or maybe not. Instead, I’ll digress to sport and radio; specifically the football phone-in. I have indulged in this quite a lot. Purely, you understand, as a sort of performance art. Please search out the late, great Peter Cook as Sven the Swedish caller on YouTube and you’ll get the idea.

The football phone-in, where to begin?

The BBC flagship is 606, named brilliantly because it starts at 6.06pm. It’s genius, although due to sporting events inevitably overrunning, it is a moveable feast. It could be 607, 609 or 7.30. It’s mad.

The face or hair, if you like, of 606 is the ex-mediocre player Robbie Savage. I must admit right now that this piece is not about sport as such, but broadcasting in general. Our hero Robbie, lovely hair, started broadcasting with the ridiculous view that people who phoned in had not played Premier League football, so their view was irrelevant. Robbie, as a very average player, must wake in the morning and look up to the sky and praise. To criticise the average Joe fan is cheek beyond belief. The production meeting must have gone like this:

“Robbie.”

“Yeah?” [Brushes hair]

“This is a phone-in show.”

“Yeah, can we move along. I’ve got to buy a car.”

“Yes, Robbie. We are all privileged to have you here.”

“Good.” [Has a massage]

“You do realise the people calling in have probably not played professional football?”

“Really?”

“Yes, unfortunately your fellow professionals have no interest in your opinions as you weren’t very good as a player.”

“Hmmm.”

“But, if you keep your hair looking lovely and maintain your footballer’s lifestyle, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.”

“Okay. Can I go now? I’ve got pizza.”

“Yes, Robbie.”

And apropos of broadcasting, we come to the bizarre curate’s egg that is TALKSPORT. I say curate’s egg because in amongst the 24-hour dross, there are some diamonds. Danny Kelly, for instance, is a legendary broadcaster. He’s wasted there. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Alan Brazil does the morning show – sometimes, when he’s not hungover – and this is almost celebrated with a hey and a ho and nonny nonny no.

Alan seems unable to equate any sporting occasion or location without mentioning the lovely two bottles of red, or white, and the cheese. Ask him any question about sport? “Lovely place, me and the boys… lovely white, two bottles… cheese… two bottles of red… cheese… the boys… lovely girls… nothing inappropriate.”

I mean, this guy is paid to do this shit. He’s a walking, talking tabloid red-top nightmare.

TALKSPORT is full of ex-professional sportsmen, but they’re asked to comment on sports that they know nothing about?

The most frequent comment you hear on TALKSPORT is, “I don’t know.”

I’m rambling now, but my point is this: Broadcasting? There has to be some standards, surely? Did John Motson’s career die in vain?

Next from Sound

The Rise of the Podcasts

Podcasts have opened my eyes like nothing else in my life – variously, these are obnoxious, political, philosophical, and, sometimes: helpful.

More Sound

Next article in issue 54

Rachael Young on NIGHTCLUBBING

Rachael Young is a creator whose theatre, live art and interactive installations often involve the theme of social engagement. A lecturer on…

More Music

Yemi Bolatiwa On a High Note

We talk to the Manchester singer about a love of soul, melodies, and music as a means to attract people's attention to the big issues.

A Golden Era for Todmorden

A few record releases into life as the Golden Lion Sounds label boss, Matthanee 'Gig' Nilavongse told Now Then about what it means for Todmorden.

Matthew Halsall Open to All Possibilities

The acclaimed jazz trumpeter and Gondwana Records label founder answers our questions about COVID gigs, scouting for musicians, and mental health and wellbeing.

Pipe Streams

A panel of music industry professionals considered how live music could recover in 2021.

More Music