Thursday, 5 March 2009


We have been covering the credit crunch and the ensuing recession in our own way on the Best Time Of The Day show over the last few weeks and months, making no apology for our constantly sunny and optimistic demeanour on the programme in an attempt to be positive when all around us we hear nothing but constant whining and negativity - which drags us all down and makes a bad situation worse.

Things are very difficult for many but life goes on. So one of the things we have been talking about is the need to resurrect stuff that had been consigned to the attic or in my case, the garage. Hence the first picture is of a Hi-Fi rack system I bought in 1978. It has been mouldering for a few years unloved and forgotten.

When I worked in the North East of England in the mid 80's recession with massive unemployment, we ended up dragging old clothes out of the wardrobe rather than buy new. The passage of time means that they have long been reduced to dusters and also I am too fat to get in them. Imagine though, mid 1983/4, wobbling down the Stockton high street in ten-year-old platform shoes and split-knee Loons!

To this end I thought it would be good to get the stereo out, dust it down and restore it to pride of place. This made better economic sense than rushing out and buying something brand new. Not sure my ears are still good enough for a top of the range bit of kit that the swanky hi-fi shops sell. (N.B That ringing in your ears and the feeling that your head is swimming and you are going to faint is all down to the fact the salesman has just told you the price of this machinery which will be obsolete by the time you get it home - not the massive volume and crystal clear sound).

Dragged it upstairs to the spare room and plugged it in. Yaaaay! It worked. The turntable -"check". Tuner/amplifier - "check" CD player (later edition, pedantry fans, as CD's were not around in 1978) "Check". Cassette -"fizz crackle pop…dead" Seized. Still, who needs a cassette in 2009, anyroadup.

I can now enjoy my vinyl collection again. There is a still a lot on the shelves that I have not seen on CD yet, lagging far enough behind to not want to download from the internet. I like to see the sleeve and feel the disc in my hand.

From recorded to live : Met up with my friend, Television announcer and voice-over artist Trish Bertram, who I have known since the days of BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting) when we were both announcers on "Galaxy the entertainment channel. Coming next…"Danger Bay".

She - in her own words - is the poor man’s Joanna Lumley in the vocal department and has a spectacularly loud laugh. We went off to the Roundhouse in London's Chalk Farm - an iconic venue if there ever was one and one that I had not visited before- to see Polly Scattergood. I have featured her on the show a couple of times and she is a sweetie. Very young girly with quirky songs with the darkest of themes. She has also done a session for Janice Long who we linked up with whilst we were there. Janice is tipping Polly for huge success.

Trish was recognised by a former colleague who she had not seen for 35 years since they worked in theatre together. I think it may have been the laugh ripping like a sonic boom across the bar area. Turned out she was there as her son was in the support band. It was another standing venue but as it was a shortish show it wasn't too hard on the feet. It was also in a side room so only small. The room was actually sponsored by a footwear company. So it seems only right that there was no seating.

There is music everywhere these days if you look. Saturday night I was in a pub near Birmingham and it was time to enjoy the work of "Tanya" - a "soup in a basket" singer. She turned up lugging a small PA and her CD player and microphone and a small mixer. Set it all up whilst being ignored by the patrons.

She then disappeared behind a curtain and came out with the obligatory sparkly "Jane MacDonald/I Will survive" frock on and after a bit of difficulty cranked up her machinery and warbled quite nicely through a selection of Pop hits from the "70's 80's 90's and Today" whilst being ignored by the patrons.

She got a smattering of applause but most of the pub carried on talking, drinking or due to the shape of the room sat with their back to her. I gave her a few winning and encouraging smiles and she smiled timidly back. It dawned on me that she might think I was a dirty old man and my warm grin was a leer. At that moment it seemed a good time to leave and get some chips.

I think she would have had a bit more luck if she had some stagecraft. I am not talking choreography and thunder flashes here. Although a friend of mine texted me to say he was in a pub in the south watching a "Kiss tribute act which boasted a very overweight "Gene Simmons" a smoke machine and one firework during their act. She had a nice voice that was in tune but seemed a bit embarrassed about being there and her announcements mainly seemed to consist of telling us the name of the artists song she had just covered : "Cyndi Lauper..thank you".

There are probably fewer more dispiriting musical jobs, I would imagine, than singing your heart out to a room of people who aren't all that interested. Well maybe there are two at the bottom of the scale: Cocktail pianist. You are there to provide background wiffle which probably explains why to my ears all cocktail piano tunes sound the same - a variation on "Fly me to the Moon" Worse still - the shopping centre/Underground station busker. Everyone in a hurry. You are blocking the way and if you have a dog on a string with you it gets more admiring glances.


Micky B said...

It's the dog that does it for me, every time.

Twix said...

Got your tickets to Michael Jackson yet?! You get a chimp thrown in I believe - beats a dog.

Swedish Chef said...

Alex, Proper Hi Fi that!! Keep Swirling. P.