Thursday 24 June 2010


The week has been taken up with football. We have tried to put our own twist on it with our support for the underdogs i.e. those of us who are not wedded to the beautiful game.

Having said that, it was heartening to note people had their own teams that they supported: darts teams, burlesque troupes, people jousting using fork lift trucks and the like. These are the sort of sports that I would pay good money to see.

On Wednesday, the Dark Lady mooted the possibility of us going to watch the England match at the offices of some friends of hers. She knows my aversion to football, even though she is a big fan. Being far cleverer than I, and also knowing blokes, she just threw into the conversation that there would be beer and fish and chips. We were there before you could say "Vuvuzela". When we arrived someone was already blowing theirs. Not been up close to one before and they sound a little like a badly-tuned goat.

Still, everything had been prepared. There were tables groaning with chilled bottles and fish and chips in abundance. There was also a cold collation including Scotch eggs, a particular favourite of mine.

The floor had been covered in fake grass with the appropriate football markings so we watched the game "on the pitch". It was very impressive. Big screens and hooting. It is fairly easy to blend in with proper fans if you bellow the name of the player with the ball; this is easy to do as their names are helpfully written on their shirt backs. Also, if the ball goes anywhere near the opponents’ goal, you shout louder. When a ball is hoofed, however ineffectually (see Rooney below), towards the opponents’ goal you must leap to your feet shouting "YESSS!" Then when (as normal) it fails to go in, cover you heard with your hands slump back in your seat with a loud groan.

If the opposing team is threatening to do the same shout "NOOOO!" then when it fails to be a goal, wave your arms in the air exultantly and cheer. This was going to be the tone for the afternoon.

I discovered early on that it is easily possible to bluff your way in Association Football. All you do is press your mental button marked "TV Commentator football cliche" and it pours out:

"England haven't got the finishing power"

"Scrappy play from England"

"Rooney doesn't seem to have the pace"

"Slovenia are getting desperate"

This seemed to go down well until the DL piped up:

"You are taking the mickey, aren't you?"

Well what was I to say? I was undone.

"Er, the lads head dropped a bit in the second half" I croaked trying to keep up the pretence

Stop it!

"But it’s a game of two halves, Brian"


"He's getting a yellow card"


In truth I enjoyed it mainly for the company and the food.

We had a few hours to kill so we spent some of it trying to sort out my new phone.

At last the replacement handset had arrived of a different type to the one that had been so unreliable and had in turn replaced the nightmare that was the one before that.

Mobiles don't seem to come with instructions these days so it is just a question of guessing. Gradually getting the hang of it, although it is slow work and the touchscreen keypad has a habit of choosing the letter next door: "dp yjsy ,slrd oy b smmpuomg"

TRANS: "So that makes it very annoying"

Plus there is a little ball on the front that glows on and off when a text message has been received. This gives it the appearance of a 1950's Sci-Fi movie.

You know, the one where the asteroid glows in the shallow crater before the alien slime pours out engulfing the necking teenage couple in their convertible Thunderbird out by the bluff. Who only notice something is wrong too late when the radio starts to crackle.

Then it was off to see a particular favourite of ours, Country artist Brad Paisley. I first came across him on American Adventure 1 in 2007 and have been a huge fan ever since.

He's not particularly well known in the UK, a state of affairs I am trying to help rectify by playing him as part of "Lester’s Library" on the show.

It was gratifying to see he had sold out two nights on his first visit here in ten years

He co-writes some brilliantly clever songs which he performed such as "Online", "Ticks" and the title track of his new album, American Saturday Night. He is also a real guitar-slinger and a great showman with a terrific rapport. He was clearly loving it as he walked among the audience during extended solos.

He is an electric performer and the capacity crowd knew most of the songs and so there was a huge sing along and a terrific atmosphere.

With visiting US artists you are always going to detect a varying degree of "it’s really good to be over here in England.....Britain is my second home" sort of stage announcement.

What was funny and perhaps slightly revealing that taped to the stage by his mic stand were two pieces of paper. One obviously the set list. The other had one word written on it. It proclaimed in bold lettering "LONDON"

Probably most touring musicians nightmare to walk out onto the stage in say Boise Idaho and punch the air with your fist and yell…

"Good evening Tehran!"

No mistake here thankfully. There was a little World Cup/London/Fishing in the River Thames type bonding banter, but luckily it was minimal. He indulged in a little "Top hole. pip pip" style chat when he first hit the stage but it didn't grate and was well meaning.

Never understood why Americans still think that we are all bastard sons and daughters of Terry Thomas.

Good to see as well that the audience was mixed with all ages being represented. Giving lie to the received wisdom that Country music fans are all in their 60's and are blue collar workers from Barnsley.

He was fabulous and even better news he intimated that he is coming over again next year for a proper tour. Miss him at your peril.

Lawks. Soon be the weekend Mr Hudson make no mistyke!

Sorry think its catching.

Sunday 20 June 2010


Been looking forward to this for ages. The Dark Lady had bought tickets for Willie Nelson as a birthday present. I had seen him a couple of years before and he was fabulous. How would the intervening 24 months have affected him? He is 77 years of age and so you do worry about deterioration in your idols. What if his voice was shot? What if he couldn’t play his guitar as well? What if he came over as an elderly shuffling shadow of his former glory??
We needn’t have worried. If anything his voice is in better shape than it was on the previous outing. It is an idiosyncratic sound that you either love or hate. We love him and his guitar playing was as good as ever. He still did the whole “Django Reinhardt instrumental" thing. Often with extended soloing in other songs. As I was a lot closer to the stage this time I was able to get a closer look at the great man. I knew his guitar (Celled “Trigger” apparently) was beat up but I never realised it had a hole worn through the soundboard due to years of thrashing.
He spoke little but played a lot. I lost count of the number songs he crammed into his 90 minute set.
Though he did do “Crazy”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “On the Road Again” and “City of New Orleans”; just a few of my favourites. I counted the other day that I have 22 Willie albums and am only scratching the surface. When he launched into a fabulous low key version of “Georgia”, there was an audible gasp of pleasure from the DL and I thought she was going to weep with joy.

It was all over by 9.30pm so we hopped in the car and drove home. It was going to be a week of great music.
Man cannot live by tunes alone. So on Saturday we popped in to the pub for a quick one and drank it outside as the weather was dry and warm. Stayed to watch the opening minutes of the England v USA world cup match. I am not a fan but the DL is and can explain the offside rule to me. I still haven’t grasped it as my mind wanders very easily.
My sister and brother-in-law were watching at their place on their HD TV. Apparently the England goal was missed due to a glitch. My normally mild-mannered Brother-in-Law was so furious that apparently he “threw his slipper to the floor with great force”. When we got home it was obvious that the Dark Lady would rather watch the football. So I left her shrieking at the box whilst I “pinnied up” and got on with the serious task of preparing the food (opening the packets for the cold collation and washing the salad.) I also spent some time putting up the fairy lights. I may not be much of a cook but I like to think I am OK with presentation.

Monday evening it was to the BBC for a special concert featuring Jack Johnson. I have played him on the radio dozens of time and like his work. He was excellent although I began to think about halfway through that it was all sounding a tad “similar”. Some acts have enough light and shade to sustain the interest not sure that Jack has judging by his set.

I have been wrestling with my mobile phone all week as it has had a catastrophic software meltdown which means it has lost nearly all the data, all the sound clips and all the photographs. A quick peek at the internet revealed that it was a common problem and many have been returned by disgruntled owners. So off I went to the shop ready for a battle.
“This phone is rubbish”
“Yes we know. Would you like a replacement?”
“I’m not having the same one like you tried last time, I want a replacement”
“No just go choose a phone and we will regard it as an upgrade”
“Wow uh uh? You are not going to try and fob me off?”
“Nope, choose a phone let the guy at customer services know and we will pop one in the post” Currently waiting for final instructions so hopefully by next week will have a new phone.

Thursday night it was time for some more music and off to the famed BBC Maida Vale studios for Steve Winwood.
Last time I was there was for Bonnie Raitt about five years ago. I had to stand. This time there were little tables complete with an electric candle to give it “atmosphere”. We shared a table with a big BBC cheese and singer Ruby Turner. It was a really intimate gig reckon fewer than 100 people were there and it was an instrumental and vocal feast. Steve looked and sounded in great shape. Working through extended versions of some of his finest moments such as “Higher Love", "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I’m a Man”. He paused at one moment as a technical problem with his Hammond Organ was bothering him. We marvelled at the ability of one man to sing, play the keyboard with two hands, and also the bass parts with his feet. Who says blokes can’t multi-task?
“Its like having a 60’s car” he explained. It must be tricky relying on ancient equipment. Just as well he didn’t have a Mellotron. I gather they were hard work when they were new, let alone nearly 40 years down the line. During many songs we were treated to impromptu backing vocals by Ruby as she could scarcely contain her delight. As a white, middle-aged, middle class man, not known for being particularly “hip”, I would say it was a “funky” evening.
I will now drag myself away from the keyboard crimson faced with embarrassment after that remark, feeling like a Vicar with a guitar or a politician talking to Radio One’s Newsbeat about their favourite bands.

Thursday 10 June 2010


Down to earth with a bump after American Adventure 3. I don’t think I have known four weeks go so fast.
Most of the first week back was spent doing all of those exciting things that you have to do after a holiday, such as laundry and sorting out unpaid bills. Also catching up with friends who ask, “Good holiday?” or “how was the trip?”, hoping against hope that you will not bring out the photographs.
On this occasion, as it was my first jaunt with the Dark Lady, people also asked: “Had your first argument yet?” I can report quite truthfully as of this date: not so far and long may that continue. We both had a terrific time. Relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.
One of the many bonuses of this job is the music. Four weeks away and there was a mass of CDs to return to. Record companies hoping for a play as part of “Lester’s Library”, or maybe hoping that a track could be taken along to the playlist meeting for possible inclusion by producer, Dr Strangelove.
Rather like sorting six issues of my local paper into date order before I start to read them, it was a question of getting the music into release date order; there is little point in playing something that won’t make the shops for two months, by which time we will have forgotten about it.

The next thing is to look through and decide which ones to listen to. A lot of the stuff we get is just not suitable for the shoe. Not a big fan of talent show winners, nor teen heart-throbs. Then there are the charity records. Taking aside the whole issue of the doubtless worthwhile cause, I always feel like I am being “mugged” for charity and there is a lot of emotional blackmail involved.
There are so many out there these days, I feel if you play one you have to play them all. And that would not leave a lot of room for anything else, would it?
How can you decide to play the “Cat Relief” CD over the “Pooch Idol” offering? Children in Need is the official BBC charity so they get a “bye” as far as this argument is concerned. To the person raising money for their charity though, their charity is the most important one in the world.
Then, at certain times of the year, other music makes its appearance felt - not always comfortably - but its presence is there. Christmas means a rash of terrible novelty songs as well as some good stuff which will get on. I still shudder at the memory of “What do you get a Wookie for Christmas when he already has a comb?”.
You may have noticed that we are in the grip of World Cup fever. So out come a whole slew of soccer-related novelties. We have our own views on organised sport and football in particular so we are covering the “beautiful game” in our own way which does not include home-made tributes recorded in bedrooms, or groups of “lads” belting out undying love and winning certainty with maybe a micro-celebrity or two to make the CD sleeve look slightly more convincing.

It has been a whole two months but you can’t keep a good Geek down. So it was to Liverpool on Friday for another of our famed “Nerd Nights”. Not been to the ‘pool since about 1994 and it’s a changed place. It was rather run down and grubby on my last visit. Since then it has been transformed. Must be something to do with its City of Culture status. Which brings us neatly too…..
Booked into a budget hotel opposite Albert Dock and we found ourselves in the midst of ”Leah’s Hen Weekend” She is obviously a game girl as I counted about 20 of her closest “WAG-tastic” mates had turned up to give her moral support. This seemed to mean dressing her up in L plates a bridal veil and a fat suit and parading her round the city. If this is what friends do I hate to think what her enemies had planned for her. Wonder where the Stag night was? Manchester? If I was a blushing bride and my intended told me that he and a few mates were going to take a weekend trip to say, Amsterdam or Prague, you know he has two things on his mind. 1)Beer and gallons of it. 2) Prostitutes.
Sew him into his fat suit girls before he gets on the plane and you will have no problems.

The usual suspects turned up for the ritual humiliation that is DJ’s talking about jingles, who just got fired from where, and trying to outdo each other on chart placings and record labels.
Thankfully on this occasion there were no outbreaks of impressions. When you get “voice conscious” broadcasters all in the same place, the noise and the men of a thousand character voices can be deafening and probably very upsetting to the lads circling the spray-tanned Hen Night girls like sharks circling a walrus. (I am trying to continue fat suit motif here, you understand).
Headed off to a very nice restaurant which has been created from one of the warehouses and we had a nice long table all to ourselves. We ordered, and this restaurant had a good way of making sure you were ready to eat. The food took 90 minutes to arrive. The reason apparently was that some of the party had opted to stuff themselves with starters so the kitchen was waiting until everyone was in sync before bringing out the macaroni cheese, in my case. Radio and TV presenter Charles Nove opted for a “Meat Pizza”. Why is it that whatever you order in a restaurant, the other person or person’s food looks better? The meat Pizza did exactly as it said on the tin. It could have equally accurately been described as “Abattoir”. Think I noticed a couple of hooves amid the pile of meat on the thin crust pastry. It wasn’t quite the 72oz steak that I saw advertised at the “Iron Skillet” on my last American Adventure, but it would have served as a tasty starter for that meal.
When the burping and lip-smacking ceased, a crowd of us (with food down our front) headed into town. We hit a variety of pubs in and around Stanley Street, one of the last bits of the city - along with the “Liver Birds” - that I recognised. The rest having been rebuilt, tarted up and pedestrianised.
Trouble with Nerds is that we want to talk. It is increasingly difficult n a city centre on a Friday or Saturday night as pubs are aimed at people who want to stand around and shout at each other above deafening music. I love music but am not sure that turning your favourite tune up to a level where blood issues from your ears makes it any more enjoyable. In fact I would wager quite the opposite.
10,000 Watts of the “Singing Nun” for instance is probably going to drive anyone mad.

We found ourselves in a bar with lots of musical instruments in glass cases; tt may have been one of the “Hard Rock” franchise. As the walls vibrated with the sound I remember thinking to myself; “what a waste of perfectly good guitars. They should be being played not stared at in some boozer.”
We eventually took a cab to the basement bar of the Everyman Theatre, which was altogether more civilised. It had everything a committed Nerd needs: beer and a big table to sit around and talk radio-related stuff.

It also sported a selection of people in cowboy hats who had blown in from the theatre upstairs.
Soon it was 1.00am and we headed back to the hotel for a couple more. We had been assured when booking that the bar was open for as long as was necessary. It was. Providing “you want soft drinks only” said a gleeful staff member.
It was at this point that I remember the expression “Don’t shoot the messenger” and thought that perhaps in this case we could make an exception.
We went round the corner to a different hotel where the rump of the group - about five of us - sat around and chatted until bedtime at about half-past three.
The aftermath of these events is always the same.
They are long, shouty and very enjoyable evenings. This means that rather than having a sore head, not much booze is consumed over a very long period of time. So everyone turns up red-eyed for breakfast with a sore throat. Everyone expresses undying love for each other and plans are made for the next one in two months.
This explains why I have sounded slightly “crackly” on the show this week. However, all is nearly back to normal.

Incidentally. Look out Swindon: The Nerds are coming