It’s my talent and I’ll waste it if I want

It’s my talent and I’ll waste it if I want to.

That sentence has been my mantra for the past 20 years whenever I am asked the question: “Why aren’t you a professional musician?” It has always seemed like the ultimate ‘get out’ claus, the complete answer to the question that is far too complicated and emotional to go into at that particular moment. Far too much of everything to go into at any moment, if I’m completely honest. Anyone who has read any of my blog posts in ‘I Used to be in a Band’ on this blog will know that I had an early musical career playing the Harmonica. For those that haven’t and/or cant be bothered/don’t have the time, I’ll give you a brief summary.

In 1988 on a camping trip with the Scouts my 12 year old self picked up a mouth organ that one of the leaders had been playing. Within 6 months there was a band full of us all playing harmonicas in a group to a standard that got national and then international stage and TV interest. Tours, festivals, TV and more tours ensued, all crashing to a halt, when at the age of 17 I won the World Harmonica Championships in the Blues and Jazz categories.

Not long after the hubbub of being World Harmonica Champion died down (a performance at The Jazz Cafe with WAR and an appearance on Blue Peter) it all went downhill. I left home, got a flat and then fell in love with a very beautiful young girl. To support this extreme change in lifestyle I had to get a job. I could have moved down to London to seek my fortune, but I didn’t. I wasn’t in a good place and lacked the confidence to make such a drastic move. ‘Lack confidence?’ I hear you exclaim, ‘a musician lacking confidence?’. Well, yes, I’m sorry to break the illusion but most if not all musicians lack confidence, in fact its sometimes why we become musicians in the first place. Singers, in the main don’t lack confidence, but players of musical instruments are just the sort to be introverts. Think about it: learning a musical instrument takes years and years of practise. One locks oneself away in a room away from the world going over and over the same things in order to try and get better at playing phrases, scales, arpeggios and generally understanding one’s own instrument. At one time I spent at least 4 hours out of every day locked in my bedroom playing the Harmonica. Was this healthy? Probably not, but its an excuse a reclusive and non-confident person can use legitimately to hide away from the world without getting questioned.

Anyway, obscurity beckoned and I ran there like a dog through an open gate. I took a job as a screenprinter in a friend’s shed. He had a hand carousel(!) and printed 1 colour prints onto overalls for the oil and gas industry. It was great to learn this new skill. I learnt how to make screens, mix inks, load garments and all sorts of stuff that was earning me money and paying for my flat, girlfriend and increasing drinking habit. Eventually a job came up at a large local screenprinting firm and I applied. Based on the experience I had gained on my friend’s carousel I got the job and the rest, as they say, is history. Here I am twenty two years later, working as an artworker for a clothing company that screenprints onto tee shirts. I’ve been married twice and have two beautiful and very well behaved children, whom I adore. My house is vast and has 5, count them, 5 bedrooms. Yet despite all this I still feel a complete and total failure most of the time. Yes, get over yourself, I hear you cry. More and more lately I can’t stop the little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me what a failure I am. The little voice that rears its head anytime I am asked that infernal question: “Why aren’t you a musician for a living?”

It’s my talent and I’ll waste it if I want

Never slag-off your boss on Social Media

I know it sounds like obvious advice, but some of us have done it and some may also have seen that these ‘fails’ make for great memes too. But really folks, never slag-off your boss on Social Media.

In my previous employment I made the rookie and school boy error of slagging off work on my Facebook page. I was so smug about posting the cryptic and non-specific line. I was convinced that they would never catch me out, I was too clever. It was all about the outcome of what I considered to be a ridiculous task that my boss had had me bound up in for a couple of years. I had a beef and I decided to have a moan and let off some steam online.

I had my privacy locked down, I was not friends with any of the management team at work and I only took friend requests from work colleagues I thought had the same ideals as me, one of which being: ‘stick it to the man’. What could go wrong? Well, it turned out that someone held an old grudge against me that I thought was over. He had his revenge and he served it cold.

The incident that followed could of lead to me not trusting anyone ever again, but it didn’t. The truth is that you can trust people, but you can’t always trust human nature. It was obvious who showed the boss my post from his phone, so I tried to confront him about it. The said ‘grass’ evaded me right up until the day I left the firm. When I was confronted by my boss about the post I did the grown-up thing and denied that the post was about work at all!

I was so angry that I wrote a poem about it:

‘My boss is a dick’
I’ll post that on my wall
He’ll never get to see it
Just for my friends
Not public, at all

How was I to foresee,
Some fucking arse-licker,
Out in the factory,
Would show my boss,
Make him see the screen grab,
To prove that he’s working hard,
A wayward factory lad.

“You posted it in work time,
That’s what irks me most,
This firm has been good to you,
A most auspicious host,
This is how you repay us,
Calling me a dick,
I demand an explanation,
And I want it fucking quick.”

I’m sorry it cost you money,
For me to bad mouth you,
I’ll do it in my own time next time,
And edit my friend list too.

I didn’t actually write the words, ‘My Boss is a Dick’ but the words that I did write would have made for poor poetic coupling!

Thanks for reading.

Never slag-off your boss on Social Media

Funeral for a Friend

Recently I attended the funeral of a very old friend of mine. Well, when I say ‘friend’ I’m not even sure what I mean by that anymore with this particular person. I’ve been very lucky and only attended a handful of funerals in my lifetime. Some might say that having reached the age of 39 with both parents alive and a full compliment of grandparents is very lucky indeed. I only lost my great grandparents in my late twenties. The prospects look good for my own longevity, if only I could learn to look after myself better. Having said all that, the funeral of the 78 year old man I am attending today had a mother who lived to be 102. The secret of her extraordinary long life; she quit smoking when she turned 80.

So, having a full compliment of parents and having attended only a smattering of funerals, how am I supposed to feel about the death and proceedings of someone who was really close to at one time in my life?

I remember at some point in my youth my father, being somewhat fascinated by Egyptology, told me about the god Anubis. Anubis attended to the recently departed souls, weighing their hearts. If their heart was light then the soul floated up to heaven, if heavy they descended to the underworld. I always thought this unfair. How could a person be entirely good all their life? As a child I was raised as a Christian and as such was taught that Jesus would forgive me my sins. I was also taught that it was probably best not to sin anyway, just in case. That always seemed a big ask for a me, especially given the circumstances I have often found myself in and the lot I was dealt in life. Today I find myself weighing my departed friend’s heart. Unlike Anubis I am not looking for the weight to be light so that it can float up to heaven. I am looking for the good and bad deeds from my friend’s life to even themselves out.

Thinking back in time, I’m becoming more certain that it is this train of thought that led to my subsequent atheism. I think that I wanted to be judged by an unfair system. Through childish eyes I hear myself screaming ‘it’s not fair!’ into the abyss of my distant youth. Eventually I came to judge myself more harshly within the confines of my own life, not waiting to be judged after my death by a mythological deity. I judged myself harshly as a child and gave up on being good, at times almost completely. My recently deceased friend never gave up on trying to be good. He always judged himself by his own system and lived by his own rules.

My friend’s name is (was) Norman and I first knew him as a Scout leader. I joined the Cub-Scouts the minute I was allowed to at age 6 and it subsequently consumed my life. Norman was a part-time leader, only turning up at the odd meet and attending camps as a extra man to help out the other leaders. Aged 11 I moved up to the Scouts and coincidentally, Norman became more involved in the group. Norman owned a large, white transit van that he allowed us to fill with kit to take to our annual summer camps. Being a patrol leader, I was allowed to sit in the cab with Norman on the way to the camp. Casually strewn on the dashboard of the van were two shiny mouth organs. I asked Norman if I could have a go, a question both he and I both joked about on many an occasion since. Long story short, I never put the harmonica down. We formed harmonica groups and traveled the world performing on stage and TV alike, Norman as our band manager and mentor. The first time Norman and I shared the joke we were standing in New York’s JFK airport and silly o’clock in the morning. The tail end of a grueling schedule of TV performances and touring. A tired and tour-worn Norman looked at me smiling and said, “Next time you see something you like on the dashboard of my van, bloody well leave it alone!” It always made my heart rise to believe that my actions that fateful day had in some way being responsible for all the great times and success we were having.

By age 16 I was a seasoned musician and traveler. I had spent nearly every waking hour playing the harmonica and every weekend traveling around to one gig or another. My parents had divorced when I was 12 and the fall out was devastating. My relationship with my mother soured and my father retreated to lick the wounds of their 12 year marriage. My mother needed me at home on weekends to look after my little sister and to keep the house while she worked. She was too tired to do anything after her long shifts. I wanted my own life and not to be a parent to her and my siblings. I needed a parent, I needed a way out. Music was the answer. Norman was the answer. Norman owned a Harmonica mail-order business that he was looking to take on the road to festivals etc. The perfect answer was that I would go and live at Norman’s house and work for him. As an Harmonica player of some note by then, I could sell Harmonicas to practically anyone. I also made myself useful round his house, cooking and cleaning up after his elderly mother. Norman paid me handsomely for this with both room and board.

As I turned 17 things had evolved nicely in our household to a secure routine of making a little bit of money and growing the business nicely. We drank more, ate more and had a great time. Norman loved playing devil’s advocate to any point that I cared to raise and in a humorous way helped me question so many things that I took for granted in my life. It was within the framework of this relaxed atmosphere that Norman made some disturbing confessions. I wouldn’t like to go into them in great detail, but dear reader know only this: Norman NEVER hurt anyone nor forced anyone to do anything against their will. Norman did, however, exploit his position of authority where children were concerned and gave in to a couple of temptations that he really shouldn’t have done. In retrospect I am able to see that these morbid confessions were little more than grooming. A grooming which I never gave in to and he never again pursued.

To this end I find myself weighing Norman’s heart on my own set of scales. On the day of his funeral I found myself smiling at the crass jokes he used to tell, his argumentative nature and his techno-phobia. His lack of personal hygiene raised a smile in me that couldn’t go away. The generosity he showed, not only to me, but to everyone he came in contact with; all these things and many more aspects of Norman’s personality made up the good side of the scales.

The heavy, in my estimation, was evened out. In conclusion I think it is not only possible to love the good and the bad in someone, but it is also possible to love the good enough to forgive the bad.

Funeral for a Friend

Time and Motion

Saving time in industry and making headway is not about making great leaps forward. Sustainable, gradual growth can be likened to beating a world record time. World records are broken and races are won by shaving seconds, sometimes hundredths of a second off at a time. If we strive to shave the seconds off of each task instead of cutting corners altogether, then over time greater efficiency can be achieved.

Time and Motion

Like for like or Just Unfollow

The increasing automation and insincerity of social media.

When a company, personality or organisation’s social media audience reaches a certain size then one expects a degree of automation. It’s how the large audience is obtained which is my initial issue with some accounts. This can also apply to how the audience is maintained. How many people un-follow inactive accounts voluntarily? How many just have a large amount of followers that migrated from their Facebook page?

This issue initially bothered me when I started to use Twitter and Instagram in earnest at the beginning of this year. I have had accounts with both social media platforms for some time now and never really had more than 10-15 followers on each of them. Up until that moment I had posted maybe half a dozen times on each and I noticed that my piffling amount of friends or ‘followers’ was made up of old acquaintances. I had followed my friends and acquaintances back plus followed a few celebs I admired or thought interesting. Just being nosy really. My wife on the other hand is a very sociable person outside of the realms of social media and has nearly 200 Twitter followers having never posted anything at all! In fact she confessed to me the other day that she had created an account some years ago and forgotten all about it having not found it useful.

I mean, using some sort of automated scheduling system, especially in the corporate and entertainment sector can be dead handy. If you’re going to be part of the conversation you may as well be talking when the conversation is taking place. Having said that, if you are saying something worth hearing then it will get re-posted, commented upon and ‘liked’. What you are in fact doing is broadcasting. A successful e-commerce entrepreneur was speaking at a conference I attended once. His comment was that as dad as social media goes one should try to be part of the conversation. Even radio stations have scheduling issues where they try to hit their target demographic. Shows, presenters, advertising and general content gets chosen to go out at certain times of the day that are deemed most likely to hit who it is aimed at. We all know this. It is no surprise that this now happens with social media. It’s dead handy as well. I used Hoot Suite at my previous employers to set up and schedule the social media postings for the week. That was it, all done in one hour on a Monday morning, allowing time for various other tasks around the busy factory I worked in. The problem came with engagement. The idea was to be able to leave it to its own devices to ‘broadcast’ throughout the week. If someone commented or responded to any post then that was where things could get time consuming. I’m sure my PR guru sister will tell me after she reads this that there are terms and strategies for all these problems, but I’m trying to keep this as layman as possible.

After posting more often of late onto my Twitter and Instagram accounts I have started to gain a small flood of followers and was surprised by how quickly the numbers went up the more often I posted and the more I followed back, almost automatically to anyone who followed me. I was just being polite at first, to be honest. After a while I noticed that my timeline was full of spam, jewelry sales, diet pill sales and various irrelevant memes. I had been following people who had only followed me for a follow back. My excitement rose every time I received a private message from someone after I followed them. I know I was being extremely naiive but I was initially a bit shocked to see the addendum to the messages I obtained from my new followers: ‘Via Just Unfollow’. This was oft times followed by the offer of 10,00 likes on Instagram and 10,000 followers on Twitter. I thought I would sign up for this, what a great way to cheat and reach a wider audience! Then I sat back, calmed myself and remembered a meeting I had with my former boss about gaining web traffic for our web-to-print solution.

It was the intention of my former employer to link up with a client that made a magazine for a city social scene, a ‘What’s On’ if you will. Their website had traffic of over 35,000 hits a month and my boss wanted a piece of that for our site. It instantly occurred to me at the time that not everyone, if anyone at all would want personalised printed media after visiting a What’s On website for their city. It was traffic indeed and ten times what we had been getting already through organic sources but not the right kind of traffic. We needed to find, hunt down and target our demographic. We had no USP, we had no idea what our ACTUAL demographic was so there was no way to hit it. I am no longer working for that firm but I believe the site struggles even now, 4 years into the project.

Just like my former employer, I don’t need followers for the sake of followers. I would genuinely like people to follow my accounts and read my stuff because they are interested in what I have to say, whether they agree with it or not. I will not ‘like for a like’ and nor will I ‘Just Unfollow’. I will, however, monitor who I follow from now on and be grateful for genuine followers.

Like for like or Just Unfollow

I Used to be in a Band – ‘What’s That Noise?’ – 1991

When you get a call from the BBC asking you to be on one of their shows its a fair assumption that you’ve actually made it. Yes, the BBC actually called us up and asked us to be on their music artsy programme What’s That Noise. I was a massive fan of the original run of the programme which was charismatically presented by Craig Charles. Being a massive fan of Red Dwarf as well I was so excited I could have burst at the prospect of actually meeting him. Having said that, we had appeared on Jools Holland’s Happening a few years back and not actually met Jools himself at all. I placed my excitement in reserve and in retrospect it was a good job that I did. Repackaged and revamped, What’s That Noise was being presented by Tony Gregory whom we had met before when appearing on rival channel ITV’s Motormouth. Our manager, Norman, even had the balls to ask Tony why he switched sides. Tony answered awkwardly that it was for the prestige but certainly not the pay. Ryan just stuck asking Tony where Craig Charles was, a question which obviously didn’t go any way towards lifting the awkwardness at all.

Technology had marched on during the time that we had been frequenting television studios. Instead of the usual clip-on microphones or makeshift vocals mics on a stand, ‘gun-shot’ microphones placed some way in front of us. Pointing up from the floor they were unobtrusive and picked up the sound beautifully from quite a distance. It was a great relief not to be tied to a microphone whilst playing the mouth organ for a change. One could almost be forgiven for forgetting that the mics were there at all. Set in an arty mood with a studio reminiscent of the minimalistic set for The Old Grey Whistle Test, the new format for the show was strikingly different to what I was used to watching on the original Craig Charles version. Long fading camera shots, multiple takes and extremely talented musicians took up the whole day and went on well into the evening as all acts performed their numbers.

As we were about to trudge back to our dressing room a dandy looking, very petite chap in a red velvet suit stood in the middle of the studio floor and asked us all to gather round. I recognised the musical director straight away. We had been introduced to him earlier in the day but up until that point had not actually had any interaction with him. He explained that he wanted everyone to perform a piece intro music for the show. The piece would then be used as a backdrop for Tony to present the acts and do a talk-over. The idea was for us each to play a different note in harmony with the other groups, artists and musicians appearing that day as one big band altogether. Musical director that he was he knew exactly what he wanted us to play. He walked past the line of us five lads and called a note out pointing to each of us as he passed. I was told to play a D flat, John was told to play an F. Bearing in mind the amount of collaboration that needed to happen between the various sorts of musicians for this to come off correctly, it became obvious to me that this velvet clad dandy knew what he was doing.

At the end of quite a long day of ‘work’ five teenage boys can get a bit restless. Things had got a bit pushy and shovey down the line up as the day had gone on and John was in a particularly odd teenage mood by the time we came to the big band slot. Our managers had retreated hours ago into the control room with the director and editing crew. We were unsupervised, tired and not the most receptive we could have been.

After the first run-through things were sounding a little odd. The musical director moved between the acts and stuck his ear out in front of each of them in turn listening for the culprit with the bum note. He circled past us and stopped in front of John. The chap leaned forward and very politely told John in a whisper that he was playing the wrong note. John seemed to take this piece of criticism very well to begin with. Having a reputation for being more than a little unreasonable at band rehearsals when it came to correction, I was surprised when there came no reaction. When John was right, he was right and no amount of proof or logic or evidence would sway him. I knew it had all gone a little too well. As the musical director turned his back to walk away John pulled a face. Waiting until the chap was half way across the room John started:
“Fucking c***, who does he think he is?” John said under his breath. All the time staring daggers at the musical director’s back across the room from us. The musical director stopped suddenly. Still with his back to us he lifted the index finger on his left hand to his earpiece. His head turned in our direction, just for a second. After a moment he carried on walking, almost as if he meant to go and do something and then thought better of it. Ryan gave an affirming snigger in John’s direction, so John carried on.
“Fucking twat, fucking telling me I played the wrong note. Fuck him.” John grinned across the room aggressively in the musical director’s direction. By this time Peter had joined in the sniggering.
“How much of a twat is he then John?” Ryan smirked, egging him on.
“He can’t fucking tell me what note I’m playing. I know what fucking note I’m playing. I’m doing it fucking right, must be some other c***.” vented John.

As usual at this point in this sort of situation, we all joined in. Swearing, giggling and calling the musical director all the names under the sun then ensued from all of us. Bravely done behind his back and far across the studio floor from him.

Segment finished and in the can, we were presented by a runner to our red-faced managers Norman and David. They ushered us out of the studio, barely giving us time to wash the make up off our faces. Being herded into the back of a white transit van and careering off in a screech of tires was becoming a bit of a habit. We sat in silence on the way to the hotel that night. Silence was also the main theme for the van drive home down the A12 in the morning. Just outside the M25 I ventured to dare to ask Norman what the matter was.
“I’m still too angry too angry to say anything at the moment.” Norman commented sternly.
I hung my head in shame, we had been bad again and again I had no idea what had happened. I reassured myself that I sat on the side of the righteous had nothing to worry about. At this point I had a very clear conscience.

Norman stopped the van just outside of Chelmsford to fill up with petrol. Peter, John and Ryan all piled out of the back of the van and into the shop. For some strange reason, John decided that what would make the ultimate snack, the king of comestibles would not be a pack of crisps or a chocolate bar like any other normal person. Oh no, in his tiny pea-sized brain John thought it would be totally awesome (it was the nineties after all) to buy a sliced white loaf of bread. We set off again and the five of us rattled around in the back of the van getting more and more boisterous. Norman and David on the other hand sitting in the front seats of the van, got more and more stern. Things got out of hand. With no seats in the back of the van the five of us were free to kick the living shit out of each other if we so desired. Something we did quite regularly on tours. With no seats or harnesses in the way we took full advantage of the space and started throwing stuff at each other. A toilet roll, a rolled up towel, a cushion, a wash bag with toiletries still in it etc. This all went flying around the inside of the back of the van, much to our own amusement. In a stroke of pure genius(!) John decided that he would ball up slices of dry bread and hurl them at the rest of us. Pretty soon the back of the van looked like a bad snow scene. Crumbled and smeared white sliced loaf was in our hair, our clothes and stuck to pretty much every surface it could. It was when someone, I forget who, started chewing up the bread and making spit-laden dough balls that Norman stepped in. The van came to a screeching halt in a lay-by. Norman leaned over the back of his seat and started grabbing bits of bread manically. Ryan got the arse that he had been thrown around in the stopping of the vehicle and was making ‘I’m going to sue you’ noises at Norman. Norman was not interested.

“You are never going on TV ever again. This is the last trip I ever do for you lot.” shouted Norman amidst his bread grabbing fury.
“It’s only a bit of fun Norman.” countered John, “we’ll clear it up, don’t cry about it.”
“Yeah don’t howl Norm.” seconded Peter.
“Its not the bread that’s pissed me off, although it would have been nice to have been offered some. I’m starving!” said Norman, “It’s what happened at the BBC that’s really got me mad.”

The five of us exchanged quizzical looks for a moment. Then it dawned on me.
Norman delivered the coupe de grace: “We could hear you breathing in the control room.”

The entire floor staff had heard every breath we took and every word we said. The feed from the gun-shot microphones that we had mistakenly forgotten about had taken our foul-mouthed tirade against the musical director and plumbed it round the entire studio. Most importantly it fed right into the earpiece of the red-suited dandy of a musical director.

“We didn’t know where to look after the first 5 minutes of you boys swearing.” David put in.
“Once you piss off the BBC you have pretty much dug your own grave as far as TV goes.” finished Norman.
He was being melodramatic, but he was understandably very angry and embarrassed. I am sure at the time we all thought it was a great big laugh, but really… you never know who’s listening.

I Used to be in a Band – ‘What’s That Noise?’ – 1991

I Used to be in a Band – Radio Norfolk 1989 – Part I

A cabaret act made up of 5 teenage boys from Great Yarmouth playing mouth organs? Sounds exactly like the sort of thing that would win a talent contest run by Radio Norfolk, doesn’t it? As a band we had attended many of these sorts of local talent show events. Our older manager, Norman, thought it was a great way for us to get local exposure and keep us in the public eye. Our younger manager David on the other hand, was always looking at the bigger picture of national coverage for the band. Well, when I say that the exposure and brand awareness was for the band, what I actually mean is that it was for the organisation that bore us: Harp Start. The children’s harmonica school aimed to put a mouth organ in the hands of every child in the UK, free of charge. Running an organisation like that required sponsorship, earnings and donations from wherever possible (as long as they were legal!). It was therefore important that we took every opportunity to get into the public eye that we could. Which included humiliating ourselves at a local talent show.

We were put onto the event by Radio Norfolk impresario and children’s entertainer, Olly Day. Not his real name I was led to understand, but he lived up to the name by being one of the most nauseatingly happy people I have ever met. You know, one of those people who almost makes you want to rise to the challenge of pissing him off. Even at the tender age of 12 I was sure I wanted to make it my mission to wipe the eternal smile from his face. Something I am almost ashamed to say that we achieved collectively as a band. Norman and David had been trolling the local radio stations to try to get a bite for local coverage for the band and came across a friendly ear in Olly. He invited us onto his evening radio show so that we could play a few tunes and Norman and David could beg for cash. Sorry, I mean ‘put out a well-mannered plea for sponsorship to be forthcoming’. My bad, but in the years following the events depicted here the constant pleas for sponsorship became blatant and to be honest, plain embarrassing. At its lowest point David basically used to get us to play at bars so that he could get free drinks all night. The man was an alcoholic, amongst other things, so I guess he had needs. Having been one myself as an adult, I understand.

Radio studio circa 1980sUpon our arrival at the Radio Norfolk station HQ the 5 of us lads were ushered into an empty studio to wait for Olly to be ready for us to go out live on the air. Norman and David were off pressing the flesh, meeting and greeting etc., whatever managers do, I really can’t remember. The point is that we were unattended in what was basically a studio room with a sound desk, microphones and sound proofed walls. We foolishly assumed that the equipment was switched off and that the massive mirror along one side of the studio was for us to see ourselves in. What is it they say? Never assume anything as it makes an ass out of you and me.

John was first. Pretending to be conducting an interview he donned the ‘cans’ that were floating around on the desks and started to play his harmonica as loud as he could into the assumed not-live microphone in front of him. “Yes, yes ladies and gentlemen that was John playing the mouth organ and yes he is fucking awesome so fuck you all and goodnight!” he playfully chatted in his best radio voice. Situations sometimes spiralled out of control with us as group of lads. Just the same as when you are a kid hanging around on street corners. Someone shouts at an old lady, someone kicks a milk bottle, someone else throws something and before long you have a ‘chase’ and it all gets out of control. Most of the time with us 5 it just seemed to be a small spark to light a firework. Once John had broken the seal of faux radio voices and swearing into the microphone we were all doing it. “Hi, my name’s Olly-fucking-Day it is, and that is my real fucking name because I’m a fucking twat!” was Peter’s riposte at the top of his lungs into the nearest microphone. Ryan chose an American style radio voice for some reason, “My name’s Olly Day and I like to suck a lot of cock.” I will spare you the rest of the depth of profanity that graced those fine radio station walls, but needless to say that all of it was the product of undereducated underclass teenage boys imagination and none of it was suitable for broadcasting.

After about 30 minutes of this and a whole bunch of other japes, which may or may not of included one of us pulling a mooney in front of the ‘mirror’, Norman and David came to get us to take us through for the live show.

The studio for the live broadcast was only next door to the one we had been held in. I say ‘held’ because it really did seem like being held in a cell after 30 minutes of that sort of behaviour. I thought it seemed odd that they didn’t have a mirror on their wall, just a dirty great window that looked into an empty studio. I could hear music playing through the cans that graced the desks and hung from microphones over tables that looked like the sort you play cards on. There was one guy at the sound desk with cans on and next to him with cans round his neck and a very red face indeed was Olly himself. It looked like someone had achieved my ultimate goal of wiping the supercilious smile from his face. Ever the professional Olly ushered us in, forced a smile and gestured seats for us all. He arranged us round a microphone with a stern face and more forced smiling, then positioned microphones and even patted one of us on the head when we did as we were bid. It was true to say that through all the professionalism that Olly displayed, he atmosphere absolutely stank. The free and easy Olly Day that we had all met when we first came to the station that night had gone and a stern, professional exterior remained. I could sense a change in his demeanour and Norman and David definitely sensed it. The interview was given to David from an increasingly red-faced Olly who seemed like he wanted to be anywhere but there. Was it my imagination or was he rushing the interview and getting to the bit where we were to play a tune rather quickly? It was previously arranged that he would speak to one of us lads and ask us about our personal experience with the mouth organ, but that didn’t take place. Perhaps there wasn’t time?

At the end of our segment Olly thanked us all and shook all our hands on our way out of the studio. Our new best friend in radio-land, happy to give us a plug whenever he could, helping us on our merry way of promoting our career down the very path we required. Or so we thought. Just as the last of us exited the studio door, Olly called after Norman and David, “Could I have a quick word please gents?” he asked, ever politely. “You boys can wait in reception and try to behave yourselves.” David offered after us, a tad too little too late.

Five minutes later our teacher/managers emerged into the reception area of the Radio Norfolk foyer with very sullen faces indeed and eyes that could look at anywhere but us. I was used to conflicts in adults and as a child grew up with a violent father who could turn on you at any moment, I knew when I was in trouble and Norman and David displayed all the signs. “What’s up?” I asked David. It was always easier to ask David about his feelings on a subject, he was usually less angry and less likely to dish out a punishment. Perhaps I felt like I could get away with more where David was concerned, I had known Norman longer and knew he had higher standards and ran a tougher regime. “You’ll have to wait until we get back to the van, I am sure Norman and I have a few choice things to discuss with you all.” I hated waiting for retribution. As an adult, waiting for punishment gives me have a panic attack, as a child I dealt with it in far worse ways.

Back at the van, blissfully unaware that we had done anything wrong, the other lads carried on with their usual japery and banter. Norman started the engine and as soon as we were mobile, David started his speech. Turning round in his seat the face the rest of us that were lounging around in the back of the Ford Transit van, he explained it all.

It turned out that whilst we had been left alone in the vacant studio room, all the microphones in there had been left on and the ‘mirror’, you might have guessed, was a one-way glass that was visible from the studio that Olly resided in next door. The feed from all the microphones in our room had been ringing in his ears throughout the broadcast he had been engaged in previous to our segment, ready for him to interview us from that very room. Apparently, Olly had said that we were never to darken the doors of Radio Norfolk ever again. He didn’t get his wish, we had a talent show to contend in!

To be continued…

I Used to be in a Band – Radio Norfolk 1989 – Part I