14 November 2008

Out with the old

My parents are having a small clearout, and one of the items on the condemned list was their old hi-fi that they've had about 15 years. It's still pretty good to look at but they've upgraded now to one of those the size of a thimble, so the old system has no further use.

Dad and I therefore transported it - speakers, cabinet and all - to the local hospice charity shop. As Dad chatted to the woman behind the counter, I had a sneak look at the large row of LPs and 12" singles they had. I'd never been in this charity shop before, but soon it was obvious it was a little goldmine, full of compilation albums and extended plays from the 1980s that F-C and I would pore over for hours. I intend to go back when I have a little more time to peruse them further.

As with all such stores, there was a large array of old clothing, particularly lots of pairs of jeans. Numerous household items, accessories and toys adorned the other shelves. Amusingly, the clock on the wall had a handwritten warning notice next to it saying: "ATTENTION! THIS IS THE SHOP'S CLOCK AND IS NOT FOR SALE" which tickled me.

Given that a record player - which people are buying again, judging by the two second-hand ones which have been installed for one of the other DJs at my club - was part of the old hi-fi system we'd just donated, I suppose I'd better get my skates on if I'm going to thumb through those long players a bit more. Maybe some 80s freak like me has been waiting for the hospice to ring them with the words: "You can come and collect your records now as we've just been given something to play them on."

Also on the clearout list, which they found by accident (and is of no use to a charity shop) is this.

My mum's first mobile phone. She said she was given it by her forward-thinking employer in 1992 but barely used it.

I know it's easy and unoriginal to laugh at old cellphones, but compare it with the one she has now.

The only tragedy is that Dad also has a modern mobile but, as a man who never properly learned how to programme the video and still asks me for advice about his computer, his knowledge of mobile phone technology extends to switching it on. When he can remember to.

13 November 2008

"You don't have to have the solution..."

I realised as I unzipped the CD wallets last night that I've never given you a rundown of a setlist for the 90s Night. So, as if to provoke numerous angry reactions from Valentine Suicide, this was what the midweek dirty stopout Stopfordians got last night:

George Michael & Mary J Blige "As"
Big Mountain "Baby I Love Your Way"
Lionel Richie "My Destiny"
Lighthouse Family "Ocean Drive"
Black Box "Fantasy"
JT & the Big Family "Moments In Soul"
Mantronix feat. Wondress "Got To Have Your Love"
Family Stand "Ghetto Heaven"
Electribe 101 "Talking With Myself"
Soho "Hippychick"
Saint Etienne "You're In A Bad Way"
Young Disciples "Apparently Nothin'"
Brand New Heavies "Shelter"
Freak Power "Turn On Tune In Cop Out"
Jamiroquai "Canned Heat"
Reel 2 Real "Jazz It Up"
K Klass "Rhythm Is A Mystery"
Nightcrawlers "Push The Feeling On"
Livin' Joy "Follow The Rules"
Tamperer feat. Maya "Feel It"
Brothers In Rhythm "Such A Good Feeling"
Moloko "Sing It Back"
Todd Terry feat. Lisa Marie Experience "Keep On Jumpin'"
Rage "Run To You"
Rozalla "Are You Ready To Fly"
Dr Alban "Sing Hallelujah!"
Ce Ce Peniston "We Got A Love Thang"
Kym Sims "Too Blind To See It"
Opus III "It's A Fine Day"
Blue Pearl "Naked In The Rain"
West End feat. Sybil "The Love I Lost"
Ultra Nate "Free"
Everything But The Girl "Wrong"
M People "One Night In Heaven"
2 In A Room "Wiggle It"
Adventures of Stevie V "Dirty Cash"
Shamen "Phorever People"
Happy Mondays "Step On"
Charlatans "The Only One I Know"
Northside "Take 5"
Divine Comedy "Something For The Weekend"
Inspiral Carpets "Saturn 5"
Cast "Sandstorm"
Babybird "You're Gorgeous"
Oasis "Don't Look Back In Anger"
Bluetones "Slight Return"
Blur "Song 2"
Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored"
Stereophonics "Pick A Part That's New"
Stiltskin "Inside"
Ugly Kid Joe "Cats In The Cradle"
Nirvana "Come As You Are"
They Might Be Giants "Birdhouse In Your Soul"
Lenny Kravitz "Are You Gonna Go My Way"
Prince "Cream"
Eagle Eye Cherry "Save Tonight"

Beautiful South "Don't Marry Her"
Go West "The King Of Wishful Thinking"
Del Amitri "Always The Last To Know"
Sugar Ray "Every Morning"
Guns n Roses "Yesterdays"
Primal Scream "Movin' On Up"
Mr Big "To Be With You"
Right Said Fred "Deeply Dippy"
Deep Blue Something "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Def Leppard "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad"

Very guitar-based in the second half, untypically. The array of 90s chuckaway pop I'd normally play - Take That, Gabrielle, Madonna, Spice Girls, 5ive - got the night off as we were unusually bloke-heavy last night and they kept asking for rockier stuff.

Within the above list is my all-time favourite song of the 1990s. Any guesses?

12 November 2008


I watched a documentary on the Crime & Investigation channel about the Stephanie Slater case last night. Today I've found her official website. I can't recall, at the time, the details of the sexual assault, makeshift coffin and potential for electrocution ever being mentioned in the news bulletins, even after she was released, so the torture she went through seems even more unspeakable than the basic horrors we can imagine over being abducted.

I do remember Rob Newman getting laughs about it in his act though, and feeling that even allowing for humour in adversity, he went too far.

And to think Michael Sams is now moaning that his prison bed is too hard.

10 November 2008

"That was a transmission issue beyond our control..."

I've acquired a new Sunday morning show on Pure 107.8 FM in Stockport. It's a laid-back 10am-1pm slot and handy for me as I'm in the town doing the club gig the night before anyway, so a quick kip in the car is all I need prior to going on air.

I did the first one at the weekend and, of course, it was Remembrance Sunday. This is always observed impeccably by the radio industry, with the general way of going about the build-up to 11am being roughly the same from station to station - tone down any wacky content from 10.30am, play slightly more chilled music up to 11am, then observe the silence and play something suitably sombre and slow afterwards.

For our part, Pure did a grand job. Eva Cassidy's version of Fields Of Gold, then one of the station's volunteers read Flanders Fields in a wonderfully poignant manner. This took us to the silence at 11am, and then John Lennon's Love eased us back into regulation programming.

There is invariably one practical problem caused by the obligation to observe the silence - the prospect of the transmitter believing you have gone off air. If you ever happen to observe the silence with a radio station on in the background, you'll notice that the sound of birdsong, and maybe the odd passing aeroplane, is remarkably loud on your speakers amidst the hissing noise which radio equipment otherwise picks up as human respect for those who sacrificed their lives fills the airwaves.

The reason for rather loud birdsong is because the presenter has turned the levels on the satellite feed from the cenotaph up to maximum. This is so the transmitter recognises that there is output coming from your radio station, as anything beyond 30 seconds of silence prompts a back-up CD to kick in from the transmitter site.

These back-up CDs are a lifeline for when a building needs to be evacuated or when equipment goes wrong, especially at non-peak times when automated or pre-recorded or networked programmes are going out, meaning that the building is entirely empty. Unfortunately, they do have a habit of coming on when a station is observing the silence, as the birdsong levels are often not loud enough for the transmitter to register.

This has happened to me, a few years ago, when I was on a Sunday morning shift and was horrified to hear the back-up CD start fewer than 40 seconds into the silence. The only way to stop it is to restart something in the studio, as it then realises that output has returned and automatically resets itself, ready for the next time there's - literally - a breakdown in communications.

The other problem with back-up CDs is that often they are hopelessly out of date. The music on them may reflect what the station was playing at the time the CD was made but once it goes on air during a technical mishap, the station's music positioning seems to have made an almighty change for no apparent reason. Years ago, workmen sliced through underground cables in Manchester which rendered numerous radio stations off the air for a whole day. Our back-up CD at Imagine FM came on, playing some music we'd ceased to play ages before. Once the repairs had been done, I received calls on the breakfast show saying how refreshing we sounded (!) - but that it got a bit boring hour after hour.

That's another problem. An all-day cut in power or equipment can mean the same hour of music being played over and over again on the CD. I never wanted to hear When You're Gone by Bryan Adams and Melanie C ever again by the time the outage had finally come to an end, and I wasn't massively keen on the song beforehand. I'm still not.

And yet another problem is that the radio station needs to be identified during an outage, but an out-of-date back-up CD is likely to feature old jingles or sweepers, since when the positioning statement may have changed (ie, from "Today's Best Music" to "More Variety") and the package itself has been modernised or altered, often with a new v/o artist.

Radio stations should update their back-up CDs every six months or so, and immediately whenever they get a new jingle package, but only for the times it is necessary. For what it's worth, I'd always make sure the duty transmitter engineer switched off the array of radio station CD players before him just before 11am on one Sunday of each year.