Sunday, 14 February 2016

My gran meets Steve Buscemi. It's the roaring 20s

I brought my girl an apple; she let me hold her hand.
I brought my girl an orange; we kissed beneath the band.
I brought my girl bananas; she let me squeeze her tight.
I'm going to bring a watermelon to my girl tonight.

My grandmother in c 1926, aged about 20

Lyrics to a Bonzo Dog song from 1966. But it was originally recorded in 1924 by the risque Billy Jones and Ernest Hare. It's the sort of thing that might have been found on my grandmother's gramophone record player.
What the Bonzos did in the 60s was to scour the flea markets, find old 78 rpm records, and re-record them. And then, about 15 years later, in the early 80s, I started listening to them. And still do. So, the recordings live on. 

Steve Buscemi as Nucky Johnson in Boardwalk Empire 
And here we are talking about something that happened in the 1920s and those records give us a direct link back in time. But there's more. I mentioned to a colleague that I'd just started watching the box set of Boardwalk Empire (which starts in 1920) and we concluded that the roaring twenties were a great time for music; with the idea of lots of people being able to listen to recorded music in their own homes for the first time. And that included my maternal grandmother.

A '78' player, like my grandmother's (similar to the one on the left) was made between about 1898 and the late 1950s & played at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute
I remember Nana's wind-up 78 gramophone record player in her flat in Chislehurst. When she died, in 1991, it was still in pristine condition. That's because I reckon it was only me and my sister that ever played with it. Sadly, in 1991 it was sold on to a collector. I say 'sadly' because actually, in reality, what would we do with it? It was about three foot tall. So a bit impractical to have hanging around. But it was beautiful. 

Music and scenes from Boardwalk Empire 

So perhaps there's a direct link between me, my grandmother and Nucky Johnson, the character depicted in Boardwalk Empire by Steve Buscemi. And that link is those 78 records that define the era. 

Suggested listening

Boardwalk Empire soundtracks vols I, II & III

The Bonzo Dog Band - Cornology (Best of) 

Songs the Bonzos taught us 

Woody Allen - Wild man blues 

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Scambusters versus the world

Scott: 'Tony? It's Scott Chisholm calling from Talk Radio...'
Tony: Sighs
Scott: '.....again'.
Tony: 'Scott; I've got nothing more to say to you, mate'. Hangs up 
Scott: 'Tony. Tony. Tony!'
Producers in the operations room: 'Hooray!'

Talk Radio reunion, 5 Feb 2016.
Scott, Craig, Harry, Nat, Me, Foxy, Mike and Tom 

Just a normal, everyday call in 1999 on Scott's show on Talk Radio, which included the Scambusters hour. The reason for telling you this is that last week, those producers and that presenter had a wonderful reunion. 

The show was from 9am until midday every weekday; my involvement was on the consumer show, Scambusters. And the thing is: There's no note of the show online. There's no digital history of it. If we were on air today we'd have a social media presence, a website and maybe a Scam app. But there's no mention of what we did in 1999 if you do a search. So I'm writing this to redress the balance. 

It was a consumer show with attitude. We put nasty retailers on air and humiliated them live to the nation: Dodgy phone companies; cowboy builders; people offering non-existent contracts to aspiring models. Often their humiliation would be accompanied by Craig's Scamwall. These were a set of sound affects that would be played as the scamees tried to squirm their way out of their misdeeds. The ice in the glass, a line from the song 'I remember you' or the howling Scamdog, ready to be unleashed at Scott's command. 

Watchdog it wasn't. We did things our own way. For the modelling scam mentioned above, we asked the guy from reception, who had a heavy London accent and was in his 60s, to read out the leaflet: 'Hi. My name's Samantha. I'm an attractive, beautiful, 23-year-old model. And you can be too'. How could the scammers respond to that?

People who rang into the Scamphone would be put on air to state their case against the scam retailers. There were some amazing people, often at their wits' ends. And more often than not, we solved the problem for them. 
A handy explanation some of the team, drawn by a listener, 1999.
So we saved several people from being ripped off. It was so much fun and we were also providing a valuable public service. 

It was anarchic. At times, Scott would say, on air: 'This is a shambles'. But it was well-thought-out shambolic broadcasting. At the reunion, Scott told me that he still, to this day, has taxi drivers telling him how much they loved his show on Talk back in the day.   

At the reunion everyone turned up. It was special because everyone came to remember the sort of time you shouldn't really have if you're getting paid for it. But it was also great broadcasting. And what a team. What a reunion. 

The team
Presenter: Scott
Producers: Tom, Dick and Harry 
Studio production: Foxy
Scamwall: Craig
Trainee Scambuster (set for big things): Nat
Friend of the show: Motoring Mike Rutherford 
Other friends:Callers on the Scamphone, Ola & many others

Monday, 1 February 2016

The battle of the bulge

Blackburn and Bury have both been in FA Cup action this weekend and theirs are magnificent. Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s are horrid. 

Man City, standard net, San Siro 70s and lower league net

The net. The onion bag. This is important stuff. The ball has to nestle in the goal. There used to be nets at the San Siro in Rome where the net just hung down. When Italy scored yet another goal against England in a qualifier I had to begrudgingly admit that it looked sublime. 

But Manchester City and Liverpool may as well have iron hanging down from the goals. When someone scores, it really does take away from the moment. Blackburn and Bury have done a clever thing. It’s the newer, bigger net that has become Premier League / Championship standard over the last few years, but there’s some added girth/ slack so that ball nestles in nicely. 

All sides in the Premier League and championship have those standard nets, but most are still pretty tight for my liking. Manchester City and Liverpool’s are painted in their colours, so you don’t see any buoyancy. You just get a nasty dull thud. 

Back in the 1970s, Wembley, Chelsea, QPR and West Ham all had tight nets. Most other grounds had the net hanging down from two stanchions; many lower league teams still adopt this beautiful thing. Lots of nestling possibilities. 

I’m sure that Chelsea once had a goal ruled out because the referee thought the ball had hit the post. In fact, it had actually rebounded back from a terrifically-tight net. (This is the opposite of a ghost-goal)

Millwall had a lovely set of nets last season. Loose as anything, with a bit of blue in. Pleasing to the eye. They’ve now reverted to the standard, bigger net with moderate give. 6/10.

There are more important things in life, obviously. But the whole point of football, our number one sport in the UK, is to run down the pitch and get the ball in the goal. If it looks great, doesn’t that make us all feel a little bit better? Thank you Blackburn and Bury. I hope they're bulging with pride.