I’m not at the ‘Tell me about the war granddad’ stage, but the fact that I shared vicariously in the lifestyles of the rich and famous many years ago always still appears to be of interest to the younger members of the team at staff socials. Or maybe they just keep me talking so the company credit card stays behind the bar a little longer….
And the questions are usually the same – ‘Did you really discover Simply Red…What’s Chris Evans really like…Who is the nicest/nastiest famous person you’ve ever met…Did you really win a Sony Award for Broadcasting…Were you ever actually on the radio?’ My 15 minutes of fame at Piccadilly Radio when nobody did it better.
Well, I didn’t discover Simply Red, but I did pay a small part in bringing them to the attention of the wider Manchester Public, as Mick Middles details in his book ‘Red Mick.’
‘Beech, the Head of Promotional Development at Piccadilly Radio, agreed that the station would promote a gig for the band at a suitable venue in Manchester. The deal was simple. Piccadilly would promote the concert on day time and night time radio and, in return, would have the right to record the gig. The Piccadilly Radio van was parked outside the teeming venue…and they were seen to be there at the very beginning of the career of a very important band.’
As for Chris Evans, even way back then it was obvious he was a star and he continues to be one of the most talented broadcasters in the UK. I have seen him a few times since we went our separate ways and he hasn’t changed a bit, save for the fact that he is now very rich and very famous. And I work in PR, so I’m not…
Who was the ‘nicest’ person? Well, there were lots. Cliff Richard was a lovely bloke; Bryan Ferry was very good looking indeed (so I was told by all the women in the office); and Bernard Manning wouldn’t take payment for a Christmas special I recorded with him, insisting I used the money to buy toys and tins for our Christmas Appeal. He also insisted I didn’t tell anyone as it would ruin his image. And then there was the (young) Britt Ekland…!?*
So, who gets my vote? Well, Noddy Holder is one of the nicest blokes I have ever met but ironically I was introduced to him post my radio days so perhaps he doesn’t count? So maybe Don McLean? I did an hour long special with him called ‘A Slice of American Pie’ and that was an incredible experience, sitting there with the man who sang and wrote one of the greatest songs of all time. He was a lovely bloke with a fantastic portfolio of songs. And he told me there’s a copy of ‘Vincent’ buried beneath the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in a time capsule.
And did you knows that according to Lori Lieberman, the artist who performed the original recording of ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, the song was born of a poem she wrote after experiencing a strong reaction to a Don McLean concert. She related this to Norman Gimbel, who took her feelings and put them into words. Then, Gimbel passed the words on to Fox, who set them to music.
And the ‘most challenging’? Perhaps, that would be Harry Nilsson who sang ‘Without You.’ He was somewhat inebriated and difficult to control. Or maybe Thin Lizzy who announced as they walked in the studio that they had always wanted to say **** live on air. Or the woman who had narcolepsy and who fell asleep during the interview. So many magic moments…
And yes, I did win a Sony Award in the days of steam radio in the ‘Best Educational Programme’ for ‘My Generation’, a series of six half programmes on teenage sexuality. I received my award in London from Roy Hattersley and Diddy David Hamilton (the latter name check for our older listeners) but I have no idea where it is now, sadly!
It’s a different world in radio these days but I’ll always look back on my seven years at Piccadilly Radio with warmth and affection. After all, as I have been told more than once, I had a face for radio…