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radioRadio you little monkey you.

I have many moments that make me shudder when I reflect on them, sommmeee I won’t go into here, but one that really made me laugh when I remembered it was when I was a kid listening to some controversial pirate radio station. The station was called Laser 558 and seriously it was amazing. It mixed oldies with newies (they’d have Frank Zappa followed by Wham, genius) and the American DJs were just plain cool. I listened to it all the time, because of it wasn’t like the other stations, these DJs didn’t patronise, played super cool music, and sometimes –gasp- they even swore! Yep, totally like for f*cking real. This was alllll jolly and dandy, until one day there I was listening to it innocently and one of the DJs says something like “Right, listen up, if you’re under age or don’t like swearing then just switch off for one minute, and then come right back, because I’ve got something serious to say” wow wow wow, switch off for a minute?? Are they crazy, if anything I turned it up, it didn’t get any more exciting than this, what was he going to say? The American dude broke into a rant about quitting drugs but he must’ve swore in every other word, he went totally demented, like Geldof but on acid. Amazing. I remember thinking ‘god it would be typical if my mum walked in at this moment’.  It was of course at that exact moment that my Mum decided to pop in and say goodnight or something, she heard the mad anti-drugs rant –but I think only really heard the swearing, when she was in my bedroom in the space of ten seconds the DJ must’ve said ‘it f&cks you up’ more than fifty times- Mum went beserk at me for listening to something I shouldn’t and banned me from listening to Laser ever again. Typical (although in truth am sure I would’ve gone right back to listening to it the next day – no way was I gonna miss the bookending of Boy George or the Durans with Funkadelic or the Stylistics, no no no).

Radio’s a funny old fish, or monkey, or fishmonkey with superpowers (a monkey that can swim, no wait a monkey that can fish, yes, that would be amazing, imagine the stories they would tell, that would make the evening fish by). I lived in America for a while and really got to know the DJs better… disappointingly they were never as great as the ones I recalled from Laser.  I worked in a large kitchen (somewhere upstate New York) doing menial washing-up jobs and so on. I worked from 7am till 7pm with a 2 hour break, chopping onions (lovvve chopping onions, seriously, never worked out why, but there it is), washing dishes, and scrubbing pans. I did that for three months, and apart from the brilliant friends, and endless amounts of fun I had, the only thing that got me through those long smelly kitchen days, was the radio. We’d try a different station every so often, but that was immaterial, they were all the same, I wondered why there were so many stations, the mind boggles. Every station the same. It was so the same that I still remember the track list to this day.

Elton John – wo-oo-o-oh-o I was made in Englandddd (bit of an ironic twist for me that song).

Bryan Adams – when you really love a woman, you gotta feel her every move….

Aerosmith – crazy, crazy, crazyyyyyyy for you baby, am losing ma mind, cos girl you go me craaaazyyy

Joni Mitchell – ppp paved paradise pp pp put up a parking lot mmmm bop bop bop

Every day, these songs, E V E R Y D A Y and three times a day at that, but after you got over this fact, once you got past the fact that you were forced to hear these songs, it became ok. Until…. Until there was a new song. A song that will never ever go away. A song that will live forever and ever. A song so nauseating you never ever thought it was possible, a song so arrghhhhh that you’d rather listen to the birdy-song over and over.

So no one told you life was gonna be this way, your jobs a joke, you’re broke….

I remember first hearing it. Thinking hmm catchy song. Then after about the billionth time I heard it in a week it made me want to go to prison just to escape it. This one was on more times than Elton, Adams, and Aerosmith put together. I was sure I would read in the paper that summer that there was an epidemic of broken windows because so many people through their radios through them. But no. It just kept on coming, you’d change the station and think you’d escaped it only to find it was the next song to come on. There was only one thing for it for me to escape that that that consistent monstrosity, that crime against hearing, that ear offense of the highest order – what my USA pals would call a four alarm fire alert, I had to leave the country, it was drastic action, but I didn’t see what other option I had.

On the flight home I saw a video of a cover version of Joni’s paved paradise, but no ‘I’ll be there for you-oooo cos you’re there for me tooo-oo-oooh’. Phew, I was safe. That is until about a month later when a new American sitcom became slightly huge. It was the theme tune? Oh man, at least (back in ’94) I had hoped it wouldn’t last long. Of course, it went on for 10 yearsssssss, and is now repeated ad nauseum. There’s no justice. I’ve heard that song so much that actually it has blended into the background, into the void that is ‘white noise’. Like the Coronation St or Stenders theme tune, it has become meaningless. Actually, once you separate out the Coronation St theme tune from the show and tune your ears into listening to it as an independent piece of music… yes, this is nice, you notice it is a melancholy chilled-ness, ahhh, it is the blues played by a trumpet. It is smooth, I like it, pour a G&T and whack on the Corrie theme tune YES, finally we’ve unearthed a gem – and it was staring us in the ears all this time.

I still listen to the radio, it was my best friend for a while when I worked from home, now I listen more to the ‘talk’ than the tunes, and definitely subscribe to some fab podcasts. Radio still has it’s monkeying tendencies, but then who doesn’t. I am going to do some googling to find out who those Laser DJs were, I might go a step further and try and contact them, I am quite certain they shaped my music habits.

And to play you out, enjoy this piece from a little street in Manchester: baaahhh ba ba ba ba bahhhhh, choon!

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