Sunday, 27 December 2015

Loves, losses, gripes, glories and gratitude in 2015

A rueful, joyful look back 

It's been a full-on year. I wrote, a lot. Did audio production, a lot. Halfway through the year, I pulled out of a draining work situation and cleared my head. Then, naturally, I took a deep breath and promptly hurled myself into new fields of work, scrambling up fresh and steep learning curves. Some of it has been difficult and disappointingly fruitless. Other stuff has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. You think I'd have learned by now. 

Here's some of the things I stumbled across this year, some gripes and some regrets... and a few little treats, after the jump.

Rhino and the Ranters had a hell of a year

Ryan and Pete
I went to see these guys in March. They were great. Grabbed a song or two live on my portable. Had a lovely chat - you can read a post here. They played to an amiable Spotted Dog crowd, and all in all were mightily impressive. Since then, they have packed out the Dark Horse in Moseley, the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, and popped up at the O2 an awful lot. 

They're recording again, which is great; I can't wait to hear the results. Bassman Richard March had a terrible shock when his beloved bass was stolen. These things are not cheap. But within a week, the music community organised a storming online whip-round to get him back and rocking with a new string bass. Bloody marvellous.

Dan Whitehouse and shouty audiences

Dan's gig at the Glee this summer was a peach. Mind you, his gigs usually are. We were sitting next to a couple of genuinely charming girls who really were there to see Dan. That said, they chattered just a bit too much during his set. They chattered so much, in fact, that a member of the audience called them out, loudly, in between songs. They were mortified, as indeed they should have been, and visibly shrank in their seats. Dan handled all this with tact and compassion. He was sweet to the girls, respectful to the complainant, and wove the incident into the flow brilliantly. That man is a star.

Hannah Brown. Just watch her go.

I wrote about Hannah a month or so back. Hannah is a huge talent. Great songs, lovely voice, expressive, passionate, muscular and sensitive. And she is moving fast. I saw a nervous singles launch gig in front of all her bessie mates at Ort Cafe in the Autumn: not a gig I would relish, as expectations were unreasonably, feverishly high. But weeks later, she pulled off a coolly excellent set fronting a stand up bass and percussion trio for Radio 2's Introducing show at the Hare and Hounds. She knocked it out the park, frankly.

Other wonderful sets came from Chris Tye at the same gig; Chris Cleverley with a full band at Ort Cafe, Mahalia on the main stage at Mostly Jazz. There were plenty more, but as I try to leave reviews to some of the other excellent local music blogs (see the panel on the right of this page), I'll stop there.

More shouty audiences

Elliot Brown
I love gigs at the Prince Of Wales Moseley, especially the outdoor ones. It's a fabulous venue, well run, sympathetic to musos, and under ominous threat from a new flats development next door. 

 I just wish the cocktail bar crowd at the top of the garden would shut the ferk up when bands are playing. 

The Jamhouse in the Jewellery Quarter is another brilliant venue, with a superb music policy run by the great Ben Drummond. But there too, there are times when it just gets too noisy. 

Hey, I like a party as much as the next guy. Just not when someone is doing good stuff on stage. Paul Murphy got it absolutely right when he set up his Songwriter's Cafes; Tom Martin is explicit about the same thing at the Tower Of Song. If you come for the music, respect the musician.

The sweetest Christmas video greeting EVER

From Eleanor and Amit Dattani, one take, straight to camera, in their living room. In case you missed this YouTube gem, here it is. 

It's a huge pity that...

For all the brilliant and persistent lobbying by the Campaign For Regional Broadcasting Midlands to obtain a fairer share of license fee revenue spent back in the region, the elitist sense of entitlement displayed by BBC London staffers – who receive far more of license fee monies levied in the Midlands than do their local colleagues – has, if anything, become even more blatant than before. I speak here from personal experience. 

Within the Mailbox, there is no serious sign of change in attitudes either. While more staff have arrived to handle back-office work, pushing up numbers in the building, there is no sign of any intent to support creative work beyond the tiny amount now in place. 

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: good broadcast ideas can be delivered cheaply and well, where there is courage, imagination and goodwill at all levels. I know a decent local spend is needed and proper; it's a primary objective. But what would make me really happy would be to see BBC management show courage and humility, and make a serious statement of support for the creative work in our region. That statement made, they then need to follow through.

We will miss...

Farewell, Gilly Dangerous, Curtis Little, David Corser and Mike Horseman, among others. All gone too soon.

I will especially miss Curtis for the fantastic musician he was, thrilling audiences with power, showmanship and salty wit. His funeral was the sweariest and funniest laying to rest I've ever attended. One of the greats. 

David Corser was a fabulous radio man and a good friend. He was my immediate boss for five years at Pebble Mill when I produced the Radio 2 Overnight shows. He was part of the sensationally talented team that Geoffrey Hewitt assembled in Birmingham when I joined up in 1994. David got it. He knew music. He knew radio. And he was a great guy.

Some numbers

This past week, Facebook kindly popped an image from a post I put up the last week of 2012. I was ecstatic to have pushed past 40 thousand posts in my first year of choosing to write more about music than about radio. 

As I finish up four years of this blog in its new direction, Radio To Go has hit some 320 thousand and more. I grabbed the screenshot at the top of this blog on Boxing day. I am very very pleased, of course: but more than anything else I am hugely grateful to all the Midlands musicians and music lovers who have provided inspiration, who have shared perspective and thoughts with me, and who have patiently answered my questions.

I raise a glass

Thanks, too, to you, and to all the people who have commented and debated issues with me, here, on Facebook and Twitter. Now, let's savour another good year of music just past, and look forward to good things in the coming year. I have a feeling there's going to be a bit more radio in the topic range at Radio To Go in 2016. It will be about music radio. Local music radio. Ain't that grand? Happy New Year.

See more music and radio and broadcasting posts on Radio To Go


Radio To Go on Brum Radio 

Mon 28 at 10pm: In The Studio with Steve Gibbons
Tue 29 at 4pm: Big Wheels: Adam Regan part 2
Wed 30 at 11pm: Live and Local: Tom Walker at The Spotted Dog 
New Year's Day at 4 pm: Muso Takeover with Terry and Gerry

Brum Radio is running test transmissions at present. After their first transmission, these will be available on listen-again.


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Humbug said...

Great job in 2015 Robin, thanks for providing a focal point for us all. Keep up the good work. Jon C.

brumboy said...

have a good new year Looking fiorward to T&G on BrumRadio and, just as a casual plug, the alternative roots show WILL be on air Jan 3