Sunday, 21 January 2018

Chris Bowden: The story of the story

A casual conversation; an unexpected connection. Treasure trove.

Chris at 'A Jazz Thing' at the Cuban Embassy, 2017      
Photo by Elliott Taylor       
I've been a DJ and Music Radio man for ages. Now it's documentaries - a stretch, but worth it when there are stories to tell. I've just wrapped up a demanding and lengthy project. I hope it makes compelling listening. 

Lengthy? Yes: there's a full concert (of charm and substance), key to the whole story, in this documentary. The gig has legendary status among a select circle of music fans. But it has lain unheard for years. Now, it gets a chance of a wider hearing.   

'Chris Bowden - The Lost Concert' got its first play at the end of January on Brum Radio. I've put the show up, both as a downloadable podcast, and on Mixcloud so it can be listened to at leisure - scroll down to the bottom of this post for the links.  

The programme is also available to stations in the UK and Europe - just ask; it is up on programme sharing networks. The goal is to get the word out. It's a bloody great story about a huge talent with stupendous music skills, who deserves a wider audience. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Ed Doolan - an appreciation

Thoughts on the passing of an old colleague 

News broke on Tuesday that Ed Doolan had passed away. Immediately, the web bristled with stories. BBC WM devoted, rightly, their afternoon schedule to his work. Ed's passing made PM on Radio 4 with the great Eddie Mair - there is no higher broadcast accolade in my view - and the evening news on BBC1.

Ed started to develop the style that worked so brilliantly for him at BBC WM while still at BRMB. He had a clear idea of what to do, but he had to do it without any staff or support system at BRMB. If I remember rightly, his major tool was a Psion - remember those? - stocked with numbers of Councillors, MPs, traders and influencers. That, and his wits.

Ed used his airtime brilliantly. Time, space and presence were part of his armoury. That approach doesn't always sit well in commercial radio, where we were told to keep it moving, moving, moving, avoid dead air at all costs. But traditional 'speech' radio and tv greats - Cooke, Mair, Garrison Keillor, Martha Kearney, Kuenssberg, James O'Brien, Victoria Derbyshire and dozens of others - know to take time to let ideas sink in, to let the audience breathe after something intense, to regroup, to shift gears.

So Ed's decision to jump ship to WM was logical. His move propelled that station back up in the local ratings war, and WM's then news-oriented agenda sat well with Ed's style.  

Ed was a colleague way back in the day, joining me and a handful of other recruits at BRMB in late 1973, before the station launched in 1974. He'd made a risky career jump, joining from Deutsche Welle, and settled into mid-mornings while I held down the mid-evening rock shift. We all keep in touch, the early BRMB crew. Sadly, our numbers are slightly fewer these days. We knew Ed was unwell. And at a reunion prompted by a return visit to the UK of colleague Terry Griffiths, Ed shared his condition with all of us. It was courageous and honest. 

I last worked with Ed quite recently, when he still hosted his live Sunday show. He would have me come in once a month to do the newspapers slot. Now, I tend to the left, and I suspected that Ed held rather more conservative political views than mine. I didn't really know, of course, and I never will now. So I would occasionally adopt a peppery leftist position on air. Ed responded gleefully, sparking into action with an equally peppery but contrary view, and we would have at it, live.

The particular discussion over, Ed went to music, took his cans off, looked over and grinned. 'That was good, wasn't it?' There's nothing like a bit of on-air jousting on a Sunday morning; Ed was a past master at that sort of thing. Good times.

Thanks, Ed for amply demonstrating, once again, that all you really need for compelling radio, no matter what the format, is clear thinking, good ideas, an awareness of your audience... and a sense of time and space.

Old BRMB hands might also like to see these thoughts on the launch PD John Russell.


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