Monthly Archives: October 2002

In Which The Inevitable Is Berated In A Rather Obvious Manner

I have often walked down this street before

But the pavement never stuck to both my feet before.

All at once do I feel I’d rather die

Than be here on the street where I live.

Won’t you throw your eggs and flour on your mummy’s floor?

As you beg for sweets and money, do you think you’re poor?

Does enchantment pour out of every door?

Not right here, on the street where I live.

And oh, the sinking feeling,

Just to know the bleeding Scream masks must be near.

The over-powering feeling

When Hallowe’en comes round again each year.

I must buy some Twix, I must buy some Mars.

Hope the corner shop has just stocked up on chocolate bars.

But to tell the truth, I resent the youth

That ransom me on the street where I live.

Kids I’ve never seen come and bother me.

There are many bits of Earth where I would rather be.

Quick, this night, go by! ‘Cause I’d rather I

Wasn’t here on the street where I live.

[Repeat. Ad nauseam.]

A well-swung valedictory

Some people get nostalgic about old telly programmes. I’m one of those. Nothing too unhealthy (or, indeed, strange these days) about watching old Bagpuss or Mr Benn. Where an interest arguably becomes an obsession, though, is if you start getting interested in the bits on TV that aren’t the television programmes themselves.

I often wonder why I can sometimes be transfixed by a television trail, channel logo, or – for crying out loud – continuity announcement. It’s not just a reflection on Television Itself Not Being Quite As Good As It Used To Be. OK, so I do believe that to an extent, though I can’t quite agree with a friend who maintains that “TV went downhill with the last episode of Edge of Darkness.” But if you put me under some strange form of hypnotherapy and asked me about my obs- sorry, interest, I guess you’d come up with some connection based on the fact that I share a birthdate with ITV. And the fact that I actually know that (based on something I read in the TV Times around that time in, ahem, 1980) speaks volumes in itself.

Face it, though, if you’re reading this within the UK, you probably remember regional ITV. If you were growing up in the seventies or eighties in Britain – always assuming you had a television – your local telly company were there to entertain you. From Land’s End to John O’Groats (that should perhaps read ‘from TSW to Grampian’), you’d know where you were by the Golden Hind, the saltire, the strangely shaped television aerial, Tower Bridge fanfaring itself before your eyes, or the rather scary arrow thing. To name but a few.

As Andrew Wiseman points out though, it’s all changing on Monday. Makes sense on one level I guess. Given that the eleven companies that owned English commercial telly in 1993 are now down to two (and in all probability, just one before long) it probably makes little sense, economically anyway, to have dozens of people round the country announcing programmes.

But skirting around the quip about Granada, Carlton and economic sense (eh, Mun-keh?) I’ll miss regionality. It is the end of some sort of era, though whether that era’s worth celebrating is another matter. And, undoubtedly, in the rich pageant of life this all matters rather less than half an iota.

Doubt anyone will notice, really (unless you’ll be watching the ridiculously early morning news or either side of The South Bank Show on – specifically – LWT tomorrow, in which case you might get a tad confused.) The Transdiffusion crowd will notice, mind, and so will I. As for the rest of you, though, you can always relive the past. And feel rather old to boot. But then, nostalgia’s a game for the old.

[And that really is it for tonight. Thanks for joining us on Backburner. Excuse me while I point this rostrum camera at a cardboard cutout of a Celtic cross, remind you of your local radio stations, and fade out over an instrumental. No, Gus Honeybun, don’t even think about it. Down boy. Down…]

A ship in order

Ah, the unpopular world of folk music. Bands about half a dozen people have heard of. Songs about nineteenth-century railway accidents and failing to find jobs. Songs with vaguely pagan connections. Songs about the Burning Times. Beards. Chunky jumpers.

Well, some of those cliches are true. In spite of Neil ( and others’ best efforts, don’t expect Show of Hands ( to set the charts alight anytime soon. Don’t expect to see Maddy Prior ( gracing the stage of Top of the Pops.

But then, don’t expect anyone – least of all folk music fans – to actually care about that. Folk music has existed, and I suspect always will exist, in almost a parallel universe from mainstream music. There are some artists who would kill for a slice of John Otway’s chart action (,11710,803341,00.html), it’s true, but they’re largely few and far between. Folk and acoustic music, at least in the UK, seems to consist of artists singing songs they want to sing, to audiences who want – or maybe need – to hear them.

A superb case in point has always been June Tabor (disarmingly honest official site at I know that some people have a problem with saying that people have great folk music voices. After all, they claim, one voice is as valid as the next for singing folk music, right? Well, fine if that’s your opinion. Let’s just say, in that case, that June Tabor has the sort of equally-valid-as-the-next folk voice that could melt traffic at thirty paces and which touches grown men to tears. Distinctive is not the word. Her register is rare: I can sing the same pitch as she can, and I’m a baritone. Her delivery is as soothing or cutting as she chooses it to be. And her passion for the songs she sings – an increasingly uncommon thing in these days of increasingly manufactured outfits – is undeniable.

I was chuffed to bits that one of my wife’s birthday presents for me were tickets to see her at St. Donat’s last Saturday. We went. It was pretty much everything I could wish for in a June Tabor gig. Since she’s between albums, the back catalogue was plundered broadly as wonderfully as you’d expect from someone who has three decades’ worth to choose from. The new songs were potent and pertinent, particularly Maggie Holland’s take on what a modern-day Robert Burns might make of the newly gentrified Leith. The Les Barker ( parody – taking off George Bush to the tune of the Girl from Ipanema – was present and very correct. The band were able enough to sound deceptively bigger than three. I’ll admit to feeling a bit uneasy when ‘Mississippi Summer’ started up, but it was astounding – voice, double bass and accordion managing to be much more than the sum of their parts.

Things I would have changed? Well, I probably shouldn’t have worn that Oysterband t-shirt for a start; it helps to actually, like, know a bit about the band whose name is emblazoned on your back (I only have two of their albums, as I had to admit to the centre manager). And I’d have loved to hear June Tabor sing another Maggie Holland song – one wasn’t quite enough for me.

But it was good to speak to her at the end. Non-mainstream music gigs do have their benefits. After all, you don’t generally get to meet the artist at the end of a Hear’Say gig. Still less do you get a chance to talk to the artists about their songs and songwriters. This fanboy was very honoured.

And, to crown it all, I now have a signed copy of one of my desert island albums ( too. Blimey. I’m sometimes glad that the world of folk music is such an unpopular one.