Friday, 14 December 2012

A Fairytale of Aston

My earliest recollection of Christmas on the Radio was 1981.

I was a young, single brmb DJ, sharing a flat with Brendan Kearney in Walmley. Being single, I had the dreaded 2pm-6pm shift (no Christmas lunch for me!) and Brendan was on at 10am, doing the Christmas bloopers show. Brendan was famous for his collection of radio faux pas and cock-ups, and his Christmas Day "best of" show was always a festive highlight.

Ed Doolan was doing breakfast, and had invited then PD Bob Hopton to join him to act as the voice of Father Christmas (Bob did have a wonderfully deep voice). Jimmy Franks was driving the show.

The show had gone well. All of the children calling in had spoken to Father Christmas; all of the batteries had been handed out (firms like Ever Ready and Duracell used to give us big stocks of them to hand out on Xmas morning for parents who had bought their kids an electrically operated toy, but had forgotten the batteries!); Slade, Wizzard et al had been played, and all was well with the world.

The clock ticked round to 9.57. Ed picked up the programme schedule for the rest of the day - and ran through Brendan's show in some detail, picked up the features in mine, and the show afterwards - and highlighted the late night phone in scheduled for 10pm  The day had been well sign-posted to listeners, young and old, across the West Midlands

Ed then wrapped up - thanked Father Christmas, spread some peace, happiness and general Christmas bonhomie amongst the population of Birmingham who were tuned in, and gave Brendan's Christmas bloopers show one final tease - the best radio bloopers in the world - coming up after 10.

And then Ed put on his most serious tone, and uttered the words ".....This is brmb, it's 10 o'clock on Christmas day morning....and now... Her Majesty The Queen."

Now, at this point I have to tell you I was in the bath, having a good soak, getting ready to spring up, dry off and head off to "The Sauce Works" as brmb's Aston Road North studios were affectionately called. The Queen's Speech in those days went out on all radio stations at 10 am, and was, at 8 minutes in duration, the perfect opportunity for me to get dry and dressed, and then listen to Brendan's show whilst getting ready to go out - after all, who doesn't enjoy a good radio blooper......

Anyway - back to the radio.

"....Her Majesty The Queen" ...slight pause....followed by what can only be described as farting noises...followed by more farting noises! The whole of Birmingham, expecting to hear the words of HM The Queen, was instead being treated to trumping sounds coming from 96.4FM.

By this time I had almost drowned with laughter - but what the hell was going on?

It dawned on me at about exactly the same time as it dawned on the folks in the studio.

Someone had put the tape on back to front, and we were listening to the strains of "God Save The Queen" ....only backwards! I could only imagine the frantic rush by Jimmy to stop the tape. The bum-clenchingly excruciating part of this was knowing that Bob Hopton, the big boss, was in the studio watching his chances of a New Year's Honour going out of the window as his senior tech-op tied himself up in knots trying to turn a 3 1/2 inch reel-to-reel tape around in double-quick time.

Back up went the mic fader - Ed was told by Jimmy via talkback to fill.

As it was Christmas Day there wasn't much by way of news, no lists of "what's ons" to run through - just the upcoming schedule. So Ed, ever the trooper, started again to tell us all about what was coming up later in the day - only at half speed - pausing a lot -  trying to pad for time - and undoubtedly watching the pandemonium in the control room with utter disbelief.

Rereading that schedule must have been the longest couple of minutes of Ed's career.

Eventually the tape was reversed - and Ed was freed from his misery to cue in the Queen's speech correctly.

Brendan came on 8 minutes later to start his blooper show - knowing one of the best bloopers of all time had probably occurred 10 minutes previously, right in front of him.

None of the people involved in this have ever been knighted, although Ed did receive an MBE. And as boss, I've tried to avoid being anywhere near a studio on Christmas Day ever since!

Merry Christmas, and may all your bloopers occur in the middle of the night. In June!