Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another quality item

It occurred to us yesterday that, and here's a thermometer reading we don't really need, it's ten years today since Mark Radcliffe and Lard stepped out of the Radio 1 Graveyard Shift.

We really don't think, at least in the sphere of music broadcasting, anyone's even got near to the barely reined in ridiculousness of that show. Oh sure, amusing zoo radio exists with your standups on podcasts, but a show that encompassed cult films and books (the latter briefly helmed by a pre-everyman Will Self), running jokes of the utmost stupidity, The Bedsit Guide, old US radio serials, John Martyn, poetry (there can't be a Graveyard Shift listener in existence who didn't raise a wry smile when Simon Armitage was linked with the Poet Laureate position last time it was up), the mysteries of the hand fart noise, pisstakes of existing Radio 1 trailers, sprawling discussions on small ads and trade magazines, prime Britpop and and the catchphrase "cod, fish, battered, balls, ho-ho!"... nobody would commission that now, not without a post-modern nostalgia listener quiz and a couple of low grade stand-ups as assistants. The same jokes in a different order, as Radcliffe would say, but what orders they were in - Uncle Tony's Catalogue Corner; Stuart "veritable smorgasbord" Maconie's Sad Small Ads; Rock, Bill Bailey and Sean Lock's, um, rockumentary on the comeback tour of the former singer from prog legends Taunton; Andrew Collins' teenage diaries long before anyone thought of putting them into book form; ripping the Wormleigh Guest House, Totnes' leaflet to metaphorical shreds ("Wormleigh has ample private parking, and within easy walking distance there are a number of hotels?!" "Yeah, I'm planning on parking there and going somewhere else"); Cyril Dorricot's The Patheological News ("frankly, I have no idea what it's about" - standin John Peel); Mark, Lard and Stuart Maconie extending the outside broadcast franchise by waving out of the window; Edward Barton's Slap Belly; the Mark E Smith Microphone; The Kraftwerk Story!; Shit Agent; the David Bowie Erection Sound Effect; Tony McCarroll's Classical Gas; The Tindersticks Party Album; Mark's love of the word 'bobbins'... halcyon days when Radio 1 wasn't so narrowly focused that you could get away with this stuff.

Oh yeah, there was music to. Right from the start there was an implicit belief underpinning all, less common than you'd think, that the music came first, and consequently, despite their claims to have a reverse Midas touch on everyone they played, they foisted a wide range of musical delights upon us all, from such hardy perennials as French Disko and Fanfare through to the 60s beat revivalists and French ambient folk that you'd never hear anywhere else. And in the middle, the discoveries: Belle & Sebastian, the Divine Comedy and most famously White Town's Your Woman. And then there were the musical parodies later collected together under the Shirehorses banner (whose 1997 universities tour saw support from Peter Kay), a longed for highlight on many an occasion. We can't be alone in boldly stating that some of the records he played changed a good portion of our musical habits, perhaps reflecting the all-inclusiveness that much of Matthew Bannister's reign at the station urged ahead. Breakfast neutered him to a certain extent*, afternoon got stuck in an albeit tremendously offbeat rut and the current Radio 2 show, while still great, is more the Mojo edit of the original blueprint (although Marc Riley's Brain Surgery on 6 Music continues an impressively opaque playlist policy), but any slip-ups can be forgiven when set against these people being responsible for one of the great music shows of national British radio.

You may like to play Tindersticks' Tiny Tears at this point.

* Although two things we always loved about their breakfast tenure - as pointed out by our showbiz pal Steve Williams of TV Cream, while those either side of them, Evans and Ball, colonised television during their own morning spells Radcliffe's big telly gig during those fraught eight months was Schools Challenge, a Thursday teatime Granada-only series which was apart from the obvious exactly the same as University Challenge, on the same set with the same rules; and when they were scheduled to guest on the National Lottery Live but pulled out in protest when Camelot's directors gave themselves a massive pay rise Teletext's report included the quote "the breakfast show pair described Camelot's decision
as 'bonkers'."

10 comments:

Matthew said...

When I first went to Uni I was pretty much introduced to indie by a mate I was sharing a flat with in first year. This same mate also introduced me to Mark and Lard.

Something tells me I may owe Mr Strath a pint!

The Daily Growl said...

Well, well. Don't you make me feel old! I have very fond memories of that show, but obviously not as clear memories as you have. They do come flooding back now.

One of the greatest was the moment, when revising for finals, that Mark dropped the first play I'd heard of The Stone Roses' long, long awaited new single (Love Spreads), which led to me and my flatmate dancing like lunatics through the house! Happy days...

coach_mcguirk said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of the David Bowie's erection sound effect. I'd love to have that as my message alert tone.

Mr Rossy said...

OMG, great post, i use to absoloutley love the Mark and Lard show back when i was a teen. Introduced me to some awsome music. He use to do good sesions as well. Madder Rose being one of my favs.

Use to like it when bands would read chapters of their favourite books etc...John Stenbeck (Canary Row). Oh and Stuart Maconie was great.

Gosh, seems like an eternity ago. No blogs and podcasts back then.
Used to tape the shows, ha ha !!

Probably the last time i done any sorta revision / homework. Good times !!

rx

K A Hunter said...

When I'm about to pop my clogs, one of my biggest regrets will be missing most of the Graveyard Shift. If anyone who reads this has built a time machine, please contact me.

FeedbackReport said...

For me, the definitive Graveyard Shift 'moment' is when Radcliffe accidentally mispronounced 'show' as 'shu-!' during an intro, leading to it becoming a recurring gag for a couple of days before being discarded. Also Mark Kermode repeating one of the show's in-jokes about Cast on Simon Mayo's show, to the obvious bewilderment of the host. That's what made the show so great - they were able to spot these fanastic off-the-cuff comic ideas, use them for as long as they 'worked' for, and then discard them and come up with something else new instead.

Anonymous said...

I was a freelance illustrator during the Graveyard Shifts years, which meant working at home alone and at the strangest hours. Mark and Lard were two of my best friends during those long, lonely nights. And such was the enduring pap on the radio then (as now) I used to tape each show and listen to it again the next day!

I for one will never forget the last ever Graveyard Shift. I put the cat out, locked all the doors and settled down with a bottle of Jack Daniels. By the time they played French Disko and Mark did his long list of goodbyes, I was bawling my eyes out like a girl! My two best buds were leaving forever!

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Anonymous said...

I was a lonely and sad adolescent at boarding school and lights out was a ten o'clock. Luckily this was also the beginning of the graveyard shift, and i had a walkman with a radio. I also cried at the end of the last graveyard shift. What was the name of the last song they played? By the tindersticks, it was.