Toward The Unknown Region - 'where pomposity and pretentiousness
know no boundaries...'
I noticed a Mission Statement on an office wall
- Lots of grandiose verbiage about putting the customer first, caring for
the staff and providing quality products. I’m sure many
businesses have what amounts to a
statement of intent. The cynical amongst us may consider a Mission
Statement to be a prettily typed and elegantly framed pack of lies, so it
is with some trepidation that I have decided the best way to describe my
interest in broadcasting is to pompously and pretentiously treat it like a
corporate entity, viz:
The Chris B mission is…
to play lesser known tracks that were
overlooked when first issued, and liberally sprinkle in songs from
long established artists – but not necessarily songs with which
you may be familiar.
to play songs by new artists that are
to take a chance, to act upon a hunch, to
play songs by unfashionable artists;
to occasionally play something we all know;
to not be bothered about being personally
popular – the music is the message, the music is the priority.
Ironically, neglecting the need for popularity, by reason of not
playing safe songs, seems to have resulted in a loyal listenership.
‘They’ say that there’s no need to be so serious. Hmm, serious
about the music, absolutely, but presentation style, I think not!
I’m just pleased that my unquestioning faith in the music has been
rewarded by confirmation that others share a liking for the
peripheral areas of the music scene, both now and going back
nearly 40 years;
to sound happy, to be kind, to invite comment
and ideas from listeners;
to offer the occasional informed comment
about the music founded on knowledge gleaned over many years
(wasted) reading about the trivia of popular culture – also based
on many hours of ‘professional radio listening’, would that such a
vocation existed! And of course, the blaggers guides, ‘Record
Collector’ and ‘Tapestry Of Delights’ (although I have spotted a
few inaccuracies, perhaps that’s because although I was around in
the 60’s I do actually remember it all. Being
born in 1955 I was too young to be staggering around in a drug
induced haze but old enough to be excited by Pirate Radio from the
first day I was given my own transistor radio on Christmas Day
to make the music the centre of attraction.
Quote about Radio Geronimo, 1970: “Not the pirate radio, the
alternative. There are no ego-tripping DJs mixing their inanities
with those of the banal music that they play."
Teenage Kicks - Peel, Radio
London, BBC Radio 1, Geronimo, Seagull & Caroline
Radio London was my first love in 1967 - a hot summer when my parents
worried that I was not running around outside with all the other kiddies.
But, hey, I was 12 and had just discovered pirate radio, and it was THE
summer of Love. John Peel, initially with Radio London, then amazingly
with BBC Radio 1 from 1967 until his untimely death in October 2004 was
undoubtedly a major influence on my young, impressionable and rebellious
mind. With hindsight it is obvious that Peelie was solely responsible (in
the nicest possible way) for endowing me with a willingness to embrace new
music - resulting in a musical maturity way ahead of my teen-age. For that
I am truly thankful. Otherwise I may well have missed out on hearing the
first plays of all of the fabulous music around in the late 60's & early
70's - Tyrannosaurus Rex, Captain Beefheart, Boeing Duveen & The Beautiful
Soup, Stackwaddy, Tractor, Incredible String Band...
I've previously commented on air that my brain is stuck at age 16 - not in
a boring 'living in the past' kind of way, but in a 'Wow, isn't this new
one from Kate Tempest stunning'. It's something John Peel was undoubtedly also
afflicted with, but it certainly broadens your musical outlook - and still
lets you enjoy the thrill of hearing NEW music for the first time. Teenage
with Radio 1 (and latterly Radio 2), with programming from
presenters such as Johnnie Walker, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie
Caroline was the
intermittent soundtrack to much of my life but Geronimo was the
catalyst that sparked the inspiration…droning voices, fantastic music –
progressive rock, jazz & classical all in the same programme, facts about
the music, news of concerts, the use of earthy language of the street, the
counter culture vibe, embargoed promos supplied by Peel freely played on a
station without the restrictions of the BBC. Of course such a radio station was doomed to
failure, as wonderful things so often are, and Geronimo had but a short life of less than a year. But it was
long enough to show how it could be done. The adverts don’t have to
interfere with the music, the presenter can be knowledgeable, you can have
the listener being treated as an equal to the presenter. In 1973/74 Ronan
O'Rahilly gave us another opportunity of the Geronimo experience in the
guise of Radio Seagull from the Mi Amigo. Geronimo stalwarts, Hugh Nolan &
Barry Everitt were invited onboard complete with hashpipes and record
collections ranging from BC (Bing Crosby) to CB (Captain Beefheart);
For those who have never heard the
Chris B experience, here’s a typical selection of what passes for
programme content: anything committed to vinyl or CD. That makes it truly BROADcasting as opposed to the NARROWcasting that passes for radio all too
often. Plus, I suppose, the occasional anorak attack, with snippets from
the past. But, that's where the problem arises - the anorak. Until
recently it never occurred to me (naiive and innocent that I am) that
there were two parallel alternative radio worlds. (We can instantly
discount all of the UK commercial stations with their rotation of 200
songs chosen by focus groups). 1960s/1970's Pirate/Free radio enthusiasts
seem to never be able to listen to any BBC station, forever blaming them
for the demise of the North Sea pirate stations. They live in a
musical prison that only allows them to listen to the music played by
offshore radio stations and their subsequent online/satellite descendants.
Those of us who embraced the actual music, rather than the radio station
name (and the thought of listening to something that was upsetting the
establishment), have been rewarded with a rich musical experience. Another
alternate radio world - Late Junction and Night Tracks on Radio 3 offers possibly the most
diverse and eclectic mix of quality and adventurous music. 6 Music can be
a major source for eclectic music - old and new. Even Radio 4 has the
occasional music gem and Planet Rock plays an extensive range of old and
new rock - and not just a tired replay of the same 200 classic rock
tracks. Give it a listen, you may be surprised. Dandelion Radio
www.dandelionradio.com offers a 24/7 Peel inspired mix of false
starts, informed comment and damn good music. Independent, Original,
These ‘better music mixes’ are not for the uncommitted. It is probably for the
more discerning listener, the serious listener, the music enthusiast, the
collector, the seeker of music that challenges. This is why I have never
sought peak time listening, although ironically, a private sponsor of ‘Toward
The Unknown Region’ lived in Los Angeles, California, where the late night
UK broadcast was heard mid afternoon - early evening. Now does that tell us something? Actually at KCRW Santa Monica
there is a programme called ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ which is even more
varied. It airs every weekday from 9.00am –
midday local time in L.A. Host, Nic Harcourt, has built a show around the
unusual, the eclectic. In fact so good is the reputation of 'Morning
Becomes Eclectic' that it has become 'appointment radio' for showbiz
executives, ever in search of 'cutting edge' music for TV commercials and
shows. Nic also finds himself being asked to select songs for film
soundtracks. Take a listen at
Mind you, sticking to what you believe in can be difficult. Principles can
be expensive. I believe you should remain true to yourself. Not always
easy... and if you do deviate from the plan you may feel you have let
yourself down and lost credibility in the eyes of others...
The show has been broadcast (legally) via
satellite, internet and AM (medium wave). Occasional special broadcasts
have been made via 100kilowatt Short Wave (ex cold war propaganda?)
transmitters in Latvia, with reception reports from as far away as Japan
and Australia. Sadly, the backers/owners/program directors of two of the
radio stations that distributed the show have either marginalised the
program or taken their radio station in a more mainstream direction.
Comments such as "sorry, we can no longer have presenters playing their
favourite music" or even, "follow
our playlist or put the automation on and go home"...
Another influence over the years has been Bob Harris, from his BBC Radio 1
programme through the Whistle Test years and on to his current Radio 2
shows. Now Bob often only plays a track once but fortunately he, or
perhaps it was someone else, had the great idea to publish the playlist
for each programme. Better still, all the playlists are there stretching
back several years. That great song you just caught the end of but
couldn’t quite make out who it was by – names such as ‘Dana Lyons’ or
‘Five Horse Johnson’ can easily slip by your ears at first mention so a
playlist is a great idea. Now I’m never ashamed to use someone else’s idea
so I’ve embraced this
PLAYLISTS idea, possibly not as comprehensively as
our friend Bob – but he probably has a team of helpers, and let’s not
forget that someone like Bob is also paid for his efforts.
Finally there are the inevitable websites.
I mentioned Radio Geronimo earlier in this diatribe and find that I have created an internet version of a scrapbook of
Geronimo memorabilia, ephemera, and even some audio clips from programmes.
In conjunction with Mark Dezzani at Europa
Productions in Italy we also have an Award winning film for a proposed television
documentary about Radio Geronimo. It's an interesting story about the
counter culture, jamming the BBC, hippies running a radio station from the
opulent splendour of Harley Street West One London coupled with the even
more opulent Monte Carlo and associated radio station...
Written and Produced by Chris Bent; Edited
and Directed by Mark Dezzani
Winner of Best Short Documentary + Independent Spirit Award:
Barry & Hugh, from Geronimo, went on to present for
Radio Seagull in 1973 from the radio ship Mi Amigo and you'll also find some
historical notes about the Ronan O'Rahilly inspired Radio Seagull at
is the home of the original incarnation of Radio Seagull. The Seagull
audio archive can also be found at that site - Barry Everitt presents
music from artists as diverse as Bing Crosby and the MC5. ..
Well, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably missed today's programme
which is a pity because we would probably have heard Captain Beefheart, followed by
I Monster, Caamora, Rush, Klaatu, Left Banke, followed by LCD Sound System
and UFO, the entire Dandelion back
catalogue of Bridget St John, followed by the much vilified late
period work of Albert Ayler - performed by Healing Force...
...and the latest ongoing project is to play a
selection of each
weeks New Singles (from 50 years ago), as
Francis Antony Ltd, East Hill, St Austell, Cornwall... ..starting with those singles released on 1st November 1968 and
continuing weekly until summer 2035 (that will be singles from 1985)...
whereupon we will begin again even further in the past with recently
acquired copies of The New Singles from 1964.. or, with time (and age)
pressing, might even do two different years each week.
The next track will be the white vinyl only release of 'Bleed Like There
Was No Other Flood' from Wild Birds and Peace Drums. Why? Because
otherwise you may never hear it...
Me, I’m just a lawnmower, you can tell me by the way I walk. **
"Me, I'm just a
lawnmower - you can tell me by the way I walk."
It was nice to hear that again on today's Unknown Region
It always seemed like a daft and meaningless line, until I read an
account of old country ways.
A machine to cut the grass was not invented until the 1830s. Prior to
this, the only way of keeping the grass trimmed at the country houses
of the landed gentry was by a man with a scythe; such a man was
called a lawnmower. So the name was applied to a person before it
ever became applied to a mechanical device.
Now the main occupation of a man with a scythe was to cut the hay in
the fields. If the field was large, a line of men would work their
way from one end to the other. It was a skilled job, and they had to
set off one at a time (think of the nursery rhyme 'One man went to
mow...'), so that the blade of one man's scythe did not get tangled
with the feet of the man next to him as it swung. But this was not
foolproof, and foot injuries were fairly common.
Thus I conclude that a 'lawnmower' may indeed be distinguished by his
It's all true, I tell ya. Next week, the entire works of Procol Harum