Thursday, March 18, 2010

Did you have to go so soon?

I moved back to London, town of my birth, in 1980. The ex and I had a tiny, freezing cold, one-roomed garrett in Lewisham, owned by a spectacularly mental Italian woman with a dreadful bingo habit and a strange notion of charity ("You can use my fridge any time you want" "Mrs Ldro (that's not her name, it's an anagram. You never know these days), I've seen your fridge, I wouldn't even shit in it, let alone put food in it"). I think that place was why I developed a fondness for the works of Zola. Emile, not Gianfranco. Until we got a gas heater we had a paraffin heater and we had to get Esso Blue from the ironmongers or the machine at the garage. Keep up kids. In the olden days there wasn't much choice for home based audio-visual entertainment; three telly channels on the little black and white portable we had (it would be another 2 years before we could afford a colour one) and even that gave up after we accidentally spilt candle-wax over it. But I had a ghetto blaster, so we used to listen to the wireless, way into the early hours. This was also way back in the day when Capital Radio was actually good (it's total bilge now, of course, like anything relying on advertising has invariably become), with the likes of Richard Digance, Roger Scott, Graham Dene and the mighty David Rodigan doing interesting, and occasionally (in R-R-R-Rodigan's case, always,) exciting, stuff.

Another presenter joined at the same time as we started listening, Charlie Gillett. It gradually became apparent that what he didn't know about popular music wasn't worth knowing. Indeed, his masters' thesis was written on the History of Rock and Roll - in 1966. He was always engaging, somebody whose own enthuisiasm drew you in, even if you didn't particularly like what he was playing. You listened, enjoyed, and you learned. Peel was the same; Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie have some of it, too. He'd already made a name by championing unpopular (at the time) acts such as Ian Dury, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and Dire Straits (sounds like a running order from a Hope and Anchor festival) and then became the touchstone for the emerging world music scene. In the 90s he went on to host a weekly world music show on GLR (latterly BBC London 94.9) which was, for me anyway, absolutely essential listening on a Saturday evening while I was working at the world's most exciting tolled river crossing. One of the duties there was as a "jumper", a rolling relief across three toll booths for half an hour at a time, in order that the incumbent could have a break. Everyone had their own radio, invariably tuned to Radio Smooth Cabbie FM. Not on a Saturday evening if I was the jumper. Chap would come back off his break to be greeted not by Mick Hucknall warbling one for the ladieees but Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or a trilling Moroccan. OK, some of it sounded like pigs being run over by a steam-roller but anything's better than Heart FM.

Charlie Gillet passed away yesterday. Which is a shame.

Alex Chilton as well. Not everyone will immediately know the name but I'm sure some of the music will be familiar: ex The Box Tops (The Letter - his first ever song, not a bad way to start), the Replacements and of course, Big Star. One of the most distinctive of pop voices and a huge influence on so many bands over the last 40 odd years.

Both gone criminally early. I've been told there's a reason why but I'll never understand.

3 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Rog said...

I've never heard of Charlie Gillet so you have now explained the outpourings of gried on the interweb.

Give me a ticket on an aeroplane, ain't got time to take a fast train...

Loved the Mrs L. Fridge reference... done a LOL!

5:31 pm  
Blogger Rog said...

that's obv. grief not gried!

5:32 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

As you may expect, none of these names rang bells over here.

5:36 pm  

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