Sunday, 29 May 2016

It was 45 years ago today...


I did my first radio gig. In the USA. On a Rock station.


Last week marked the start of my paid career in Radio. On 27 May 1971, jetlagged after flying in two days before, I went on the air on WPHD-FM in Buffalo, in upstate New York

I was a Brit import; they named me Robin Thomas. There were a handful of Brits in US radio; work permits and visas made it tricky.  

This was the early 70s, the time of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Free, SabbathDerek and the Dominos. What we now call Classic Rock. A big big slice of that came from the UK. British rock really mattered in the US then - it certainly doesn't now.

And for US Rock stations, a Brit DJ was an asset.  That's why WPHD took a risk on an unproven kid with only UK college radio experience. Bless.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The fiddler in the shed and his army of bright-eyed Folk monsters



It's that time of year. The Folk Ensemble will run riot. All 50 of them.



I'm sitting with a university lecturer in deepest Smethwick. If truth be be told, I'm not here for his academic chops. He's a muso, and a bloody brilliant one at that. We're at the bottom of his garden, drinking coffee. In a shed; brick-built, but still a shed. But instead of bamboo canes, rakes, spaces and shears cluttering the floor, you step around guitars and fiddles. There's posters and a couple of really tasty speakers hanging off the walls, hooked up to quite a large Mac.

You've guessed by now. This is actually a studio. It belongs to the Urban Folk Quartet's Joe Broughton. This is his workplace.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rhino and The Ranters. A dirty taste. Music gourmets come running.


Rhino and The Ranters as a rice dish? Forget Risotto Milanese. Gotta be Louisiana Dirty Rice. 


Photo: Gavin Wray
14 months ago, I was at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth for Rhino And The Ranters, pretty new and already highly recommended, at Dylan Gibbons' Thursday Blues club night. They played to the regular Spotted Dog crowd: musos and interested types. They shook it up nicely. We talked, and I recorded a couple of songs for a 2015 blog post; there's one of them below, along with a brand new mix Ryan Webb kindly let me have.  

They were all over town, busy establishing themselves at any venue that would have them. We talked at length about that whole process. It wasn't long before they were pulling serious numbers. 

This summer, the gigs are fewer – it's all part of the process - but they're a lot bigger, and these days they're getting paid. Good going. Time for a catch-up?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Whittingdale's little list: The White Paper and the BBC


Clowns to the left of them. Jokers to the right...


At the BBC: Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety. Mike Knell, Flickr
I've got two pages open on my screen as I write this. Both make my blood boil. The first is yet another anti-BBC piece from Rupert Murdoch's Times, where Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is reported to have joked to a bunch of Tory Students that the end of the BBC might be 'a tempting prospect'. The article goes on to list Gary Lineker as the first to spring to the Beeb's defence. Go Gary, I say; power to you in your underpants.  

Item number two is just as jarring: a strident attack on the BBC from new boys Evolve Politics, who emerged after the Labour Leadership election, along with The Canary and Momentum. They're all over my Facebook feed. Depending on your politics and/or your Facebook 'friends', they may well be all over your Facebook too. That's the creepy way the thing works. Ironically, it's great for marketing...

Evolve Politics and pals are solidly, uncritically, behind Jeremy Corbyn; Jezza can do no wrong, ever ever ever. Evolve are never less than outraged. Here, they slam the BBC for being disgusting Tory stooges.  


Poor old Beeb, eh? Attacked on all sides, while the troops on the ground have to soldier on. It's reminding me of Tennyson's poem...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The oldest studio in Brum - reborn?


Pretty sure Frank didn't record here. I'll ask...
These are tough times for recording studios and their owners. The loss of Highbury Studio, announced last week, was a body blow. This is terrible news, especially hard on the visionary John Mostyn, who has poured his heart and soul into Birmingham's music scene for decades now, sometimes at great personal cost.  I salute John for his work, and I sincerely hope that, should he so choose, he returns to a field where he has done so much good. 

But other studios are in trouble too. The middle ground is being squeezed almost to death. Is not the right time to be starting up with a brand new facility? Some people think so. Rob Bruce, another Brum musicbiz veteran, certainly does.