So a very nice man called Mark got in touch and asked if he could come into talkRADIO and film some stuff. I normally HATE this request but he told me he only had 15 subscribers to his YouTube channel so I felt sorry for him. And his other films were quite good.
I’ve worked at various different radio stations throughout the years – LBC, Absolute/Virgin, BBC – and now I’m at the wonderful talkRADIO. The show has evolved and changed throughout the years, at least, it has to my ears. They may all sound the same to you, perhaps the shifts are too subtle, but for me, each show on each station has a different vibe and tone. I started off a bit mean, and that meanness has been pretty much worn away. I genuinely think the stuff I’m doing now is the best I’ve ever done. I’ve been trying to get as far away from the formulaic, hate filled radio that a lot of speech based broadcasting has become. Too much of it, in my opinion, is pointing the finger at differences and blaming the difference for our problems. Those difference might be accent, religion, colour, clothing, jobs, whatever. But so much speech radio is about creating division and scaring people. As Stephen Colbert said ‘if we’re not scaring you, we’re not doing our job properly’.
The TR show is generally an anything goes kind of vibe. There are no questions as such, and conversations can be carried on over hours, days or weeks. I have no obvious agenda (there must be one, but I don’t know what it is yet) and I sit and talk. I’ll say how great a film is I’ve watched that day, how I was staring at my kids and realised that when they grow into teenagers I will MISS the 4 and 6 year old boys I live with now, I’ll talk about feeling suicidal or how life affirming Jackie Chan is. Callers will chip in on these themes, or ignore them and call in with their own thoughts on their own lives. I guess it’s all about us trying to make sense of the insane world we live in, in any way we can. The only rules are you can’t call in about Trump or Brexit unless you have something new and unique to say about it. You won’t. No one does but sweet lord, listen to some shows and some entire stations and you would think that is ALL people want to hear.
My ethos could be wrong, it may lead nowhere. My listening figures are good considering it’s a brand new station, but they could be better, and I know they could be much bigger if I went on air and pointed the finger and screamed and stirred the shitty pot and told you how terrified you should be of everything.
Last night, I attempted an experiment. I’d been thinking for a while that I would like to try and do a mean show, one of those shows that is so popular and gets huge listening figures. A JHB or Hopkins type affair. I’d mentioned a few times on air I wanted to do it, but wasn’t really sure how to proceed. I’d planned to do it on Monday but bottled it. We’d had the delightful Dexter Fletcher on as a guest and he was such an inspiration that it seemed like a betrayal of him and the listeners to do a complete volt face and be all mean. So, Tuesday it would be.
I started by warming people up on Twitter. I posted some incredibly mean tweets about Trans people, immigration and terrorism. I changed my name on Twitter to 52% and told all the Bremoaners to ‘stop whining’. It is amazing how quickly people took the bait. Many got angry with me and were disgusted to find out these were my politics, while some were pleased to hear somebody speaking the truth #freespeech. I probably lost and gained an equal measure of followers!
The show itself started with a debate between someone from Leave.EU and a gentleman from Open Britain. I of course gave the Leave guy an easy ride, despite him having a terrible phone line, and ripped into the OB chap. I felt terrible but, and here’s the thing, a tiny part of me enjoyed the meanness. After the initial questions where I would recoil with horror after being so harsh to him, I actually got a buzz. That probably says more about me then it does about humanity, but nastiness, bullying does seem to be a powerful force.
They went and the phone lines opened. Now, I should say, TR is a newish station. It doesn’t get as many phone calls as I would like. I do very well on the phone call front, and it is improving, but…for something like this to REALLY work, I needed a full switchboard, so in that respect, the evening didn’t work. But, what we got was gold.
There was a gentleman who called in saying he had worn a 3 inch by 3 inch Vote Leave badge and he was confident that had swayed the opinion of a Roman Catholic and a black woman. There was a lady called Sylvia who agreed with everything I was saying regarding cancelling all foreign aid (‘why should we give money to stop Indian women dying during childbirth? Aren’t there enough of them already’ was my argument) and a few others. What was especially interesting was that these people MUST have been listening to my show in the past. I say listening, I guess they had it on but didn’t HEAR anything. Cards on the table, I am a left to centre leaning liberalish Vote Remain lets all love one another depression sufferer. So how on earth these callers hadn’t picked up on that before I’ll never know.
We had a rush of calls at the end. Someone telling me that I needed to calm down. I destroyed him by telling him I’d won 3 awards and that I would call him the next day and tell him that HE was crap at his job. A few other agreeing with me and a wonderful call from someone who ‘got’ the gag and fooled most people as a heartbroken snowflake. Simply wonderful.
What was most interesting to me was the number of long term listeners who got very angry with what I was doing. They didn’t find it funny (fair enough, it was a slow burn gag) or entertaining (again, I’m cool with that) and also didn’t think it was satire (it was, that’s not open for debate). Several called the show wanting to either tell off my producer Katherine Boyle, or come on air and criticise me for not giving them the radio show they were used to and wanted to hear. A real sense of entitlement. I would have thought that if they were such big fans, they would know that from time to time I like to challenge myself and the listeners. It was 1 show out of 170. You don’t like, that’s absolutely fine. Switch off and pop back tomorrow.
I ended the show with a delightful ‘And….scene’ just as the last ads fired in. It’s a phrase used in acting circles to denote the scene or audition piece is over and the audience are free to applaud if they see fit and discuss what they’ve just witnessed. Twitter was ablaze, I haven’t had so many tweets during a show ever. The talkRADIO listeners Facebook page had over 140 comments, a record. People got ANGRY. I know that both of those measurements mean very little, but they do mean something. Being angry, spouting complete untruths such as ‘train drivers earn between £30,000 and £100,000 and all they do is go forward, stop and open and close doors. Sack the lot of them if they go on strike’ go generally unchallenged. The phrase of the moment is post truth, and it really is, well, true. You can say ANYTHING and people will not pick up on it. I said that postal workers were ‘pissing on kids Christmases and they should all be sacked’. Beautifully angry nonsense. Only one person called in to say that was harsh. I destroyed him.
And this is the thing. It is so easy to destroy people on air. I am in a position of authority, of power. I have thousands of hours of experience. Most people calling have never done it before. I control the faders. If the argument gets a bit tough, I can cut them off and slag them off after I’ve got rid of them. It is so easy to be mean, to be nasty, to get people stirred up, to scare them. And British radio has too many of these trolls on the air. They’re not solving anything, a phone in show never solved a single thing. They’re not helping people. They are making things worse. They are making this country worse. They are making the whole world a meaner, nastier place. I am sick and tired of turning on my wireless to hear a bunch of shit stirrers frightening people. Stop it. Stop the meanness. Radio editors, be brave. Yes, people like Hopkins gets loads of listeners and you’re driven by listeners but can’t you see what people like her are doing? Phone Farage? Oh do fuck off. They are spreading hatred. Stop it. Stop it now.
I forgot the Sharia Burgers! How could I forget that? Again, in the spirit of creating fear and talking non truths, I told one caller I was furious that a well known high street burger chain was only selling Sharia Burgers and that we didn’t have any choice in the matter and it was disgusting we had no choice. The caller very quickly jumped on board and shared my anger DESPITE THE FACT THAT SENTENCE MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!
I am a huge Beach Boys fan. Easily one of the greatest groups of all time. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Brian a couple of times. Once he was disinterested and giving one word answers, while the first time he was engaged, honest and quite rude about Al Jardine! This goes against one school of thought that says Brian is ALWAYS polite in interviews (sorry Smilers, it simply aint true). Anyway, both times were a huge thrill and I was dead happy.
I’ve been trying for ages to get an interview with Mike Love, the lead singer and lead lyricist of the Boys for quite some time but he has always proved elusive. I met him briefly backstage at the Royal Albert Hall, and he couldn’t have been nicer. I was inspired to write an article for Record Collector magazine suggesting that popular folklore had got it wrong and that Mike wasn’t the villain in the BB story. So many people seem to hate him and raise Brian to a saintlike status. Both are human. Both are flawed. Both have made mistakes. Both have also contributed to my life in immeasurable ways with their music and lyrics. I am deeply grateful to both men.
Mike has a book out and it’s a cracking read. Because of this, I was able to get him to call my show one evening and chat to me for almost half an hour. Sure, he told a couple of old stories, and no one in the UK knows what Full House is or what a John Stamos does, but, but, but….I think I managed to get him to answer a few new questions that he hadn’t been asked before. Come on, how many times in an interview has he been asked if it’s true he taught Dennis Wilson about cunnilingus?
I enjoyed it, and I think he did too. I had so many people get in touch afterwards saying it totally changed their opinion of him. Hey, he’s messed up but who hasn’t? He’s been in showbiz for over 50 years, so of course so it would be impossible for him not to have made some missteps. Give My Regards to Broad Street and Press To Play are two examples of McCartney getting it wrong.
I’ve been aware of Scroobius Pip for a while. I first heard his music when Russell Brand picked one of his songs on Desert Island Discs. Thou Shalt Always Kill is absolutely brilliant. Musically excellent and packed full of ‘jokes’ but it’s not a comedy song, it’s much much more than that. Gets you finking as well, which is a novelty in itself in not just music but culture as a whole.
I’d seen him win an award at the Radio Academy a few years back, the same year my team and I won Best Breakfast Show for the BBC 3CR show. I was thrilled when I discovered he followed me on Twitter, but I still didn’t know much about him. I knew his podcast was good, because people who’s opinions I really rated said it was good, but I didn’t listen because I don’t really listen to podcasts.
I decided to buy his book Distraction Pieces (which you can get HERE)and was so pleased I did. It is absolutely inspirational, not at all preachy, and bloody enjoyable. I devoured it in 2 days.
People had suggested I ask Pip to come on the show but I HATE asking people directly, especially in a public forum like Twitter. What if they say no? What if they feel pressured to come on because I’ve asked them publicly? What if they think I’m shit? Genuinely, I have all of these negative thoughts and more. Anyways, I did ask him and he was incredibly gracious in accepting.
He came on my show last night and we got on so well. He’s lovely, taller than me, hilarious, charming, warm and sympathetic. If you’re a friend of his, you are a very lucky person indeed. I could listen to him for hours. He’s invited me onto his Distraction Pieces podcast (which I have started listening to and you can subscribe to by clicking this link https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/distraction-pieces-podcast/id929136539?mt=2 )
…well, not mine, but he DID phone up the cat of Peter Ormerod. Ages ago on the show we were looking at Noel’s website and spotted a feature on there where you could register details about your pet and he may call it up. We thought nothing more of it until an eagle eyed listener called Aaron spotted a wonderful story in the Guardian about how his cat received a phone call from Edmonds.
I had to get Peter on the show. Luckily for us, he was gracious enough to come on and talk about it.
Some of you don’t know thatI now present a daily late night show on www.talkradio.co.uk Well, now you do. Immediately after leaving BBC Three Counties I fell into a massive funk, a very deep existential depression that threatened to tear me apart. I still haven’t really climbed out of it. Breakdown? Probably. I was heartbroken. Luckily, talkRADIO was being relaunched and they were more than keen to get me on board. And I was thrilled to be asked.
So, every weeknight from 10pm Katherine and I, along with Ed, host a phone in show unlike any other phone in show. That’s not me being immodest, it’s true. If I’m wrong, please do let me know because I am trying to make the kind of show that I would like to listen to. Anyways, it’s about nothing. I go in, turn the microphone up, open the phone lines and see what comes out. I have no agenda when I go. Well, mostly I don’t. Sometimes I have something especially shitty or brilliant that’s happened to me that day that I have to get off my chest, for example, what’s going on with my mum and her care home situation.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Sure, people can come on and be honest about their feelings. We’ve had alcoholics and suicidal callers sharing where they are, trying to grab a gasp of air before they get pulled back under the sea of whatever demons are haunting them. We also twat about a lot as well and have a laugh. It really is driven by your calls and what you want to talk about.
I also try and get on guests you won’t hear anywhere else. They have to be people who have had an impact on me and touched my life in some way. Sometimes people frown at the people I choose to invite on but USUALLY I win them round because I know the guest has something special to share, a unique story. Hey, look, we even had Mike Love of the Beach Boys call in! And so many people got in touch to say the interview completely changed their opinion of him. Have a listen and see what you think.
The show is fun, I’m still not sure I’m on the right track with it. I have gaping periods of self doubt about treading such a lonely path. If more people were doing this kind of show I’d feel more secure. Maybe there’s a reason people are going on air with heavily formatted shows and relying on the tried and tested call in subjects of Muslims, immigrants and whatever the front page of the Daily Mail is shouting angrily about that day. I dunno.
Finally, there is a daily podcast of the show as well. iTunes subscribers can get it by typing Iain Lee talk into iTunes or simply by clicking this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gaOa4H0xtw It’s available on all your usual podcast platforms as well, if you email me the links you use I’ll add them on this page. If you get the hooky full show pods, please do consider getting the official pods as well as the higher the numbers, the more secure my job.
A while I ago I floated the idea of hosting a variety evening in London where the acts were all made up of listeners. Keen amateurs, pro’s if there were any or people who just fancied having a go at…well…anything really.
The first night is on October 30th. Don’t look for tickets. It sold out like Billy-O. I immediately booked another night in for Sunday December 11th. We’re 3 months away from that and there are only 20 tickets left. Want them? Grab them HERE.
If you want to take part, then please get in touch. Your act can literally be anything. For example, on the bill for the show in October is a man pushing a wheelbarrow across the stage. That’s it. We’ve also got someone performing poetry via Skype and a short film being screened. Honestly, you can do ANYTHING. Acts need to be between 8-15 minutes, so it probably won’t work if you just want to get up and sing a song for a laugh. It CAN be a laugh, but it will need a little bit more.
You don’t have to have had experience, the audience is going to be lovely and want you to win, they really do. I’ll also be there to help you.
Fancy it? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think you might like to do. Let’s do it.
PS here’s a link to my talkRADIO podcast by the way, just in case you didn’t know I had a daily podcast and a late night phone in show…
Anyone remember the variety night I hosted a few years ago? It was called Set The Agenda and took place in Camden. First off we had a tiny room above a pub but soon outgrew that and we ended up taking over a whole pub in North London. It was a lot of fun and we had a delightful variety of acts. Adam Hess, Pete Heat, magicians, harpists, contortionists, a card ninja – it was weird and deliciously varied. Proper variety.
Well, that came to an end as all things must eventually and life moved on. Now I’m hosting a late night show weeknights from 10 on www.talkradio.co.uk and it’s a joy. I received a call last night from an old friend of the show, Jim The Dancer. Jim’s been down on his luck a bit recently. His good friend Dennis passed away and Jim not only lost a friend, but also a place to record his wonderful videos. Here’s one here, absolutely brilliant stuff.
But Jim is a trooper. He’s got back up, dusted himself down and found a new outlet for his artistic needs. He now performs in comedy clubs. As he was telling me this, I was hit by a thunderbolt. Why don’t Katherine and I host a live evening of talent but not from professional acts I’ve found, but a night comprising of talent from the listeners, you lot. Now, you may be a professional turn, and that’s great, you’re very welcome, but you don’t have to be. You can be an enthusiastic amateur, or maybe a hopeless dreamer who has always wanted to do SOMETHING but didn’t quite know what.
Now’s your chance.
I’m looking for ANY acts to come and perform at a venue in London one Sunday evening, probably in October. It will be a completely safe environment, everyone will be in the same boat, and audience will be on your side. No one wants to see anyone fail. They all want you to succeed. So, even if you aren’t any good, you’ll be made to feel very welcome.
I don’t want to be too prescriptive on what acts we are looking for here, anything. I guess I don’t want too many blokes with a guitar but I don’t want to put anyone off for getting in touch. this may not work. Or it may be a triumph. Either way, I WANT this to happen. We’ll call it #TalentRing as it is different from STA and everything needs a hashtag these days.
If you’re up for it, email me email@example.com and let me know what you think you might want to do.
If you wonder where I am these days, you can find me weeknights from 10pm-1am hosting a nightly phone in show. Anything goes really, except sport. We don’t do sport. Or Muslims. Or immigrants. Or any of the usual phone in stuff. For me, late nights should be a laugh. And while we do occasionally get a bit heavier (it’s all cool, lot of talk about depression and mental health) it’s mainly just messing about.
Saying that, the shows are dictated by YOU. You can call in about anything you want. You won’t get turned away. A lot of the regulars are there – Vinny, Dennis, Barry from Watford – but also loads of new callers which makes me so happy!
Katherine is still my producer (I rescued her from a life of mediocrity at the BBC). We also have a daily podcast. You can get it from your usual podcast providers. Type in Iain Lee talk radio and it should pop up. Any problems, let me know. I’m including the link for iTunes because that’s what I use. Hope that’s cool! Subscribe here Iain Podcast.
Do call in weeknights from 10 – 0844 499 1000 – don’t worry, we call you back.
Oh, and below is a clip of me arguing with a man about poppies. Enjoy.
I know, incredible as it may seem, I’ve only gone and made an actual Live CD that you lot can buy for just 6 quid. Go to www.gofasterstripe.com/iainlee to buy it.
Last year I did my first ever solo show and solo tour. In fact, my first ever tour. A lot of firsts. I did it to see if I could, to see if people would come and to see if I’d enjoy it. Well, by the end of the run, the show was pretty good and made me laugh a lot. Most shows sold out (apart from Swindon, maybe Swindon hated the 11OCS?) and I didn’t really enjoy it that much. Well, 2 out of 3 aint bad.
By the end of the run, I was really proud of the show. It was pace, had some genuinely laugh out loud moments and had a pretty strong narrative. Apologies if you came to one of the early shows, they were good but not as good as the last half of the tour. The penultimate show was at the Luton Library Theatre which is an incredible little venue. It was when I still worked at BBC 3 Counties Radio so I was kind of playing to a home crowd. Over 200 people came along and enjoyed the stories I had to tell. Luckily, that was one of two nights I recorded (the other was at Jackson’s Lane, I may make that available as a bonus download).
Everything worked that night. The stories clicked, the clips were timed just right and everyone wanted to have a good time. Well, I’ve now released that show on CD for you all to enjoy for ever and ever and ever. Thanks to Chris Evans at Go Faster Stripe (who release loads of cool stuff including Miles Jupp and Susan Calman) you can buy the CD for just £6 plus p+p. No ones gonna get rich off this. But, I am just so thrilled to finally have a comedy record out.
One regret. Why the hell did I call the CD ‘Iain Lee Live’? And not ‘Iain Lee Vs Radio’? I have absolutely no idea. I am indeed a plum. Thanks as ever to Scott Balcony of www.balconyshirts.co.uk for designing the cover. Cheers man.
Two shows down, a few more to go. The Iain Lee Vs Radio tour has been a lot of fun and I’ve really started to get to grips with the show. It’s constantly being tinkered with and updated and I genuinely think it;s pretty funny. Remember, it;s not stand up comedy, it’s me chatting and trying to convey my passion for radio to the audience. That makes it sound quite dry – it’s actually pretty funny. I should also warn you, it contains some very strong indoor language. VERY strong.
Anyway, here’s a list of shows. Some of them are selling very fast and the two shows in Birmingham are completely sold out. Sorry. There is now a London date. Jacksons Lane in Highgate is a wonderful venue that I played in probably 20 years ago. Back then I was playing bass for an experimental dance performance (actually true) this time, I’m talking bollocks about the radio.
If you come to any of the shows, I stick around after for photos and also sell a few t-shirts and badges. It’s all pretty informal and I’ll answer anything you want to ask.
Brighton and Luton are very close to being sold out so…hurry!
I’ve been busy and ignoring the website. Apologies. The tour has been going well, well, well, I mean there have been 2 dates and they’ve gone very well. The podcast has been a delight…maybe I’m revealing too much about myself, I dunno? And the radio is the radio!
Oh, and I recorded an episode of Pointless with Keith Chegwin.
So, here are the remaining dates. There IS a London show on October 8th I just can’t announce where yet. It’s North London though. And then, once these are all done, that will probably be it. I haven’t got into the groove yet and don’t know if I ever will. I’, not sure this lifestyle is for me. There has certainly been no ‘buzz’ or ‘performing high’ and while I’ve enjoyed meeting everyone who came, the anxiety outweighs the joy. Maybe that will change. Doesn’t matter.
So, here are the remaining dates and the podcasts. Enjoy!
Ah man…I am weeks away from the first date of the Iain Lee Vs Radio tour. July 8th in Maidenhead is looming and I am panicking. What if no one comes? What if it isn’t funny? What if I do a wee wee on stage?
All of these things are possible. I turned 42 this week, and this is just what I need at this time of my life. Fear. And self loathing.
Anyway, to help shift a few tickets I thought I’d do an occasional podcast. This is the first one, I recorded it in bed and, well, I couldn’t be bothered to get up and do it with my good microphone. Man, if I can’t be bothered to use my good microphone to promote my show, then why would YOU be bothered to buy tickets?
Iain and I went to talk to students at the St Albans Girls school this week, and because they’re…ahm…girls, we thought it might be an idea if I let them have the inside track on what it’s like being a woman working in media.
These young women listened to our guff
I was a bit uncomfortable about that, if I’m honest. Who am I to speak for the experience of a whole gender? Sure, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride over the years, but I’m not sure how much of that’s related to being the proud owner of a cracking set of ovaries. Maybe I’m just a div*.
That said, it turns out I have been the recipient of a fair bit of bullshit over the years, stuff my male colleagues won’t have encountered. I’m not just talking about hiding in the stationery cupboard to avoid a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ co-worker – although I have been there, done that and sadly, there was no t-shirt for my trouble.
No, the bovine excretia to which I’m mostly referring came in the form of well-meaning ‘pearls of wisdom’ such as these…
“What you need to understand is, statistically**, women don’t like listening to other women.”
“The trouble is, Kath, clever women can sound a bit…stuck up.”
“It’s women’s voices, you see, they can so easily become shrill when pressing a point.”
And my personal favourite…
“What you need to remember is that the average listener has trouble distinguishing one woman’s voice from another.”
Of course this is all utter balls. But this was the stuff I was getting from various sources during the late 90s and well into the 00s from people (not just men) who thought they were doing a newbie a favour. And if my experience is anything like that of other women trying to make it in radio, where surely your voice and the contents of your head are more important than your genitalia, no wonder there’s been a big push to get more women on-air – they’ve been benevolently talked into support roles for years!
Actual picture sent to me by a listener who thought I needed to know my place.
Sad to say, I swallowed the guidance offered so breezily and spent far too long struggling to be acceptable despite the terribly off-putting matter of my womanhood until I got some really great advice from two broadcasters I really rate, and get this…they were (and still are) both men!***
They convinced me that the hang-up I’d been labouring under wasn’t mine, or even the listener’s. Your audience responds to authenticity, regardless of whether it comes in a package with a packet or a hoo-ha.
Which is why I now know that rather than nodding, smiling and trying to overcome a barrier that wasn’t there, I should have responded to the helpful hints offered back then with the following ten little words…
*Undeniable, I’m afraid
**I was never shown these statistics.
*** One was the fantastically free and creative Ronnie Barbour, the other was the bloke who owns this website…although I’ve totally forgotten his name. Ewan? Owen? Anyway THAT guy.
Well, it’s happening. My first speaking tour is actually going to take place. Nice, small and very friendly venues. I’m so lucky with all of the places I’ve been asked to play. Absolutely gorgeous, just right.
There aren’t too many dates at the moment (a few more coming) but I am very nervous. To be undertaking my first ever solo show, let alone an actual tour, at the age of 41, seems a bit of an exercise in self flagellation. Still, I know the show works, and I am very proud of it.
My friend Simon Roberts has helped put the thing together and will be joining me to help with the technicals. Also, schedule willing, Mackenzie Crook will be joining me via satellite link up (actually Skype. And also, he may not, so, you know, don’t hold me to it).
I’ll be hanging around after all the shows to have a chat and have pics and stuff, if you want. You may also smell me.
It’s about 85-90 minutes, plus an interval. Me chatting about radio and playing some brilliant bits of shows by other people, but really funny bits. James Whale, Anna Raeburn, Big George and others all pop up.
Anyway, here are the dates. A couple more are coming along and I will post them here when I get them. They’re small venues, so I suggest if you want to come, get them quick.
I am talking to a few other places including London and Manchester….
I used to do a bit of stand up when I was younger. Not much. It was always a means to an end. I didn’t have an outlet and doing stand up at least gave me 5 or 10 minutes a few times a month to stand on a stage and twat around. I wasn’t very good. As time went on I began to learn to trust myself and my instincts a bit better and I sometimes, only sometimes, had good nights where people laughed and I got away with it. I couldn’t write material – any I had was nicked or very flimsy to say the least – but I got a sense for winging it.
As soon as I got on the telly, stand up went out the window. I didn’t enjoy it and it was just too hit and miss for me to stick with it.
A few years ago, I had another crack to see if I was missing anything. I wasn’t. Again, I got a few laughs and had a nice little routine end set piece where I would do a really bad pun about Gurkhas that would go down terribly, and very very slowly, I would put my coat on, strap my bag over my shoulder, put on my headphones and walk out of the venue. Generally in silence or maybe to some catcalls. This ending could last as long as 5 minutes. It was so uncomfortable. And I loved it.
I hosted my own evening, Set The Agenda. A monthly cabaret night I started with my friend James. After a while, he left and I took on the hosting duties all by myself. I loved it. Had very little material planned, a few things here and then. Again, I was learning to trust my instincts and just go with the flow man. Unfortunately for the evening, I found the stress of booking the acts, selling tickets and nearly getting the shit kicked out of me by a local coked up hard man just a little too much.
So, what the hell am I doing about to start work on my first ever solo tour? I mean proper solo tour. 80 minute shows, an interval, just me on the stage?
I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
First things first, THIS IS NOT STAND UP.
I can’t stress that enough. I am not a stand up and I will not be doing stand up comedy. No gags. No one liners. No snappy puns. I won’t be telling jokes about pushing into queues, getting on aeroplanes or how funny my kids are.
Iain Lee Vs. Radio is kind of a talk/lecture/relaxed/groovy/evening/slideshow/whatever/love in/experience.
There are some funny bits, trust me, some very funny bits, but it isn’t, you know, laugh out loud funny. It’s sort of…well…I don’t know how to describe it. I play some of my favourite buts of radio by other people (a few bits of me but not too many) and share why I like them, how radio works, how I got into it and why I don’t like Anna Raeburn. And that’s it really.
Here, let me show you an example. This clip is not in the show but this is the kind of clip that would be in the show. It’s John Inverdale
Isn’t that beautiful? And I have a whole collection of these bad boys. Mostly stuff that actually went out on the air.
I have a projector, a computer and maybe a live link up or two with some famous faces. If the show is running short, there will even be a Q&A, although in the back of my head that feels like a cop out.
Look, it’s my first tour. It may be my last. I’m playing about a dozen small venues across the south, south east and the midlands. The rooms hold between 50 and 120. I’d really like to see you there. I’ll even hang out afterwards so you can smell me and have a picture taken. I’m doing a sort of work in progress tester in Croydon on Saturday 14th. It’s sold out, so don’t come unless you have a ticket. Honestly? I think the show may run a bit short on Saturday but that’s all part of work in progress. There’s always the trusty Q&A if all else fails (do you think it’s a cop out? I genuinely don’t know)
Can’t tell you the dates and venues yet because they are still being finalised. I’ll post them up here as soon as I can.
I absolutely love The Monkees. My first records were a scratched copy of I’m A Believer and a beaten up old copy of the first album, sans cover. This must have been around 1976 when I was 3 years old. I loved them. I constantly tried to record the B Side to Believer, Stepping Stone, on my old Dansette by dangling a microphone inside and hitting record and play on my tape recorder. It never occurred to me to have the microphone outside the wooden box, you know, by THE SPEAKER!
Micky, Davy, Peter and Michael have always been my companions. They’ve been with me every step of the way (a joke there for fans of their mid 80’s career). I loved the TV show, had my mind blown by the movie Head and have spent pretty much all of my life banging on about just how good they were. The fact that they didn’t play their own instruments on their first or indeed last few records is no longer relevant. We all know the Beach Boys didn’t play on Pet Sounds now, so a lot of the musical snobbery has gone.
And these guys created some of the best pop ever. How could they not? It was written by Neil Diamond and Carole King, played on by Glen Campbell, Neil Young and the band retrospectively called ‘The Wrecking Crew’. Daydream is THE perfect pop song – lush, catchy, sentimental and just the right length. Pleasant Valley Sunday is a cynical psychedelic barrage of angst disguised in a sugar cube, and the aforementioned Stepping Stone is pure pro to-punk.
…they did record some utter shit.
Not much. Changes, the last album of the initial Monkees run, features just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz and is a tired rag bag of songs that other artists wouldn’t touch. A lot of fans hate it. That’s a shame. I love it’s world weariness. Ferry Ride is just achingly beautiful and Oh My My is pure sexual filth. The 1987 album Pool It! may have the worst title of all time and a hideous cover, but listen to Dolenz belting out Midnight? Jesus, it’s just incredible. And Since You Went Away submitted by Tork is hilarious and triumphant in one fell swoop.
…they did record some utter shit.
So, here for your aural displeasure are the 5, count em, worst Monkees songs of all time.
5 – She’s Movin’ In With Rico
Kicking off with what some may consider, from the 1987 reunion album Pool It!, I give you the absolutely piss poor She’s Movin’ In With Rico. Pool It! SHOULD have been huge. The Monkees were riding high on the back of their 1986 reunion tour. It was one of the biggest grossing tours of all time and catapulted them back into superstardom after years in the wilderness. They’d already had a top 20 hit of sorts with That Was Then, This Is Now, not technically a Monkees song as Davy had a strop and refused to sing on it. And it was another hissy fit from The Manchester Cowboy that through this album of track, or at least one of the reasons.
Basically, the 3 guys (Nesmith was too busy to rejoin, he wasn’t being snobbish as some have said) were having a love affair with MTV (created in part by Nez trivia fans). The new music channel had helped kickstart the reunion by showing all the eps of the TV series back to back. Both sides won. Then The Monkees were booked to appear at some MTV do, Davy didn’t fancy it and buggered off. Without telling MTV. Boom. The boys were banned from the channel and any promotion they may have got was out the window.
That’s all well and good, but even MTV getting behind the album wouldn’t have helped this song. What is it? Is it a joke? The Monkees doing cod reggae? What the…? It is a mind numbingly bad choice of song for this group to cut and one can only wonder how strong the Frodis was in the 80’s if anyone thought this was a good idea.
4 – Writing Wrongs
Michael Nesmith. What a guy. I was lucky enough to interview him once. A genius. Seriously, His mum invented Tippex (OK, she was a genius) he invented MTV, the music video and country rock. Listen To the Band has got to be one of the best songs of all time. His voice, ah man, it is just so sweet. Rio! Papa Gene’s Blues. Yes please. Hell, I even paid $100 to meet him for 90 seconds and get him to sign my Head box set (just his name, mine would have cost an extra $40 – fact) and do you know what, I can’t hate him for any of those things.
I can hate him for Writing Wrongs. It’s from The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees – an interesting album that kind of signified the beginning of the end of The Monkees as a pure pop act. Sure it’s got Daydream Believer and Valleri on, but it also has some far out experimentation. A lot of which works. Auntie’s Municipal Court is a joy and Magnolia Simms (both from The Nez) is wonderful.
It clocks in at 5.08, not in itself a crime, but the majority of it is filled with a laborious keyboard solo that turgidly drags along and makes you want to eat your own fingers. I couldn’t give a stuff about Bill Chambers, or his mum, and the drawn out, painful vocals leave me wanting less. Awful.
3 – Laugh
This is from the second album, More Of The Monkees, a record the boys didn’t even know existed until they went into a record store and saw it in the racks. The cover is an embarrassment, a picture taken from an advertisement for what can only be described as fugly clothes. It’s a real mixture of songs from different writers and producers. There is no coherent sound, and while it sold over 5 million copies, it’s not one of my favourites. The obvious choice from that LP for this list would be The Day We Fall In Love. Yes, the spoken word ‘song’ may be a bit schmaltzy, but fuck it, Davy can do schmaltz. And if you have the stereo version, ditch the vocals and listen to the music, it’s actually quite charming.
No, Laugh is terrible. Davy’s vocals, for me, tread a fine line between wonderfully powerful pop voice to annoying and nasally broadway. Ah man, I just pissed off a load of Davy fans. Sorry! I love him. I cried when he died, but he could be a bit grating sometimes.
Anyway, I think this song is meant to be a joke and a comment on the social scene in the sixties. ‘Laugh, when you go to a party, and you can’t tell the boys from the girls’. Right, OK mate. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Terrible singing, production, lyrics, tune. Bin.
2 – Star Collector
Oh, bloody hell. In for a penny, in for a pound.
This should be a great song. Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin at the height of their powers. A song about star fuckers. One of the first songs to ever feature the Moog (pronounced Mow-g) synthesiser. But…it doesn’t really work.
Again, another example of Davy trying to do Anthony Newley, instead of doing Davy Jones (honestly, I love him. Go and dig out the lost classic It’s Nice To Be With You. Delightful). And yes, Dolenz is playing the third ever Moog, but, let’s be honest, he aint got a clue what he’s doing! That cat is as high as a kite. And while his frazzled brain may be getting off on all the crazy sound effects, it just annoys the hell out of me.
I think I should maybe mention that the first time I heard this song was when I was 14. It was still pretty hard to get Monkees stuff then and I didn’t have Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd., the majestic album this track comes from. My friend Psycho Bob T had a weird compilation that had this song on. He lent it to me and because I was so excited to have a Monkees song I’d never heard before, I recorded it 12 times in a row to make it easier to listen to. I may have made myself hate this song.
1 – Your Auntie Grizelda
Oh fuck off.
This is terrible. Poor Peter. A wonderful musician, an earnest guy. He would keep turning up at Monkees sessions hoping to get a crack at a song. Boyce and Hart, the main songwriters and producers would let him have a go, and then get another Monkee to record the song once he’d gone. This, from the second LP, was Tork’s big break. A chance to sing lead vocals. And…well…neither the song or Tork were up to the job.
I read somewhere this commentary on a nasty aunt was meant to sound like 19th Nervous Breakdown by The Rolling Stones. It doesn’t. It sounds shit. And the amazing thing is, they keep playing this bloody song on tour. Every tour since 1986, they’ve wheeled this one out as Peter’s solo spot. Let me tell you something guys, no one likes it. This is the toilet or bar break tune. Let Peter do Lady’s Baby, Come On In…there aren’t many tunes he did but they are all better than this monstrosity.
OK. That’s my list. I’m expecting some hate and I’m sure I’ll get shunned by some of the fans (Monkees fans are ze craziest people) but please remember, I love The Monkees. It was as struggle to come up with this list. And boy, it was cathartic.
Katherine and I went to Coventry last week at the invitation of Mark Brown, a lecturer at the City College. He’d responded to a message I;d posted on Twitter offering our services to talk about working in radio. I don’t quite know why I did it, and I certainly hadn’t run it past Katherine to see if she was cool with it. It just popped into my head. So I posted it. Boom.
Mark got in touch, as did a couple of other people. He asked if it was a serious offer or was I taking the proverbial. It was, I wasn’t. He told me about his class – a group of media students between the ages of 16 and 20, some of whom wanted to work in radio, and who he thought would benefit having a chat with some ‘professionals’.
Anyway, we arranged a date and Katherine and I thought about what we could tell them. How would we fill 45 minutes? Well, quite easily it turned out. We outlined a little chat about how we got into the industry, what our day entails and the relationship between producer and presenter as we see it. Played a few clips and answered some questions. That was that.
It seemed to work. The students looked at us the whole time (no one took out a mobile phone or looked like they were falling asleep) and we enjoyed ourselves. So, not completely selfless. But, I guess the idea behind it is ‘giving something back’. That sounds a little pretentious, so I won’t dwell on it, but it’s true.
Anyway, we have another chat at a school in a couple of weeks. And we are keen to do more. If you want an award winning presenter and an award winning producer to come to your school or college to talk about working in radio, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can sort out.
I think of our regulars the same way a pub landlord thinks of his.
It’s good to see them a couple of times a week, but if they’re popping up every day it becomes a worry.
For some people, a quick chat with a presenter they consider a friend or an adversary is enough. We love hearing from them just as much as they enjoy taking part in the show. They may call every other day, but they don’t expect to get a call back and certainly don’t feel personally slighted if they don’t get on-air every time. In our broadcasting boozer, these are the punters who are happy you remember their name and what they ordered last time, but don’t leave a tankard behind the bar.
Who’s this then?
As well as putting off passing trade, a rather unattractive sense of entitlement develops in callers who are used too often. It starts out as familiarity but it can get annoying, rude and quite nasty if left unchecked. Therefore I would suggest a caller who does any of the following things should set off alarm bells:
They recognise the producer/ assistant’s voice, and assume you recognise theirs.
They tell you a long and involved story before saying they don’t want to go on-air – total waste of time, you’ll watch caller after caller give up while you’re listening to their monologue.
They ask what you’re talking about today – they’re not listening, they just want to get on-air.
They end the conversation by asking whether and when you’re going to call them back – they’ll then call you several times to ask why you haven’t done so and may suggest there’s some sort of conspiracy against them.
I am not for one second suggesting the production team responds to any of the above with rudeness, but you may need to be quite firm – especially in the case of scenario number 4. The good news is that most of this unpleasantness can be averted if you make things clear from the outset.
Oh for Heaven’s sake! Just tell him you’ve got his number and MIGHT call him back.
Now, it’s totally up to you whether you take this advice, but it’s taken me several years and a stalker to hone this technique and I think it’s pretty failsafe…
Always check the caller’s name, even if you think you know who it is. You’ll avoid scenario number 1.
Your second question should be “What do you want to say to (presenter’s name) today?” It makes it clear that you’re not there for a private chat – you don’t want to be anyone’s favourite, trust me. Point 2, sorted.
Don’t get involved in situation 3. It takes too much time and they’ll add nothing to the show.
Never tell anyone you’re going to call them back unless you want them to put their phone down so you can call them straight away. So much can happen during a phone-in show – a change of tack or a complete change of subject – that you just can’t commit to it. Welching on the deal just isn’t fair to the poor person psyching themselves up, waiting for the phone to ring. It can also leave you trapped in a never ending and increasingly sweary spiral of the madness that is number 4 FOR THE REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE.*
No! Be firm.
So, back to the nice regulars in our metaphorical pub – they’ll still be standing patiently in your sonic snug with no tenner waving or finger drumming – treat them right and they’ll keep your talkshow tills ringing**until closing time.***
You get to know them, they get to know you, and you can play wonderful radio games together, like this one. Time gentlemen please**** for one of my favourite bits from this week. I give you Dave Luton, Dennis in Dunstable and Hey Matty Bum Bum.
*OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you catch my drift.
Last week I had the worst run of depression I think I’ve ever had. It was certainly the worst I can remember. I managed to get myself out of bed and get to work…but that was it. And even then I nearly called in sick every day.
I present a radio show and man, was I ever just going through the motions. It felt like I was sitting in the studio watching myself present a radio show. I was in control of me, but I was operating myself through a three second delay and doing a terrible job. I was faking it to make it. I was acting what I thought Iain Lee should say and do.
After the shows, I came home and crawled into bed. Nothing unusual there, that’s what I tend to do. But I then spent all day in bed. I slept for a couple of hours, woke up, lay in bed for a few more hours wide awake, padded downstairs for a coffee, then back under the covers until the morning. Repeat.
What made it more painful was my kids would come into my room, intent on creating the joyous mayhem that children do, and I simply had nothing for them I couldn’t give them a single thing – no affection or love or interaction. ‘Daddy isn’t feeling very well’ was pretty much all I could say as I sent them on their way.
That of course broke my heart, filled me with shame and self hatred and sent me even lower. Great little cycle there, thanks head.
While I was lying in bed, I just felt, and this is where it gets hard to put into words, er, useless, low, meaningless, lost, spent, sad, tired…it’s a toughie and none of those descriptions really sum up the pure bleakness I was experiencing. I hated myself and everything I had achieved and simply wanted to stop existing. I didn’t want to die necessarily, I just wanted to not be.
There are some of you reading this nodding and going ‘yeah, that’s me!’ and probably just as many scratching your heads and thinking what a twat. Stop being such an idiot and get on with things.
Ah, the old ‘pull your socks’ up brigade. If only it were that simple. I’d love to pull my socks up and get on with things. Ignore this little voice in my head that tells me I am worthless and no one likes me and actually I only make things worse for people. Some days I can. Some days it’s just too loud. And sure, my life is actually pretty good. I have a good career, financially I’m OK, so what have I got to worry about?
And that’s the thing. Depression, for me anyway, isn’t always about what’s going on in the external world. Sometimes it is. My dad dying, my mum being ill, being hauled over the coals for something I said or did at work – they can all have an effect. But it tends to be either really small things or simply nothing that sends me over the edge. Jesus, I found an ink stain on my favourite coat today and I could feel the well of blackness starting to overflow within me. It was insane.
I’m pretty confident that for me, the depression is primarily a chemical imbalance in my head. Just as there’s no logic to who gets cancer or asthma, the same goes here. Yeah, there are outside elements in all of these conditions or diseases that may have an impact, but, sometimes it’s just bad luck or bad genes or bad karma or whatever the fuck it is. There’s no point in asking ‘why me?’ although, ironically, that’s a pretty common question amongst depressives as we struggle with existential angst while trying to get enough inner strength to get up and go to the toilet.
I’m lucky. I had a REALLY bad week. Some people have really bad months or years. I tend to even out throughout the year. Sometimes I’m pretty good, sometimes I am like utter shit but generally I’m bouncing around in the middle. Just below the middle perhaps. Last week was an extraordinary and freakish one that I do not want to repeat. I’ve had this long enough though to know that no mood lasts forever. This too shall pass. I just have to ride it out. For me, talking, exercising, eating, listening to music…none of that stuff works when I am in it. It’s a disease of isolation and I need to hide. When I am in it, I just need to ride it out and know that I will reappear on the other side at some point.
I had a weird thing yesterday. I was doing OK. And then it hit me. And I could feel it hit me. Just before midday, this wave of bleakness swept up my body and there was nothing I could do. I went down under the surface and let it sweep over me. It may sound odd, but it was kind of beautiful. Does that make any sense to anyone? A beautiful bleakness? It only lasted a few hours. I was well enough to move downstairs a bit later and put a film on. Something shifted and I had a rare moment of feeling powerful and invincible before it sort of evened out. I’m bouncing around a bit at the moment, mainly down, in fact I’m typing this in bed, fully clothed, wearing the coat with a stain on it. Does anyone know how to get an ink stain out of a jacket?
I have absolutely no idea why I’m writing this. I suppose partly because I believe that journaling ones feelings and moods is a helpful tool and I had enough energy to drag my computer out of my bag. Maybe it’s to partly explain for last weeks shows being a bit crap (although, if I’m honest, right now I don’t actually care about work). I suppose it’s to let people know that this is OK. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Or scared of. Well, be a little bit scared. This disease can be fatal. But it’s real and people have it and people come through it. Don’t be embarrassed (although the thought of actually posting this rambling online is making me very anxious) and let people know you have it. Those that do the ‘pull your socks up’ or ‘oh for Christ’s sake, get over yourself’ lines are probably not people you need around you. If you told a friend you had cancer and they said ‘just man up’, is that someone you’d want to hang out with?
Ah, I dunno. I’m not doing this for sympathy, I tell you that much. So, you know, thanks but no thanks. I’m doing this to show that you’re not alone. Although, I bet you feel very much like you are, whatever anyone says.