No Message Taken, Again

In the early 1990’s, I became an avid listener of an early evening Saturday radio show conceived by BBC Radio Five (later Five Live), which was fronted by a chirpy, motormouth Londoner named Danny Baker.

An audio nugget I stumbled across by accident. This a consequence of leaving the radio broadcasting when Sports Report’s concluded as I was otherwise engaged extinguishing a grill fire that’d rendered my tea inedible.

The radio show in question was called 606, which I assume got its idiosyncratic name from the fact it started at 6.06pm (after the news bulletin). If truth be told, though, I wasn’t inquisitive enough to write to Auntie Beeb to confirm that – However if that wasn’t the reason it was an uncanny coincidence.

Endearingly, Baker wanted to avoid his football phone-in becoming a vehicle for whinging capricious fans, wittering because their team had lost that afternoon. No his agenda was that he, hold onto your socks and hose, wanted to entertain – Encouraging listener calls to cascade their off the wall football related experiences.

In particular he wanted listener calls relaying tales on subjects like ‘Famous footballers they’d met in Sainsburys’ (footballers wives couldn’t ring in), ‘Funny ref stories’ and a mixture of light hearted occurrences during that afternoons game, regardless of the matches level on the football pyramid.

I think in the early shows he also intertwined the calls with classic music tracks, although I may have dreamt that. Saying that, though, I don’t often dream about radio shows so it probably did happen.

I’m certain, though, that I loved the show. I spent many a Saturday evening standing in the kitchen back then, buoyed by a Leeds win (which they did regularly back then), chuckling at this innovative take on the football phone-in.

In those days, you couldn’t always find me in the kitchen at parties, but you sure as hell did at 6.06 pm on Saturday evenings during the football season. Times I’d ordinarily be accompanied by a bottle of San Miguel lager, whilst cooking my wife Karen and my tea. While I guffawed, grilled and did other things beginning with ‘g’, she’d generally be bathing our very young kids to bed.

I don’t recall many listener calls from back then. Although I do recollect a guy ringing to say the ref in the amateur game he’d played in that day had forgotten his whistle. Consequently, the official spent 90 minutes signalling an infringement by hitting a spoon onto metal drinks tray – Items he’d borrowed from the adjoining club bar.

If memory serves me correct, another guy rang to say he’d hoofed the ball out during his amateur game. Unbeknown to him it hit his watching missus in the face, creating the subsequent surprise of witnessing her sporting a shiner on his return home.

I’d no idea if these stories were true, but it didn’t really matter as they painted such gloriously funny images in my then less cynical twentysomething mind.

I raise the topic of the affable Londoner as this evening I’m attending one of gigs at the Leeds Grand Theatre. A performance that I’m sure will be every bit as whimsical as when I saw him on stage last year in York, during his ‘Cradle to the Stage’ tour.

That evening he captivated his audience for almost four hours with joyously humorous anecdotes – Predominantly consisting of ripping yarns from his South London upbringing.

I’m not going to regurgitate the tales verbatim, or indeed paraphrase them. His delivery adds so much to the story that I couldn’t do them justice on here. If you wish to hear them buy his books or catch another of his shows…… If laughter isn’t for you I’d recommend a later 606 presenter David Mellor’s book ‘Mind the Gap’, or I would if it existed.

Being born in Deptford, South London, I’m not sure Baker would’ve been able to hear Bow Bells on his arrival in June 1957; as such I’m not sure if I can label the raconteur a cockney. Not unless he had hearing like an old workmate of mine, who claimed his excellent audio pickup due to having “Ears like a hawk.”

Talking of hearing, we’ve recently got to the bottom of my wife’s mum trouble hearing Karen on the telephone. Apparently, she is still using her non-performant hearing aids as she wants to save her new state of the art set ‘for best’……. So if your not at Birtley golf club on Saturday night’s, don’t waste your breath talking to her as she won’t hear you.

Baker.jpg

On that balmy York evening last year the Millwall fan appeared to enjoy himself so much there was a reluctance to let the audience go. Like late, great US entertainer Al Jolson used to tell his guests ”Just one more song before you go.”, Danny Baker wanted to tell us just one more anecdote.

To close, Danny Baker said there was no underlying message to take from that show in York, in particular any working-class hero nonsense. His four hours of spiel was an entertainment vehicle, not aimed to bask in the glory of council estate boy done good.

I’m confident this evening will also be packed with message-less but highly amusing yarns.

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