Mack Nuggets

04Aug19

The longest I’ve ever stayed at the same radio station is five years. That was BOBfm in Herts, Beds and Bucks. Here’s some of my favourite bits from my last two years there, including: Disaster at Titanic the Musical; A stuck story; The ultimate protest song; Miscommunication; What was on the roof of the car?; The gender bender; Why you should pee on your tomatoes; Andy Summers from The Police; Skiving; Neighbour from hell; Siri doesn’t work; A school trip story; A left behind story; The talking whale; The truth about the childhood obesity crisis; The lady shaving her legs in a public pool; The workplace toboggan team; Israel wins the Eurovision song contest; Why Britain is the greatest country on earth; Minimum pricing for booze in Scotland; Wolf whistling banned in France; The Ikea wardrobe disaster; A special birthday request; The vomit comet; The nickname misunderstanding; Expensive photographs; The truth about World Cup pundits; The camel beauty contest;The odd shoe; The Queen and the baby elephant; Grabbed by the bells; Donald or Duke?; Cyclists; The girly men; Russia; The NHS; Boaty McBoatface; We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel Parody.

Craic on!

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Mack Nuggets

03Aug19

This is what I got up to on Radio Merseyside from 2016 to 2018, including: The end of the world; What Charlie said; Ricky Tomlinson talks about Mickey Finn; Liverpool’s zoo; Andrew Neil gets taken down; Connections to celebrity; Roger McGough talks about the Blitz; a journey from hell; The real reason why Liverpool fans sing You’ll Never Walk Alone; Paul McCartney’s surprise in Liverpool; The vomit comet; New Zealand; Neighbours from hell; Trees;The party without a DJ; A houseguest from hell; A bonfire night surprise; Cultural differences; A fancy dress story; Buyers remorse; Revenge on Henry Ford; The fourth dimension; A tribute to Keith Chegwin; Caught the bus, should have taken a taxi; Beatles biographer, Hunter Davies; The inspirational Gary Skyner; What happens when you sell your soul to the devil in Mississippi; A Father’s Day story; Using the wrong word; Donald And Melania Trump’s; The lady responsible for the skiffle boom that started it all; Aunty Hazel calls in; Mistaken identity; Harsh rejection; A tribute to Chuck Berry; I can’t believe you’re doing THAT here!; The dangers of the Twist.

Craic on!

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Mack Nuggets

28Jul19

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio lately, including:

A brush with wildlife, HiDef Radio, Why paper bags are important, The Queen drops an F-bomb, The festival of sex, Toilet wall graffiti, Sexism, When Darren got thrown out.

Craic on!

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I thought I was going to be killed by an armed policeman this week.

As you can see by the video above, Fix Radio recorded a promotional film with “Boris Johnson” at Downing Street. We didn’t have permission and as I was in charge, an officer with a very large automatic weapon asked me what we were up to. Without thinking, I said, “It won’t take long, we’re just going to shoot the Prime Minister!”

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Smart Arse!

14Jul19

Buzz

The greatest legacy of the first moon landing is the inspiration it gives to us all.

50 years ago this month, Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the surface.  I was five years old when I watched the grainy black and white pictures broadcast live from the moon. Even at that age, it felt like from that moment on, anything was possible.

It happened because of four things; motive, provocation, a clear goal with a deadline and resources. 

Let’s break them down:

Motive
The Americans had to beat the Russians. The consequences of coming second to an evil empire were unthinkable and very real. When the decision was made to shoot for the moon, the US was a long way behind Russia. In fact, they were barely even in the Space Race. 

Provocation
The Russians were the first to put a satellite into orbit and the first to do the same with a human. When Yuri Gagarin returned to earth, he became a global celebrity as big as any Hollywood movie star. It was a body blow to American pride.

A clear goal with a deadline
On the 25th May 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood in front of Congress and said the US “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”.  – It was uncomplicated and the deadline was crystal clear. 

Resources
In the 1983 movie, The Right Stuff, astronaut Gordon Cooper, played by Dennis Quaid says, “You boys know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up”, to which fellow Mercury 7 astronaut Gus Grissom, played by Fred Ward, says, “That’s right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers”. – NASA had the resources of the US taxpayer behind them. 

Just because the goal was simple, it didn’t mean it was easy. When Kennedy set out his objective, the sum total of America’s experience in manned space flight was just over a quarter of an hour. Twenty days earlier, Alan Shepard had become the first American in space when he was launched on board Freedom 7. Unlike Gagarin, who orbited the earth, Shepard went up and came straight back down again. From launch to splashdown, it was all over in 15 minutes and 22 seconds.

Kennedy clarified that his challenge was not going to be easy to achieve. In a speech he gave to a large crowd at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962. He said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

And it was REALLY hard. It took hundreds of thousands of people, working together to achieve that goal. Lessons had to be learned from scratch, new materials had to be created, plans had to be constantly changed and adapted, personal sacrifices had to be made, relationships suffered and three astronauts died in a launchpad fire including Neil Armstrong’s best friend and next door neighbour, Ed White.

I wish I could find an acronym for motive, provocation, goal with a deadline and resources, MPGDR isn’t really snappy enough. Unfortunately, in today’s world if you can’t boil something down into a clever abbreviation that can be turned into a powerpoint slide presented by a creatively disabled middle-manager in a suit, it doesn’t catch on. 

I once worked for a large broadcasting company that insisted that all goals had to be SMART. That stood for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If President Kennedy was forced to make his goal SMART, America would never have gone to the moon. 

Let’s break that down:

Specific – There was nothing specific in Kennedy’s challenge. The spacecraft, mathematics and planning involved in getting to the moon and back hadn’t even been thought up when he issued his challenge.

Measurable – It’s not possible, even now, to measure the effect the first mission to the moon has had on the population of earth. 

Achievable – At the time, the most powerful rocket America had launched with a man on board had flown to an altitude of only 117 miles. That’s nowhere near the 238,855 miles that separate the earth from the moon. One of the greatest things about the goal Kennedy set was that it seemed so unachievable.

Realistic – Landing a man on the moon is so unrealistic that even today there are people who still think it’s impossible and believe the “live” pictures from the moon were faked on a Hollywood backlot by Stanley Kubrick.

Timely – Going to the moon and back wasn’t timely, it was an achievement well ahead of its time. Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of the combined computing NASA had in 1969. They didn’t even have pocket calculators. The watches the astronauts wore on the moon had to be wound up because they were clockwork.

SMART is DUMB, Dimwits Underestimating Man’s Brilliance. SMART should stand for Small Minds Afraid, Restricting Targets.

We shouldn’t think small, we should always think big. As long as we have a strong enough motive, the right provocation, a clear goal with a deadline and the right resources, we’ll get to wherever it is we want to go. Along the way we’ll have to make sacrifices and there will be devastating setbacks. We’ll have to accept them, learn, adapt and move on. As long as we don’t give up, we’ll see that anything IS possible.

See you on the moon.

Craic on!

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Johnny B, Good!

07Jul19

They say you should never meet your heroes. I don’t agree, working in radio, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of mine and it doesn’t matter if they’re a footballer, actor or musician, usually it’s been a great experience and they’ve been everything I’d hoped they would be.

One bloke in particular stands out and that’s Jonathon Brandmeier. He’s a US radio personality and I first heard about him in the early 90s, when I read the transcript of an interview with him in Dan O’Day’s book, Personality Radio. Then I sent off for Dan’s “Greatest Shows On Earth, Volume 4” on tape cassette and heard him for the first time on WLUP (The Loop) in Chicago. Years later on many trips to Chicago, I heard him live on the air and he sounded just as good as on tape. I don’t know what it is about Jonathon Brandmeier that I like. He’s edgy but not hard edged, everything he does on the air sounds like fun and what I hear is a love for the medium of radio.

In August 2015, I got to meet Johnny B. at Talentmasters Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago and I interviewed him for the Radio Today Podcast. At the end of the interview we had a laugh as he recited some of his favourite Monty Python sketches, probably because I’m English. He was great and told me I should be a guest on his new nationally syndicated show one day. I thought he was just being nice but the following year, he called me and had me on his show, not once but twice.

Since meeting him and being on his show, I’m now an even bigger fan.

Craic on!

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Radio Reception

06Jul19

We’ve been invited to a wedding!

My old boss from BOBfm, Brett Harley, is finally getting married to Carolyn in a few weeks time. They’ve been together for more than 20 years so it’s about time!

Being the boss, it always felt like he was more of a grown-up than me, even though this year, Julie and I will have been married for thirty-two years. I hope Brett and Carolyn will be as happy as Julie and I are.

Here’s what I sounded like on BOBfm…

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Radio Stuff

23Jun19

Congratulations to Larry Gifford on his promotion to National Director of AM Radio for Corus Entertainment in Canada.

Larry is a veteran talk programmer and consultant who also hosts the “When Life Gives You Parkinsons” podcast for Corus’ Curiouscast podcast network. I had the pleasure of being a guest on his Radio Stuff Podcast a few times in 2013 and 2014.

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JM

John Myers has been a big part of my life for a while now, even though I never knew him that well.

I woke up this morning to the sad news that John had died. He was in charge of Century Radio when I worked there in the North East in 1998 and 1999. The strange thing is, it was only yesterday that I put together some of my favourite bits from my time there and tweeted a link to the audio on Youtube…

As John was the big boss and busy launching the Century station in the North West at the time, I didn’t have much to do with him. I didn’t get to know him till 2011 when Deb Hackett, a workmate at BBC Wiltshire “introduced” me to him at the end of an event he was speaking at in Bristol. He couldn’t have been nicer.

A few weeks later, I won a Sony Award for my Breakfast Show and he sent me an email. What he said touched me so much that I printed it out and have kept it folded up in my wallet ever since.

IMG_7538

A radio career has highs and lows, winning a Sony Award was a big high but it was followed by a huge low the next year when I was let go by the BBC in a cost-saving thing called DQF, Delivering Quality First. It was during that period that I took that note out of my wallet and read John’s words, it kept me going.

Thankfully, I’ve only needed to read the note a handful of times since. Just knowing it’s there has helped me through the dark days of self doubt and insecurity caused by the sleep deprivation and chaos that programing a radio station and presenting a daily Breakfast Show can bring.

Rest in peace John and thanks for bringing me comfort, hope and inspiration when I needed it most.

Craic on!

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Mack Nuggets

01Jun19

I’ve had a great time presenting the Manchester Breakfast Show on Fix Radio with Gaz Drinkwater. This is what the last days of the show sounded like. Including: The truth about the Spice Girls gig; The worst thing about the doctors; A tribute to Doris Day; Why the hygienist is worse than the dentist; The 10K; Raheem Sterling; The pornographic World Cup stadium; Royal Baby news; The Shark finally gets revenge; The last show.

Craic on!

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Howzat

27May19

I don’t know who to support in the Cricket World Cup. I was born in England and have lived in New Zealand and Australia, I have passports for each country.

I’m leaning towards Australia because I didn’t get to pick where I was born and moved with my parents to New Zealand when they emigrated. Australia is the only country I actually chose to live in.

It’s also where I decided to get into radio. Here’s what I sounded like on the last station I was on there, 2GO, just north of Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast…

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1cT8zLTPirNRkyQxLkZG5bj4r_aG__uEu

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hr8FhmqDWfLc7TfkVIn4vRTUiSNWBiu3/view?usp=sharing

Craic on!

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Phonies

25May19

Why don’t you hear wind-up calls on the radio anymore?

It could be because they got played out, overdone. The best way to devalue something is to do lots of it, scarcity adds value. Then again, wind-ups may have stopped because things can go horribly wrong.

When I worked on the air in Australia, I was told of a wind-up call that cost a station a lot of money. A one man band, roofing contractor wanted to wind up his wife so he asked the station to call her up while he was at work. The presenter pretended to be a customer and asked the wife why her husband was taking so long on his roof. While he was talking, the wife heard sound effects and a scream that made it sound like the husband had fallen off the house. As you can imagine the wife was very upset thinking her husband and breadwinner had just had a terrible accident. The radio station had to pay compensation even though the call was never broadcast.

The most famous wind-up call gone wrong was also Australian. On 7 December 2012 Jacintha Saldanha, an Indian nurse who worked at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, was found dead by suicide, three days after she got a prank phone call from 2Day FM in Sydney. The hosts had called Saldanha’s hospital and impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles asking about the health of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was pregnant and a patient there at the time. Saldanha believed she was actually talking to senior members of the royal family and transferred the call to the nurse looking after the Duchess. Although it was clearly the fault of the hospital and the royal family’s security, who’s lack of safeguards let the call get through, it was the radio station and it’s presenters who became scapegoats and were blamed for the death.

Those are two extreme examples of what I think the problem with wind-ups is. The person who gets called becomes an innocent victim.

For me, it’s much nicer when you can hear the person on the other end of the phone enjoying the experience of being wound up. In 2001, I was lucky enough to get that response from a bloke I called when I was on the air at BRMB in Birmingham…

Craic on!

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BOB Job

19May19

As we get closer to BOBfm in Hertfordshire closing and becoming another Heart station, I thought you might like to hear my favourite April Fools Day prank we pulled at BOB.

The radio station is in the grounds of Knebworth Park, literally yards away from where hundreds of the worlds top artists have played in huge concerts over the years, so we decided to put on our own concert in the morning.

We had a stella line-up including; Status Quo, Robbie Williams, Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney, Oasis, Lady Gaga, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Duran Duran, Tom Jones and Led Zeppelin.

The thing that made it work was the amazing production and audio imaging from our producer, Mark Williams.

Craic on!

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Jack Off

18May19

In a few weeks time, BOB fm in Hertfordshire will disappear and become Heart. I presented the Breakfast Show there for five years. When I first got there in 2013, the station was called JACKfm. Here’s what I sounded like back then…

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Art Attack

12May19

There’s been a major art theft from London’s Tate Modern and it’s all my fault.

The Tate Modern is just a short walk from where I work at Fix Radio in Southwark. Often at lunchtime I stroll around and look at the art.

One of my favourite pieces is on level 2. It’s an oil on canvas painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937 called The Weeping Woman. 

WW

I went over there on Thursday and was disappointed when I noticed The Weeping Woman had been replaced by something that looks more like a 6th form art project than the work of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

IMG_7204 (1)

I went down to the information desk on the ground floor and reported the Weeping Woman missing. The lady there explained that it might have been loaned out to another gallery. She tapped on the computer keyboard, squinted and told me that ‘The Sick Child’ by Edvard Munch had been loaned out to The British Museum, bit her tongue, scanned the screen but couldn’t find any information about the whereabouts of The Weeping Woman.

I thought, well that’s odd! So this morning I checked the Tate Modern website and found that it just lists the painting as “Not on display”.

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picasso-weeping-woman-t05010

Not on display? Why would that be? It’s not like they’re short of space. There are plenty of blank walls in the 3,300 square metres available to hang art in the former Bankside Power Station and to be honest, a lot of what’s on the walls is rubbish, so why is one of Picasso’s most famous works “not on display”?

Clearly, what’s happened here is, the painting has been stolen and whoever is in charge at the Tate Modern is hoping it’s recovered before anyone notices.

Here’s where I come in. In November last year, I wrote a blog about how easy it would be to steal The Weeping Woman and detailed exactly what you’d have to do.

https://grahammack.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/art-for-art-sake/

Now someone has actually gone and done it. Does that make me an accessory to the crime?

Craic on!

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London Calling

05May19

I really enjoy working in London every day. Everywhere you look is a photo opportunity. I took this one a few days ago when I got off the train at Blackfriars just after 6am.

D5DghKfU8AAKKAT

I’ve been at Fix Radio since July last year, it’s not the first time I’ve worked in the capital. In 2012 and 2013, I did some shows on BBC London, here’s what it sounded like;

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Mack Nuggets

04May19

Here’s what I’ve been up to with Gaz Drinkwater on Fix Radio Manchester, including;Show Us Your Tips; Greater Manchester Police using GPS data from speeding drivers; Why democracy doesn’t work; Travis Perkins v the cat; Rednecks in New Zealand; The dispute with Steve Brookstein.

Craic on!

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This month marks 30 years since BBC Wiltshire started. I presented the Breakfast Show on Swindon’s BBC Wiltshire from 2010 to 2012 and was lucky enough to win a Gold Sony Radio Academy Award for “Breakfast Show Of The Year”, the “Program Presenter Award” Gold at the BBC Gillards, “Best Radio Personality” bronze and “Best Talk Show Host” finalist at the New York Radio Awards.

Unfortunately I was let go as part of a BBC cost saving initiative called “Delivering Quality First”. Here’s what the show sounded like;

Craic on!

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Polling

Democracy doesn’t work which is a shame with council elections on right now.

Most people are not Scientists, economists or engineers. Politicians are experts on politics but not much else. When politicians make policy they should really ask experts on each individual topic and go with what they say. The problem is, experts make up a tiny fraction of the electorate and democracy is a numbers game.

Politicians are greedy for power and will stop at nothing to get it so instead, they make policy based on the perceptions of the majority of voters. In other words, politicians care the most about the people who know the least.

Politicians love it when an electorate has an irrational fear because they can stoke that fear then offer solutions. Immigration, the fear of other religions, a loss of national identity and scarcity are the phobias that got Hitler and Trump elected and sent Britain towards Brexit.

On top of that, older people are way more likely turn out on polling day and they make up more than 18% of the British electorate. When I asked for my voting slip at the church hall where I vote, I was surrounded by so many old people, I half expected to be given a bingo card.

We’re told that democracy is best and people have fought and died to protect it but it’s a system where power hungry megalomaniacs are rewarded for getting the largest group of misinformed, ignorant and sometimes prejudice people, who may not even be alive in five years time, to put a tick in a box next to their name.

There must be a better way. The problem is, if someone came up with a new system, who’d vote for them?

Craic on!

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Environuts

20Apr19

Here’s what happened when I had a chat with one of the eco-protesters in London.

Craic on!

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