Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sound Bank: 5) Doreen and Mavis

In 1992, I blagged my way into presenting a radio programme.

The newly-established Belfast Community Radio had no money and no audience. It barely had any CDs or presenters. But it was on the air, and it needed staff, so I'd been coming in at weekends and answering the phones. Sooner or later, I was given access codes to the building - and that's when I hatched my diabolical plan.

One quiet Thursday night, I sneaked into the building with Neil Archibald, my lab partner in A-Level biology. We commandeered the off-air-studio and recorded a demo tape, live onto cassette. Goodness knows what it must have sounded like, but I remember two things: First, we started it with INXS's New Sensation which, after careful consideration, we had decided was the most perfect radio record of all time. Second, we were especially proud of a sketch that ended with both of us shouting "there's plenty of room around the crotch" (I have no context for this punchline any more).

Amazingly, station management comissioned a show. I think this was largely due to the fact that we were willing to do it for free but who cared? We had two hours of radio a week, and we could do what we wanted with it!

The programme was given a title, "The Near Side" (ripped off from Gary Larson in a moment of panic) and we hit the airwaves, full of ideas and completely lacking in experience.

To listeners, the show must have been  a complete mystery. We broke all the sacred rules of radio - talking over each other, playing b-sides, making stupid in-jokes. And the playlist was a mess. I was firmly rooted in planet pop, picking out top 10 hits by George Michael and Madonna. Neil, who was basically the coolest person I knew, would bring along L7 or The Charlatans. We never quite found a happy ground, but we never fell out over it, either.

The Near Side lasted about a year - but I continued to work for BCR in the school, and then university, holidays. Which is where today's soundclip comes in.

By the second year of uni, I was President of the student radio society and making ridiculous "zoo"-style programmes (this was the era of The Big Breakfast and Chris Evans, so we thought we were achingly cool). Again, I was surrounded by infinitely more talented people... Andrew Carter and Steven Finer were the comedic geniuses, whereas I held the show together technically - making sure that the levels were correct and that we went to the news at the right time.

Basically, I was Lauren Laverne on 10 O'Clock Live.

One of Andrew and Steve's comedy segments saw them assuming the voice of two old hags called Doreen and Mavis and perform an impromptu, unscripted link. To the casual listener, it must have sounded like they'd ripped off Monty Python's Pepperpot ladies - but they swore on their mother's lives that they'd never seen or heard Python... despite attending Cambridge and, in Andrew's case, auditioning for Footlights.

To this day, those sketches make me laugh milk out my nose. Even if I haven't been drinking milk. I should get that checked by a doctor.

Here's one of their finer moments.

Sound Bank is a series of blog posts I'm running in August while I'm on holiday. If you want to know more about it, there's an explanation on this page. Normal pop blog service will be resumed around 25th August

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