High Fives 2021 No. 19 – Steve Jenner

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Just when we thought this year’s High Fives had run out of steam, this one appears out of the Northern mists from our regular contributor Steve Jenner celebrating ways of not retiring, a subject Allan knows a lot about as well. They were both bitten by the music bug at an early age and the infection seems to be getting worse with each additional year they put on the clock. Here’s Steve’s take on things to celebrate from 2021.

Well, what a weird year and a very personal set of High Fives to match. I must be one of the very few people in the broad and massively varied ‘church’ that is the music ‘industry’ who has done quite nicely out of lockdown, thank you very much. I don’t feel terribly comfortable about saying that knowing how many of my fellows of all ages have had whole futures trashed, but the truth is the truth and I can’t pretend anything else. Without a penny coming my way via the government, I’ve had, paradoxically, the most fulfilling broadcasting year I’ve had for ages. Here’s why/how.

Home broadcast studios. In the right hands, a few hundred quid’s worth of kit which is just about OK to knock out the odd dodgy podcast, can be transformed, with admittedly hours of work on jingles / production components / music sourcing and working on such fascinating subjects as mixer pre-sets, into a right little killing machine. In the space it takes for a school desk, in the corner of the spare bedroom. Do not omit the ‘hours of work’ bit though. With this, you only get out what you put in.

Retirement. Is lovely but isn’t quite so lovely when you can’t go anywhere or do much. And anyway, you don’t ‘retire’ from the ‘music’ ‘business’; if you stop before It’s Your Time, it gets back in touch with you. First part of the ‘memoirs’ have been written and 90% sold, and in recent times through the Radio Caroline bookshop. But the Devil Makes Work For Idle Hands…and the mind starts to wander. ‘So… I wonder how Radio Caroline recruits presenters? It might not be ‘conventional’ but there’s got to be some kind of… way… and lo and behold, after a while, I’m offered a gig on the ‘heritage’ channel of The World’s Most Famous Radio Station. Up till then I’d been doing a few shows for the local community stations and thinking, ‘well, that’s about it, then’.

The Radio Caroline Flashback SOS, 8AM–10AM Sunday mornings. The whole point of Caroline’s ‘Flashback’ channel is it plays oldies from the time before Caroline went to air in early 1964, as much of the stuff they played early doors was pre–‘64 anyway; lots of 50s, lots of pre-Beatles; through to the end of offshore broadcasting in 1990, with the focus on 60s and 70s pop singles so folks who remember and /or enjoy the Caroline ‘glory years’ have a chance to do so once again. The main channel plays both classic and contemporary/new album tracks, as Europe’s ‘first album station’, but that’s not my gig right now. And you kind of have to be a bit careful assaulting the ears of a generally more ‘experienced’ listener base at that time on a Sunday morning with too much ripped straight from Slade’s Greatest Hits et al. So, it takes a degree of subtlety to weave listenable audio textures and remain ‘pop’ whilst still delivering a show which has substance, heart and soul, and still rocks, albeit gently at times. And there’s no point delivering everything as if you’re ‘curating’, as far as I’m concerned; you’re given a great jingle package to play with, and if you set the studio up right with sharp–sounding software you can drive that thing hard, the way it was back in the day. So that’s what I try to do, and it is massively rewarding when it works. Suddenly going from being a local commercial radio presenter to receiving e mails and messages from listeners in over 20 different countries so far is mind-blowing. Far Out, Man, in a truly cosmic 60s way, in fact.

But, lovely though it is to do the Sunday morning show, I was only massively made up when I was offered a shot at a new 9PM slot on Friday nights as well, The Caroline Flashback Weekend Warm–Up. Yes please, I’ll have one of those. Because this meant I could play all those huge, thumping great upbeat hits from the years in question in a quick-fire, up and at ‘em Friday night style with pace and directness; just like you had to do when playing 45 singles on a boat at sea and armed only with a few old school cartridge tapes to squirt in amongst the vinyls to give the DJ a chance to breathe. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. I get to the end of one of these and I’m absolutely worn out. They need energy, plenty of ‘front’ and in order to keep all the Caroline Flashback shows immediate and fresh-sounding, I record them ‘as live’ in one hour segments, straight through, no VT or other mucking about. And that focuses the mind somewhat.

And then the local commercial radio stations we sold in 2019 sold through again to one of the two major broadcast companies who now control the vast majority of UK commercial radio… who promptly networked them and gave them national branding…..thereby creating demand for a new, local commercial radio station on our ‘old’ patch… and so we set up Peak Sound Radio as an online radio station to carry on from where our old High Peak Radio service left off! And starting in September, I got the Monday breakfast show and the late-night Lovetown slot 6 nights a week, all of which recommences after the New Year Bank Holiday and the schedule changes which Christmas and New Year always brings.

Bring on 2022. Muso comment of the year? ‘Getting an extra hour in bed when the clocks went back this year was like getting a bonus track on a Black Lace album….!’ Push pineapple, shake a tree, pop pickers.

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