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If you're a UK Pet Shop Boys fan

If you're a UK Pet Shop Boys fan

then apparently Absolute Radio is your UK radio station of choice, according to Mind you, they’ve only played a track 11 times in the last 30 days.

Just thought you might want to know that.

The funniest minute of comedy from the BBC. Now with pictures.

The funniest minute of comedy from the BBC. Now with pictures.

(The animation goes along with a BBC Radio 4 programme called Just A Minute, whereby you have to speak for a minute on any given subject “without hesitation, deviation or repetition”)

and there’s more goodness where that came from…

Life in a small Northern University

Life in a small Northern University

Around September 1992, I went to Bradford University (with a year off for good behaviour). And instead of doing the sensible thing like going to lectures, going home and then going to the pub, I did the insanely stupid thing of throwing myself headfirst (and very foolishly and naively) into student media/union life, alongside fellow students who seemed to take the Union far more seriously than I did.

Fast forward 17 years, and thanks to Mosh (who patently has nothing better to do), he sent me scurrying down the research hallways of the Web and Wikipedia to deduce that in those 17 years:

  • Ramair pub crawls are no longer held “because of risk to students off-campus”. Blimey, is it THAT dangerous in Bradford these days? (Then again, there were two riots while I lived there)
  • The “famed” Friday Night Disco (or FNDs for short) are no longer FNDs. In a nod to the subtleties of today’s multicultural multimedia multitasking students, they are now called Flirt! instead.
  • The Biko bar – where I spent the odd night drowning in perry before it disappeared from every pub I went to, only to come back into the warm bosom of my throat 15 years later as pear cider – closed in 2005
  • The student magazine I used to write for (and the one which got me a whole week in Prague just before the Iron Curtain was blown apart by McDonalds and Starbucks) has now been renamed from Scrapie to the unimaginatively entitled ‘The Bradford Student’. Tsk, tsk, no imagination these days.
  • When I was there, four people I knew ran for President or Vice President. Which was a shame, because the post was apparently abolished in 2000. Although they still have a Woman’s Officer. I hope she’s as feisty and alluring and purple-headed as she was in my day…
  • Radio Ramair offices

    Radio Ramair offices

    There’s a student radio station called Ramair, where I had a terrible radio show for three years. I’m also listed as News Editor in 1995, but I can’t really remember that much about it. Which seems odd considering I must have had to do at least one news bulletin a day…

But most important of all …

Back in 1994/5, I ended up setting up the Bradford University Union website, back when most people didn’t even know what a website was. Somehow, I was given Lifetime Membership of said Union as a reward, although I’ve never been back since to claim my discount pints. And for all the confusing clutter that it has today, it still has the name I gave it back in 1994 – UBU Online.

However, I shall now shut up (chorus: too late), lest I become yet another one of those sad people who relive their student days through golden-tinted specs, and are so compelled to write themselves into the story of a student media radio station that they set up their own amateur press agency. Yes, Simon Sheikh, I mean you. I’ve been trying to figure out why he wanted to add me on Facebook.

Spam – on the radio…

Spam – on the radio…

We’ve all had spam emails exhorting us to join some kind of home-based business scheme which promises to bring in income of thousands of dollars/pounds/yen per month while working from home.

What I’m not used to is turning on the radio – for instance, at CBS-owned WDOK Radio in Cleveland – and hearing the aural equivalent of such an advert, promising the listener thousands of dollars to work from a home-based business scheme, just by going to the ever-so-classy webaddress Which then takes you to a website. So we essentially have the fourth biggest radio station owner in the United States promoting a superficial home-business scheme. Oh dear.

Oh yes, and sister company CBS Interactive owns

When radio rebranding doesn't quite work…

When radio rebranding doesn't quite work…

If you’re the kind of person who follows radio stations or listens to Virgin/Absolute Radio, you can’t have failed to notice the recent rebranding, emphasising the fact that it’s now Absolute Radio.

Unless you’re a relative of mine, who thought that the renaming of the radio station was a temporary sponsorship deal with the vodka manufacturers, and that it’d go back to being Virgin Radio in a week or so…

Did content kill the DAB star?

Did content kill the DAB star?

DAB may become the next Betamax, according to media and telecoms specialist Enders Analysis.

While sales of DAB-capable devices soar, actual radio stations to listen to are starting to fade away. In recent months, Core, Groove, and Oneword have all closed while Virgin and Channel 4 have scaled back or delayed plans for their radio stations. While the BBC DAB stations continue to grow from strength to strength.

Why has this happened? Where has the BBC succeeded where commercial radio has failed? Will the BBC be left by itself to prop up digital radio, in the same way as it’s propped up digital television?

In my mind, it’s all about the content, and why people listen to radio.

People who just use radio as background music, and don’t really care which station they’re tuned into, as long as it works and they’re happy. They’re generally creatures of habit, and may well buy a DAB radio because it’s easier to tune, but stick to their own preferred station – which will probably be a traditional FM station.

Music fans generally hate the inane chatter of DJs and presenters. The ones who haven’t abandoned radio entirely for their own music soundtrack via iPods and downloads will want to hear new music recommended to them by their peers – does commercial radio provide this service?

Radio lovers, by and large, like the combination of both speech and music that radio can provide as an entertainment medium. While the BBC’s digital radio services provide this in the shape of 6 Music and 1Xtra, commercial radio stations are conspicuously absent in this particular arena.

Could it be that in the near future, the digital radio airwaves will be dominated by the BBC ?

Where's the Fairytale of New York?

Where's the Fairytale of New York?

Update: Heard it on 6 December. Hurrah. Christmas can now officially start!

Despite having spent the last three days trotting around all the shopping centres that Manchester and Cheshire have to offer – in the hunt for a new pair of spectacles actually! – and spending countless hours on shopping websites, I still don’t quite feel that Christmassy.

It’s partly because I’m still a bit ill so instead of rich mince pies I’m mostly craving plain jacket potatoes – and half-dreading the 12-hour drink fest that is the annual works Christmas party this weekend with special mystery guest star.

But it’s mostly because despite all the driving around and listening to the radio at work all day, I still haven’t yet heard The Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. The definitive bitter-sweet Christmas tune, and one that never fails to give me Christmassy memories, such as snow falling on an American car park. Ahhh, snow, where have you gone?

Has it been taken off mainstream UK radio? Has it now been deemed too unChristmassy? Is there a mass conspiracy behind its’ disappearance off UK Radio? Or is it just me?

Ronan Keating ruined my Christmas mood

Ronan Keating ruined my Christmas mood

There I was, getting ready for a day of being Birthday’ed/Christmas’ed/whatever. I’d had a good night’s sleep, had a vague list in my head – although I didn’t check it twice.

I got my haircut. I even bought some tinsel to go along with my first ever Christmas tree (thank you Nia!) and some icicle lights to dangle over my balcony. So now the whole of Cardiff City Centre can see how tacky and sentimental I’ve gotten.

However, all that gets ruined when I hear, in some shop somewhere, Ronan Keating and Maire Brennan’s terrible cover version of Fairytale of New York (which has apparently been around since November 2000)

Now I loved the original version with Kirsty MacColl and Shane McGowan. It had the right edge of yearning, sentimentality, hope, despair, blackness and venom. Plus it was the right side of Irish.

This cover version Guinesses’s ups the Irish accent, to the point when I half expect amateur actors to be singing it at all Callaghan’s pubs. And of course, they change the lyrics to replace “you cheap lousy faggot” to “you’re cheap and you’re haggard.” – the same song that even US radio seems to play fine without any lyrical changes.

Grrrr. Anyway, time to compile my Christmas / December hits CD. So there’s that, Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind, The Farm’s All Together Now, and Soul II Soul’s Get A Life. What else is there?

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