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Month: August 2013

Dog gnaws dog

Dog gnaws dog

A while back, when I still lived in the mysterious east, I found myself writing about one of the presenters on the BBC local radio station I favoured. BBC Radio Norfolk is a superb station, one with a rock-solid sense of identity and some excellent presenters. However, there was one I just couldn’t bear, a chap called Nick Conrad. I felt his style jarred. When I realised that he’d come from LBC, it all fell into place. What works on LBC doesn’t necessarily work in East Anglia. For the most part, I felt it best to offer my criticism by tuning out for the duration of his show, but just occasionally, I heard bits and pieces that reinforced my judgment. One day, I heard something so unintentionally hilarious, I felt I had to place it on record somehow. It being one of those fallow periods when I was without a regular radio column, I wrote about it here.

There was a follow-up. As an occasional contributor to BBC Radio Norfolk’s output, I knew people who worked with Conrad. One contacted me to tell me how unhappy Conrad had been at the piece, and I based this post on what I had been told.

So, you can well imagine that I was surprised to receive a message from Conrad today, two years on, via Facebook. I reproduce the entire correspondence here without comment. Make of it what you will.

Conversation started today

Nick Conrad

Hi Louis, Is there any chance you could send me your mob number as I would very much like to discuss a possible radio feature with you? Regards, Nick Conrad

Louis Barfe

Hello Nick. I’m not really interested, whatever it is. Thanks.

Nick Conrad

Ok Louis,

Here is a summary of what I was going to suggest, rather than call.

Today on the show we were discussing cyber bullying and its effects on youngsters. I explained to listeners about your blog and some of the criticisms about me that you’ve highlighted online. I of course protected your identity. I read your blog with disappointment BUT even though I thoroughly disliked what you’ve written (both about me and others) I’d defend your right to speak freely. I’d strongly argue your reputation came off worse!

With this in mind, I told listeners this morning I’d make contact with you and ask whether you’d be prepare to come on air and speak openly about why you aired you views online. The piece is designed to be mature and in NO WAY an opportunity for one-upmanship or abuse. This isn’t retaliation, public humiliation or a chance to defame you.

It would be of extreme interest, following our recent on air discussion, to speak with someone who has used the Internet to be so critical of me in such a frank and explicit way. We’d be more than happy to just use your Christian name or give you a pseudonym.

The crux of my irritation is – why a professional man like you gets such a kick out of writing such material? Why online, why not phone in and face me? And why waste such energy, time and effort in attempting to bring somebody down?

You may be surprised by my request but the programme is extremely open and honest and we draw on experiences. I intend to talk again on this matter live tomorrow and would highly value your input as part of an insightful discussion. Unless you choose otherwise I will endeavor to keep you identity concealed, as I’d would not want to provoke a counter reaction against you.

We’ve never met, you appear keen to court controversy and provoke a reaction from me. In return you’ll continue to receive a professional and warm welcome to the programme if you choose to take me up on this opportunity…


Nick Conrad

Louis Barfe

Even less interested than before, Nick. No light would be generated by us talking about this on air, only heat. You’re a radio presenter. I’ve been a radio critic off and on for the last 12 years. I write books. People review and criticise them. If you stick your head above the parapet, you must expect some arrows in your hat.

I “appear keen to court controversy and provoke a reaction from” you? I celebrate good radio and criticise bad radio, but I do the latter very sparingly. I wrote those posts two years ago. Since then, I’ve avoided your programmes actively. Check my columns in The Lady over the last 18 months. You’ll find them overwhelmingly positive. There’s too much good radio about to waste words on the dross, but just occasionally I hear something so buttock-clenchingly awful, I have to pass comment. So it was with you and your show.

Oh, and we have met, very briefly, back when I used to do bits with the great Bumfrey. Anyway, feel free to name and shame, and you’re welcome to use any of the above (I assume the courtesy works both ways?) but be sure to mention my books. If you can do the whole sequence over the Simon Bates ‘Our Tune’ theme, even better.


Nick Conrad

Ok, shame you don’t put your head above the parapet and have the guts to come on! You’re tone, wording and assessment wasn’t that of a critic it was that of a playground bully! Shame your reply to a pleasant invitation is equally as condescending and irrelevant as your original blog! A decent critic delivers his assessment with intelligence… can barely hide your jealousy!!!! I’m twenty eight! I’ve anchored national news channels, held shows on 5 Live and LBC. I have seven BBC Local radio shows and present on BBC 1, ITV and Channel 5. A worthwhile critic would come from a fellow professional who has some wisdom to impart? What on earth qualifies a failed writer, a failed broadcaster and a failed blogger to pass comment is beyond me!

Obviously none of that would have been said on air but maybe it’s something to chew on?! Now how long till you repost this and spill out more vile hateful bollocks OR……take my criticism, call it quits and accepts we have little time for each other.

Regards, Nick Conrad!

Louis Barfe


I’ve barely given you a thought in the past two years, whereas you appear to have been dwelling on the matter. I can smell a stitch-up a mile off, and I know what to expect from someone with a bee in their bonnet and the ability to fade me out. I shall post our entire correspondence on my failed blog without comment and let others draw their conclusions.



Hayes by-pass

Hayes by-pass

For many years, I’ve been an obsessive fan of the British multi-instrumentalist Tubby Hayes.  I’ve tried to gather every surviving scrap of music he recorded, including radio and television broadcasts. I’ve been aided in my pursuit by fellow Hayes lovers and a slight volume of discography published over 20 years ago. The discography in question lists the titles played when Tubbs and his big band appeared on BBC2’s Jazz Goes to College in 1966, saying that versions of ‘Sonnymoon for Two’ and ‘Nutty’ came between ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’ and ‘Milestones’.

A little background about the programme. It was recorded in the People’s Palace at Queen Mary College in east London on Wednesday 11 May 1966. The day before, Hayes and his big band had begun work at the Philips studios in Stanhope Place, Bayswater, on an album of music made famous by some of his favourite musicians. The album sessions were to continue on the Thursday and the Friday. Completing the album with an hour or so of the last session to spare, Hayes told producer Terry Brown that he’d like to record one of his own compositions,  an extended solo feature called ‘100% Proof’.  The piece had been knocking around for a while, and he’d recorded it on a German TV show the year before. Many, if not all, of the musicians in the studio would have been familiar with it from gigs.  With just one run-through and one take, they had a very usable master of a tour de force performance. Brown and Hayes both agreed that it was too good to leave off the album, and ditched some of the planned inclusions to make room for it, including ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’, ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ and a storming Hayes original called ‘What’s Blue?’.

It’s likely that the running order of the programme, as listed in the discography, resembles very closely the planned running order of the LP. In January this year, I acquired a copy of the programme as broadcast form for this edition of JGTC (pictured), which bears out the running order, and indeed was probably the discographers’ source. The programme survives in the BBC archives, but unfortunately, ‘Sonnymoon for Two’ and ‘Nutty’ (both present on the 100% Proof LP) are absent.  With my friend Simon Spillett – Tubbs’ biographer and a fine saxophonist in his own right, I’ve been trying to work out what happened. The Hayes edition of Jazz Goes to College was repeated in 1967, so Simon and I both assumed that the two numbers were cut for the repeat.

In fact, the answer had been staring us both in the face all along.  The programme had been originated as a 35mm telerecording, rather than on video tape. This was a common practice in the early days of VT, when machines were at a premium. Drama directors, in particular, favoured film telerecording because of the relative ease with which editing could be undertaken. By the mid-1960s, telerecording had been refined to a point where very high quality results were possible, and were deemed ‘satis’ (rather than the dreaded ‘non satis’ verdict) for transmission by the exacting standards of the BBC engineers who monitored picture quality. The PasB tells us that the 35mm telerecording transmitted was 3916 feet in length. Watching a timecoded copy of the programme the other day, I took notice of the footage counter.  Reel 1 clocks in at 2083 feet. Reel 2 is 1872 feet long. That’s 3955 feet in total, so, allowing for reel change overlap and the fade to black at the end, 3916 feet seems about right. The telerecording is just over 42 minutes in length, the transmitted version was fractionally under.

So there it is. ‘Sonnymoon for Two’ and ‘Nutty’ were never transmitted. There’s an awkward jump cut during Hayes’ between-number patter before ‘Milestones’, suggesting that they were recorded, then cut before transmission. Being on film, there is a small possibility that the film editor in question took the offcut home, but for now, we must be satisfied that this programme exists in its full original transmitted form, one of only two existing editions of Jazz Goes to College. BBC4 has repeated the other, a performance by Stan Getz at the London School of Economics. Maybe it’s time for them to dig the other one out?

[UPDATE – 12/8/2013]  Simon Spillett has left a comment to say that ‘What’s Blue?’ was a Jimmy Deuchar composition and that Tubbs was in the saxophone section for the Ronnie Ross Big Band’s Jazz Goes to College. It just so happens that I have the paperwork for that one, sadly missing believed wiped.