So there I was on Sunday, knackered after an 8 hours on various trains and glad to be home. Kiss the wife, check up on sleeping daughter, let the dog go mad and lick my face half-off, check the various online sources of information on which I rely. I’m perfectly prepared for the usual round of duplicity, despair and intrigue, but am not prepared for a news story about someone I regarded as a friend dying at the age of just 53.
I first made contact with Big George when he was doing a superb Sunday night show on BBC radio stations in the east, about eight years ago. I’d been a fan of his theme tune work for ages, and I knew his reputation as a top session bass player, but what I didn’t know until then was that he was also a great communicator. He only played what he liked and he told you why he liked it, what made it great and so on. At the time, I was working on my first book – a history of the record industry – and I started emailing in with bits and pieces of information following up on things he said or played. Sensing a kindred spirit, he had me on the show when the book came out for a very extensive chat and wrote my first Amazon review – a rave. From then on, we stayed in touch, with the conversation always being raucous, slanderous and hilarious.
George did an overnight show at BBC London for a good long while, and was a master of the genre. Talk radio hosts in the UK tend to be either scrupulously even-handed (and dull), rampantly biased (and unpleasant) or devil’s advocates taking up ludicrous positions to get a reaction. George was no fence-sitter. He had his opinions and he made sure you knew what they were. However, there was always a warmth and respect underneath. He was always happy to go at it hammer and tongs with a caller, but there was a decency underpinning it all.
Funnily enough, I was just about to email him asking for his thoughts on a work project I’m beginning. I suspect he’d have been full of good advice and eminently usable anecdotes. Now I can’t. The loss felt by his family and his partner, fellow BBC London presenter JoAnne Good must be immense. In comparison, I barely knew him, but my sense of loss is great enough.
Anyway, about a year ago, he released a cover version of ‘Alfie’ recorded in downtime at the end of a jingle session. Danny Baker opened Monday’s BBC London show with it. It’s stunning. Remember him THIS way. RIP Big George.