Go easy on me, won’t you, when I take to the airwaves?

I was lost for words the other day. Hard to believe, I know.

I stuttered and just dried up. I knew what I wanted to say – it just wouldn’t come out.

It probably had something to do with the large radio microphone four inches from my face.

I was in the studio at BBC Radio Stoke, you see, being coached ahead of my first radio shows.

That’s right, the powers-that-be are letting me loose next month with a couple of three-hour slots over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Now I’ve done a bit of radio and TV before but this is different.

It’s one thing to hold a mic and ask questions – or to be asked the questions yourself by a TV reporter or radio presenter.

As I learned the other day is that it’s another thing entirely to fill time ‘on air’.

I was, quite literally, dreadful. Unspeakably bad: Flatter than the proverbial pancake and talking too fast before running out of things to say and collapsing in a verbal heap.

I kept thinking of my former colleague – the late, great John Abberley – who, of course, mastered both the written word and broadcasting during his long and distinguished career.

I couldn’t understand why I was making such a hash of it.

It was less ‘Smashie and Nicey’ – more Nervy and Cringeworthy.

A very nice and extremely helpful woman called Sarah was sat next to me, smiling politely and presumably wondering what this halfwit was doing in her studio.

Meanwhile, one of Sarah’s colleagues – Lee – was sat opposite, pushing buttons and twiddling nobs and playing Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen when I ran out of words.

I had been given a list of dos and don’ts. I’d been told what I could and couldn’t say.

There was, for example, to be no shameless promotion of Port Vale (other football teams are, apparently, available).

I am allowed to talk about myself and my family – it’s actually encouraged – but I’m not to give specifics, such as names, places etc.

That is a huge blow to my dog Starbuck who will doubtless be THE dog from ‘three men and a dog’ who are actually listening when I go live.

To be fair to me, I’d had about 15 minutes to scribble down a few notes on things I’d like to talk about before we sat down and I experienced the audio equivalent of a car crash.

Given that I’ve made a fool of myself in panto and done quite a bit of public speaking it took me a while to figure out what had paralysed me.

It was the knowledge that out there – in homes, cars and workplaces – there are literally thousands of people waiting for you to say something vaguely articulate.

It’s not that they’re hanging on your every word. It’s just that they’re there.

The pressure of that knowledge was completely debilitating for me – even though this was just a practice in front of a studio audience of two very sympathetic listeners.

I already had a healthy respect for my broadcast colleagues. I can tell you that this has increased enormously.

At this point I should say that my lesson wasn’t a complete write-off.

I asked for half an hour, sat down at a PC, and wrote. Lots of words.

“Good morning. You’re listening to BBC Radio Stoke for your Bank Holiday Weekend. It’s me, Martin Tideswell. Yes, that fella from The Sentinel…”

Granted, it won’t win me a Sony Radio Award but it’s a start.

I felt so much better with, for want of a better phrase, a ‘script’ in front of me.

I also felt a bit of a fraud but was assured that many radio presenters do similar and that plenty of planning and preparation goes into every show.

In the coming weeks I have a book about radio presenting to read, several more practice sessions and plenty of lurking around in the studio listening to people who actually know what they’re doing to look forward to.

I’m really excited. It’s a fantastic opportunity and maybe, just maybe, by April 7 I’ll be passable. If not, go easy on me, won’t you?

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

Advertisements

Heaven knows what my top 10 says about me…

They reckon you can tell a lot about someone by the music they listen to. That being the case, heaven knows what my vinyl says about me.

This week’s eagerly anticipated reunion of The Stone Roses had me fondly trawling through my record collection looking for their debut album.

The Stone Roses, released in 1989, is widely regarded as a seminal album and is my personal favourite of all time.

Many bands who enjoyed their halcyon days are now back together but, for many people my age – if you’ll pardon the pun – This Is The One (we’ve waited for).

Thus the Stone Roses are number one in my top 10 of Eighties bands – listed here in no particular order.

In truth, I could have gone for any of a number of other indie outfits whose tunes were heard at my beloved Ritzy nightclub in Newcastle from 1988 onwards.

Indeed, I feel duty bound to give honourable mentions (in no particular order) to: The Happy Mondays: The Charlatans: Carter USM; Ned’s Atomic Dustbin; Northside; The Wedding Present: Thousand Yard Stare: The Farm: The Mock Turtles; The La’s and James.

But in at number 2 are Oldham’s finest – The Inspiral Carpets. Formed in 1983, they also got back together earlier this year and are working on new material and planning a tour.

Infamous for their squiggly-eyed cow T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Cool as ****’, the band’s hit This Is How It Feels has to be their best track.

If ever a tune summed up how so many people must be feeling in the current economic climate, this has to be it. As relevant today as it was 21 years ago.

Third in my list is a Black Country band formed in 1986 which went on to record numerous catchy tunes.

I had the pleasure of watching The Wonder Stuff perform in the open air in Nottingham and again at Keele University a couple of years ago.

It’s 20 years since what was arguably the band’s finest moment – the album Never Loved Elvis – but I’m happy to say they are still touring with the irrepressible Miles Hunt as their frontman.

My musical tastes are nothing if not eclectic and so I’m going to veer from UK garage, baggy and indie music to perennially unfashionable rock.

Mentions in despatches here for Sheffield boys Def Leppard and U.S. giants Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Poison and Mötley Crüe.

However, fourth in my list is something of a no-brainer.

They are an American rock band, formed in 1983, who take up roughly a quarter of my entire vinyl collection.

I first saw the mighty Bon Jovi perform in front of 65,000 people at the Milton Keynes Bowl on August 19, 1989.

After witnessing that sea of leather, denim and ripped T-shirts and soaking up the smell of hot dogs, burgers, warm beer and sweat nothing would ever be the same for me again.

I have now seen the New Joisey syndicate 35 times and was fortunate enough to have tea backstage with guitarist Richie Sambora when they played the Britannia Stadium in 2000. Wanted Dead Or Alive is my favourite track and my Jovi collection includes autographs and limited picture discs from all over the world.

They are still touring and selling out stadiums across the globe. Enough said.

In at number five are another U.S. rock band which I adored – partly because of their tenuous connection to the Potteries.

Founded in the Sunshine State in 1985, Guns ’N Roses took the world by storm with their major label debut album Appetite For Destruction.

So vital that even non-rock fans loved them, the ‘Most dangerous band in the world’ fell apart after years of heavy drinking and drug-taking.

Being one of the fortunate few who witnessed Stoke-on-Trent’s prodigal son Slash wring the life out of his Gibson Les Paul guitar at Hanley’s Victoria Hall earlier this year reminded me just why I loved this band so much.

G ’N R are still touring but are a poor reflection of their former selves – despite what Axl Rose would have us believe.

At number six is an American icon and proper working class hero who I had the pleasure of watching in the most English of surroundings.

Bruce Springsteen had been performing for 20 years before he really made an impression on the UK consciousness with his 1984 album Born In The USA.

I saw The Boss and the E Street Band perform at Old Trafford Cricket Ground a couple of years and can honestly say that he remains the consummate showman.

Straddling that ground between rock and pop and with another astonishingly-charismatic frontman are my seventh choice – Queen.

My favourite UK band of the Eighties, their performance at Live Aid in 1985 cemented their place as one of the best live acts in the world.

In terms of Eighties pop, I have to give honourable mentions to a number of bands which feature in my record collection including: The Pet Shop Boys; Erasure: Spandau Ballet and The Human League.

But at number eight I offer up an Australian band which gained worldwide popularity thanks to their 1987 album Kick.

In July 1993 INXS were up ’Anley and played to a sell-out audience at the Vicki Hall. Sadly, yours truly was working that night.

The tragic death of lead singer Michael Hutchence robbed the band of their heart but with tracks like Never Tear Us Apart and Need You Tonight their legacy is assured.

From the sublime to the ridiculous now, novelty band Adam And The Ants have sneaked in at number nine thanks to two memorable songs and their madcap videos.

Stand And Deliver is a great tune but Prince Charming has to be my favourite. Go on – tell me you don’t do the arms-crossed-in-front-of-your-face routine every time you hear it.

Last, but by no means least, I am not embarrassed to say that Princess Diana’s favourite band are also in my list of Eighties music icons.

Duran Duran earned their spot with some cracking tunes including The Reflex and The Wild Boys which, alongside Aha’s Take On Me remains one of my favourite videos.

I never saw them live but I’m certainly not ruling it out…

The Eighties is the decade most of us remember fondly

The original Now That's What I Call Music album.

The original Now That’s What I Call Music album.

Sunday, December 25, 1983. Christmas Day. That’s when I officially fell in love with the Eighties.

I sat in my bedroom marvelling at my brand new copy of the original Now That’s What I Call Music album, my shiny new record player and the sturdy black singles box containing my first 45s.

I’ve still got that album and all the seven inches – Status Quo’s Margeurita Time, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat, and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, among others.

That day I played them from the moment we’d finished the turkey until I was ordered to bed.

Suddenly, at the age of 11, I realised music wasn’t the sole preserve of my parents.

Apparently, there was more to life than Elvis and Roy Orbison – despite years of brainwashing by my mum.

Money saved from my Sentinel paper round was soon being spent on singles and albums.

I walked up to Hanley on Saturdays and bought everything from Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran to Bruce Springsteen and the mighty Bon Jovi.

Through music I discovered that girls weren’t just things to make you flush red if they looked at you in class or, heaven forbid, spoke to you at break time.

I took umbrage with Michael J Fox because a certain girl in the top class at Holden Lane High called him ‘dreamy’ after watching Back To The Future.

I was mesmerised when Kim Wilde or Belinda Carlisle came on the telly – and fell hopelessly in love with Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.

I am delighted to say that while the Eighties may be the ‘decade that taste forgot’ it is also the decade that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Of course, it helps that my generation of 30 and 40-somethings are now in control of so many TV remotes and perhaps have the most disposable income.

But it is a fact that, for some time now, there has been a genuine appetite for 1980s nostalgia.
An internet campaign brought the Wispa chocolate bar back from the dead.

Monster Munch crisps have been relaunched.

Hit 80s TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard have, sadly, been turned into big-budget movies.

What’s more, you can’t move for Eighties bands and singers hitting the road again to relive past glories.

People like Rick Astley, Bananarama, Midge Ure and, er… Kim Wilde (blush), who all performed at Alton Towers’ 30th birthday party at the weekend.

We lap it up because of music’s wonderful talent for forcing us to don rose-tinted Ray-Bans and reminding us of a special time in our lives.

When my sister-in-law celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this year it has to be said that the highlight of her raucous party weekend was the 1980s music.

I danced – I use that term loosely – until 3am and, as I lay in bed that night it occurred to me that I couldn’t see children of the Nineties or Noughties yearning for their formative years with quite the same enthusiasm.

For some, the Eighties was a grim decade of industrial unrest, high unemployment, terrible hair and worse clothing.

But, to me, as a child growing up in the Potteries, it is a decade that will always be golden – a time of great certainties, household names and sunny optimism.

In the Eighties, our milk man delivered bottles of pop in a variety of radioactive colours and the ‘outdoor’ at the top of our road sold Black Jacks and Fruit Salad sweets for half a pence.

Royal Doulton and Wedgwood seemed like immortal employers and a job on ‘the Mich’ (Michelin) was a job for life.

It was a time when Hanley still had family businesses like Bratt and Dyke where I could spend hours just mooching around.

It was the decade when the Boothen End proper at the Old Victoria still roared its defiance and when a certain bloke with a flat cap took over the reins at Vale Park – promising nothing and delivering the best era in my football club’s history.

It was a time when this newspaper still produced the much-anticipated Football Final on Saturdays.

It was also the decade of the Garden Festival that transformed 180 acres of derelict land in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent into the thriving retail and business park we all now take for granted.

Yes, the Eighties may well be ‘the decade that taste forgot’.

It’s also the decade that I, and I suspect many others, are most happy remembering.