Steve Lamacq concludes the Friday edition of his BBC Radio Six drivetime programme with a “free for all.” Listeners are invited to request whatever song they choose.
The selections are sometimes very random, it is an hour when records that would never be otherwise heard on the station are given airtime. Generally, the music is “good,” if not the sort of material that the station’s listeners would generally play themselves, but there are moments when requests of a hint of the mischievous about them, as if they had been chosen because of their capacity to annoy or provoke.
Yesterday, it was the last programme of the year and the invitation to the audience was to send in requests for the last song of the night that had regularly been played at the clubs or discos they attended.
”Ah,” I thought, “this will settle the discussion I had with my friend Philip more than ten years ago.”
We had been at a pub in Bray, Co Wicklow when he had asked whether in Somerset we had Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York at the end of the night.
”No,” I had said, “we had Jeff Beck’s Hi Ho, silver lining.”
Steve Lamacq was about a quarter of the way through the hour, when Jeff Beck got an airing. Clearly there were nights other than Strode College discos when he had played. “I remembered correctly,” I thought, “Jeff Beck really did round off the evening.
A few tracks later, it was the turn of Frank Sinatra. There were obviously people in England who shared similar tastes with the people from the Irish Midland town of Roscommon among whom Philip had grown up.
Very different they may have been, but both songs were an upbeat way of ending the night. Sinatra inspired people to imagine living in a place very different from the one in which they lived. Perhaps a popular aspiration in the Roscommon of the 1970s.
In Somerset, people may have been less inclined to want to move away, but would have been equally regretful that their evening was coming to an end, so the liveliness of Jeff Beck’s song, and the raucous dancing that would accompany it, would always lift the spirits.
Among the other songs played was The Bucket of Water Song from Tiswas. A listener said it was always played at the end of youth club discos, and would lead to water fights that would bring a two week suspension from the club.
The most unlikely of the choices played seemed to be Will You? It is a plaintive cry from the heart from Hazel O’Connor’s 1980 film Breaking Glass. Forty years after I first heard it, it still has a raw power, the saxophone solo mining a deep vein of emotions. At a disco, it is a song with a rhythm more appropriate for the slow set, but with lyrics that seem far from the cheeriness of a disco night.
The programme prompted a feeling of reassurance. Out there, there were people who shared both my memories and my taste.