Now That’s What I Call Endorsement!!! 2
I can’t remember exactly when it was; mid-nineties sometime. It was just after we’d released the ‘Myth of Independence’ album. We’d already been played on local radio in Wycombe, but there was just something about this occasion. It was Virgin Radio 1215. They played ‘Keep the Blues’ – or when I say ‘they’, what I mean is Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman played it. He played it a few times, but the first time, as Pete Davies’ solo began to fade, he said:
“There’s something quite beautiful about that… ”
For anyone of my generation who grew up listening to rock music, there would have been three DJs you’d have wanted to say those words about your music. ‘Fluff’ was one of them – John Peel and Tommy Vance were the others.
One evening last week, I received a flurry of messages from friends telling me to listen to Hugh Stephens’ show on BBC Radio Wales, which was being hosted by excellent stand-in, Adam Walton. I’d actually already planned to listen to the broadcast the next day whilst engaged in a three-hour session of grass-cutting because I’d seen that Adam was to interview the recipient of the 2023 Carnegie Medal for Writing, Manon Steffan Ros. Her winning book, ‘The Blue Book of Nebo’ (https://fireflypress.co.uk/books/blue-book-of-nebo/) had made a huge impression on me, and I was keen to hear what she had to say.
So, encouraged with a degree of urgency by my friends, I tuned in and scrolled the programme back. First, I re-entered the universe that gave rise to my ‘creative leanings’ as Adam played ‘Heatwave’ by Bangor legends Fay Ray. And no, I don’t use the term ‘legends’ lightly. They were, if not our heroes (The Stranglers had told us that they weren’t allowed any more), then undeniably one of the bands that inspired me to believe I could ‘do’ something with music. That single came out in ‘82 – the year I began my 41-year-and-counting travels through the hinterlands and wildernesses of independent music. It was great to hear it again, sounding as fresh and vibrant (and relevant) as it did when it came out.
There followed some interesting insights from Manon into the writing of The Blue Book, with Adam, as is always best, allowing the interviewee to expand on ideas without interruption. For those who’ve read the book, it’s well worth a listen – if you haven’t read it yet, you really should.
And then it happened. Another of those moments that you don’t quite believe you’re listening to…
“There are certain books you read, that you know are going to live with you – are going to become part of your emotional DNA… and I’m sure that there are books like that for you, so what have you read recently that, you know, has kind of maybe shifted your perspective a little bit, or evoked a mood that is one you’ll try to recall after having finished reading the book?”
Manon Steffan Ros:
“Ah… I found a really wonderful book by a writer called John Dexter Jones. I came to him through the artist Pete Jones from Bangor. I don’t really know Pete but I’d been to see one of his exhibitions at Storiel in Bangor, and then I heard about this book. It’s called Mountain Punk and it’s basically descriptions of his walks up mountains of Eryri and it’s all non-fiction – creative non-fiction – with Pete’s paintings, and it’s just so beautiful – it’s such a lovely, lovely book… it’s made me re-assess the mountains where I was brought up. I think when a book makes you do that – when it makes you look at something that’s so very familiar to you in a different way – it really made me want to go there. The way it describes silence and majesty is very underrated – it’s a very underrated book. You know – people should buy it – it’s wonderful.”
I am rarely lost for words… but…