Thursday, May 26, 2011
1983: SOS calls caress you from market stalls
This song was all over Radio Bahrain in the summer of 1983. That was a long, hot summer, in a place I didn't really want to be. All my friends were back home, and now I had three months stretching ahead, with nothing to do but go swimming, listen to music and hook up with the odd pal I'd made out there, but for whom I cared little. Of course the thought of three months doing bugger all is like a dream to me now. But then as now, I wasn't a sun worshipper, and though we were never out of the pool I spent nearly all my time listening to Radio Bahrain.
It was great. An English-speaking station that was a cross between Radio 1 and Radio 2, with no discernable playlist. And, unlike those aforementioned stations it oozed silkily across the airwaves in crystal-clear FM, great for taping off. I spent hours poised over the record button.
Tim Manns, Bob McReadie, Ian Fisher, Adrian Ross (who we loathed as a family), etc. All DJs with (I think) little or no broadcasting experience just doing it because it was fun and because they could. They all had other jobs too, so once Tim Manns had finished on the breakfast show he'd go into work. I think he's on Jersey radio now. You'd hear all sorts of people you'd know popping up on phone-in comps which were really easy to get through to. We won all sorts of things: jet ski afternoons, buffet lunches at the Diplomat Hotel, endless T-Shirts, calendars, etc. I was known by name and by voice.
You could just phone up and get straight through to the DJ and ask for a request. Depending on their mood they might actually play it for you. Even so, you were as likely to hear The Belle Stars followed by Kenny Lynch followed by The Cure followed by Bob Seger. Hollywood Nights always makes me think of this time.
Any new entry into the UK Top 75 was flown over courtesy of British Airways and fresh off the plane they'd give them a Juke Box Jury-type spin to see what were the platters that mattered. For a music-mad 18-year-old missing access to the British music scene this was very exciting indeed.
Looking back, this, along with monthly tapes of Top Of The Pops you could get at the video shop (along with other British programmes taped off someone's TV) meant I wasn't missing very much, though because I considered myself rather alternative I thought I was. You could even get Smash Hits at the shop on the corner. Tsk!
So this sunny song reminds me of that summer, Malcolm McLaren created, in their odd tops and US football helmets, it was the soundtrack. Still love those African Hi-Life sounds.