On Monday night, 6 Music won UK National Station Of The Year at the Sony Radio Awards. None of your rubbish, and about time, too. We’d sort of half-expected a nomination in the immediate wake of our pardon from execution in 2011, but we were overlooked in the heat of that particular moment and understandably half-wondered if we’d ever win. (If not then, when?) I say “we”, even though I have not been a permanent presenter on the network since 2007, as I am still made to feel part of the family by the nice people pictured above, and anyway, I have my own pigeonhole! I was there at the Sonys nine years ago, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, when the first Digital Terrestrial Station Of The Year award was handed out and we lost to Saga. (Not knocking Saga, but we felt robbed.) I was also there in 2010, too, when Jarvis won the Rising Star award for the station, and Adam and Joe won the Comedy award. It was fantastic to be able to bask in reflected glory around the 6 Music table, as I am now a friend of the station, a presenter and a fan. I wished I could have been there on Monday to drink in the crowning glory of ten years on the air.
Thanks to Christine Shanks for this photo of Jim Bob, playing some tunes on his acoustic guitar, having read from his new novel Driving Jarvis Ham at its launch in the rather less glitzy surroundings of Bookseller Crow, a gloriously independent bookshop in Crystal Palace in South East London last Thursday. This was not a case of reflected glory, as it was Jim’s night, and the book – if anything even better than his first novel, Storage Stories, but wrought in a similarly dark-whimsical style with Kurt Vonnegut-channelling illustrations – is his achievement. I was there to pay homage.
Jim and I go way back to the old Carter days, and I consider myself a delicate hybrid of fan and friend; I have certainly made it my business to promote his good works ever since in whatever modest way that I can (when his School album came out in 2006, I was able to get him and his guitar onto Radio 2 when, preposterously, I was asked to fill in for Mark Radcliffe and was allowed to choose my guest; I also think I might have made the introductions that put him inside Robin Ince’s pluralist circle of trust, which led to his glorious, 23-piece-orchestra rendition of Angelstrike! at Nine Lessons and Carols in 2009, and his subsequent casting in White and Ward’s Gutted musical at Edinburgh).
So it is that Jim flatters me by caring what I think and asking me to read his books before they are published, and I flatter him back by supplying a quote (luckily, I have liked them all so far!), and then he flatters me back by printing my quotes in his press releases. For Jarvis Ham, he and his publisher have made me especially proud by putting one of my quotes on the front cover. And it’s a hardback! I wouldn’t have missed the launch for the world. It’s slightly odd when you are a friend and a fan, I concede. But I’ve been standing and watching him play, or speak, for years, and you get used to tapping a toe and joining in the warm applause – and, in the case of that gig at the Bull & Gate in September 2010, shouting out stupid drunken things like some prick of a heckler – and that’s what happened on Thursday. It was a happy occasion. I don’t get out much in the evenings, but you make exceptions when it’s important.
Last night, Michael Legge and I had our second date in less than a week when we attended What Is Love Anyway? at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. (He’d be at Jim’s launch, too. He is also a friend-fan.) This is the latest one-man show of another of my friends who is successful. I have seen every show Richard Herring has done since 2001, when, in Edinburgh, I saw Christ On A Bike: The First Coming. As I used to like to point out when he and I spoke more often than we do now, I paid to go and see that show twice, as I also saw it when it transferred to London. In the ensuing years, I stopped paying as he and I developed a friendship via 6 Music and Banter, and I guess it’s ironic that by the time of The Second Coming at Edinburgh in 2010, I was his comedy partner. As such I was a combination of friend and fan and partner, which is a heavy load to bear, I can tell you. The “partner” part sometimes enhanced the “friend” part and at other times seemed to destroy it, but even in our darkest days, I remained a fan.
This was the penultimate performance of What Is Love Anyway?, and this means I was seeing it at its most honed and perfected. I’m glad I waited, as I’m pretty certain this is his crowning achievement thus far. Of all ten of his shows that I have seen (many of them twice), this is the most mature, and the most ambitious, and most moving. It flows beautifully from one passage to the next, and the climax involving his grandmother, Alzheimer’s and glitter is one of the most expertly constructed of his long career.
I was proud to know him. It actually seems preposterous that he and I once stood and sat on the same stage at the Bloomsbury and entertained a similar audience. But we did. Of course, of the two of us, Richard is the one who’s still doing it, and improving, and honing, and perfecting. It’s his gig. Not mine. I had blagged some comp tickets last night, but aside from that luxury – a luxury based on a friendship that may have become a little more formal but survives as such – I was there as a fan.
It would seem churlish to hate it when your friends become successful. After all, you would hope they would share in your success. 6 Music is now so successful, its own presenters get into fights when they are nominated for the same awards, where once they weren’t nominated at all. Jim Bob is carving out a second career as a novelist – I met his literary agent and everything! – which he is able to blend with his career as a musician. Like Jim, Richard has to work hard for his money, and perform constantly, but he is building upon his existing career and he still spends way too much of his time in cheap hotels or driving on motorways at night, but he is also settling down, too, which is nice to see, as a friend.
(Funnily enough, I’ve just realised that I am a friend and fan of Michael’s too, which seems to be working out. But I would like to stress that most of my friends are just friends, very few of them work in the media or showbusiness, and thus none of us are fans of each other’s, we are just friends.)