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Here is an Paul Speller's account, adapted from something he wrote last August, a couple of weeks after the event, of his evening sitting in on the Graveyard Shift show.
Tuesday 6th August 1996
Today was the day I met my long-time hero, the King of Radio, Mark Radcliffe, at BBC North in Manchester.
(9:30 pm) First to enter the room was his sidekick, Marc 'Lard' Riley. He introduced himself with his trademark hand noise, followed by two of his catchphrases:
"Ho-ho! Fancy a brew?" To these, he added "I'm Lard."
He was coincidentally wearing the same coloured shirt as me (bright green) - well, obviously it was a coincidence: it's not as if we'd ever spoken before, let alone exchanged fashion advice - and when Scottish correspondent Duglas Stewart then came in with orange trousers not entirely dissimilar from those which I had selected from my vast wardrobe of three pairs, I really began to feel at home. Well, not exactly at home, obviously, more in a Manchester Radio One studio, but you catch my drift. As they used to say on Drifter adverts. Anyway, last to come through the doorway of the Palace of Glittering Delights was Mark Radcliffe himself.
"Hello, pleased to meet you," he said, with enough sincerity and nearly enough humbleness for it to have been he who was meeting *his* hero, not me mine.
Introductions aside, we moved from the little control room into the studio itself. At the near end was a big space. "That's where bands who are doing live acoustic sessions perform. Bands who do full-blown electric jobs get their own studio, about three floors down." The far end of the studio contained a clump of desks. Well, two. The first was a padded table, with two microphones suspended above it - one for Duglas, the other for Lard. The second desk, by far the bigger, was Mark's. It featured a couple of turntables, several Costly Disc players and an enormous rack of jingles, all labelled up with the ridiculous words which they feature, such as "Mark Radcliffe: he's rubbish!" and "Mark Radcliffe: He *loves* animals! - Is that legal?" (I don't think that he *ever* played the latter one on the radio, which is a shame.) His desk also featured a worn-away patch, from his regular, and vigorous, drumming on it - he did it to almost every record, and not just on the desk, but also on the turntable and anything else within arms' reach. Fortunately I was given a seat at the other side of the studio, near to Duglas.
A couple of soundchecks and some inconsequential chat later, and the show was on air. I had expected to sit in my seat for the following two hours, watching the radio show that I had listened to every edition of for over two years and loving every second of it. What I hadn't expected was to be introduced to the nation on the show, on three separate occasions. I was Paul, on my holidays and "just stopped by, which is fair enough, 'cause it's raining outside." Mark even enquired, on air, about exactly where I was staying. "In a little cottage - very nice," was my reply, at which Lard piped up:
"Has it got a bar?"
"No, it hasn't." I said.
"What's the point of that?" he mused.
It sounds like a cliché (probably because it is) but before I knew it, the show was over. From "Is Anybody Out There?" to "Missing You Already", I had been in the studio. Two hours without going to the toilet or anything. I'd even turned down a celebrity cup of tea, offered to me by Duglas, the lead singer of the BMX Bandits (right) , who get at least 17 people at every gig, in favour of staying put. I also turned down the beer which Lard offered to me, at which he said, "Well, d'you want some drugs instead then?" But, believe me, when you're in a room with three blokes as mad as I was, the last thing you need is drugs.
What impressed me most about the evening was the fact that Mark and Lard (and Duglas) were exactly the same off the air as they are on it, and their comedy routines were nearly always as spontaneous as they appeared to be (if they *were* planned, it was usually during the previous record). Lard did gags, hand-farts, "b-bum!"s and most of the rest of his act during 'normal' conversation (talking to Lard can hardly be called normal), and Mark had his on-air self-deprecating, down-to-earth humour all the time.
"Are you gonna stay 'til midnight?" he asked, before we went on air.
"If that's all right," I replied. "Yeah, that's fine - I mean, you can stay longer if you want, but we'll all be going home at midnight so there'll be nobody here..."
And finally, a piece of trivia: why was it that Cyril Dorricot's Pathological News used to start and finish with the sound of a cow mooing? I wondered this, so I asked Lard.
"Well, when the Path Newsreels used to be shown in the cinemas, they used to start and end with a lion roaring, so we thought, why not have a cow instead?"
"And we didn't have a lion sound effect either, did we?" Mark pointed out.
"No," said Lard.
Thanks very much to Paul Speller for sending this account in.
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