[ First, a declaration of interest. I was Allan’s boss for six and a half happy years, and spent three hours a day in an adjacent studio to him for two of those years. I’m a fan.]

But as John Myers says in his book, Allan ‘was and still is the best I ever heard on a phone-in,’ I thought I’d use the internet to travel back in time and review one of those circa-1985 Red Rose Radio phone-ins to see what all the fuss was about.

Listened In is 2ZY’s weekly air-check blog. Every week we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Beswick back in the Red Rose days

WHO   Allan Beswick

WHAT  Red Rose Radio

WHEN  1985 or thereabouts

Ow do Jimmy. Jimmy sings Blue Suede Shoes; gets to ‘Go cat go ..’ With perfect timing, “Don’t Worry. You’ve Gone.” 

Ow d- Allan Beswick you’re a fat get.

Ow do Michael. Ow Do Allan. Are you fat?

Ow do Roland. Yeeeeeeeahhhh (Roland Rat impression.) Cut off.

Ow do Neil. Hello, err, what’s blue and screws on a bin?

No idea. Ow do James.

“Good evening Mr Beswick”, starts James and asks why Allan doesnt feature Houghton Green very much.

We don’t disclude it. We just dont like to talk to pretentious, middle class weirdoes.

Ow do Eric. Eric starts an urban myth about giving someone a backy on his bike. Allan gets to the punchline quicker.

Ow do Geoff. 

My TV’s broke and I’ve been listening to you for the first time in a couple of years. It was interesting then but it’s degenerated since then.

Well, get off then. Ow do Lewis. Ow do Allan, could you do me a favour?

Yes (cuts him off). Ow do Jason. Jason makes a racist comment. Off.

Ow do Steven. Listen, you were just slagging off the Masons, is that right? Was I or wasn’t I? You were.

“Well, why ask me?,” asks Beswick, not unreasonably and continues, “They’re full of pretentious, jumped-up little nerds who are trying to look important.

Rubbish, remonstrates Steven.

“They’re stuffed shirts! How would you know? There isn’t a babies’ section in the Masons, your voice at least has got to break, you gormless cretin. Go and do your funny handshakes.”

We’re two minutes in. Eleven callers down. Later …

Ow do Ronnie. 

There’s one or two things that you’ve said tonight.

Well pick the most important, and we’ll deal with that.

Well .. you can cut me off if you like but – (click).

Thank you. Ow do Bert. Hello?

Hello. Change of subject, Allan.

My colleague rang today to say we’d won a prize in the draw you had last night. Am I on the right programme?

I very much doubt it. I don’t have a draw.

It was Alan Bleasdale, I think.

Alan Bleasdale? Allan Bleasdale? He’s a playright.

I know that one yes. No? Nothing to do with you?

No. 

Sorry.

S’alright.

Wrong person. Can we go back to the operator?

What operator?

Your operator.

No. What do you want to go back to our operator for?

Then she can tell me where to ring up again.

You have me flummoxed. Has somebody rung you and said you’ve won a prize on Red Rose Radio? You’ve been had. One of your friends somewhere at this moment is now wetting themselves. It’s Bert the Berk.

Ow do Howard.

Alright Allan. Bloody Elvis. Pretty cool isn’t he?

No, he’s dead. Sorry, he’s pretty cool now I suppose .. 

Later.

Oow do Jackie

Hello Allan. Can you tell me… Are you as rude to your family and friends as you are to the people on the radio?

I don’t have any friends

Well, why do you criticise everyone who comes on?

Why not?

Well, do you think they’re all full of faults? Do you not think there’s anything wrong with you?

Think? I know there’s lots wrong with me. I don’t claim to be perfect. It’s others that put that cross upon me.

Well why do you try and put everyone down?

Why not?

Well it’s not very nice is it?

Well I’m not here to be nice.

Well what are you there for then?

I’m here for the money. What are you here for?

Well I don’t really know. I haven’t found out yet.

Right. Well I’ve got a reason.

I know but can you not be a bit nicer to everyone?

Why should I?

Well you’re not going to be very popular are you?

I’m not giving a monkey’s cuss about whether I’m popular or not. It’s whether I get the money or not. When the money stops, I’ll go home.

So that’s all you’re worried about then, the money?

You mean I should be worried about something else?

Well, it’s not very polite is it…?

Polite? Polite? what’s all this polite crap? Why should I start being polite?

Well, why shouldn’t you be polite?

Why not? I like what I do. I do it the way I do it. If you don’t like it, listen to summat else.

So you like being a horrible person do you?

I don’t like being a horrible person. I don’t dislike being a horrible person. I adore being me.

That’s the way you come out on the phone.

I don’t care. Your opinion, and everybody else’s opinion of me, is worth to me nothing.

Well what does your mum think about you?

My mum thinks I’m puddled.

Thinks you’re puddled? And what do your friends think about you?

I don’t have any friends.

Well why don’t you have any friends? Because you aren’t a nice person?

That may well be the case.

So you’ve no friends at all then?

No.

Oh, well that’s very sad.

I’m very pleased about that. I can’t be doing with friends coming round your house. Drinking your coffee. Eating your food. Attacking your earlobes. There’s nothing nicer than being alone. People are horrendous. They clutter up your breathing space.

So who do you talk to when you’re not on the radio?

I don’t wish to talk when I’m not on the radio. I talk for money.

(perfect pause) All right love. Thanks a lot.

(Chuckling…) It’s a pleasure madam, goodnight.

SUMMARY

Usually Listened In checks twenty minutes of output. The above is about five minutes of airtime. This wasn’t vintage Beswick, just a few random minutes someone recorded on cassette and posted on YouTube for posterity.

Clearly, it’s also still brilliant.

In his book, John Myers says gifted broadcasters are ‘as rare as a Salford virgin,’ and that Beswick should be doing phone-in, not breakfast. Believe me, I would love to have been the one who scheduled him on a couple of late nights a week – as well as Breakfast.

I wonder if the time is past, though, if we’ve moved on? The internet is where mad stuff happens now, and I suspect the smoothed-edges of the big brands, and the ever-twitchy BBC would require so much compromise that the real Beswick would be lost. After all, this is the culture where a couple of aggrieved listeners (or callers) can fan the flames online and become thousands of compliance headaches that would consume the station. It could also, suggests John, be massive. I guess  playing Maroon 5 instead lets managers sleep more easily.

But the campaign for more speech radio is gathering momentum. Again and again, Myers rightly makes the point it’s the stuff in between the songs that matters. James Cridland blogged about it with some salient RAJARs this week. And even if the well-intentioned people behind British Public Radio haven’t worked out how to pay for it yet, this is beginning to feel like an idea whose time has come.

[Thanks to gorkys6 for posting to YouTube and transcribing caller Jackie. There’s loads of old Beswick online if you want to hear him at work.]

And thank you, Beswick.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to radiotoday.co.uk/eradio

 

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