Eclectic Mainline is finishing at the end of this month and Albert has written his own summary of his radio career on this blog in typically articulate style. So much so, that my adding anything to it is spurious in the extreme. That said, it’s a sad and momentous occasion and so I’ve jotted out a few thoughts which are on here for want of anywhere else to put them. It’s in me and it’s got to come out to misquote John Lee Hooker.
Albert Freeman is as my dad would say “a cracking lad” Most of the people reading this probably know him and therefore I need not elaborate on this point any further.
However, as he has recently taken the decision to retire from presenting “Eclectic Mainline” his impeccable radio programme, after ten years at the end of this month, it’s worth looking back on what his presence on t’wireless has meant.
He is, I should say , one of my favourite people on the planet so this will not be an especially objective appraisal but nevertheless such an event should not go uncommemorated.
Spurred on like all the best music broadcasters, by John Peel, the boy Freeman has presented a kaleidoscopic barrage of differing styles of music from Lonnie Donnegan to twenty minute swathes of experimental electronica connected only by the fact that he likes them and probably can’t pronounce their names. Doing this would be remarkable in itself in the cosy, “here’s one you’ll know” boring as fuck environment of UK music radio where self congratulatory “music experts” trot out tweedy platitudes in place of the genuine enthusiasm for anything new that deserted them round about the time that The Jam split up. The fact that he’s done this at 8pm on a Wednesday evening whilst all across Bradford the squares are settling down to watch “DIY SOS” is quietly revolutionary.
What Albert makes sound so easy is in fact bloody difficult (I know -I’ve tried) and his enthusiastic yet measured, naturalistic delivery made an hour pass by in what seemed like minutes and a ragbag of twangs bleeps and yells sound like a cohesive whole akin to being in the company of your cooler mate who would invite you back to theirs after the pub and smilingly say “you’ll like this” just before dropping the needle on some recent purchase that would rattle your senses and make your Elbow records sound shit.
Listener feedback is rare on BCB but I’d be willing to bet that more than one Bradfordian has stumbled gasping, from the suffocating industry led wank of Zane Lowe into the path of Eclectic Mainline to be rewarded by Deerhunter,Phosphorescent, Onetrix Point Never, Darren Hayman or Big Star. And having seen the light,who’s to say that they didn’t search further,buy records,go to gigs and meet people that they wouldn’t have done if they’d kept it locked to the grinding monotony of BBC Fab FM.
New music changes people’s lives in a way that chart music and “classics” doesn’t. It exposes them to things that are happening now and encourages them to look outside the norms to different possibilities and opportunities. If that’s not serving the community then what is?
Albert would of course never make any of these grand claims for himself,indeed should he see this piece he will modestly harrumph to himself and mutter “you are too kind” under his breath. But as he goes off into the metaphorical sunset to concoct inedible vegan delicacies out of twigs and grass, try to learn Carol Kaye’s bass parts and spend time with his delightful partner Sally, something will be lost from our airwaves that we will all have to up our games to replace. Thanks for everything Albert. You made a difference.
I still think The Verve were rubbish though.