Friday, January 29, 2021

Radio on the TV / a magazine made of sound

A while ago I came across this place online called Bobcast  - a little trove of audio interviews with left-field musicians from the early-to-mid Eighties done by a character called, well, Bob. Some of them had been for a show called Creatures What You Never Knew About broadcast on something called Greenwich Sound Radio. Others were the full unedited audio of interviews that appeared in much shorter form in a fanzine called Morrocci Klung!.  

There were a couple of lengthy chats (one in 2 parts) with Green Gartside from 1981 and 1983...  a similar brace (from '81 and '84) with Robert Wyatt... conversations with Malcolm McLaren, Mark Stewart, Vivien GoldmanSteve Beresford,  Stuart and Alison (separately) from Young Marble Giants, Adrian Sherwood, Mal and Chris from Cabaret VoltairePaddy Macaloon, Mark E. Smith, Morrissey, and more.  A lot of the interviewees were linked to Rough Trade and Cherry Red (Monochrome Set, Eyeless in Gaza...). Oh and one with Quentin Crisp that is so broken up into many short bits that I can't be arsed to link them all...

The ones done for Greenwich Sound Radio took the format of the guest talking about their music (or work) in between playing favorite records or musicians that influenced them. 

What drew me there in the first place was the interview with Dave McCullough, the Sounds legend who seems to have disappeared without trace - I was trawling the internet for clues. My surprise and delight on hearing the man's silver patter is captured earlier here and here

When I did the From Gardens Where We Feel Secure appreciation recently, I re-stumbled upon the two-part Bobcast with Virginia Astley and gave it a listen and found some useful background there. So I linked it in the Pitchfork piece and it seems to have directed quite a lot of people there, because Bob Pearce got in contact to register his pleasure. I asked him to give me the lowdown about Greenwich Sound Radio and Morrocci Klung! and the story turned out to be quite interesting - this was a rather unusual radio station and the fanzine was actually a pioneering tape-zine, an entirely audio publication. 

So here's Bob telling his story: 

Greenwich Sound Radio was a local radio station in the most south-eastest part of London, and was actually broadcast via the pioneering cable TV station 'Cablevision' that was available to around 2,500 homes. It was a small station, and heard by people using their TV as a radio, much like some people once listened to the 'Test Card' before there was all day TV programmes. I never knew how many people ever heard my programmes. Nobody ever got in touch, even to complain. It could have just been me.

The studio was a short walk up the hill from Plumstead train station, behind two huge red iron doors at the foot of a Godzilla tower block.

Some DJs had serious radio experience, working at stations like Radio Caroline. Not me. Around the start of the 80's, aged 20, I must have recently dropped out of art college when a friend, named Mark Smith, who helped out at the station, said 'We've got a DJ giving up their slot and someone is threatening to do a Country & Western programme. You've got loads of records, could you put together a programme?' We agreed I'd write scripts and he'd present. 'Creatures What You Never Knew About' was an in-joke from school and at that time seemed to warn that listeners would not be hearing familiar music. We pre-recorded programmes for a late Saturday night slot. In time Mark stepped away and I did it all.

 I'd made contact with indie labels promo departments, especially Rough Trade and Cherry Red, in order to receive their new releases. In the summer of 1981, possibly inspired by the NME's C81  cassette, I had a simple idea for a music magazine on cassette. No reviews, no photos. Just provide the artist, title and label information. Make your own mind up. I spoke to people like Mike Alway and Scott Piering about the idea and they agreed to support it by offering pre-release music and interview opportunities.


500 copies of Morrocci Klung!, another in-joke from school (which I told people was the sound of putting a tape in a player and shutting the hatch before you press play), ran for 3 issues from September to November 1981 on a C60 tape. Once the first issue began distributing around the country via Rough Trade, I found that a mainstream version (SFX fronted by Max Bell) was about to be released (and Fast Forward in Australia were also producing a tape).

My first interview was with Robert Wyatt, who I only knew from his Rough Trade singles. My basic tape recorder and I spent a long afternoon and evening at his house in Twickenham. He was so welcoming and generous with his time and mind, even sharing his dinner with me. I found a postcard recently that he sent to say he had enjoyed listening to the magazine.


Vivien Goldman (who included our interview on her recent compilation CD), Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire, Mark Stewart, Adrian Sherwood, Matt Johnson, Jello Biafra, Charles Hayward, Mark Beer, were all interviewed in the following weeks. Some people, like Eyeless in Gaza, Epic Soundtracks and Gerard Langley recorded their own 'piece' for me to include.

Malcolm McLaren was Malcolming-up Bow Wow Wow's 'cassette pet', so I got in touch and he was happy to share his enthusiastic views on the use of cassette tapes, and the possibilities opened up by a cassette magazine. 

For variety, I also included a poet and a problem page. Quentin Crisp's phone number was there in the phone directory and I called him. 'Oh yes?' he answered. I explained what I was doing and asked if I was to bring along a collection of letters from magazine 'problem' pages would he respond. Soon enough I was sat in his legendary one room bedsit, with its mythical snowdrifts of 40 year old dust. I pressed record and he read and replied sincerely and Crisply to each question (pausing occasionally as someone else had found his phone number and called him, to be met each time with “Oh yes?”). I don't know if he understood what I was doing but he didn't seem to mind.

I remember that I made a quite deliberate decision to never announce myself on the tapes or radio, as it just didn't seem at all relevant to anything. I also tried removing my questions fas far as possible rom the interview extracts that were used.

As a result of Morrocci Klung! I have a vague memory of being invited for a chat in the BBC canteen as some kind of audition process for one of those 'youth' programmes that everybody was rushing to make. My 'lack of ambition' must have put them off.


Morrocci Klung! also got a mention in Smash Hits around this time. “Unfortunately, the quality of the tape borders on the diabolical at times, while Bob hasn't yet learnt how to compere an alternative chat show. It's often hard to know who's talking about what and why. Still, his heart's in the right place.”

Melody Maker recognised that it “Sets out to by-pass subjectivity by ditching comments and reviews and instead presenting snatches of various recordings so that 'the music is allowed to speak for itself and the listeners are allowed to make their own decisions'.”

Fast Forward said “It lacks any back up information in the form of printed material etc., but makes an excellent go of the medium.”

Robert Wyatt's postcard said “That bit you did with our conversation is quite terrific and its really well edited and everything. I'm really grateful for the opportunity you gave us (not just me – everyone on the tape) to think out loud.”


The December issue of Morrocci Klung! didn't appear, despite recording sufficient interviews. There was Mark E. Smith (on the day he delivered 'Hex Enduction Hour' to Kamara Records) – the second half, recorded in a noisy pub, includes Kay Carroll, and shows how influential she was in making The Fall be 'The Fall'. They were both very encouraging of the project. There was also Scritti Politti ('Faithless' era – including Matthew Kay's involvement), Rip Rig and Panic and Sudden Sway. I'd been approached by Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft about making this DIY magazine a bit more professional and get it distributed to newsagents. It didn't happen. They went on to produce Touch, and I was invited by Mark Beer to help with his band 'Sneezes in China, Deaths in Paris' for a while (I encouraged them to call McLaren and talk their way into a support slot at Bow Wow Wow's show the following night in somewhere like Derby), before starting a career working for people with a learning disability.


A couple of years ago John Henderson, of Feel Good All Over records and the Tiny Global label (home to Stuart Moxham, The Nightingales, Blue Orchids, Martin Bramah and Band of Holy Joy), told me “I bought it in Chicago. It came in a manila envelope and had excerpts from all sorts of records - Essential Logic (or maybe Lora solo), Epic Soundtracks - lots of great stuff.  I was probably 15 years old. It's funny, that's probably the first cassette I ever bought, and very influential, at least in terms of me to getting to spend a lot of money on the records sampled therein!”

That came as a major revelation. At the time they were being made, upstairs at home, I had no idea that these cassette magazines had found their way around the world.

I've seen copies of the £1.15 tapes selling for between £20 and £40 now. 

Someone has kindly shared the three complete editions of Morrocci Klung! online for free.


I had continued making the radio show throughout and began asking musicians if they'd like to come along with records from their collections. I have no memory of anybody saying 'No'.

Monochrome Set came and just improvised amongst themselves. When I sent Mike Alway the tape he told me he was tracking down and releasing Honor Blackman's 'Kinky Boots'. It did very well.

Paddy McAloon talked over the phone about his 'Swoon' album that was due for release. Moving house recently, I found a letter he had sent me some time later, with a copy of his new record 'Steve McQueen', thanking me for the tape of the show and the copy of Sam Shepard's 'True West' I'd sent with it.

Morrissey spoke on the phone during the Troy Tate recording sessions for their debut album. I believe I was the first person to ask Morrissey if he'd considered suicide. Scott Piering at Rough Trade provided a sound desk tape of The Smiths playing live to be support for the interview.

Mark E. Smith came and did a show, reading selections from the notebook he fished out of his carrier bag (including 'The Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide') and played tracks from a tape he'd brought called something like '20 Trucking Greats'. I do remember walking back to the train station together and Mark asking if I fancied a pint. I had to apologise and explain that I must get home to help organise a jumble sale. He clearly didn't hold it against me. I sent him a tape of the programme and he included extracts from his readings on the 'Perverted By Language' album. We swapped several letters for a few years. He sent me a book of poetry by U.A. Fanthorpe, and I sent him Bruno Bettleheim's 'The Uses of Enchantment' (“Passed many boring bus-tour rides.”) I also sent a couple of drawings. One became the cover of 'The Man Whose Head Expanded', the other he said was framed on his kitchen wall (and a friend had mistaken for 'a pic of Iggy Stooge'). I understand this programme is available out there as a bootleg.

Green Gartside was between Rough Trade and deciding where to go next when he came along with a big pile of records that were shaping his future direction. He spoke about the madness of the music business, and told me he was watching producers faces when he told them he wanted to make a record that was a mix of Shalamar and Bambaatta.

Green - the original Wide Brimmed Hat popster? 

When I phoned Robert Wyatt to invite him to come and talk about some records in his collection, he said there was a documentary film maker with him who could drive him across London if they could include it in their film. They came, they filmed, but I've never seen any trace of their documentary.

Alison Statton and Stuart Moxham from the Young Marble Giants visited individually when they'd become Weekend and The Gist. A few years ago I found Stuart was playing in the next town and I went and introduced myself. He immediately remembered the radio station, and we agreed to a 'follow up' interview [check out this 2016 "career review"]. We now meet occasionally for breakfast, courtesy of John Peel.

When I asked Stuart recently, he said “I distinctly remember my visit to Greenwich Sound radio station because it was so unique and bizarre. I loved the fact that it was housed in a windowless brick box, in the space under a tall block of flats which stood on concrete legs. It was the sort of building which one would never have given a second thought to. Bob himself was obviously a fellow ahead of his time, operating in the penumbra of fame where so many of the most interesting things happen. His simple idea was brilliant - to invite people to bring a selection of their favourite pieces of music along, which he would play, asking them to explain why they liked them. Desert Island Discs without the nonsense. I still have that cassette and I love all that music a little more now for having shared it with Greenwich Sound.”

Since Dave McCullough in Sounds was often the first to write about new bands I liked, why not call him and ask if he'd like to come over? My memory was that he seemed very passionate about his views but would happily walk away from the 'madness' any time he wanted. He was very positive and encouraging, like an older brother.

I recorded a call with Keith Armstrong at the time that Kitchenware records was launching, taking the opportunity to introduce the four bands on the label. He rounded off the programme by saying it would be his final interview, so that he could ensure the bands now got all the attention. I can't say if he was interviewed again. 

Virginia Astley brought a big pile of records and we recorded enough for two programmes. Matt Johnson had just released Soul Mining when he came over. Steve Beresford took the 'Creatures What You Never Knew About' to a new level. New Order sent a cassette of tracks they were listening to, with no speech, for me to work with. There were also programmes with Ben Watt, Vic Godard and Mark Beer, but I can not say what became of those recordings. After the sleeve for The Fall, Mike Alway asked me to make an image for a Vic Godard record. It was never used.

A few years ago I began sharing the programmes and interviews as podcasts and I feel confident that way more people around the planet hear them now than ever did through the TVs of a small corner of South East London late on a Saturday night.

Listening back to those recordings, with 40 years of perspective, and hearing my younger self, I felt he had done a decent job for someone that was just a fan trying to make programmes that he would want to hear. I've shared all the Morrocci Klung! interviews unedited because I felt they were more interesting as raw conversations, and my 'older and allegedly wiser' self had no business interfering with my 'younger and apparently naïver' self.

For an enthusiastic novice, on such a tiny station, with a possibly non-existent audience, I realised that I was punching way above my weight. Some time in 1985 Greenwich Sound suddenly closed down. It had been a lucky opportunity at an interesting moment in time and I realise now how useful my lack of experience of 'how things work' had been in just going ahead, approaching people and seeing what happened. In hindsight it seems maybe I was time-capsuling something for future audiences."