Aleks Wright Turns The Spotlight On Terry Anderson And Dave Birdman. From November 1987.
The Clockwork Wireless Broadcasting Company has been on the air for over 10 months. But its history goes back a lot further than that.
The two main presenters, Terry Anderson and The Intrepid Birdman, have been in the pirate radio game for the last decade.
Terry – tell me about the show. It's very different from anything else on the radio.
Yes, it's very difficult to say how it came about really. I start with a blank sheet of paper and it goes on from there.
I heard Maureen Lipman, the actress, on the radio the other day. She was saying about how when the deadline approaches she finds herself on the very morning that the thing has got to be in she gets this panic attack. I have a sort of minor one each week, thinking that I just am not going to be able to do this, and the in all sort of seems to flow when you know that time is running out.
How would you describe the show? Is it comedy, topical comment, is it a music show with chat?
Mmm, it's probably all of those things together actually. It's really a pot-pourri and that's probably the best description. The music is quite important in its own right, though. I think. that an hour of stream of consciousness would probably not be all that edifying. The comedy is quite difficult, when you have to come up with the whole show virtually by yourself. Coming up with comedy or funny bits each week can be quite hard going.
I feel – I know it's a cliche – that it's an exaggerated version of the way I am. I just come in and do an hour of how I am in real life. Exaggerated and pushed up a bit, but not really anybody else's ideas.
I hope it's different from anything else that you can hear. It does take quite an amount of work to do, although perhaps it sounds very thrown together. I find that each Sunday at eight, when my programme finishes, that I'm already thinking about what on earth I'm going to do next Sunday. I start thinking of ideas right through the week. The good thing is now that it's been running for a year it's taken on a being of its own – not that it runs itself, but that there is a sort of structure running through it.
Who would you describe as your influences?
I don't honestly think that I've been influenced by any other broadcaster directly – there may be sub-conscious influences and perhaps I'm not the person to gauge who they are. People I respect, and possibly draw from, are people who are good at what they do – not necessarily in broadcasting though. People like Tony Hancock., Kenneth Williams, great British comedians, people with a real skill.
What are your ambitions – how do you see your show developing?
That's a difficult question. I think that the show has developed from the very first weeks on Clockwork, but it hasn't developed to a plan. As I said before, it almost has a mind of its own. It tends to flow, changing slightly week-by-week – a nuance here, a nuance there. It changes as it goes, rather than being part of a five year plan or something.
What kind of music do you like?
I really do have quite catholic tastes. At the moment I like quite a lot of the bands that turn up in the independent charts but don't find their way into the Top Forty. I think that there is a need for exposure of those bands because they're caught between two stools. They don't make it to Radio One / Capital Radio daytime type programming and they're not weird enough for John Peel. In between there's an opening for these sort of bands. There are some very good bands around not getting the exposure.
Also I quite like a lot of opera and classical music... Handel, Mozart particularly – that's what I listen to at home. It's about great performers, it's what we were saying earlier about comedians and actresses. I like people who are good at what they do, Prima Donnas in the true sense of the words.
I have a sort of minor panic each week
I like contemporary bands, my all time hero is Todd Rundgren. I think he's very underrated... he's never had the exposure or acclaim that he's deserved. Joni Mitchell, Susanne Vega, Rikki Lee Jones, people like that. People who've maintained a high standard in their art over a number of years really. They give it that unidentifiable some- thing that gives you a feeling that perhaps you don't get from Bananarama or Pepsi and Shirley.
What is your most memorable moment on pirate radio?
You know how when someone comes into a lift you move out of the way to let them in? Well, I was in a tall building, I can't quite remember why now. I was coming out of the lift with somebody else and as I walked out, other people were coming into the lift. Well, I recognised them but to my relief Mr Gotts didn't recognise me. He was going up as I was going down, we just passed each other in the lift with a smile. Fortunately we haven't met again since.
What happened to Uptown Radio?
It didn't die really, it just faded away. It had gone as far as anyone could take it and it had got to the point or turning up on a Sunday and saying 'Well, here we go again'. It ended at the right time really, there wasn't any further for it to go within the structure that it had. There were more things that I wanted to do, but because or the restrictions or clandestine radio at that time, you simply had to race up to the fact that you couldn't do them. You couldn't risk having live guests in the studio, not people you wanted anyway. By then I'd been doing programmes for 4-5 years without a break and it just reached its natural time to fade away and did. I still see some or the people that were involved though.
The Intrepid Birdman
Birdman, what inspired the start of Clockwork?
Lethargy and boredom basically. Didn't have anything to do on Sundays.
So you thought you'd start up a radio station?
Well it was either that or commit a crime. Thought we'd settle for that really.
How would you describe the station... how would you describe the sound of Clockwork Wireless?
Dubious at best, brilliant at worst. It's a pot-pourri as someone once said of it.
How would you describe your show?
It defies description really, it doesn't fit into any of the established categories. You could say that it was thought provoking -or you could say that it was totally lunatic. That's how I think of it, just lunacy.
When you do your show, do you see a listener that you aim at?
No, not really. On the odd occasions when I've met listeners I've been profoundly disappointed.
Most of us first heard you on Thameside Radio. What happened to Thameside?
I think it died in the terminal throes or apathy. It had gone on for too long. It was a jolly good station but it ran out or ideas. It also started getting badgered rather too much by the authorities and when they'd finished badgering us the internal struggles were becoming pointless. It just died.
I just like to hear my voice on the wireless, that's all
How about you? Tell us about the other side of the Birdman.
There isn't another side. This is it.
What about your motorcycles?
Well I motorcycle a lot and to that end I have a Triumph for when I'm feeling terribly enthusiastic and really into motorcycling and a BMW for when I actually want to get somewhere without being smothered in oil.
What does the Birdman eat?
Anything that comes to hand. Inconvenience foods mostly – I eat an awful lot of pizza, a ridiculous amount of hamburger and occasionally when I really want to treat myself, a steak.
What kind of TV do you watch?
Anything really. Mostly old 1950s science fiction movies. If I can't get those then old 1950s horror movies which are even better.
What do you listen to on the radio?
You don't like radio?
No, radio is wonderful. It's the best possible medium because it does allow the mind to work; but unfortunately a great many of the stations are not using it to its fullest potential – with the possible exception of Radio Four.
There's really not much going on out there. Capital has become a meaningless string of things to put between commercials. Radio One is a meaningless string of things to put between adverts for Radio One. They don't actually have adverts at the moment so they settle for promotions instead.
What are your ambitions – how would you like to see the station develop?
I'd like to see it develop into a multi-million pound exercise where we're all being paid huge sums to drive around in Porsches, but realistically I recognise that this is not going to happen so I suppose... It's a bit of an odd question really.
You're happy with it as it now is?
Yeah, it's just an ego trip.
You're happy with the two-hour format?
I just like to hear my voice on the wireless, that's all.
I recognise that no one else is going to employ me so I have to buy my own radio station to put my own voice out. It's tragic really, I mean I love my mother and... Do you really want to hear any more?
Clockwork was one of the first in a resurgence of Rock stations. How do you feel about that?
I'm extremely happy. I feel that the other lot have had it all their own way for far too long. As to whether we had anything to do with the resurgence, I don't know, but it's quite a remarkable coincidence really isn't it?
It's been said that the Birdman sounds like Steve Wright or Kenny Everett.
Yes, I'm quite insulted by that. I rather fancy that Kenny Everett stole one or two of my better ideas and has been making a fool of himself with some of his own ever since. Steve Wright has never particularly enchanted me. He's a DJ that was killed by having to produce too much in too short a space of time.
What was your favourite moment in pirate radio?
Falling off a tower block. No, my favourite moment was probably when the magistrate was told exactly what it was we were being charged with, theft of electricity, and exactly the amount we were charged with stealing. It was an incalculable fraction of a penny. His eyebrows shot to the ceiling, his face fell and he gave a little speech on how much it costs to bring a prosecution to court and wondered at the incompetence of someone who would bring such a case to court, answering the charge of the theft of less than half a penny of electricity.
Special thanks to Aleks Wright, Terry Anderson, Dave Birdman and the rest of the Clockwork crew. Photos courtesy of Clockwork Wireless.
Tapes of past broadcasts are available from the station. For more information write to Clockwork Wireless. Suite 14, Creasy House, Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 4SL, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope.
Clockwork Wireless broadcasts from 7 - 9pm on Sundays on 90MHz FM. For more information see AM/FM.
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