With this lockdown in place, many of us have been whiling away the hours by thumbing through our vinyl collections and reliving our misspent youth. So, we thought it would be nice to do a music feature in ALS.
Today’s lockdown tracks come from BBC Newcastle’s Sunderland commentator and Gary Bennett supervisor, Nick Barnes.
Let’s start at the beginning, Nick, what music were you listening to as a child?
Like most children at the time, I enjoyed Saturday morning TV and the programmes that they broadcast for children during the holidays. I really liked The Monkees and, one day, talking to the children who lived next door, they said they had a Monkees album that I could have. It was called Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd and featured ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’. I listened to that album over and over. It was the first vinyl that I could claim was mine. Not my Dad’s. And I’ve still got it. It’s amazing it’s not worn out. I had a paper round back then and I remember on Sundays, my Dad used to get The Observer and I was allowed to put The Monkees on and I’d sit and read bits from the paper.
Your own Pleasant Devon Valley Sunday?
Yes, absolutely, some very happy memories.
And do you remember the first record you bought?
I do. We were visiting my Dad’s family and ended up in a record shop in Chelmsford. I bought two singles, Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello and My Life by Billy Joel. I guess I’d be about 15. Shortly after that a friend introduced me to Dire Straits who weren’t really a big band at that point. They’d released Sultans of Swing but with no great success. I really enjoyed that album. And then that led to Mark Knopfler’s inspirations, Ry Cooder, JJ Cale, people like that. I also listened to a lot of 10cc and then you move on to Pink Floyd, which is a bit more esoteric, I suppose. But I never lost my love for Dire Straits.
And then you end up listening to them at work for five years.
Yes, it’s funny how life does that. And, if you were asking me about films today, I’d have to say Local Hero is probably one of my top three films so, to end up with Local Hero at St James’ Park every other weekend was amazing.
So, does that get the vote for best walk out music?
It’s close, certainly. I also always loved Everton coming out to Z Cars because it reminds me of my youth watching the programme. And, of course, that was the music played at Roker Park, but I’m going for Anfield. There’s something about You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s a great track, first of all but, there’s something about watching the Kop with the scarves and flags that is phenomenal. People who aren’t football fans, I’d encourage them to go and watch that even if they aren’t staying for the match. It’s just unbelievable. And I don’t think I’ve ever commentated on a team winning there.
On matchdays generally, do you have a set routine or any rituals?
Not for music, no. It tends to be that there’s a CD in the car and I never quite get round to changing it so I listen to it driving to the match. I enjoy listening to Radio 4 in the morning but then, on the way to the match, you need to listen to something quite relaxing, mellow. I’ve got Jan Hamer playing Crockett’s Theme at the moment and that does the job. I was always a fan of Miami Vice but, it’s just the right sort of piece, the mellowness.
You don’t need building up for the match?
No, the general match day mood does that. When you arrive you’re looking for calmness. The ritual of the day for me is more in getting dressed, picking the tie and the jacket, making sure the paperwork is all ready…
And, you’re famous for that paperwork, do you listen to music when you’re writing it up?
It tends to be in the office so the general hubbub and, of course, the radio is on. But if I do work from home I listen to more instrumental pieces. Vangelis or Enya. Relaxing and you can concentrate on what you’re doing.
And how about live music, can you name a track from a concert you went to that was a special moment for you?
When I first left university, I started working at BBC Devon doing travel reporting and some of the technical side of radio. It was a really good foot in the door and I worked under some really good people like Gill Capewell and Alan Dedicoat who were perfect mentors. They said, if I wanted to get more experience, I should think of someone I really wanted to interview and try and get them. I saw that BB King was coming to play at Exeter University and, again, because of Dire Straits, I’d got into his music and wrote to the tour team and asked if I could get an interview. They explained that he didn’t really do interviews and so it might not be possible, but they’d consider it. Anyway, on the day of the concert, I get a call saying yes, come to the venue and he’d do it. So, with no prep time and what would be very old-fashioned equipment these days I headed to my first real interview. I was told by the tour manager that he could be a little prickly and I could have no more than 15 minutes and with that, she showed me into BB King’s dressing room and left me with him. Just the two of us. You’d never get that sort of access these days. And he was lovely. Polite, considerate, an amazing man to talk to. He spoke for about 20 minutes or so and I got 15 minutes of footage because the tape had to be swapped every 15 minutes and I was too nervous to ask him to wait while I changed it. I stayed for the concert and, however many concerts I’ve been to since, nothing will compare to that experience of meeting such an amazing musician.
But you do still go to concerts?
Yes, I go to the Sage quite a lot. I don’t like the Arena, it’s too cold and soulless. But the Sage is great because it has the different venues for different gigs. I’ve seen Squeeze there and Level 42 in the big room but then Glenn Tilbrook came and did a more intimate show in Sage Two. I like those performers because of their love of performing. I think that explains their longevity. They love what they do.
What about a night out? What would get you on the dancefloor?
I’m a horrible dancer but I can’t resist Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones. I used to go to a night club in Exeter called the Timepiece. Your standard 1970/80s night club with sticky floors and a smell of marijuana filling the air. If it was the Stones or Bowie, I’d be dancing. And even now at a wedding or birthday or what have you, they’d get me dancing. Well, maybe not dancing, but certainly on the dancefloor!
So, if we can let you out of lockdown for one night, it wouldn’t be to go to the disco?
No! Definitely not. But I know exactly where I’d go. There’s a restaurant called The Kitchin in Edinburgh, it’s a Michelin starred restaurant run by Tom Kitchin. My daughter is at university in Stirling and I’d take her. Apart from the amazing food, one of the curiosities about the restaurant is that they give you a map when you’re there showing where all of your food was sourced, right across Scotland. I think that would be a wonderful memento of my night out.
Let’s hope it’s not too long before you can get there. Thanks for chatting and keep safe.