Clint West’s Americana Plus: The pitfalls of having zero practical skills

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In my early twenties I shared a house with two other guys of a similar age. Both had graduated from university with good degrees and were very intelligent and likeable people. However, the idea of getting a job was apparently not on their agenda at that particular time as their days seemed largely to consist of staying in bed as long as possible, eating vegan wholefoods, listening to music and getting stoned. It was the last two of these that provided a bond between us.

One of them was into obscure 60s psychedelia but was always likely to surprise me with something new, such as the time that he brought home the first Beastie Boys album which we played together endlessly and excitedly. The other guy we dismissed as a hopeless hippy as far as his musical tastes were concerned. I remember him playing Neil Young, Van Morrison, Richard Thompson and artists like Michael Chapman and Nick Drake. The irony of course was that these artists that I dismissed at the time, I would later in life come to love. However, at that time, having been through punk in my teenage years I was trying to be a cool NME reading musical hipster before realising that there was a lot of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ going on and that the Washington G0-Go scene wasn’t perhaps all it was cracked up to be – although I did genuinely love that Beastie Boys album and still have it in my collection.

Of the three of us, I was the only one with a job – driving a van for an electrical wholesaler. This kept me out of the house during the daytime. On one occasion I returned home from work, probably around 5.30pm – 6.00pm on a winter’s afternoon to find the house in complete darkness. Both the other two were in and had lit a couple of candles, something which they had a plentiful supply of. These were not your normal plain wax candles that following the 1970s power cuts, people had got used to storing for such eventualities, but rather the sort that gave off an aroma that made the house smell like and Indian brothel.

Instead of the usual indifference that my return from work would solicit, I was greeted enthusiastically and informed of their predicament, as if it wasn’t plainly apparent. I asked if they had checked the trip switch, only to be looked at with the kind of puzzlement that I might have expected had I uttered the same words in Serbo-Croat. I went to the cupboard and flicked the switch, thus restoring light and more importantly, power to the hi-fi. This, in their eyes made me a technological genius, an assertion which in reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It proved to be the pinnacle of my practical achievements.

The truth is that I’m pretty hopeless. My brother-in-law built a magnificent wooden bar and barbeque space in his garden as well as permanent tables and bench seating. He also paved the way from his back door to his summer house. Very impressive but also quite sickening as I know that there is not a hope in hell of me doing something similar. I have occasionally managed a bit of painting but that’s my lot. My other brother-in-law is a painter and decorator whose work shows me just how bad my efforts at it are. He can also pretty much turn his hand to any other practical task from tiling the bathroom to servicing his own car. This all simply serves to underline just how hopeless I am.

Like everyone else of my generation I’ve had to get my head round computers, mobile phones and the like. I like to think that I’m reasonably competent with this new technology but I’m still a source of great mirth to my 15-year-old son who is my technology consultant whenever I run into problems. When I was invited to do my radio show I was of course very excited but that sense of excitement quickly turned to trepidation. My worry was not what music to play, but rather would I be able to operate the hardware? Listeners to the early shows would have noticed a number of glitches and teething problems, including on one occasion the left deck packing in so that I had to play everything from a single deck and try to calmly talk my way through whilst at the same time loading the next song. This also completely through my timings out.

Dean, who owns the studio from where I broadcast, is an absolute gem. Before I arrive, he makes sure that everything is set up for me, so that I can just walk in and do the show. However, last week the microphone wasn’t switched on – and so spoilt am I normally that I confess I didn’t even notice. Therefore, when it came to the broadcast listeners would have heard a wonderful selection of music, but no me. Now I’m sure that there are many who would advocate that as being no bad thing, however it did leave silent pauses between tunes. In short it was a a bit of a calamity. When I listened back to the recording and discovered this, I asked for the Rewind to be taken down, so if you tried to listen, I’m grateful and very sorry. People have asked did you not notice the microphone wasn’t on? The truth is, no I didn’t, so I guess I can take my place on the sofa next to my two old house mates waiting for the lights to come back on.

Consequently there is no link to last week’s show but hopefully normal service will be resumed this week.

Clint West’s Americana Plus goes out every Tuesday from 8pm – 10pm on http://socialmusicradio.uk or you can listen to it on Rewind available from the same site. I look forward to you joining me.

About Clint West 325 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Cam Fraser

Ha! I listened to that episode and, excellent as the music was, I can definitely confirm it’s better when you’re in it. 🙂

Michael McGurn

An easy mistake to make, I would imagine, so I sympathise. Your excellent music choices made the programme still worth a listen.