BBC Radio 5Live: I can’t live, if living is without you


At this point it’s just a rumour, but that didn’t stop me from recoiling in terror at a headline as it rolled by my eyes this morning.

“News and sport station could follow BBC3 in going off air, or even face closure to save its £66m budget?” it whispered in a beguiling, yet ominous tone. The story has since been dismissed by 5Live controller Jonathan Wall, but the damage is done.

The notion I might have to move through my life without the tones of BBC 5Live accompanying my every step has been introduced into my consciousness. The damage has been done.


You see, I owe my life to that radio station. Not in the sense that Nicky Campbell once saved me from a bear attack (he didn’t, the sod), but that I wouldn’t be the person I am today, enjoying the job I have today, or have even discovered football at all, if not for BBC 5Live.

As frequent visitors to this destination already know, I used to work (in a manner of speaking) at HMV. Through a series of mishaps largely caused by my own inability to follow instructions, my then boss decided that the only way he could stop me meandering around his shop floor distracting his functioning staff was to lock me in a room without any windows.

It sounds like the kind of revisionism one would expect from a writer but I can assure you it’s true.

There were several people sat in the staff meeting who will vividly remember the possibly ill-prepared announcement that began “I was lying in the bath thinking about what to do with you,” and ended with me being banished to the cash office, counting money, arguing with credit card companies and swearing about people getting gift voucher transactions wrong.

Perhaps many would find the stillness of that room, with its coded entry system and clearance requirements, comforting. Enjoyable, even. But I didn’t. I needed voices to accompany me through my day, and having pillaged and exhausted the spoken word section of our store, I flicked the busted switch on the cash office radio from ‘Cassette’ to ‘Tuner’ and my life immediately changed for the better.

It’s at this point I should segue flatteringly into descriptions of how it was love at first listen for me and 5Live and we’ve been happily married ever since, but again, that would be revisionist.

I hated it. Waffle about the government, interspersed with waffle about sport and even more waffle about football; a game I was aware of at the time, but only in the way that I’m aware thermodynamics is a thing. It annoyed the shit out of me and Saturdays were the worst. I often turned it off.

Trouble was, the unique position of the cash office within the environs of the HMV building ensured the radio only picked up MW frequencies, even if you wound several coat hangers together and stuck them in the aerial hole while it was plugged into the mains.

It’s important that you know I was so pissed off with football at that point I suffered several electric shocks to try to get rid of it, only to end up on Atlantic 252 (which was worse). It was like being trapped in a railway carriage with Robbie Savage. One of us would have to die.


But we didn’t. Like a couple forced together by circumstance, we grew used to each other. I stopped sticking things into the radio’s various apertures and it stopped spitting me across the utilitarian blue carpet. I stopped turning it off when commentaries began and it somehow diverted its signal past the part of my brain that organised nerve damage every time I heard Alan Green’s voice and into the pleasure centre.

Radio 5Live more insidious and addictive than crack? It’s a big shout, but one I can justify.

Twenty years on, I don’t go anywhere without a radio. And unless I’m system up, top down with Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (who, let us not forget, wouldn’t be here now but for the backlash that broke out upon the announcement of BBC 6Music’s closure) it’s always tuned to BBC 5Live.

I wake up to Nicky Campbell and the deliciously acerbic Rachel Burden. It’s over to Laverne for mid-morning matters, move gently through early afternoon with RadMac (home of the Rock Trouser Museum) before Tony Livesey, Anna Foster and/or Caroline Barker accompany me on the round of routine jobs grown-ups have to do before the footie starts.

Any footie. Perhaps the repeated electric shocks rewired my brain, but from being utterly indifferent to football, I now live a life whose fabric is woven from it. Games, stats, players, training, kit, gossip, internationals, leagues; you name it, I can bore you to death with it. I watch it, I think about it, I dream about it, I spend my money on it, I love it. Best of all, I write about it. All bloody day.


Don’t think I don’t see that look in your eyes. I see it in my friends and families eyes whenever they ask me what I’ve been doing and I start telling them about Real Madrid’s latest travails in the transfer market or Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest boot silo controversy. You don’t care.

But I do. And so do Mike Ingham, Conor McNamara, John Murray, Ian Dennis, Darren Fletcher and yes, even Robbie Savage, whose wild squawking has softened into an enthusiasm that might be irritating to some, but is joyful compared to the incessant uninformative drone of Michael Owen on BT Sport or Mark Lawrenson.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it. Who I’d be.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

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