Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mike Allen - Alan Partridge's doppelganger, hip hop god

One of my heroes from tennyhood was old. I mean, actually older than my dad - he was born in 1942. He looked like Alan Partridge. He even SOUNDED like Alan Patridge. He was a DJ, who like Partridge, came on at night. So you can tell, it wasn't John Peel - he came later. This man was white, but played mostly black music. A dancer he was not, although most of the music he played was dance orientated.

What David Rodigan was to promoting reggae, Mike Allen was to early hip-hop. I was in my mid teens, and my parents taste in TV, bad even then, meant that my solace on Saturday nights, and later on Sundays, was my shitty little Sonatel clock radio cassette. Armed with fresh, or more likely, much recorded over TDK D-90, my fingers would hover over the record button waiting for the mad, incredibly creative world of mid 80s hip hop and electro.

A number of thoughts spring to mind.

1. He may have been at least two decades older than his audience, he was genuinely and highly respected in the hip-hop world. Really, how on earth did it happen? It was like having your favourite, subversive uncle round on a Sunday, one armed with a massive and intersting record collection. He'd make your dad seem a saddo and everything was offered with a knowing wink which said "we know your old lot can't help it - but come on boy, let's spin the next Roxanne record to get your ears into".

2. How did Capital Radio go from being a station which was almost public service broadcast quality in its range of programming. Saturday nights as I rembered it:

1800 Greg Edwards' Soul Spectrum - soul and jazz-funk.
2000 David Rodigan - reggae and lovers' rock
2200 Mike Allen - hip hop

Now, at this point, you could say that we have a particularly "black music" agenda here. Music whose fans might have been made up of three sets of fans, but there's a commonality of race. Here's the banger though; the next one was...

Brian Rust - playing gramaphone and big band tracks


This had a massive impact in my musical choices believe it or not. By the time my finger had hit the record button for the last time, it was midnight. And that meant I was usually ready for bed. And of course, since the radio was on, I'd actually just whack the sleep button and carry on listening to Brian Rust and his collection of scratchy 78s. Very eclectic and no effort on my part other than the maintenance of a keen interest in just about everything requiring a beat or a stave.

When and why did Crapital lose its eclecticism? I've not listened to it for decades.

3. Its sad that Mike's natural heir on the radio. Tim Westwood has such a wanky voice. I wasn't actually interested in the music so much in my late teens. It had come a lot more political, shouted at me, told me what to think and wasn't a bunch of posturing funsters bopping along to an Art of Noise styel soundtrack. I like it much more now.

I missed Mike Allen immensely, in fact I could barely believe it when his show was pulled.

Allen wasn't hip. He wore ties. He looked like your dad. He presented the "housewives show" in the afternoon mid-week. The idea that your mum could enjoy him as much as you did on Saturdays was a bit weird, slightly disturbing even. But fuck me, did he know his stuff? Did he love the music? I've no doubt about it. Did the kids respect him? Abso-bloody-lutely. Could he be employed to do this today? Not on your frigging nellie. How very, very sad and what a brutal indication that we've kissed goodbye to the enthusiastic amateur. Now we'd have some hip with the kids arsehole airhead who knows nothing about the music apart from what his musical advisor briefed him on pre-show.

I regard myself as truly blessed having grown up with this show. My suburban childhood in Hayes was pretty dull by many people's standards, but nevertheless, it was a GOOD childhood. Likewise, I was bespectacled, white and not your hip hop stereotype. In fact, genuine b-boys would have kicked my head in. Allowing myself to be taken out of my world of school and a safe, loving West London home into the grafitti-smeared environs of Harlam, South(south) Bronx, and LA was almost like an adventure to ancient Persia or Timbuktu.

I've a lot of thank you for, Mike.

Much respect.


mark said...

Well said that man - Mike was class. Once his show went off the air all I was left with was Dave Pearce, a poor substitute for the boss!

If you want to hear any of his shows there's a thread on oldschoolhiphop.com with plenty of uploads on there. Thanks for the memories!

PS - Brian Rust????

Mr-Scorpio said...

Hi Adam
What a great reflection of a gone, but not forgotten era!
Yes, electro in the 80's shaped my musical tastes hugely. I graduated as a teen from 80's electro to early 'trance' before it was called trance, & early 'hardcore' rave at the same time (early 90's). Then Drum n Bass – the 90's went by in a blur.. & so have the 00ies.
For some reason, I got switched off from Hip Hop,when it all started to be thin beats, compared to the gated crunch beats of the mid 80's & all the rappers went agro & 'mother fucker' this 'muther fuckin nigger bitch' that! - Yawn

Hayes!? - I was in West Drayton! Small world LOL
- I was doing the same thing with the Hi-Fi -- stealing it from the living room & taking it into my bedroom at 10pm .. finger paused over the record button. Great memories.

Perhaps you can help with identifying a track the Mike used to play as a fill behind him talking all the time.
I know about Russell Brothers Party Scene instrumental .. for the charts. More generally there was this COOL track that used to start with these BIG Guitar Chords & large beat in the background, then it would evolve into this sample played vocal sound over the beats ... He NEVER said or played the track properly whenever I was listening, & that was most of the time. But he played it nearly every time he was on for quite a few years!!- Very frustrating know knowing or having it.
If you can help, that would be great!

If you have an idea about the tune i'm referring to, please pop me a note to:

Keep 'tuning into the Boss' ...