11 December 2016

Derek Jameson - Do They Mean Us?/ Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1986

I'm really not a morning person. If you're going to try to start a conversation with me in the morning, especially before caffeine, it's best to keep it a bit light, humorous and convivial. Don't bark orders at me. Don't get on a soapbox about something in the newspaper. Don't be loud. It's DAWN outside, goddamn you, we're not in a nightclub at two in the morning. I feel delicate.

Perhaps given that this is my general temperament - always has been, probably always will be - it's probably no surprise to you all to learn that Derek "You've Got To Get Up Early In The Morning To Catch Me Out, Mate" Jameson is officially my least favourite breakfast show host ever. His stint on BBC Radio 2 ruined so many school mornings, from his grizzled bark of "MAWNIN'! JAMESON 'ERE!" onwards, that I suspect he may have buggered up some of my education.  Here was a man who could discuss a news item, snarl "I THINK WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, DON'T YOU!" with an exclamation mark on the end rather than a question mark (he was big on demands, low on questions, was our Jameson) then plonk some soothing Frank Sinatra on the stereogram. It was almost frightening as the show careered from one extreme to the other.

Whatever I felt, and I surely couldn't be alone, Jameson was a late eighties broadcasting behemoth, and a man who seemed to succeed at everything he set his mind to. From having TV series of his own, to guest-hosting Wogan, to being given the country's most prestigious Radio Two slot, he really commanded the airwaves during that strange period.

Jameson's life had actually been absurdly eventful even up to that point, with his very humble beginnings in a children's home, and some time spent begging on the streets, eventually leading to trainee reporter work at Reuters and then a slow climb up the career ladder in Fleet Street. He documented all these details in a book entitled "Touched By Angels", so titled to reflect his beliefs that Guardian Angels watched over him at all times. You can even see an advert for the Sun's serialisation of the tome over on YouTube.

Jameson held numerous impressive editorial positions, including editor-in-chief at The Daily Star at the point of its launch, which he allegedly promised would be "Tits, bums, QPR and roll your own fags" (which sounds like a line from an Earl Brutus single). However, he wasn't always completely blessed. A large amount of rot set in when BBC Radio 4's "Week Ending" comedy programme cracked the gag that Jameson was so ignorant "he thought erudite was a type of glue", and Jameson promptly decided to sue. He lost the case, and most of his own personal fortune, when the jury decided this was fair comment. Naturally, more people have since retold this joke than ever heard it on its original Radio 4 broadcast, so not only did he effectively burn an enormous stack of money on a pointless court case, he also spread the insult further and wider than ever before. Rupert Murdoch also removed him as editor of News of The World in 1984 after a disagreement about a newspaper article. A career at the BBC, ironically the very institution which wronged him in the first place (in his eyes, at least) was presumably one way of making some money back quickly.

But what has any of this got to do with "Do They Mean Us?" Good question, and no doubt Jameson, if he were still alive, would be rapping me around the knuckles with a ruler and asking me to make that point a few paragraphs higher ("AND CUT OUT ALL THE GUFF ABOUT ERUDITE!"). Well, in truth, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever why this single needed to be released unless it was a desperate bid to top up his post-court case bank balance. An odd spin-off single from his BBC series set to a jaunty music hall melody, it's a truly ridiculous piece of vinyl, featuring Jameson's cackling ramblings about a cornucopia of disjointed "issues", ranging from the state of the Labour Party to the EEC. "SHOW US YOUR BRITISH BOTTLE!" he barks in every chorus. It's like being drunk and tired in the back of a black cab, dozing off while the cab driver shouts his various grievances to you, then waking up again only to find that you've lost the thread of whatever the fuck he was talking about in the first place, and he's moved on to something else... then repeat to fade.

More disturbing still is the B-side, which was once played by Chris Morris on Radio One purely to bemuse the nation. Jameson's reading of the age-old chestnut "Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus" (we've covered Neil Spence's version elsewhere on this blog) is soft and woolly and reveals his sensitive side, and is a little like sitting on Uncle Del's knee and being told a story when he's slightly sozzled after the Queen's speech. "Uncle Derek, why are you crying? And why is there onion and sage stuffing secreted in your shirt pocket?" you would probably ask him.

Once Jameson's radio career came to an end, he settled down in Brighton and led a rather more sedate life, penning weekly columns for the Brighton Argus. In one of these, he hinted that should such a position ever be created for the town, he might like to become a directly elected mayor. "I'd sort the police out. No excuses from officials! No statistics! No saying we can't do it, there's not enough money! I'd say, 'Just get on with it, mate!' Yes, I think I'd like to be mayor!" was the general gist of the piece. Say whatever else you want, but you could never describe him as being anything less than fascinating and possibly a tiny bit ahead of his time. 2016 would have loved him, and he probably would have become mayor of somewhere, though probably not Brighton.


Richard said...

Bloody hell I remember actually buying this record for one of my friends as a joke birthday present. it was in the bargain bin of my local independent record shop and I paid no more than 25p for it. It may have even been the 12" single version that I bought(!) Anyway, I haven't heard it in years - it's really dreadful, but the memories it brings back are nice. So thank you!

23 Daves said...

No problem, I'm glad it's given some joy to someone's life! Staggered to learn it was released on 12" as well, but I've checked on Discogs and indeed it was. There was an "extended version" of the A-side. God knows what extra thoughts he had to share with us, but I'm not buying it (again) to check.

23 Daves said...

This blog entry seems to be getting visitors from other countries at the moment (mostly Americans, but some others). I'd love to know what on earth they make of this...

DJ PIGG said...

Not American, sorry, but I, too, was scarred by Jameson being on TV so much in the 80's.

This isn't nearly as bad a song as it might have been; at least he didn't do a comedy rap!

Reimer said...

I recall enjoying his 'Do They Mean Us?' TV series - wish it was on YT.

Thanks for all the more-ish goodies you tip out of your sack.