Summer Festival at Radio Leighton

7.37-8.37pm: Duration 1hr 1m 17s

My show includes a musical reference related to a major news item, three birthday artists spanning a wide range of music genres, a new song from Neil Diamond’s latest album Melody Road and a current top ten hit from the UK charts.



Linking Lyrics Theme: Pluto (news)


Rarity Record of the Week: 3. TORNADOS with TRIP TO PLUTO

The New Horizons mission successfully made a fly past Pluto at lunchtime on Tuesday 14th July. The close encounter with the dwarf planet came within about 8000 miles of Pluto’s surface as New Horizons hurtled past at approximately 31,000 mph. The first message sent back from the craft took 4 hrs 25 mins to traverse 4.7 billion kilometres of space. The arrival of this data indicated that the New Horizons craft had survived the encounter intact. Other mission data will take even longer to arrive as New Horizons continues its journey away from Pluto. New Horizons is the fastest craft to have left the Earth’s orbit and has travelled the furthest distance across space.

Birthday: Professor DAME JOCELYN BELL BURNELL astronomer & astrophysicist 72

  2. NEIL DIAMOND with (OOO) DO I WANNA BE YOURS (from new album Melody Road)

Birthday: TREVOR HORN 66 record producer-co-writer, vocalist, percussionist for…


Birthday: LINDA RONSTADT 69 country singer


Birthday: JULIAN BREAM 82 guitarist & lute player

  2. BIRDY with WINGS (UK chart no. 8 on 12th July 2015)

You can listen to the show here:

Neil Diamond World Tour 2015

On July 11th 2015 I eagerly travelled to Birmingham for a Neil Diamond concert in the Genting Arena. Formerly called the LG Arena the venue has a surprisingly spacious feel to it with a hint of intimacy as well. I had a “cheap seat” but with a great view, being situated at the opposite end of the arena directly in line with the stage, not too high up and midpoint between the video screens. The stage was simply set with the silhouette of a huge diamond back drop from which Neil emerged to huge applause at 8.15pm. For the next 2 hours and ten minutes the crowd were entertained by a set that spanned virtually fifty years of song writing. As always Neil Diamond highlighted what a consummate performer he is and it was a huge privilege as always to hear his distinct dulcet tones sounding as strong and emotive as ever.

Beginning with the cheery I’m A Believer Neil moved effortlessly into the more heart rending Love on the Rocks and Hello Again. Pretty Amazing Grace followed which I’ve always thought is a stunning piece of work with the feel of a ball-room dance tune woven within it. Then came the full repertoire of Diamond’s songs full of storytelling about growing up, falling and feeling love, loneliness and heartache. Lyrics that are poetic yet easily understood with rhythms that pulsate with emotions of joy, sorrow, fun and empathy. The poet revels himself in Play Meyou are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, play me”. When Neil sang back to back Shilo and Brooklyn Roads he recalled the story of his upbringing and having an imaginary friend called Shilo. This was a wonderful way for the couple to my left side and the lady to my right side to be introduced to Neil, as none of them had ever seen him perform before. That intimate simple story-telling immediately gave the audience a better affinity with Neil and in this concert the feeling was elevated further. The backdrop diamond suddenly became a movie screen as images of Neil growing up flickered from home movies his father had made. I marvelled at the technology we now have that probably made possible the digitisation of those irreplaceable fragile movie reels.

Three songs from the latest album Melody Road were performed around the mid-point of the show. It was fascinating to hear how The Art of Love took Neil over five years to write the 150 words that took only three minutes to sing. I got the distinct feeling that the album was the fruition of songs that Diamond had been trying to express for some time, but hadn’t been in the right frame of mind to put down before. This album has a different feel to me as it seems to find Neil in a more melancholic, introspective mood, yet there remains an identifiable “Diamondesque” element within several songs. (OOO) Do I Wanna Be Yours makes me think of an epic Greek poem with a languid yet gorgeous harmonic melody, and to hear it live on a warm summer’s evening was wonderful, the song just washed over you. Later there was a reference to the legendary “Hot August Night” concerts of the 1970s when the rousing tribal Soolaimon and the pseudo religious Holly Holy rocked the auditorium. I Am…I Said concluded the main part of the show and Neil returned a couple of minutes later to thunderous applause for his encore. By this point I think just about everyone was on their feet to bop to Cracklin’Rosie and Sweet Caroline. Brother Love kept the groove going whilst Heartlight quietened the mood before the life-affirming sound of hope that is America. The British and American flags appeared on the video screens and an eagle soared above the stage thanks to the diamond back drop screen capabilities. A wonderful (though some might say corny) image to finish a vintage show, and as Neil departed the stage I couldn’t help wonder if this would be his swan song concert tour. I hope not, but what an incredible legacy of music he has shared with his fans.

 Song List of 29 (not in strict order): Main Show– I’m A Believer; Love On The Rocks; Hello Again; Pretty Amazing Grace; Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon; The Best Part of Me; Kentucky Woman; You Got To Me; Beautiful Noise; Play Me; If You Know What I Mean; Red, Red Wine; Solitary Man; Brooklyn Roads; Shilo; Nothing But A Heartache; (OOO) Do I Wanna Be Yours; The Art of Love; Song Sung Blue; Forever In Blue Jeans; Cherry, Cherry; Soolaimon; Holly Holy; I Am… I Said. Encore-Cracklin’ Rosie; Sweet Caroline; Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show; Heartlight; America.

Neil Diamond World Tour program. Image credit abmj
Neil Diamond World Tour program. Image credit abmj

Remembering 7/7/2005

The city of London won the honour to host the 30th Olympiad on the 6th of July 2005. My husband Rob knowing I had already volunteered at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, read my mind when he said “you’ll want to get involved I suppose”. So the next morning (7/7) he registered my volunteer interest online, whilst I travelled on an early morning National Express bus to London, with the intention of seeing the matinee of Billy Elliot the Musical. The bus was late running by an hour but I was not unduly concerned, as I had given myself plenty of time between arriving in London and the start of the show. However, I never got to see Billy that day, as the 7th of July 2005 would become synonymous with multiple bombings occurring around the city. News of these terrible events began filtering through (via text and mobile phone messages) to people on the coach with me. We travelled as far as Luton airport before our driver was instructed to stop and turn back. He was a bit shaken up because he realised that had he not been late running, he would have been driving through an area affected by the bombings and probably diverted as a result. He knew the diversion could well have taken him past Russell Square, at about the time of the bus bomb! So he wasn’t in any mood to go on but London had effectively shut down for the remainder of the day anyway. Many if not all the theatres closed for business, including the Victoria Palace showing Billy Elliot.

For both Rob and I the news of the bus bomb at Russell Square was particularly unnerving. We know that area very well, as the “cheap and cheerful” County Hotel we used regularly is almost next door to the British Medical Association building, where the bus bomb had detonated. We were due to stay at The County on the evening of 7th July because of my theatre plans and Rob was due to give a seminar the next morning. Of course we never got to the hotel as I didn’t reach my destination, and Rob could not physically get to London by public transport on the evening of 7/7. But undeterred Rob was on the 0711 train from Crewe to London on the 8th to give his talk at the Royal Institution later that morning.

On the evening of August 2nd 2005 I did eventually see Billy Elliot the musical, and it was wonderful. Having read about Rob Lowe doing “A Few Good Men” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket during the autumn, I secured my ticket for a 20th September show the next day. I later read in a newspaper interview that Rob Lowe had been finalising his plans for travelling to London when news of the bombings had broken. He could have backed out of doing the show, but stated that had he done so “the bad guys would have won. The way to beat them is to carry on”. I couldn’t have agreed more.

As I reflect on the events of ten years ago it is a sobering thought to know that had my National Express bus NOT been delayed by an hour, I may well have been caught up in the middle of the atrocities. I should have been dropping off my over-night bag at the County Hotel around the time of the bus-bomb! Talking of my “near miss” with an old school teacher friend a couple of months later, I discovered her son’s partner had been on a tube train just a minute behind one that had been blown up. Mrs Mitchell emotionally remarked “to think I may have known two people involved in those awful atrocities”. Thankfully that hour and that minute made all the difference.

I did get to be a Gamesmaker for the London 2012 Olympics and I’m happy to report that my friend’s son married his partner and they have two lovely children now. But I know that none of us touched by the events of 7/7 will never forget those 52 souls lost on that summer’s day. There but by the grace of God go I……

Cinema “Live Event” TAKE THAT Concert 19th June 2015

The three remaining members of Take That Gary, Mark and Howard put on an incredible two hour set from the O2 Arena in London. As it was our first ever Take That concert my husband and I didn’t quite know what to expect, as we took our seats at a local cinema surrounded by obvious die-hard fans. Although we only knew a handful of songs performed by the group we were sucked into an amazingly joyful musical experience, and came out with huge grins on our faces and our hearts gladdened in some way. I’ve been to several concerts and this one ranks as one of the best seen, so well done Take That and thank you for entertaining us so beautifully.

As instructed we took our seats around 8pm for the scheduled 8.20pm start, although there possibly may have been a warm-up act just finishing, as the audience was let into the auditorium. For twenty minutes before the group appeared on stage at 8.40pm there was some odd action going on around the stage, bicycles, a man running inside a wheel and raincoat clad walkers! There may have been some significance to it all perhaps related to album themes or such like, but to Take That novices it went over our heads I’m afraid. It was enough to give us a sense of the atmosphere from London and to realise the view seen would be like sitting on stage with the group. We saw the guys preparing to get on stage and then to a huge cheer from everyone they emerged onto the concert platform. From that point on it was two hours of none stop action, dance, brilliant harmonics, musical genius and sheer showmanship. Absolutely fantastic and a complete surprise!

When Take That were first around both my husband and I knew their sound because it was everywhere in the early nineties. They were number one in the charts with Everything Changes the day we married on April 16th 1994. Both of us would say we didn’t dislike them but we weren’t a particularly big fan either. Then when they reformed and released Patience I suddenly sat up and took notice. Until then I hadn’t realised just how good Gary Barlow’s voice was, so I paid a bit more attention to their new stuff.

During the concert I recognised five of their newer songs, Greatest Day, Patience, Rule the World, Shine and The Flood. It was distinctly noticeable with The Flood that the group was a trio now, because Robbie Williams had joined his four former band-members to release The Flood for the charts. Although the three on stage did a nice job on the vocals neither Mark or Howard had a strong enough voice to fill in Robbie’s shoes. But it was the only time during the whole show I was aware of only three voices, as the five oldest songs were performed with aplomb with dance moves to match. The die-hard fans around us matched the guys with synchronised moves as Relight My Fire, Never Forget, Pray and Could It Ne Magic rang out.

Many of the songs performed came from the group’s latest album III with a sprinkling of lesser known ones from various other albums. We were on the internet over the weekend trying to identify them and largely succeeded I’m pleased to say. From The Circus album we particularly enjoyed The Garden and Up All Night. I played both of these in my hospital radio show a few days after the concert. The Garden is simply beautiful with lyrics that highlight the maturity of the band and Up All Night is a quirky happy song with a country-and-western vibe to it. My husband remarked “the key-changes in this are remarkable. God they are good musicians”. For another song the comment was “the harmonics they are singing are incredible”. Praise indeed from a man who can be hard to please from a musical perspective. Affirmation from their Progress album had connotations of electro-pop music from Kraftwerk and the clever use of the ELO intro going into Shine didn’t go unnoticed either. But much of the unexpected joy came from the III album songs which were completely unknown to us. Catchy tunes that just drew you in, where you couldn’t help yourself tap the toes drum the fingers and bop the head. We just smiled at these and muttered “downloads and album buys a must”. Stand out songs performed included These Days, Let In The Sun, Portrait, I Like It and Get Ready For It. I was also particularly struck by a lovely ballad sung by Gary which I’ve worked out could be Flaws. Gary dressed in black sang from the mid-point of the stage whilst the others in black skin-tight trousers and white vest danced on the flanks. Mark and Howard’s contemporary dance with the faintest whiff of ballet in places complemented the plaintive vocals of Gary simply and beautifully. I know the guys in the past did choreographed moves but this was a more mature and raw performance, highlighting again the growth of the group from boys to men. Their vocals, musical awareness and stage presence were a joy to behold.

An abiding memory for me will be Rule the World which closed the main part of the show (followed by encore Shine and Never Forget). The stage was bathed in light but the main arena was in darkness except for hundreds of small lights waved in unison from audience members. As I looked around the scene was replicated in the cinema as those wonderful lyrics enveloped me. It was a beautiful moment I will cherish.

Me with Robbie & Jason (missing members!). Image credit abmj
Me with Robbie & Jason (missing members!). Image credit abmj