Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Magic touch

At my house, there's a worn out copy of Micky Flanagan's stand up tour 'Back in the Game' on DVD, which I stick on occasionally when I could do with a laugh. Last week, after coming to the end of my latest Netflix binge and not being in the mood for the gloom and gore of Peaky Blinders, I put it on once again. This time, thankfully, I wasn't watching in the presence of my Nan (I'm hoping the part in which he demonstrates tea bagging a vicar went over her head...).

Anyway, midway through, post tea-bagging, there's a part where Micky shares what he calls one of the best discoveries of his adult life. And what was it exactly?

"Magic. F. M."

Yep, that's the Magic FM home to "More Music. Less Talk", former employer of dodgy DJ Neil Fox and purveyor of never-ending cheesy tunes. After a quick burst of Oleta Adams' Get Here If You Can (a Magic classic, as any listener will know), Micky adds: “You’re untouchable with Magic.” Even after the news bulletin details the world's latest terrible catastrophe, he points out, it's straight back in there with "When I wake up in the morning loooove...".

Watching this, I was reminded that Micky and I have more than just the dropping of our Ts in common. Because Magic FM has almost certainly been one of the best discoveries of my life too. Admittedly, my love for it comes under the category of things I can’t quite explain, like my post-War and Peace crush on Paul Dano, or love of watching YouTube videos of spots being squeezed. It’s not exactly revolutionary, after all. There's only so many times you can listen to Bonnie Tyler without your ears starting to bleed. It’s definitely not cool. And it doesn’t define your music taste, either. It’s just...there. It is to life what ketchup is to a bacon sandwich…cracking without, but with, it adds a certain something (not spice, that's for sure).

Life is full of changes, fads and phases. I no longer care quite so much for Hello Kitty as my 13 year old self. I've given up my childhood ambition to work on the counter of WH Smiths (as the step mum in Juno would say, "WOAH dream big"). I don't particularly like half the clothes hanging up in my wardrobe. But if there's one constant in life, it's Magic.

I love the dulcet tones of the one and only Angie Greaves on Mellow Magic. I'm very fond of the Ten at Ten, the ad-free treat which reminds me of being driven back from somewhere in the dark, drowsily watching the lights flash by through windows speckled with glassy beads of English rain, She's Like the Wind or Careless Whisper my appropriately wishy washy soundtrack. But most of all, I love how it somehow even manages to provide even the most ordinary of evenings with a certain romance.

Speaking of which, I had my first Infernos experience recently (bear with me here). I’d heard the rumours about this questionable establishment in Clapham, as most Londoners surely have, but didn’t think it could be quite as bad as expected. Oh, how wrong I was.

Cheese I can tolerate, as the subject of this very newsletter demonstrates, but Cotton Eye Joe is a Eurodance step too far. But, as my friend and I finally managed to escape the horror of the dance floor and piled into our Uber to be shuttled back south east, we were greeted by a familiar sound. Mamma Cass started up, and we warbled along to Dream a Little Dream as well as you'd imagine after a night spent downing anesthetizing gins. A pretty tragic scene, of course. But suddenly, all was well with the world again. However shit your night was, there’s always the welcoming embrace of Magic FM.

No matter whether it's a cheesy club or a house party where they’ve been blasting techno all night you're emerging from, and the steely silence of your driver is all you get in return for your enthusiastic greeting – desperation for a good rating and intoxicants combined – the dulcet tones of Magic will swaddle you like a baby, somehow turning an intimidatingly shiny new Audi into a comforting cocoon.

Most of the music Magic plays is the epitome of the universally loathed ‘easy listening’ genre. It probably doesn’t bring you back to a specific time in your life, or cause you to go misty-eyed remembering some important musical awakening. In fact, for some people, it’s the soundtrack to some of their worst times – like working a soul-crushing minimum wage job with middle-aged women who have the radio permanently tuned to it, or sitting at the dentist's waiting to have a couple of wisdom teeth taken out.

But it’s this very background nature of Magic that I love: It’s the soundtrack of trips to the corner shop. The building site you pass on your way to the station. Local charity shops, and caf├ęs that definitely don't feature avocado on the menu. I don’t particularly seek it out these days, but whenever I snatch a glimpse of Magic playing somewhere, it reminds me of home, and where I’ve come from, and how certain things will always be there, on the sidelines, even if you're not always thinking about them or looking for them.

Like I said, life is full of changes, fads, and phases. But there’s always going to be a little bit of magic.