Why yes, we all are. Now more than ever! With this past month of finally crawling slowly out of the pandemic shell shock on varying levels, it’s good to keep looking and listening for that bit of happenstance pandemonium that will keep you going. You know, uplift your spirit when the politics are on serious scary retro revolution mode. What better place than to hit up Simon Philo’s shows, Children of the Revolution on Radio Free Matlock (UK) First Thursdays, and The Sweet Spot, bi-weekly on Stranger Radio in New York. He’s also agreed to clue us in on the music of Pop in Society! Oh, yes he actually does teach a course on this very subject, talk about a dream teaching job. OH, not to forget, he wrote a book on one of my favorite periods, GLAM!
What possessed you to create not one but two radio shows?
Always been obsessed with all kinds of pop music. I always wanted to find ways of channeling this life-long passion into something tangible. Used to make ‘radio shows’ as a kid – which only my long-suffering parents got to hear besides me. In my job as a university professor of American Studies I made it my ‘mission’ to include music on my classes wherever possible. Eventually got to write a couple of music books – see below. In 2017 I started teaching a degree course in Popular Music in Society – the only one of its kind in the UK. But, despite all this, I still wanted to do more ‘pop business’, and when my wife spotted that a local internet radio station – Radio Free Matlock – were open to show proposals, I took the plunge. In January 2019, after a 40-year wait, I finally realised my childhood dream and got to present the first episode of Children of the Revolution – a show that plays tracks from any and every genre from between 1969 and 1982. And then in July of that year, I also started my powerpop show The Sweet Spot on the NY-based station, Stranger Radio.
What are some future projects you may be developing?
Nothing cast-iron right now. Only been doing the radio work for 18 months. But I would like to find ways of building the Pop Society ‘family’ of shows. Watch this space!
What has been your greatest challenge in keeping your broadcast full of great content?
Time, or the lack of. Full-time ‘proper’ job, family-life, grown-up stuff, etc.
Have you met any of your music heroes as a result of your publishing and shows?
Met a very drunk Marco Pironi at the Louder Than Words music and literature festival in Manchester a few years back. I’d presented the case for glam rock in a mock ‘heavy-weight boxing bout’ that pitted glam against prog, and unbeknownst to me Marco and his missus were in the audience. As we went for a post-match beer, I was introduced to Mr. Pironi, who it turns out was very pleased that glam had ‘won’ and also made it very clear that failure on my part was not an option! I also met punk icon Jordan at the same event. Although not at the venue but in a local Pret A Manger, where we both reached for the sole remaining sandwich at the same time. I graciously deferred to her, and we proceeded to have a very pleasant chat about the Pistols, Adam Ant, the chaos post-Grundy TV interview, etc. Charming lady.
Any great followers you were astounded checked you out? Listened in to your show?
Bobby Bluebell (Robert Hodgens) listens in, and in fact kindly donated a live Bluebells’ cover of ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ for a fund-raising LP RFM put together last year. (Although copyright issues meant that, sadly, it didn’t make the final cut.) I’ve also had ‘likes’ from Nick Heyward, Steel Pulse, and Midge Ure – all of whom appear to handle their own social media accounts. My powerpop show plays plenty of new music, and as a result featured bands from both sides of the Atlantic, e.g. Transonics, Garlands and Project Revise, ‘follow’ me and listen in.
Anything you can tell us about your daily routine to stay sane in our current global lockdown? How have your music habits been affected? Any adaptations you want to share?
I’ve continued to work full-time, delivering classes, etc on-line. So, I’ve been as busy as usual, if not even busier. I have though put my recently acquired broadcasting ‘skills’ to good use by turning lectures into podcasts. Working from home has meant I listen to music pretty much 24/7. And because they have been building a new house next door, I’ve been grading papers with headphones on to cancel out the noise!
What media, blogs, or Zines are you obsessed with right now?
I don’t watch TV. So I am always on the look-out for great radio or podcast content. My current favourite podcast is The Bugle.
Where can people discover your media or publication?
Children of the Revolution can be found on radiofreematlock.co.uk (and via Alexa, Simple Radio app, smart radios) – first Thursday of every month, 8-10pm (UK)
The Sweet Spot can be found on strangerradio.com – fortnightly on Tuesdays, 9-11pm (UK)
Books British Invasion: The Cross-Currents of Musical Influence (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) Glam Rock: Music in Sound and Vision (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018)
Writer and Radio Show Host as consumer questions:
The first record bought?
Sweet, “Teenage Rampage” (1974)
How did you listen to new music when you were young?
Radio (Radio 1, Radio Luxemburg)
Vinyl and cassette
First gig you went to? Who were you with and what did you wear? Did you pick up gear (Badges, teeshirt, posters, setlist, still have ticket stub?)
U2, January 1983 at the Birmingham Odeon. I went with some school friends. Picked up a ‘War’ Tour sleeve-less (?!) T-shirt.
Favorite bands or artists in your youth?
Boomtown Rats were my first love. Then, in my late teens, got into the Cure, the Smiths and Psychedelic Furs.
Your favorite new artist/s?
Kurt Baker – not new, but new to me!
What Twitter or other social media accounts are you hooked on lately?
Scottish Post-Punk (@ScotsPostPunk)
Favorite music venues?
De Montfort Hall, Leicester. Birmingham Symphony Hall.
What would be your fantasy gig if space and time continuum allowed?
T Rex in 1972.
Thank you Simon, looking forward to more great adventures from you! Just a sample PowerPop lesson here.