If you look through any summary of Adrian Goldberg's career, you'll find just what a versatile broadcast journalist he is - someone who, in his days on local BBC radio, could hold regional and national politicians to account whilst also being able to chat amicably with the public on a multitude of phone-in topics.
You will also find that beyond the confines of local radio, Goldberg has made documentaries for Radio 4 and 5 Live, presented on TalkSPORT, Watchdog, and The Politics Show, and now hosts both the investigative podcast 'Byline Times' and the 'Adventures in Music' show on Brum Radio. He is a very busy man!
What you are very unlikely to find is any detail on Goldberg's musical past, of his fronting of post-punk band Lockdown International, and of his recording of the rather splendid 'Batteries Not Included' (included on the 'UnScene' compilation) at the most rock 'n' roll of venues: Bournville Post Office.
It's time to talk to Adrian about those post-punk days...
Outsideleft: I think that people who know you as a journalist may be intrigued to find out about your musical past, so Adrian take us back to the early 80s and tell us more about Lowdown International?
Adrian Goldberg: We were just a bunch of kids from South Birmingham who took the DIY ethic of punk to our hearts. We all went to Kings Norton Boys School and bonded over punk badges. Most kids who were into music either liked straight pop music, or prog or metal. If you had a Damned or Jam badge in the playground it marked you out and kids like that naturally gravitated towards each other.
We did our first gig as The Beerstains at the Bournbrook in Selly Oak then through various personnel changes, we became The Lowdown (named after a Wire song) Lowdown International, Gold Medallion Slaughterhouse (my fave name) and Pigs On Purpose which Rob Lloyd borrowed for the first Nightingales album. We were unashamed Gales groupies and supported them at the Star Hotel in Shifnal which was our first out of town gig. Very exciting. In Brum, Lowdown International played at venues like the Star Club, Golden Eagle on Hill Street, the Barrel Organ, and the Punch Bowl in Quinton.
OL: Listening back to 'Batteries Not Included' 40 years on, what do you make of that (presumably) angry young man?
AG: It stands up better than I feared. There’s a musicality in there, some decent guitar work and great bass, let down by my dodgy vocals. I wouldn’t claim it’s a lost work of genius but I’m not ashamed of it either. I sang it a few years ago at mate’s birthday, and it’s a fun live song.
AG: My mate Sid the bassist found some old live stuff, and there are more tracks from the session but it’s not really studio-quality – very much “early demo” material.
OL: Stewart Lee's sleeve notes on the UnScene compilation mentions that '...unlike Manchester, Birmingham didn't have a Paul Morley to make its case for it in print, or a Tony Wilson to televise it and distribute its vinyl...' Is there some sadness in the fact there wasn't a 'scene' or that so few of the acts made it to an NME or John Peel level of recognition?
AG: The irony is that there WAS a scene. There was a proper congregation of bands around both the Star Club in Essex Street and the Fighting Cocks in Moseley. Some straddled both venues, others favoured one over the other, but the Nightingales were probably leaders of the pack and their modus operandi was to be uncommercial and unglamorous, which many of the bands took to heart – I know we did. There was also a desire by bands NOT to be seen to follow a trend (although many of us did). If you look at that period in Brum overall – not just the Un Scene people – you had artists who went mainstream and/or were very credible. Think of Steel Pulse, UB40, Duran Duran, Stephen Duffy, The Nightingales, Au Pairs who were all playing Brum in 80/81 and that matches any city’s output at the time. It’s true that we lacked a local champion in the music press and a Tony Wilson – who were both giants – but apart from Joy Division who I think are an all-time great band – the West Midlands DID turn out excellent artists with global appeal, even if they weren’t ‘cool’ enough for the fickle music press.
OL: (And as an addition to that), What were the Birmingham bands (on this compilation), that you'd make a special point of seeing live? Who should have reached an NME or John Peel level of recognition?
AG: I always felt Matthew Edwards’ Dance were a great band live, and The Hawks had some terrific songs. The Au Pairs were great at the start and The Prefects and Gales were always Peel favourites. The one band who maybe should have been on the compilation were the Noseflutes who did plenty of Peel sessions, and The Cravats from Redditch. There were others too like the Dancing Did from Worcestershire.
OL: When did you decide that making music should come to an end and the lure of journalism begin for you? Was it a gradual process?
AG: Very gradual. I had girlfriend trouble, wasn’t sure whether to go to uni or not (eventually, I did) and like a lot of people I hadn’t got a clue what I wanted to do. It took me two years in the NHS after university to finally get my act together and start writing.
OL: You're a busy man, the Byline Times Podcast tackles news issues in a fascinating way that the papers don’t, and the Adventures in Music programme is an eclectic mix of brilliant music and features. Care to tell us more about them...
AG: Byline Times flies the flag for independent journalism and challenges the abuses of power and money. I love making their podcast, and now run a twice weekly politics phone in as well via Twitter Spaces @bylineradio
I’d always wanted to present a radio show, but the BBC laughed at me because they couldn’t see beyond my politics and hard news background. More fool them. Brum Radio was happy to take me and they’ve been a brilliant supportive space.
OL: Finally and, apropos of nothing, I notice on Maria Wolonski's Twitter page that you're one of her followers, does that mean that you're, that rarest of things, a fan of Momus? And what Momus song do you think you could sneak onto your Brum Radio show?
I was never really into Momus until the great music journo John Robb talked me through a Creation Records retrospective. I’ve played him a few times now. I love the Hairstyle Of The Devil. Can I just say that I love Outsideleft too – great insight into music and culture! Thank you!
And with that, I bid goodbye to Adrian Goldberg, I'd recommend that you all listen to the Byline Times Podcast or his Adventures in Music but not, of course, until you've listened to 'Batteries Not Included' by Lowdown International.
The Byline Times podcast
Adventures in Music with Adrian Goldberg
Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
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