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24th May 2012 - I try to rule Britannia & other stuff

I get some weird jobs at times.

Imagine pretending to be David Beckham, George Clooney, Del Boy, Bruce Forsyth, Prince Harry, Eric Cantona & others one after the other, reading the sort of suggestive stuff that Blind Date contestants would have turned their nose up at for going ‘too far’ and then to cap it all, having to fake the noises a red-blooded male makes in the throes of passion – and then follow that up with another session elsewhere in Soho where I play an Irish priest, an Eastern European hitman and an Indian gangster, and once again have to delve deep into my imagination and assimilate the heavy breathing of said Eastern European hitman whilst having it off with a femme fatale who subsequently knifes him to death.

I needed a wash after all that.

Such is the random nature of a job as an occasional voiceover artist – is that suffering for your art? Maybe not, and there are far worse jobs out there to be fair, but it’s still a weird feeling to get paid for saying “Mange Tout, Mange Tout!” or sounding disturbingly like a bloke who sits in ‘those’ kind of dimly lit cinemas.

But hey-ho…as uncomfortable as those voice sessions were for a fleeting moment (through no fault of the innocent producers charged with the task of committing this stuff to tape, of course!) I was singularly unprepared for the 3rd working instalment of my day, namely reports on Stevenage vs. Sheffield United at the Lamex stadium for talkSPORT– a game so poor and devoid of interest that the opportunity to indulge in some sex noises would have proved a welcome distraction. It was that bad. Stevenage have been known as a direct team, so their approach was no great surprise – however for Sheffield United to fight fire with fire rendered the spectacle as a total turn-off rather than turn-on.

Fully expected things to improve after half time, but nope! Instead the tedium just intensified. I started calculating whether this was indeed the worst game I’d ever been sent by a radio station to cover. My mind drifted back to a freezing February night in 2006 when I ‘witnessed’ Stoke v Plymouth in the Championship – a frighteningly bad game, made worse by it being in my pre-thermals days, when I was plonkerish enough to think that a 2nd pair of socks and a vest would be enough to fight off the cold wind that blew (as it always does – even in August) right through the Britannia Stadium. Good job it wasn’t a cup-tie that could go to extra time. Dire.


It was nice to see my old compadre Gary from Dressed To Kill in-between voiceover sessions in London for a quick catch-up. The poor bloke has been suffering with what at first appeared to be a very sore throat but was in actual fact nodules on the throat, affecting his ability to sing as Gene Simmons in the KISS tribute that is now in it’s 21st year. Despite being under doctor’s orders not to try even the slightest “Oww-Yeahhh?” for the next few months whilst he can recover, Gary’s still going out there and playing the shows, asking his band mates to cover his vocal parts and slanting the setlist away from Gene songs at the same time.

Thankfully 99% of the paying punters, having been made aware of his predicament, are fully supportive of him continuing onstage rather than cancel shows – and before you wonder, you can’t just come in and cover for a Gene Simmons bloke in a KISS tribute band – which obviously means the other guys can’t earn money for months.

It’s the 1% who always baffle me – the ones who opine that they’ve been short-changed or denied the show they’d paid to see. And trust me, KISS fans will pick up on the slightest thing to have a whinge about. One night post-show, our ‘Paul Stanley’ (Ash) was mixing with the audience somewhere having photos taken and thanking those who’d come out to see us, when a bloke came up wearing some kind of obscure KISS t-shirt and said. “Brilliant show, mate – loved every minute, really did…but…”

“Oh, did we miss out your fave tune?” wondered Ash in response

“No, no..”

“Was there not enough pyro? I know the gerbs didn’t go off in the drum solo when they were supposed to but…”

“No, no – none of that. All that was amazing…”

“So, what’s bothering you, then mate?”

“Well…see the thing is…you…I don’t think… to be honest…you’ve not got enough chest hair, mate”

“Right…see you later then.”

That’s what you have to deal with sometimes.


Played in the annual Stoke City media match the other day – organised by those at the club to thank the press guys that come and write or broadcast about the Potters week in week out. This was my 3rd outing at this occasion, and I have to say that the Britannia Stadium playing surface – for it is there that the game is always held – was a dream to play on. Proper billiard table standard. There were a few snide remarks that Stoke City should try and take advantage of such a lush surface sometimes, rather than…well, you know.

My playing career never got above the dizzy heights of Yew Tree Athletic in the South Birmingham Sunday League, but I’ve never pretended I was a world-beater and have always loved a kickabout as we all do. By half time, that love was rapidly evaporating in the early evening sunshine…for the press team were 5-0 down. Actually that’s a lie – we were still having a great time and nowhere near as serious about it as you might expect. That’s not to say that we weren’t desperate to at least win the 2nd half as we limped back out.

And 25 seconds into the 2nd half…we were 6-0 down.

But, despite that spawny sixth goal, we started to build up a head of steam, I began to control midfield with a precision that would’ve had Trevor Brooking taking notes, and the comeback was on…6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, 6-5…!!! We were flying, the Stoke City media team must’ve put mogadon in their Lucozade Sport during the break and it seemed there was only one winner with 10 minutes to play. We promptly won 2 penalties…which were both subsequently saved. And 6-5 it remained. Oh well.

When I worked at Musical Exchanges guitar shop in Brum during the 90’s we had a football team who used to play local rehearsal studios and the like 3 or 4 times a year. During a spell when I was injured (tore medial knee ligaments kicking the ball at the same time as Ross from punk band GBH in a match against Muthers rehearsal studios) I became unofficial MX team’s manager, and was quickly christened Harry Cliché.

I don’t think we won a single game whilst I was ‘in charge’ but we used to have such a laugh losing. One game against Robannas studios took place on a Monday night at the Hadley Stadium Astroturf pitch in Bearwood that we sometimes used. Garry the MX general manager – and an absolute spit for Italia ’90 hero Toto Schillachi in a dim light – came up with the idea of having me commentate on the game from the sidelines as I was still hobbling about with my dodgy knee and my management technique from the touchline was being summarily ignored by all concerned. Quite wisely too if I remember correctly

A battery powered PA was commandeered on my behalf, and as the players kicked in before the start, I even went round the Robannas players one by one taking their full names (I knew most but hadn’t a clue about their ‘ringers’) just so that my ensuing commentary sounded more informed.

The game kicked off and I was doing my best Motty for the benefit of, well, hardly anybody really – just the players plus several relatives & interested onlookers stationed on some concrete seating behind the one goal. They included Pete Brazil, whose young son Karl (now an internationally renowned drummer for James Blunt/Robbie Williams) was patrolling midfield, and having quite a good game as it went. I sensed my chance for the sort of stat Motty would be proud of;

“Karl Brazil there, with another extraordinary, stirring run you have to say…I believe his father’s in the stadium watching this – he must be so proud…”

The game had to stop for 2 minutes – everyone was pissing themselves too much to play. I think that was a moment when I started to realise that there was something in this ‘impersonating football people’ lark. Sadly, though, the opportunity for any further quality one-liners was curtailed by a nearby resident who complained about the noise from the PA. Gutted, we shut it down…and promptly lost again.

I don’t remember getting sacked though – more moved upstairs…to manage the keyboard department as it goes…kind of a technical director I suppose. Well, keyboards are technical aren’t they? ;o)

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