Mark this man’s words

Mark Radcliffe
Mark Radcliffe
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BEFORE he lands in Sheffield this weekend airwaves legend Mark Radcliffe would like to point out he doesn’t tout himself as “probably the best-loved radio DJ in the UK”.

We’re referring to a website listing The Greystones has of him for his gig on Saturday.

“I didn’t put that – that’s Kit who does the Greystones thing and she’s biased,” he laughs.

“A lot of people like the programmes that I do, a lot of people absolutely don’t and the vast majority of people aren’t bothered. How would you possibly measure it?

“I go to sleep at night rather hoping I’m not the most despised radio DJ in the country. I can think of much better contenders for that title than me. I’m not going to give you any names, clearly.”

Back on 6 Music after a festive break – “the country’s not going to grind to a halt, is it” – Mark is appearing alongside Chris Lee, colleague in his band of 14 years, The Family Mahone, a “sort of folk-rock thing” that celebrated The Pogues, among other things.

“That was quite a big band, very raucous, lots of kind of drinking songs. We wrote and recorded three albums,” says Mark, who also won fame for his band The Shirehorses with former Radio 1 cohort Lard.

“A lot of shows I did with Mahone, there was a lot of talking, so there’d be six people in a band hanging around while I finished what I was saying.

“That seemed daft so we thought we’d do something more informal and chatty, hangover songs with two guitars, much more downbeat.”

Folk legend Martin Simpson, now an S11 resident and MC for the night, and promoter wife Kit, asked pal Mark and Chris to play what could be their final gig for a while.

“I generally know what songs I’m gonna do and some of the things I’m going to talk about. I like talking to people there and seeing how it goes,” Mark says of the format.

“I read a couple of bits from my most recent book, Reelin’ In The Years. We know vaguely what we’re doing, but I like it to be slightly loose. It’s hard to classify what it is really.

“It’s definitely not stand-up comedy and not a recital.

“I have a great love and affection for Billy Connelly, Mike Harding and Jasper Carrott, those guys who invented alternative comedy just by the rambling stories and introductions to folk songs at clubs. I’m not remotely putting myself in that league, let me make that quite clear, but I always loved where people would introduce the songs and tell you the story behind them.

“Obviously, sometimes, that can be stultifyingly boring, but other times it can be really engaging and give you more insight and enjoyment of the song.

“Sometimes the introductions became more interesting than the songs themselves. As with all these things it’s sleight of hand; the trick is making it look like you just thought of it.”

Just don’t expect Mark to be quitting the radio mic any time soon.

“One feeds into the other,” he says. “I always wanted to be in a band more than I wanted to be on the radio. I don’t now, I love being on the radio; I’ve come round to it after 30 years.

“I always loved music and thought if I could possibly earn a living by doing something connected with it I would happily forgo riches or a lucrative career in favour of something I enjoyed.

“Mercifully I’ve sort of been able to do both.

“I have a comfortable life and as everybody I meet says ‘It’s not real work, is it’ and in a way it isn’t.”

Support on Saturday is from Sheffield singer Kirsty Bromley. “I don’t know her stuff at all,” adds Mark. “She’d better not be any good or she’ll be better than us.”

For future shows from Bright Phoebus and to check on tickets for this one, join the mailing list at info@brightphoebus.com