I got this message one day at work – someone had called up The Dominion Post looking for me (I have never worked “at” The Dominion Post, I write some reviews for them, so people assume I work there). They said they wanted to talk to me about being a music reviewer for the Good Morning TV show.
I figured I’d call them right back.
A day or so later I was driving out to Avalon – I was off to have a screen-test. I had three CDs with me (can’t remember what they were now). After a bit of waiting around I was given a quick rundown that I’d be talking to one of the hosts – I’d just have to adlib a bit of banter around the CDs, make like I knew what I was doing. Etc.
It was a fairly straightforward procedure but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I wanted to do a decent job. And I figured that if I got the call-back, got the tick, got the job, there’d be some money attached. Money is good. I don’t see a lot of it doing what I do…
Anyway, after a few days I did get a call. They did want me. I was to be the Good Morning TV show’s new music reviewer. I was to chat about music, live on air, every Monday morning.
Suddenly – without ever thinking it would even be something I wanted to do, much less ever thinking about trying to get an ‘in’ – I was on TV.
It was a bit of a laugh.
I talked about lots of New Zealand music and international music too – I reviewed albums. And I found that it was very different reviewing albums live on air, just talking. A lot different to writing down some thoughts. I guess I preferred the writing – but talking about music, on TV, was a fun new challenge.
Some weeks I reckon I did okay. Other times I dreaded to think. I never saw the first few weeks – and it’s probably just as well. A friend – who works in TV, behind the camera, told me when he saw it that I was a bit “wooden”. To be expected I guess. It made me glad I never saw those early appearances.
At the end of the first year on the box my dad sent me a DVD of all of my appearances on the show. Well, not quite all of them. But most of them. Some family member had remembered to set the DVD-R each week and had then made up a single disc.
I have that still. I haven’t ever watched it.
But I did set my own DVD-R some weeks. And I watched a few of the appearances – mostly it was so my wife could see it – she’d watch through a gap in her hands most weeks. Also a few friends that lived overseas, when they’d come back for a visit they were keen for a bit of a laugh.
I did okay – and was asked back for another year. And somewhere, sometime before the end of that first year I was in a park in Wellington. And a woman came up to me and said, “can I ask you a question?” I said sure. I figured she wanted to know where you could get a taxi from in that neck of the woods, or maybe she had a street name she was gonna run by me. But no, she suddenly got very nervous, and straight into it she launched, “I want to get my husband a CD for Christmas…” No other context. Just into it. Suggestions, please. I was the guy from the TV. Recognised in the street. A very odd feeling.
Then I went home for the Christmas holidays. Old ladies in the Farmers stores said hello to me.
No one I knew watched the show. They all had, well, ya know, jobs. They were out working – never watching morning TV. But back where my parents live it was a different story. It was a mild case of celebrity. Apparently. (Well, not really) Laughable of course. People I hadn’t talked to since high school were suddenly interested in what I was doing – they musta thought that I was getting a lot of money.
People love to rag on things like the Good Morning show. And hey, fair enough I guess. But the crew there were all great people, the ones I got to know. And they were good at their jobs, loved it. Worked hard. Had it nailed. Knew what they were doing. Made it all so easy.
I’d waltz in for the weekly chat and everything was under control – or if it wasn’t I never knew.
Being on TV was never a big deal for me – I simply saw it as a challenge, a new way to approach reviewing, a different way to have a voice as a reviewer. And it was light. A bit of fun. Infotainment.
I can’t remember how long I was on the Good Morning show but I racked up half a dozen years or so. I wasn’t fired as such – the show just moved from Wellington to Auckland. So they got a whole new team.
Some pretty cool things happened though, you know. You could meet a few famous people in the make-up room or the Green Room. There were plenty of great conversations you could have if you wanted them. And the chance to – now and then – meet someone that might really have been a big deal; or was touched by greatness, closer to greatness than you would ever be.
There was also the odd, awkward moment where someone would be glaring at me from the make-up chair next to where I was sitting. Mu from Fat Freddy’s Drop say. Or someone like that. Someone I might have just ragged on in the paper – or on my blog. Or on the show one week previous. They were there to do a live performance. I was there to do my review segment. And we would have the small-talk directed around us for a few minutes. I found this pretty funny. I hold no grudges. I just write stuff. The next day it’s gone – in the bin, or long ago page-refreshed. If it sticks around that’s not my fault. That’s your fault.
I never really went out of my way to meet people – I usually just left them to their stale biscuit and paper cup of tea. I’d skim-read the paper and eavesdrop a wee bit on some conversation.
But sometimes you’d have the chance to have a chat. You’d take it upon yourself. Or someone else would be facilitating a conversation and next thing you’re in there.
I got to say a few words to Ben Elton.
I met Muhammad Ali’s daughter.
One time I knew, ahead of schedule, that Ian Gillan of Deep Purple was going to be on the show. I rushed down to the second-hand record store to get a copy of Machine Head (I only had it on CD at the time). I don’t usually take albums with me to get them signed, I probably should do it more often. But I was definitely keen to have an Ian Gillan signature.
When I got to the set that day the show’s host asked me if I wouldn’t mind sitting in on the interview. Could I sit down next to her and throw in a question or two to keep things moving along.
That was pretty cool.
A lot cooler though was the informal interview off camera. Gillan chatted to me for ages – and he was so nice. And it was my very great pleasure to feel, in some sense, like I was actually meeting him. Not just the stiff phoner or the live-to-air meek-and-mild chit-chat, the stock answers, the predictable questions. I gave him the record to sign and he was impressed that it was a record – an LP. He’d signed a few CDs for a competition and for one or two of the crew. Then he started to examine the record and I was hoping he wouldn’t look inside. Because inside the sleeve there was a message from one family member to another – and it gave the game away, proved that this hadn’t been my record. That I’d only just acquired it recently. And “To Joe from Glenda” or whatever it said didn’t really line up with my “Machine Head is my favourite Deep Purple record” story, or whatever it was I would have said to him. I think that was the single most nervous I had ever been on/around the set of Good Morning.
Keith Quinn was a regular on the show too – talking sports of course. But we had a roving conversation, one that went across many years, about music. It was often centred around The Beatles. Keith is a fanatic. He was always so great to speak with – I got a real kick out of talking to him.
Nothing stands out to me as remarkable about the work I did. I just turned up and talked a bit of shit for five minutes. Sometimes it was longer than that; sometimes it wasn’t even five minutes. It was usually a bit of a hoot and I guess I got better at it – more confident or whatever – as the years ticked over.
I don’t really have any desire to do it again.
But I realise now that it was actually a really fun thing to be involved in – a great learning experience in so many ways, for so many reasons.
I get the call up quite often to speak on radio these days (probably it’s because I have the face for it, rather than for TV). Sometimes, a couple of times, now and then, I’ve been back on TV, interviewed for segments on the news or Breakfast or Good Morning (I was interviewed on the Auckland version of the show, the current version, when my book was released a couple of years back). I never have an issue fronting up to have a chat. And it all comes from that experience of having to do it, of fronting up for those review-segments. Of learning a new skill. Live. In front of whoever was watching.
I never planned to be on TV talking about music. But it was almost always fun. And it’s only now that I realise I was pretty lucky. Oh, and the money was appreciated. Of course. But it wasn’t really that great. But then, it never really is. And you never really do it for (just) that.
TV Shows That Meant The World To Me started life as a weekly series on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page