The mission: Matthew Sweet tries to give away copies of Simon Bates's autobiography. Scarily, one man takes two

There he was, sandwiched between

Roland Barthes and Alexandra

Bastedo, his little eyes twinkling from behind an enormous pair of Reactolite Rapides. Simon Bates, My Tune: an Autobiography, Virgin Books, pounds 14.99. Or in this case, Bargain Books, 99p. But was it possible to give the book away? This was the object of my mission. And after buying 25 copies, I will now be able to ask for haemorrhoid cream at the chemist in basso profondo. "You'll need a box for those," ventured the shop assistant. "Are you in the fan club?" she enquired, as I staggered out on to the street with 16lb of Batesiana. "Is there one?" I asked, brightly.

The title, of course, refers to Simes's "Our Tune" slot on Radio 1, in which listeners sent in accounts of their private miseries and innermost torments, and urged him to read them out on air to 11 million listeners. In his Hush Puppies-and-brown-Dralon voice, he would retell stories of Strindbergian agony, his narration souped up by the "Love Theme" from Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet: "Jean died of bowel cancer on Christmas Eve, but Gavin knew in his heart that she was a special kind of lady. And now here's 'The Final Countdown' by Europe." That was the kind of thing. It was the last word in coffee-time lachrymosity, and a broadcasting phenomenon.

Unfortunately, My Tune was less successful. It's not a terrible book, exactly. Its author comes across as a likeable man at ease with his own lack of obvious talents. "I have never been, nor want to be credible," he says, touchingly, on page 17. His story is about as interesting as you would expect from a man who's spent most of his professional life playing Crystal Gale records in a windowless room.

As for getting rid of these books, two possible strategies presented themselves. I could try the Hare Krishna method, and stand outside the Virgin Megastore making quiet advances towards impressionable types. Or I could walk up to Oxford Circus and hawk my wares with the counterfeit perfume sellers. I tried the noisy method first, laying my cardboard box over the top of a litter bin, holding two copies of the book above my head, and going into barrow-boy mode - being careful to make that Chas and Dave noise at the end of every sentence.

Get your complimentary Simon Bates autobiographies-ah. Completely free of charge-ah. There was no response to this. So I went into more detail. I assured passers-by they would gasp at the story of how he was accused of knocking a "lady newsreader" unconscious while having sex with her in the bath. They would laugh at his side-splitting anecdotes about Tommy Vance and Ed "Stewpot" Stewart.

After an hour, I hadn't a single taker. And not too much eye contact, either. It was time to try the transcendental sales technique of the Baghwan. So I popped down to the Tottenham Court end of Oxford Street and scanned the streets for people who looked like they might tick the "don't know" box on forms. "Hello," I beamed, at a likely candidate. "Would you like a free book?" No reaction. But after 20 attempts, a friendly looking Dutch tourist finally acknowledged my existence.

"Is it Vishnu, or something?" she asked.

No, it's Simon Bates. The popular disc jockey.

"Is he a cult?"

Well I've heard it said ...

"What's the catch?"

You have to promise to read it.

"OK, I'll take one."

After this first success, I managed to find homes for a further 18. Even a few native English speakers agreed to take a copy. A man in a T-shirt - bearing a picture of someone sticking his head up his own anus, exclaiming "I know that curry's in here somewhere" - walked off with two. Some of them smiled. Some of them promised to read it. Some of them, I think, might even have meant it. It was like the holy light of Krishna Consciousness breaking in upon me. I probably imagined it, but above the traffic noise, I thought I heard the "Love Theme" from Romeo and Juliet.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss