The sound of swinging 78s - Life and Style - The Independent

The sound of swinging 78s

The voice of Norwich is Keith Skues, and John Peel is his biggest fan. Anthony Clavane takes a trip into Partridgeland

"A very good Tuesday evening to you from me, Keith Skues. And a warm welcome to the programme. The dateline: February 10... we are 41 days into 1998 ...."

Steve Coogan might try to pass off Alan Partridge as a figment of his cheesy imagination, but some of us know better. From Monday to Friday every night in East Anglia and beyond, in the slot known as "God's waiting room", the legendary jock can be heard in the guise of one Richard Keith Skues. "Cyril of Ipswich has requested any Salvation Army music. Well, thanks to June and Sidney of Norwich, I now have a lot more Salvation Army music than I had a month ago ...."

Although aimed at the 60 to 90 age group, the Skues show is developing a cult following in Partridgeland. This is due mainly to the efforts of John Peel. Unlikely as it sounds, Peel has put on hold his devotion to The Fall, Asian dub music and all things hardcore to worship at the altar of Skues. He is a man obsessed, tuning in religiously for a nightly fix of Keyboard Cavalcade, Sedate Seventy Eights and Trivia Quiz Time ("How many cc's were there in the group that sang `I'm Not in Love?'") and eulogising the great man's virtues in his Radio Times column.

"It is a genuine alternative to all the other stuff, you know, the fourth- form, locker-room, Chris Evans clones," explains Peel. John's wife Sheila is beginning to worry about her husband: "One afternoon he just rambled and ranted on about him - me and William, our eldest, thought it was hilarious. We were killing ourselves about it."

Like Partridge, the 58-year-old Skues spins his discs from a Norwich station, is easily irritated by listeners, especially "clever trousers" who try to catch him out and old dears who ask for specific tunes - "Sorry, Betty of Wickford, this is not a request show, m'dear" - and has been stalked by a crazed fan. "Have you seen Play Misty for Me?" he asks. What, the film about the psychotic woman's deranged infatuation with a local radio presenter? "Yes. It's like that. One accused me of breaking and entering her house and siphoning off her petrol. A female arrived at my new home the other week; it had only taken her a week to find out where I lived. She was only a young girl. Probably under 60."

He prefers older listeners, particularly those in their eighties, because they never ring in, complain or try to "bowl me a googly". Instead, they send chocolates cakes, teddy bears and talking parrots. "I do jolly well for pressies," he beams, proudly pointing out a cupboard bulging with Cadbury's Milk Chocolate Biscuit Assortment tins.

The oldies love it when he gets hot under the collar about songs recorded in foreign languages - "This is the English-speaking service of the BBC" - and when he activates the "Skues-O-Graph", a master print-out of their top tunes. After leaving the station, he hops into his "Skuesmobile" - a Ford Sierra - and drives back to his chalet-style house to index another batch of records. "It's a national archive. I've got about 250,000 records. I mean, where's that collection going when I pop me clogs?"

He tugs at his neatly knotted cravat, looks up at the clock, then rushes into the studio just in time for the handover with Mark Whall. Unfortunately, he is too late to hear Mark's opening gambit but, being a pro, breezily replies: "Well, everything here is tick, tick, tick, tickety boo. Alrighty, Mark, see you on the wireless."

It is reassuring to come across a presenter who says wireless. His voice is a throwback to that brief, but golden, era sandwiched between the end of dinner-jacketed newsreading and the beginning of mid-Atlantic, Mockney and Mancunian deejaying. He sounds like Alan Freeman's sensible brother - after a ditty by "Mr Barry Manilow" he throws in a "not'arf" homage to his old mate (they were both in at the launch of Radio Onederful) - and feels frustrated that the age-range of his audience prevents him from playing the sort of poptastic ditties championed by Fluff.

Occasionally, he sticks his head on the chopping block and does something daring, like playing a Cliff Richard or Cilla Black song. But only last week, Jim of Mildenhall, 86 years young, chewed his ear off for playing an Elton John number and he was almost "booed off the air" after spinning a Spice Girls disc. "I got a lot of abuse for that," sighs the dapper, silver-haired DJ. "But, y'know, for the three minutes those records were on, they should have gone to make a cup of Horlicks. Good luck to the young generation, that's what I say. I was a rebel in my day."

When he took over the late-night slot at BBC Eastern Counties, he received stacks of hate mail from people not used to the challenging sounds of Cliff and Cilla. But once the abuse died down, he established himself as the voice of easy listening, protecting listeners from the hazards of "hooligan music" and, as Peel puts it, "discussing, at no little length, the merits and demerits of steel, as opposed to chipboard, shelving for the storage of 78rpm records."

"I think people take pity on me," he says. "Y'see I'm not married. I'm pretty useless at doing the housework and ... hang on ... stand by ...."

Expertly fading out "As Long as He Needs Me", he flirts with Doreen of Long Crendon, but turns down her offer to iron his shirts. Then he signs off with another sigh. "These two hours simply go by very quickly - don't they always? And if you are not feeling too well, may I, Keith Skues, wish you a speedy recovery. And if you are living on your own, good night - that extra special good night. God Bless. Keep warm, many hugs and lots of love."

The Keith Skues Show can be heard on BBC Radio Eastern Counties, Monday to Friday, from 10pm to midnight.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
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

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week