Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Onwards and upwards

It's a bit of a strange situation at the moment... come the New Year I find myself without a regular radio slot.

The truth is that apart from doing media stuff, I've only ever had 2 other jobs. One was 12 hour shifts in my Uncle's fruit freezing plant during the school holidays, and the other was a part-time job in the legendary One Up Records in Aberdeen.

The Music Bed on BBC Scotland has been one of the most fulfilling radio shows I've had the pleasure to present, but sadly the Christmas Day Show will be the last. Nothing sinister, it's just not been re-commissioned, and considering it was only a 3 month commission in the first place, it hasn't done too badly… it was really just the wrong type of show on the wrong type of time-slot on the wrong type of radio station!

I was originally the co-host with Amanda Millen the main presenter, then there was a switch with Martel Maxwell becoming my co-host and "The Music Bed" becoming "Jim Gellatly's Music Bed". I suppose with the show now having my name in it, I should shoulder some of the blame for it not working. I do honestly believe though, that in the right place and at the right time, it could have gone on and on and on.

I must give a lot of credit to Martel, who I think will go on to become a major player. People seem to assume that I've known her for a while, but actually, prior to suggesting her as a co-host, I'd only met her twice! The first time was at T In The Park the day after she'd done a Scottish Sun front-page on Paolo Nutini, and she was keeping out of his way. The second time was at our mutual friend Dominik's wedding.

I knew who Martel was due to her column in The Sun. The fact that she'd occasionally mention she was from Dundee, and more importantly supported Dundee FC, put her right at the top of my list of people I fancied working with. I'd heard her show on the now defunct Edinburgh radio station Talk 107 a couple of times, so I knew that she was a natural communicator.

Eamonn Holmes was spot on when he advised me to stick with Martel, suggesting I could ride the coattails of her career. I'd like to say Eamonn was giving me such fatherly-like advice as we enjoyed a quiet pint reflecting our respective careers. In fact he was a guest on The Music Bed, and he already had a soft spot for her thanks to her appearances on This Morning.

The truth is that was The Music Bed to continue beyond Christmas, I'm sure it would have become "Martel Maxwell's Music Bed" at some point as her star continues to ascend. A regular contributor to shows like This Morning, and with her first book 'Scandalous' out in April, I'd imagine 2010 is going to be a massive year for the Broughty Ferry lass….

But look! See what I've just done! Here I was writing about my own career predicament, and I just start bigging up Martel! So far I've only used the word "I" around 20 times in these last few paragraphs… sure not enough in a blog about "me"!

This is by no mean the first time I've felt in a bit of a limbo career-wise. That was the reason I ended up at One Up Records in the 90s. I'd been doing some work behind the scenes at Northsound Radio in Aberdeen, mostly helping out in Commercial Production (writing and recording radio ads). I'd been taken on during a particularly busy period, and when that came to an end, Tosh (the Commercial Producer) didn't really need an assistant. I was also presenting shows on the station, but not enough of them to make a living, so the offer of a part time-job from Fred at One Up was perfect.

When I finished up at One Up (I think I eventually walked for the most trivial of reasons), other shows came up at Northsound, and I also got a weekly pop column in the Aberdeen Evening Express.

Further down the line, once I'd moved to Glasgow for the launch of Beat 106, I again had weigh up my options. After just a few months the station had been bought by Capital Radio, and Capital boss Richard Park (later of Fame Academy, err, "fame") came along to introduce himself to everyone, saying something along the lines of "love what you are doing, don't expect many changes". I think I was out the door the following week! The station was looking to go down more of a dancy route, which on reflection, led to its final downfall.

I again landed on my feet, when I spoke to my mate Mike, and to cut a long story short I ended up in London working for the Chrysalis-backed online service Puremix. I was coming back to Scotland at the weekends anyway, so a chance meeting with Beat 106 Programme Controller Andrew Jeffries (the guy who axed me in the first place) led to a weekend slot back at the station. Spookily it was at the Xfm Christmas Party that I bumped into Andrew.

Again fate smiled upon me when Puremix folded (a great idea, just ahead of its time). I returned to Beat 106 on a full-time basis doing a late night slot. Before long Beat was trying to pitch itself as more of a rock station, but the impact it had made as a dance station was too strong. A victim of its own success really… the lesson being not to put all your eggs in one basket. In truth, that's exactly what happened again next… ideal for me though, as the station was rebranded and re-launched as "Xfm Scotland".

Again following another take-over of the parent company, Xfm Scotland died a very slow and painful death. It was pretty much run to the ground with more networking coming into play, before finally closing and again rebranding, this time as "Galaxy".

Galaxy's probably closer to the original Beat 106 format, though minus the indie and rock, but with more pop. I still strongly believe that had Beat 106 survived the meddling, it could have gone on to be a very successful format… pretty much like a Scottish version of Radio One. Anyway, I was let go prior to the end of Xfm and launch of Galaxy.

The Music Bed had already been commissioned by BBC Radio Scotland at this stage, and it was a chance call to my former Beat 106 / Xfm colleague Scott Shaw that led to me being brought on board.

Scott's one of the nicest folk you could meet, and I've known him for a very long time. In fact, some 20+ years ago, when I was starting out at Moray Firth Radio in Inverness, it was Scott's dad Neil Shaw that gave me my first ever paid role in a radio station, working in the office filing and the likes.

I can't quite remember why I was calling Scott, but I ended up speaking to his boss Richard who runs Dabster Productions. Richard had actually been at Beat 106 for a short time before moving to the BBC, so though I didn't know him that well, I knew exactly who he was.

To cut a long story short, Dabster were already working on the show, and Richard must have liked something about me to offer me a role on-air alongside Amanda Millen.

I've never been particularly proactive in touting myself about, and pretty much everything I've done so far seems to have just fallen into place. At this point in time though, I really don't know what my next step is going to be. I do of course have my weekly podcast, but that certainly doesn't pay the bills. The fact that I'm about to stand-in for Stuart Cosgrove on one of BBC Radio Scotland's biggest shows Off The Ball may just show that I'm not just a music presenter… as long as I don't balls it up!

I've had a few interesting meetings, and there are most definitely a couple of ideas I'd love to pursue, but as it stands everything is very much up in the air… Indeed, I'm not even sure if radio is part of my future…

…To Be continued (as they say).


Jim said...

All the best Jim, wherever you end up!

The Cat said...

Hope everything works out for you in the New Year Jim. I'm surprised that the corporate behemoth that is Bauer hasn't snapped you up but new music isn't really their thing, is it?

JaneInMA said...

Good Luck Jim, with your talent I am suprised you don't already ahve other prospects but I am sure that someone will rectify that soon.