Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Beatles? We've Bigger Fish to Fry: Andy Kershaw Harks Back to the Strange World of Student Gigs

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Beatles? We've Bigger Fish to Fry: Andy Kershaw Harks Back to the Strange World of Student Gigs

Article excerpt

Some people never quite get over youthful glory. Whatever they go on to achieve, nothing will ever seem as great as the time they took a starring role in the university production of Titus Andronicus--those bloody hands! They were so believable!--or when they sang at the end-of-term ball and got a standing ovation for their eight-minute version of "Tainted Love".

Andy Kershaw is one of these people. At the end of the Eighties, Kershaw went to Leeds University, ostensibly to read politics. In fact, he had his heart set on becoming the student union's "entz sec" (this is how you say entertainments secretary if you're middle class and have drunk too much cider)--an ambition that he duly achieved. He did the job for two years, and misses it still. I mean, what's a load of world music compared to the sound of 800 pissed students pogoing on a sticky floor?

Now he has devised a cunning plan to relive those glory days: a series on Radio 4 called School of Rock (Saturdays, 10.30am), in which he traces a half-century of mutual dependence between bands and college campuses. It's hugely enjoyable, and a big reason for this is his touching pride in the years when he got to chat to Ian Dury backstage at the Leeds Refectory. One of his interviewees referred to the Seventies university social secretaries as "gods". Kershaw could not contain his excitement: "I was one mee-self!" he shouted. These days, this world (like every other) is fully corporate: unions employ full-time, non-student "events managers". Kershaw sounded mildly depressed at this news. Still, if it all goes wrong at Radio 3 ... how much is the salary again?

The other reason why the series is enjoyable, and clever, is the way it casually dishes up a slice of cultural and social history. In the beginning, students were all middle class--so they liked jazz or, at a push, blues. …

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