“I’m a radio leper. I would give anything to go back there . . .” It’s Tuesday morning (24 January) and Danny Baker is chatting to the host of the 6 Music breakfast show (weekdays, 7am), Shaun Keaveny. At first Baker goes on a typically creative little rant, tipping the brim of his hat to human consciousness, about how time does not, in fact, move fast at all. We’re sold the idea of it whizzing past, when in fact “we’re down to a kind of stasis” and all getting on the same bus we were getting on in 2007, only with different-shaped phones.
He’s so good, all that is required of Keaveny is an appreciative chuckle . . . until Baker steers doggedly towards his indelicate sacking from BBC London in 2012. “I’m rusting away because of the bizarre and perverse decisions of BBC management” – he’s off – “and I will never, ever, ever forgive those people . . . and it was a personal thing . . . their dreary little agenda . . .”
Occasionally Keaveny pipes up, “Oh dear,” or “It’s got to be remedied at some juncture, hasn’t it?” but he knows that it’s pointless fighting. The shape for the rest of Baker’s appearance is set.
Of course, this is what Baker does – rend his garments over the killer moment in his life. What’s clear is that The Sacking was in fact a double hit for Baker, and losing his job was the least of it. Being given a life sentence to dwell on it bitterly is the real struggle (“I can’t get arrested on the radio. I would give anything, and I mean this . . . to play records”).
I think of Julie Burchill’s anecdote about Baker storming into a shop selling Nazi memorabilia on the King’s Road in the 1970s (around the time when Siouxsie Sioux was turning up on the television wearing a swastika in that feeble “f*** off why not?” way). He grabbed at lapels and yelled until things were removed from the shop.
He was the only courageous and clear-headed person around at a time when practically everybody else was licking the frog of punk stupidity.
“Why do I persist with radio?” blurted Baker to Keaveny, as his time ran furiously out. Then, with bottomless shock, he added, “Every day I don’t do it I genuinely feel angry and frustrated.”
This article appears in the 01 Feb 2017 issue of the New Statesman, American carnage