Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Happy birthday, Gambaccini

Happy birthday, Paul Gambaccini, 70 years old today, and possibly a little bit greyer than he might have been had he not been arrested in 2013 and had his life overturned by a police investigation into sexual offences under Operation Yewtree. It took nearly a year for the police to decide that no charges would be brought, and, ultimately, Gambaccini won an undisclosed damages from the Metropolitan Police. He also published a book of his daily diary entries during the period of the investigation, though, as far as I can tell, he has never published any other extracts from his 40 odd years of diary keeping.

Gambaccini was born on 2 April 1949 in the Bronx, New York City. He studied history at Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire), where he also acted as music director for a student radio station. In the early 1970s, he studied politics, philosophy and economics at University College, Oxford. Subsequently, he became British correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine, and managed to secure an interview with Elton John. This was noticed by a  BBC radio producer and led to Gambaccini presenting on Radio 1, first as a music reporter for John Peel’s Saturday show, and then as presenter of his own programme featuring the US pop charts. In 1986, he moved to independent radio for a few years, before returning briefly to Radio 1. But, in 1992, he became a founding presenter on the UK’s new station, Classic FM. He switched back to the BBC, and then back to Classic FM, before joining BBC Radio 2 in 1998. He also presented on Jazz FM for several years. He has appeared regularly on different television channels, in either a music or film connection. In 2008, he took over as chairman of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint; and he is also currently the presenter of Pick of the Pops on Radio 2.

Gambaccini has presented many award shows over the years, not least the annual Ivor Novello Awards since 1990, and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards since 2005. He is known as an enthusiast of comic books, appearing at many comic conventions; and, for a while, he co-owned a comic shop in London with Jonathan Ross. He has written more than a dozen popular books, mostly connected in one way or another with music. In 2005, he was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame. He is married to Christopher Sherwood. For further information see Gambaccini’s own website, Wikipedia or Radio Rewind.

Gambaccini has kept a diary for forty odd years, though he has not published any parts of it - with the exception of a series of diary entries about his experience of being investigated and arrested under Operation Yewtree. These was published as Love, Paul Gambaccini: My Year Under The Yewtree by Biteback Publishing in 2015. Some of the book can be previewed at Googlebooks. The marketing blurb for the book states that after the surprise of being arrested ‘in the dead of night’, he ‘vowed to keep a journal during his ordeal, writing every day until his case was dismissed’ However, it’s clear from one of his diary entries that he was already in the habit of keeping a diary, since he explains how the police, at some point, took away 38 years worth of his diaries. 

Here are several extracts from the published diary, but they are culled, in fact, from a 2105 article on the book that appeared in the Daily Mail.

1 November 2013
‘The press cordon is still in full effect. We cheer whenever it rains. A tabloid website names me in the afternoon. The BBC goes with the story of my identification on its 6pm newscasts.

I am off air indefinitely.’

12 November 2013
‘I experience my first shun: being asked by a nearly hysterical host not to attend the launch of a book concerning Top Of The Pops. I didn’t mind – I was on the show only a handful of times.

At a 25th anniversary gathering of Capital Gold DJs, I am welcomed with open arms. Paul Burnett is as witty as ever. Tony Blackburn and Andy Peebles are supportive.

In the evening, Christopher and I go to the Wolseley for dinner with magician Derren Brown, who tells me: ‘There was a woman who thought we were married, to the point where she maintained a marital home. One day she suddenly realised I wasn’t her husband and she was really married to [the actor] Antony Sher.’

14 November 2013
‘Out of the blue, I receive a phone call from Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who had been arrested and forced to relinquish his position as Deputy Speaker of the Commons.

He wants me to know what, based on his experience, lies in store for me. ‘They will listen to every phone call you make,’ he warns me. ‘They will read every email. They will try to turn your Facebook friends against you.’

This sounds pretty extreme. He must be having a rough time. At least I got off Facebook months ago.’

24 November 2013
‘The Beeb wants to drop me from its forthcoming series The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern, even though I have already filmed my contribution and been paid.

I have given the BBC 40 years of service. I may or may not return to radio, but I will never again feel as close to the BBC as I did for decades.

Although I am annoyed, I am furious at my excision from the ITV show The Nation’s Favourite Elvis Song. I phone Jimmy Tarbuck, who actually met Elvis. ‘Jimmy, you won’t believe it,’ I say, telling him what happened.

‘I do believe it,’ he replies. ‘They’ve cut me out of the same programme.’ Neither of us has been charged with anything. I make a mental memo to award ITV the Tiny Testicles of 2013 prize when this is all over.’

11 December 2013
‘I have been shunned by the Labour Party, which is holding its Thousand Club Christmas drinks tonight. The invitation is on my desk, but since my arrest, it had been decided it would be best if I did not appear.

Only a year ago I hosted a fundraiser for Ed Miliband in my flat. Leading dignitaries of the party from Iain McNicol to Chuka Umunna were there alongside celebrities including Joan Armatrading, Ben Elton, Brian May and David Tennant. One year later, I am persona non grata.

Neither Ed nor anyone else from Labour have had the basic human decency to call to see how I am coping or even what this is about.

It has obviously not occurred to anyone in the Labour Party that something more than manners is at stake here. An injustice is occurring in its own house, yet it turns away from the victim for fear of taint.

So much for the party that fought heroically for the rights of the poor, the black and the gay.

It is now more afraid of a photo opportunity gone wrong than it is committed to social justice. Heroism has given way to cowardice.’

15 December 2013
‘Being shunned by the BBC, the Labour Party and Amnesty International was bad enough.

Today I learn I’ve been shunned by someone really important. Chris and I go bowling this morning in our usual Sunday morning match at All Star Lanes in Holborn.

When it is all over, I return my personal bowling ball to storage and we change back into our civilian shoes.

I note the glass cabinet that displays signed pins from celebrity bowlers. My pin has been removed. Stephen Fry, Johnny Vegas and Emma Watson are still represented. I am gone.

This hurts. I’ve been bowling for over half a century. To be a non-person in my local alley is the ultimate insult.’

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