Spending over four eventful decades so far in the world of music, Gary Crowley has worked in the mediums of print (he founded new wave fanzine The Modern World, which he formed while still at school and also worked for the NME), radio (taking in XFM, 6Music and currently, BBC Radio London) and TV (his nineties show The Beat showcased Oasis, Blur and Pulp among many others).

Crowley has also used his extensive knowledge and love of music to curate a number of compilation albums, the most recent being the fantastic Lost 80s sets (bringing together choice hard-to-find 80s tracks by well known and not-so-well known artists), with Volume 1 coming in 2019 and Volume 2 appearing last Summer. God Is In The TV caught up with Gary to talk Paul McCartney, radio shows and cornering Joe Strummer!

GIITTV: You have interviewed a lot of high profile artists in print or on your radio shows / TV – do you have a favourite or most memorable interview experience?

GC: There is a favourite. Pre-Punk, I pretty much lost myself completely in The Beatles for a couple of years and 60s youth culture, everything was about the Beatles. So to get the chance in the late noughties to come face to face and interview Sir Paul McCartney at his office in Soho Square was heady stuff. This was around the time of the Run Devil Run album. I was so nervous. I must have visited the toilet at least half a dozen times!

But he couldn’t have been more gracious and more engaging. He was talking a lot about The Beatles’ days in Hamburg and telling us stuff that I’d never heard or read before. Every now and then whilst talking to him though, this realisation washed over me that I was talking to Paul McCartney. Paul frickin’ McCartney! We were allocated 20 minutes for the interview but we ended up being given 45.

I remember Paul’s PR man Geoff Baker whispering in my ear on the way out, ” I think he liked you!’

It was a remarkable coup for you to get a Joe Strummer interview for your fanzine The Modern World – what sort of memories do you have of that day?

Vivid ones! I was still at school at the time (aged 15) and most lunchtimes I would invariably saunter up to Edgware Road to get my daily bag of chips. On this particular day though, Joe (Strummer) was coming in my opposite direction. Looking as cool as fuck. I knew instantly that this was my chance and proceeded to tell him what a fan I was and that myself and my class mates had recently hi -jacked our school magazine and turned it into a punk fanzine and were now interviewing our favourite new bands (The Jam, Generation X etc )…”Would the Clash possibly be up for an interview?”, I asked.

He looked like he didn’t know what had hit him! He answered in the affirmative and the next day, me and a gaggle of Rutherford School’s finest music mad punks rocked up at The Clash‘s Rehearsal Rehearsal studios in Camden Town to interview Joe.

Joe couldn’t have been nicer. He sat there patiently whilst six of us grilled him about punk and what it meant to him. What it meant to us. Asking who his influences were and why were The Clash going to be different to all the other bands? I’ve got a memory of him taking us to George’s Cafe near Camden Bridge after the interview where we all chatted together into the early evening. Generously he invited us all to see The Clash at the Finsbury Park Rainbow Theatre where the band were soon to be in concert.

He told us to wait for him near the stage door and true to his word, that night he rocked up with an entourage but thankfully spotted us and ushered us all in. That night was so special. The band were a 200mph whirlwind of colour and flash and energy and  I swear I saw the roof of the Rainbow tilt that night. They were, quite simply, mesmerising. You couldn’t take your eyes off them. One moment you’d be fixated on Joe, then Mick and then Paul and then Topper. For a 15 year old kid who’d only ever been to a couple of concerts before, it was magical stuff.

Do you tend to prefer the medium of radio or TV?

There’s things that I love about both but radio pips it. I just love the immediacy of radio. The fact that now via social media, you can get an immediate reaction back to what you’re playing and what you’re saying is fantastic. I’ve been doing this for a while now (ahem) and the pleasure of doing it has never, ever diminished. I count myself incredibly lucky to still have an outlet to play and enthuse about my favourite music.

What was your favourite show or channel to be involved with?

Easy answer. The BBC. Auntie isn’t perfect by all means – but it’s still one of Britain’s finest institutions which I still utilise every day for a whole raft of services – music, comedy, drama, news, knowledge, analysis etc.

Favourite shows I’ve done? They’ve all been memorable for a chunk of reasons and I’ve been lucky to have worked with some talented people who have mostly always remained pals.

You gave a lot of early air time to ‘Britpop’ bands – do you have any favourite memories of that time, or any bands who you thought deserved more success?

It really was an exciting time in the early 90s and to have a show on the BBC London station, GLR (a radio station with a strong music commitment at the time) was the perfect platform/place to be to reflect and support that wave of exciting new bands/records coming through. Remember we’d had the dominance of the American (grunge/alternative bands) previously.

And hosting the late night ITV music show The Beat for nearly three years was another important outlet in showcasing bands to a wider audience. Bands who should’ve been bigger you’re asking? The High f’sure. Other bands I would’ve liked to have heard more of, who showed promise but called it quits after one album were theaudience and Delakota.

Did anything in particular inspire you to start the popular Lost 80s series?

The idea just seemed like a natural progression on from our Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave box set that myself and my pal Jim Lahat compiled back in 2018. The 80s was such an exciting and diverse time for music and I felt there hadn’t really been a collection that truly reflected that.

I’d already had a playlist in mind and suggested it to Ben (Stanley) at Demon who thankfully went for the idea. The idea was a musical pick and mix of not only the bigger names with some of their ‘lost’ nuggets, but also a selection of the lesser-known but no less-deserving bands and artists who released some vital records. Seemed like a no brainer to me.

How do you go about sourcing the materials and permissions for Lost 80s – how difficult is that? 

The bulk of the music spread across the two volumes, I would’ve been playing on my Capital Radio shows or in the clubs where I was DJ’ing. So there was a bountiful selection of music that I both loved and was championing at the time to draw from.

There’s also a couple of tracks that I missed first time round that I’ve thankfully re-discovered over the years and have subsequently fallen in love with. Gaining permission to use these tracks is down to Demon’s crack team of clearances experts.

Are you involved to that level or do you have a crack team of Lost 80s detectives?

No, the clearances are handled completely by Demon’s legal eagles. On the first collection we had a lovely fella called Tony Wheatley helping whilst on the second it was the equally lovely Eliott Bishop.

Receiving emails from Tony or Eliott telling me that a particular that track I’d requested had been cleared for inclusion was always a lovely email to receive.

Is there a particular track that’s on your wish list that you haven’t been able to get so far – is there a clear ‘number one priority’? (Any others?)

Yes! Loads!! There’s two that instantly spring to mind though and they are Perry Haines‘s ‘What’s Fink?’ and Malcolm McLaren‘s ‘World Famous’. Both Perry and Malcolm were cultural thinkers who had a big influence on the teenage me. Perry is largely forgotten but he was the coolest cat in London in the early 80s with a street sus that was equalled by few. I love both of these tracks but alas up to now, they’ve eluded us for inclusion for a variety of reasons.

And out of the tracks that you have included so far, what is the one / which are the ones that you were happiest about securing?

April Showers’ ‘Abandon Ship’ is the kind of track which for me is the essence of the Lost 80s idea, so to get that cleared to include on Volume 1 meant so much to me. It was a track that I played to death on my radio show first time round. Sadly, it didn’t dent the nation’s consciousness let alone the charts. But it’s one of those gems that has since gone on to attain cult status.

When we were putting the first collection together, I reached out to singer (and later a successful writer) Beatrice Colin for a memory for the booklet and she very sweetly replied immediately with a lovely one. Tragically though she was to pass away not long after.

‘Abandon Ship’ was April Showers’ only single and it’s a lost classic for me that possesses a purity to it that has lost none of its charm with the passing of time. RIP Beatrice.

Do artists ever try to influence the track selections, i.e. ask for another song from their catalogue to be included instead?

No, that’s something that hasn’t happened…yet!

Will there be a Lost 80s Volume 3?

That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question! I do hope so, as I feel i’ve got one more cracking collection in me that concentrates on the first half of the 80s, as the previous two have done so.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Lost 80s Volumes 1 & 2 are available from Edsel Records.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.