flashbacks, part 109 of n

It was sometime in Black October 2004 when the streaming audio shifted in our workspace in the secret squirrel building somewhere in Cupertino. As we moved dozens of pallets of shrink-wrapped computer gear around and desperately tried to cut into the backlog, we would play various things. Here streaming bluegrass from DC, there a sports-talk station from Iowa. But at some point, we happened upon Virgin Radio UK, which was playing mostly contemporary British guitar-pop stuff. And then, out of nowhere, something called Party Classics with someone called Suggs. And it went a lot farther back, to 50s rock and roll bangers and New Wave classics and not a little bit of Madness.

I didn’t realize who Suggs was at the time. But I soon figured it out, and soon came to the realization that this was absolutely the best part of the week, musically. The show started at 6 o’clock UK time, which meant 10 AM for us, and by the end of it, it was past lunchtime and past time to be doing any serious work. In a way, we lurked there for Dave Edmunds’ “Here Comes The Weekend” and the cacophony of klaxon-siren-horn that signaled the start to the Great British weekend. And it became a standard of the work week for our team, for the rest of my time at Apple. Before long, Suggs had expanded to Saturdays as well, and then ultimately to a pre-recorded “Afternoon Tea” show five days a week that led at least one wag to crack wise about “Suggs FM”. (He goes on about this in his biography, how the shows were largely pre-taped and how a cabdriver once mistook him for going to the studio at 5:55 on a Friday and broke every London traffic regulation to trip to deposit him in Golden Square on time.)

And it fit. It made sense. I’d go to London for our honeymoon and find myself playing Virgin in the background at work for most of the rest of my time at Apple. Ben Jones, Martin Collins, Leona Graham, Geoof Lloyd, Christian O’Connell, but at the heart of it all, Virgin Party Classics with Suggs. Nothing felt as right and proper as having my local radio come from London as I worked away in Cupertino on the leading edge of the future. And at some point in 2007, it occurred to me to record entire episodes of the various Suggs shows with the cunning use of a couple different apps on the home Mac.

Good thing, too, because it all came crashing down pretty quickly. I left Apple at the beginning of October and Suggs left Virgin at the end of November. And in retrospect, I think that as much as anything opened the floodgates to depression as one more thing that was important to me disappeared into the black hole behind me. If nothing else, I’d like to have gone by and paid my respects in London during Thanksgiving 2007 (which I did manage for Geoff, Annabel and Tony, at least). But the height of that era – 2005-06 – was absolutely a high-water mark in my career. Not so long gone from National Geographic, on staff at the most exciting company in the world, and promoted from the drudgery of filling shipping cases to an actual desk job with an office and responsibility and the approval of my management. 

I broke out one of those recordings today to go with Day Drink Friday, here in the blight of the ‘20s, and I was reminded that once upon a time, the future was fresh and Silly Con Valley was a fun place to be. Hopefully, someday, that will be the case again.

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