‘I LOVE it. I love it. I love it.” For nearly four decades, that catchphrase has meant just one thing, Bob Malcolm is on air.
For 36 years, the award-winning Forth 2 breakfast show host has entertained Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife in a reign that ends tomorrow at 10am, when he signs off at the end of the last Bob In The Morning.
Broadcasting from Studio A, in the station’s Forth Street base, we are chatting between links, and as Night Games by Graham Bonnet plays out, the 61-year-old is philosophical, and surprisingly upbeat, about his imminent retirement.
“I don’t want it to be tearful,” he insists. “I have carte blanche to play whatever I want, so there will be one or two surprises. And I’ll maybe give the listeners a chance to call in with their memories as well – it’s not all to do with me. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. In fact, right at the start I’d like to thank them for putting up with me for 36 years. They’ve done well.”
For the last seven years, Bob has been up at 4am every morning and on air two hours later. It’s easy to see why he might not miss that particular aspect of the job.
“This is the third time I’ve done a breakfast show on Forth, you’d have thought I’d have got it right by now,” he says. “The thing is you can’t have a social life when you’re on breakfast, and Carolann, my wife, has had to put up with that as much as I have.
“She won’t let me sneak out in the mornings. Actually, I need her to get me up and out the house, so she needs a break as well,” he says, before admitting: “What I will miss is speaking to the audience. What a buzz that is; the power of being able to say what I want and then get a response. Maybe I won’t be able to cope with that to begin with . . . I’ll have to get around that.”
It was 36 years ago, almost to the day, Bobby Malcolm, as he was then billed, made his debut on Radio Forth – taking part in a competition for mobile disco DJs on the Tom Bell Show. Today, he holds the record for being the longest-serving DJ with one station in the UK.
He recalls: “It was in Studio B, an evening programme, and I was competing in a pop quiz, which I won. The prize was a pair of tickets to see The Commodores but by the time the final came around The Commodores had been and gone.
“So Tom Bell asked the programme controller at the time, Andy Park, ‘What shall we give Bob for his prize? A T-shirt or something?’
“Andy said, ‘Why don’t you give him an hour on your show. That’ll be a nice prize.’ That was the birth of Bob on the radio.”
On July 2, 1977, his 25th birthday, Bob Malcolm joined the ranks of Radio Forth’s broadcasters.
“I did a slot between 11pm and midnight. They didn’t want to take any chances by putting me on earlier,” he quips. “The next day, while working in my record shop, I got a call from Andy Park saying, ‘Come and see me, I’ve got a couple of shows for you’. And that was it.”
Those shows were Night School, between 8pm and 10pm every Monday and Wednesday, and Transistor Boogie, every Saturday between 10pm and midnight. Both would establish the former Royal High pupil as a firm favourite with listeners.
“On Night School we invited the kids to phone in and play a musical instrument, tell a joke or story or whatever. Transistor Boogie was a programme of soul and disco music, and as things progressed, they then offered me the mid-morning show.”
Over the intervening years, Bob has presented all the station’s prime-time shows, including three stints on the Mid-Morning and Breakfast shows, one hosting the lunchtime slot, an evening show and two Drivetime shows.
Safe to say then, Bob is no stranger to change. In his time the station has been re-branded no fewer than four times. The original Radio Forth split in two to become Radio Forth RFM and Max AM, then Forth FM and Forth AM and finally the current incarnation Forth One and Forth 2.
“Radio Forth 194, we’re oh so close to you. All the hits and more on 194. Forth we’re calling you,” he reels off the early jingles, before continuing: “When the station was split in two, that was the second time I did the breakfast show. It was called The Breakfast Crew and I co-presented with Steve Jack. It was the first time anywhere in the UK that a breakfast show had been done as a double-header.”
Today, of course, double-headers are commonplace – it’s sometimes hard to find a breakfast show that doesn’t have two presenters. Back in 1993, it was pioneering and won Bob a coveted Sony Award, or a Radio Oscar as it’s known in the business. To this day, it is the only Sony Award to be won by a Scottish commercial station for a daytime show.
“It’s the most difficult thing to win because the BBC normally scoop them all up. They have such a huge production behind their shows where as we were – and are – basically self-operating,” says Bob proudly, recalling what he regards as the highlight of his career.
There have been other highlights too, not least the host of A-list celebrities he has interviewed over the years. Cliff Richard, Neil Sedaka, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Tina Turner, Olivia Newton-John, Adam Faith and Ronan Keating are just some. He speaks highly of them all, others, however . . .
“All these people were brilliant. All you had to do was give them the first question and off they went. The real pains in the bum were the up-and-coming bands who used to come in thinking they were great.” He shouts: “Where are you now, eh?”
He goes on: “The likes of Elton John and Barbara Dickson were fantastic as was Lulu. She can talk about anything. People say she puts on an American accent, so what. She’s lived there for part of her life. She was great. One of the best.”
Kojak star Telly Savalas, however, managed the impossible, leaving Bob speechless.
“Telly came in. There he was, larger than life. I said, ‘I’ll take you and your wife down to the studios Telly.” And he said, ‘That’s not my wife, that’s my hooker.’
“I didn’t know what to say. Telly added, ‘She’s my escort for the weekend’. I was stunned. He had hired her to travel around with him.”
One nightmare interview for Bob came courtesy of Donny Osmond.
“Great guy, big star, but he decided he was going to do the whole interview in a Scottish accent and I could not get him to chat normally. He just kept saying, ‘Och Aye the noo, son’. That was just awful. He thought it was funny, probably still does, but nobody would believe it was him.”
Madness too caused the presenter some problems.
“They wanted to swear all the time. There’s nothing you can do, you just have to keep apologising,” says Bob, confessing to having had the odd verbal mishap himself.
“I think I’ve got away with two b*****s, three b******s and a b****y, and I may have had a sh** as well,” he says laughing, “you just have to forget about it and hope that the boss wasn’t listening.”
On Monday, when Robin Galloway takes over from Bob, the show will be networked across Scotland from Glasgow, making tomorrow’s edition of Bob In The Morning the last Forth 2 show to be broadcast from the Capital.
It’s the end of an era in more ways than one. Not that the presenter, who turns 62 on Tuesday, believes that is necessarily a bad thing.
“Radio Forth will continue to be the only radio station for Edinburgh and the surrounding area and will be committed, more so, to its audience than at any other time,” he says.
“If it continues to listen to what the listeners want, and to evolve, it will stay right at the top as the most listened to station for years to come.
“Robin is well known in Edinburgh and he’ll be right in touch with our audience. I wish him all the best.”
One thing that’s certain is that Galloway will have big boots to fill when he speaks to the Capital on Monday.
“It’s been a long journey but an exciting one. It really has,” says Bob.
“And 36 years is a good kick of the ball – 36 good years, good times. I’ve been lucky enough to be there for the Golden Age of commercial radio.
“When local radio is at its best, it touches its audience and creates a warmth between it and them.
“I’m going to have a rest now. I’m not going to get up at four o’clock in the morning any more. It might be a bit difficult for a while, but I’ve got lots to keep me busy.”
So, will he be listening to his replacement on Monday?
“Ah, that’s a difficult question,” he admits.
“I want to listen to see what it’s like, but probably, on Monday, Carolann will say, ‘Don’t put the radio on’ and I might not do it.
“But I will listen eventually.”
Prime-time to the sound of silence
Over 36 years, Bob has presented 10,563 shows, won two awards - a Music Recognition Award and a coveted Sony Award and seen off 16 station programmers and six managing directors.
1977-79: Night School
1977-79: Transistor Boogie
1979-82: Mid-morning Show
1982-86: Breakfast Show
1986-89: Lunchtime Show
1989-90: Drivetime Show
1990-93: Mid-morning Show
1993-97: Breakfast Crew
1999-02: Mid-morning Show
2002-06: Evening Show
2006-tomorrow: Bob In the Morning
“People still ask: ‘When are you going to get a proper job? and Do you work after you finish the radio show?’ Excuse me!! - Bob Malcolm.