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Danny Baker (born 22 June 1957, Deptfordmarker, South Londonmarker) is an Englishmarker comedy writer, journalist, radio DJ and screenwriter. Since the late 1970s, he has worked for a wide range of publications and broadcasters including NME, LWT, the BBC, and Talk Radio. He currently presents daily on BBC London 94.9 and a weekly show on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Biography

Baker was born in Deptfordmarker in south east London. He left school in 1972 at the age of 15 and initially worked in One Stop Records, a small record shop in South Molton Street in London's West Endmarker.

Career

Print journalism

In 1976, with fellow Deptfordian Mark Perry, Baker founded the proto-punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, and this led to an offer from the New Musical Express, home to the likes of Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent. Baker initially began working as the office receptionist, but was soon contributing regular articles and reviews before progressing to interviews. He often refers to these times during his radio shows, regularly citing examples of the ridiculous behaviour exhibited by his rock star interviewees.

In the later 1990s, Baker wrote a weekly column for The Times and was briefly a columnist for early issues of movie magazine Empire.

Television

Reporting for LWT (1980s)

By 1980, Baker was making documentaries for producer Janet Street Porter at LWT for the popular culture series 20th Century Box. The show consisted of a series of 30-minute documentaries on elements of youth culture. An edition documenting the burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene included an early TV appearance of Iron Maiden performing at The Marquee Clubmarker and interviews with "air guitarists".

Baker's first mainstream break was as roving reporter-presenter on the Michael Aspel's LWT regional magazine The Six O'Clock Show alongside former Mastermind winner and former London black cab driver Fred Housego. Paul Ross (brother of Jonathan Ross whom Baker had as his best man) was his researcher. During his stint on The Six O'Clock Show, Baker was filmed having an altercation with a railway platform guard in which Baker can be heard remonstrating "Don't you know who I am?". This clip is ofen resurrected for clip shows.

Writing and presenting (Early - Late 1990s)

Baker began writing for television programmes in 1992 after being asked to prepare a piece for one of the first clip shows: TV Hell, which was a collection the worst TV programmes ever. Since then he has presented television shows such as Win, Lose, or Draw, Pets Win Prizes and TV Heroes, which was a series of 10-minute homages to some of Baker's entertainment idols including Fanny Cradock, Peter Glaze (from Crackerjack) and the Top of the Pops audience. In one episode of TV Heroes, a clip was shown of Baker leaping around to a performance of "Ooh What A Life" by the Gibson Brothers in 1979, which was captioned as "Danny Baker's first TV appearance". Baker later described himself as 'looking like he was trying to put out a small fire'.

Baker also began a BBC Saturday night chat show, called Danny Baker After All) which borrowed its style from Late Night with David Letterman, but his style and guests (Rick Wakeman of prog rock band Yes was a regular) did not attract the mainstream audience the slot demanded. Film Critic Mark Kermode was the show's musical director.

Later appearances fronting television adverts for Daz washing powder and Mars bar chocolate led to a feeling of over-exposure and even sell-out from some quarters. Adult satire comic Viz featured a critical cartoon featuring Baker as the main character. Baker parodied his Daz ads by appearing as himself on the sitcom Me, You and Him, however he has defended the allegations about over-exposure by explaining that he wanted to set up a stable financial future for his family.

Baker made five football videos. Danny Baker's Own Goals and Gaffs released in 1992 and Danny Baker's Own Goals and Gaffs 2, released 2 years later showed various footballing blunders. Right Hammerings and Danny Baker's Fabulous World of Freak Football in 1995 featured heavy defeats and unusual matches (high scorelines, early and late goals, cup upsets and a few goalkeeping/refereeing blunders) respectively. He also released Whose Season is It Anyway?, an irreverent summary of the 1993/94 Premier League season. This shift into football punditry led directly to a presenting stint on BBC Radio's 6-0-6 as well as the job of presenting Match of the Eighties, a six-part BBC series of football between 1980/81 and 1985/86.

Baker was also a writer on Chris Evans' show TFI Friday, as well as writing for presenters such as Angus Deayton and Jonathan Ross.

Guest appearances (Late 1990s - 2000s)

During the late 1990s he made guest appearances on comedy shows including Have I Got News For You, Shooting Stars and Room 101. During this period he appeared in the press as a result of nights out with friends Chris Evans and England footballer Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne was under media scrutiny for drinking and socialising while preparing for tournaments. After Gascoigne was left out of the 1998 World Cup squad, Baker went on Have I Got News For You to defend his friend and criticise the omission.

He also appeared on The Terry and Gaby Show from 2003 to 2004 (where he burnt his hand trying to perform a trick with a microwave and a piece of soap) and has appeared on BBC Two quiz show QI.

Baker worked again with Charles Shaar Murray on the Ramones documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, providing an audio commentary.

In 2005, Baker appeared in the video to "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" a number 1 single for Peter Kay and Tony Christie, which also featured other British personalities such as Keith Harris, Geoffrey Hayes, Shakin' Stevens and Jimmy Savile.

Baker's most recent TV project was The Sitcom Showdown which began on UKTV Gold in late April 2006. Baker appeared on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice in 2007 for Comic Relief. He also starred in The Rocky Horror Show, as the narrator, at the Churchill Theatremarker in Bromleymarker and the New Wimbledon Theatremarker.

Radio career

BBC GLR/5 Live/Radio 1 (1989 - 1997)

Baker began his radio career on BBC GLR in 1989, presenting Weekend Breakfast from 6-9am on Saturdays and Sundays. The show was produced by Chris Evans, who became a good friend to Baker. With GLR eventually opting for a more orthodox breakfast show at weekends, Baker moved to the 10am to 1pm slot on Sundays.

In 1990, Baker joined the newly launched BBC Radio 5, presenting Sportscall, a phone-in sports quiz broadcast every Saturday lunchtime.

From October 1991 to October 1992 he presented 6-0-6 and, from February 1992 until October 1993, he presented Morning Edition from 6.30-9am every weekday morning. The show blended Baker's love of unusual trivia with 'grown-up' music. This was where Baker first teamed up with Danny Kelly and Allis Moss. Mark Kermode added weekly film reviews, and would later appear with his band 'The Railtown Bottlers' every week on the first series of Baker's TV show.

Baker's loud-mouthed, iconoclastic anchoring of 6-0-6 polarised opinion. He was often fearless in his attacks on football authority, particularly the 'blazers' at the Football Association. His influence on the station remains, such as in BBC 5 Live's present day preparedness to court unpopularity within the game through its robust criticism of players, managers and referees.

Baker joined BBC Radio 1 in October 1993, taking over the weekend mid-morning show from 10am-1pm from Dave Lee Travis who had resigned on air following the sackings instigated by Matthew Bannister and Trevor Dann during the early 1990s. However, due to poor ratings, from November 1994 he was heard on Saturdays only from 10am-12midday. Simon Mayo took over Sunday mornings.

Baker's style led to a fall in listeners at Radio 1 but despite his tendering his resignation on at least two occasions, management added extensions to his contract. From October 1995, his Saturday show went out from 12.30-2.30pm. He left the station in September 1996. His co-hosts during this period included BBC continuity announcer Allis Moss, Dr.H, Laurie Sore, Andy Darling and Danny Kelly.

While continuing with his Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 1, in 1996 Baker joined BBC Radio Five Live to present a Sunday lunchtime show with Danny Kelly, Baker & Kelly Upfront.

On leaving BBC Radio 1, Baker returned to BBC GLR to present a three-hour Sunday show from 10am-1pm. 'Baker and Kelly Upfront' also returned, now at Saturday lunchtime, while Baker also took on a new show, 'The Baker Line', a Wednesday evening version of the 606 phone in show.

While 'Baker and Kelly Upfront' was light-hearted, 'The Baker Line' was darker and emotionally charged. Baker was at his most outspoken, and in early 1997, he was sacked from Five Live when station bosses alleged that he had incited threatening behaviour during an angry outburst about a referee.

Talk Radio/Virgin Radio (1998 - 2000)

Baker joined Talk Radio to present a similar football phone-in with Kelly each Saturday from 5.30-7.30pm. A pre-match show was added from 11.30am to 1pm. After moving to the Saturday breakfast slot (8am to 12 noon), he engineered his own dismissal after a matter of weeks by refusing to centre the show on football, preferring to intersperse chat with his own music selections.

After leaving Talk Radio, he joined Virgin Radio in early 1999, taking over from Jonathan Ross on Sundays from 10am-1pm.

Not long after, Baker was approached by the BBC and was asked whether he wanted to present a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2. Baker turned down the offer by saying the time wasn't right, and the show was given to Jonathan Ross. Baker also deputised on Virgin's Saturday lunchtime football show from 12-2pm for a handful of shows, alongside Danny Kelly until he left the station in 2000.

BBC London 94.9 (2001 - 2002) and (2005 - Current)

In September 2001, Baker joined BBC London 94.9 presenting a Saturday morning show from 8-11am. Just 6 months later, in March 2002, and with a new co-presenting team which included Amy Lamé, Mark O'Donnell and David Kuo, he took over the breakfast show from 6-9am, with a new theme tune in the form of the Anthony Newley song The Candy Man.

Although not drawing a large listenership, Baker won "Sony Radio DJ of the year" for the show. However, the day after winning the award, he announced his intention to leave the show at the end of the month. The last show was on Friday 27 May 2005.

On Monday 17 October 2005, after a sabbatical at home, Baker rejoined BBC London 94.9 where he took over the weekday 3-5pm show from Jono Coleman, who had moved to co-present the breakfast show with former actress JoAnne Good.

His current (2005- ) BBC London 94.9 shows tend to feature off-the-wall phone-ins and discussions with his on-air team, Amy and Baylen Leonard, often regarding music and entertainment nostalgia of the 1960s and 1970s. His interviews focus on off-beat trivia rather than the guests' latest or most famous work. He takes pleasure in interspersing his shows with relatively obscure rock tracks from bands such as Yes, Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

All Day Breakfast Show/Podcasts (2007)

On 15 March 2007, Baker launched the All Day Breakfast Show, a podcast to reach listeners beyond BBC London's FM radio reach. Regulars Amy Lamé, Baylen Leonard and David Kuo all contributed and the first show featured an appearance by comedian and actor Peter Kay.

The All Day Breakfast Show was recorded daily, Monday to Friday at 11am GMT, "in the past for listeners in the future" originally in Baker's own studio based from the kitchen of an Italian restaurant and known as La Cucina and later from the offices of Wippit media. Each show was available as a download and lasted between 40 and 60 minutes.

After nearly six months of free podcasts, the All Day Breakfast Show began charging £2 per week in early September 2007. However, after one week of paid shows, Baker put the ADBS on indefinite hold until "a few things get sorted out". Users had reported short shows and difficulty downloading episodes. After several weeks of silence and internet "twitch" , the All Day Breakfast Show officially announced its return to the air on 19 October 2007. No announcement on the main website was given, but in a 5 minute mini-show downloadable initially only to paid subscribers who happened to check the download section of the website, Danny Baker and Baylen Leonard announced the return of the show. They confirmed that from "next week" they would be broadcasting three times a week. They also suggested (possibly only partially in jest) that due to BBC cuts announced the previous day, that they may be planning to end their official BBC London show and move to being an "Internet only" show.

This new scheduling model continued - apparently successfully - for the next eight weeks. However, on 15 December 2007, Baker himself posted a notice on the "All Day Breakfast Show" and "Baker and Kelly" websites announcing that both shows were cancelled with immediate effect. The notice said that this was a result of "an irreversible and utter breakdown between the on-air team and the company Wippit media who have ... provided it to you online."

The notice in full:

Dear All,



It appals me to say it but there will be no more All Day Breakfast Shows nor Baker & Kelly's. There has now been an irreversible and utter breakdown between the on-air team and the company who have, with varying degrees of success, provided it to you online. I suppose I should have heeded the warning of many of you after the initial, half-assed sign up but, Jesus Christ, I wanted this to work. I have absolutely no idea where any subscription fees are, went or remain. All I know is that we all have created an enormous amount of strong, funny, unbeatable internet shows and in return received nothing. And I mean nothing. Not a brass penny in nine long months just some hefty studio bills along the way. Now it has come down to the old "Ah well if you read your contract you'll find..." and I feel like some dumb-cluck boy band.

Truth is when you're fifty years old, a successful broadcaster for two thirds of your life, and you're standing, crushed, on the sweaty Northern Line every day going to work without even so much as getting your ticket reimbursed... well it kind of rankles you know? I don't know any of my peers or, indeed, any of our genuinely genius audience who would tolerate such a circumstance. It's a rotten shame but enough is enough. The shows were too good and I have too much respect for myself and the team to allow this farcical situation to continue a belly-laugh longer. When I think of the hours and hours of midnight oil that Sonny put in to the magnificent websites alone it frankly makes my blood boil. What a sucker. (Me that is, not you Son).

Radio - in whatever form I can deliver it - is what I do for a living. The current situation is, professionally, killing us all.

I can't thank you enough for any of the two-quids - wherever they currently are - that you were good enough to invest in the ADBS. I just hope what you heard made it worthwhile. That will be the only recompense I can take from this whole wretched episode.

Regards and with great apologies to you all,

DB.
Wippit responded on 17 December 2007 with the following, alluding to Baker's failure to quit his daily radio show as agreed.

"Unfortunately the All Day Breakfast Show in COLOR has ceased to be due to a breakdown in contract negotiations between our company and Danny Baker. Mr. Baker did not wish to meet his agreed obligations regarding exclusivity and the new terms proposed by his agent were not acceptable to Wippit. Last week Wippit offered Mr. Baker 100% of ADBS in COLOR revenues and declared no further interest in the podcast, but this offer was rejected by Baker’s agent. With the exception of ADBS and Baker and Kelly none of the other seven podcasts produced by Wippit are affected."


On 8 September 2007 Baker and Kelly resumed their partnership, releasing the first podcast of their football programme for the 2007–2008 season. A total of twelve such podcasts were produced, before their cancellation was announced on 15 December 2007 as a result of the dispute with Wippit.

Return to 6-0-6, Radio 2 and Saturday Show (2008 - )

Baker announced in his BBC London radio show on 21 May 2008 that he would be returning to present 6-0-6 for a limited period in the summer of 2008.

Baker returned as host of BBC 5 Live's football phone-in 6-0-6 during Euro 2008 for six editions starting from Sunday 8 June following Austria's game against Croatia and culminating after the final on Sunday 29 June.

Baker made a long-term return to 6-0-6 starting in September 2008, to host the Tuesday night show for the duration of the 08/09 football season.

At the end of the 08/09 football season Baker was claiming that the 6-0-6 Tuesday night segment (Known as the 'Pirate Ship' - Baker oft donned a pirate's hat and wig for the benefit of the digital TV simulcast) that he co-hosted with Issy Clarke was to re-commence in September 2009 with an expanded slot on Saturday mornings.

Baker's first Radio 2 show was announced by the BBC Press Office on 11 November 2008, with a statement revealing that he and Zoe Ball would co-present four Saturday morning shows from 22 November to 13 December 2008, in the slot usually occupied by Jonathan Ross, who had been suspended for three months by the BBC. The shows were generally well-received, and notably different in style to Ross's regular programme.

A Saturday morning sports phone in programme featuring Baker and Issy Clarke started on 5 September 2009 on BBC 5 Live.

Personal life

His passions range as widely as punk music, the U.S., progressive rock, Steely Dan, The Marx Brothers and P. G. Wodehouse. He has a large collection of vinyl records and a collection of redundant laserdiscs that his family refer to as 'Baker's folly'. On 8 February 2008, two days after giving up drinking for Lent in support of Amy Lamé, Danny announced on air on his BBC London 94.9 show, that he was selling his record collection.

It has frequently been claimed that Baker inadvertently killed Bob Marley by treading on his foot at a charity football match. However, although Baker did break Marley's toe in a 1977 football match, and Marley's cancer began with foot melanoma, the match was played after the onset of his illness.

Baker is a life long supporter of his local football club, Millwall.

On meeting one of his heroes Mel Brooks he was delighted to find Brooks had used the name "Danny Baker" as character names in one of his early works as he felt it "was the most Gentile name I could think of".

In popular culture

Baker was guest backing vocalist on Crispy Ambulance's 'The Powder Blind Dream' (2004) album. Also, the song 'Dethink To Survive' by British band McLusky finishes with a repeated, screamed refrain of 'Danny Baker!'

Notes

  1. Arts: Danny Baker - `There's this idea that I talk too much'
  2. Baker's return can only be good - Guardian blog on this story
  3. Danny Baker returns to 606 on Radio 5 Live
  4. BBC Press Office: Baker and Ball to co-present on Radio 2
  5. When Bob Marley joined the Bloomsbury Set
  6. FA Cup Final on Match of the Day


References




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