Ambition is Critical

I think it’s a legacy to my years as a radio researcher but before going to an event or having an interview I always try to find out a little about where I’m going and who I’m going to meet.

Sellebrity Foolball , Swansea May 2022 with Gabriella Jukes (Ryan and Paddy not in picture)

I bumped into Ryan and Paddy at last year’s Swansea ‘Selllebrity’ Football match at the Swansea.com Stadium.  We bonded over a shared team sheet as I tried to work out who the celebrities actually were.  To be honest without the boys help I would have been lost.  I don’t really watch Love Island or Hollyoaks which meant the only player on either team I recognised was Lee Trundle!

At the end of the match the boys invited me to be a guest on their podcast ‘Ambition is Critical’. The show is described as…

‘2 dinosaurs talking about Swansea City AFC and whatever other nonsense comes into their minds.’ 

That was last May. The weeks and months past and I waited patiently.  Finally, probably because they had run out of every other guest they could think of, I got the call!!!

The first thing I did was go back and listen to some of their previous podcasts.  I was amazed at just how many podcasts the boys had made.  It looked like I was going to be episode 191.  I checked out the previous guests, Lee Trundle, Kev Johns, Enzo Maccarinelli, even Captain Beany.  Yep, they really had had everyone on the show before inviting me.

Then I looked at some of the episodes titles, ‘Fearing and Loathing in Landore’, ‘Red Pill or Blue Pill’ and ‘Monkey Pox’.  Basically I realised, this wasn’t exactly ‘Songs of Praise’.


Paddy, Mal & Ryan  (Ambition is Critical Podcast)

The first show I listened to was Episode 1; ‘Paddy Cullen’. Now before you tune in to the AIC Podcast  I should say that when the boys got the gear to start podcasting they obviously forgot to buy that ‘bleep’ machine that the BBC use to cover ‘strong and colourful’ language, either that or they broke it through overuse on the first episode.  Safe to say they speak pure Swansea with a regular nod to quite a lot of old Anglo Saxon. 

In the first episode Ryan explains why he wanted to start a podcast.  What I love about listening to that podcast recorded back in September 2017 is that nothing was going to stop him from following his dream.

He explained that when he floated the idea of a podcast his mates were all really supportive.  The person he most worried about telling was his ‘missus’.  Her response, ‘When are you going to grow up?’ Then she asked him, ‘when will you have the time, working 12 hours a day, kids football 4 times a week…’

These are good questions that we should all ask before we start a big project. 

After a few days considering all of the negatives Ryan thought ‘blow it’… or words to that effect.  He wanted to start a podcast and he would find the time. He bought some podcasting gear, rang a mate to create some artwork and a theme tune and just started.  He had said it out loud to family and friends that he was going to be a podcaster and there was no going back, ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ I call it.

190 episodes later and I was sat around the table with Ryan and Paddy as guest of the week.

I asked Mrs Paddy Cullen for a selfie.

For the first hour or so we chatted about my career, if that’s too ambitious a title to give my various jobs.  It struck me early on that Ryan and I shared something in common.  We were both dreamers.  Just like Ryan when he started his podcast most of the things I have attempted in life have been achieved against the odds with people telling me that I was daft to try.

As this is the 50th year since I appeared on the John Peel Show and signed to Elton John’s Rocket record company that was where we started.  Looking back now it seems like magic that when I was 12 years old I recorded some of my songs on my dad’s old tape recorder, sent them to Radio 1 and a couple of weeks later they invited me to record a session.

Rejection letters from the age of 11 never stopped me dreaming.

What is easy to overlook is the disappointments and rejection that often comes when you try to follow your dreams. Months before that letter from Radio 1 I had written to HTV Wales and asked for an audition.  That resulted in the Musical Director suggesting I go for Guitar lessons! 

Weeks before I the Radio 1 session I had been to an audition for Opportunity Knocks…and been rejected.  As well as sending tapes to John Peel I had also sent tapes of my songs to people like Cliff Richard and had no response.

Mario Maccarinelli giving words of advice to Mike Doyle during the making of Contender.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had given up because of those early ‘knock backs’. As Enzo Maccarinelli’s dad Mario used to say, we all take a punch. Go down on one knee with your arm on the rope.  Take the count to 8, then get back up and start again.

Paddy changed the subject to TV themes and how I ended up singing Fireman Sam and Superted. If I’m honest the main reasons I sang on those theme tunes was that, firstly I was asked, and I usually say yes to things if I can. Secondly, I needed the work. By the early 1980’s I was a soft rock singer songwriter in a world of punk.  Nobody was interested in my music.

Now then, put yourself in my shoes for a moment, a few years earlier I had been recording at Abbey Road with Elton John.  I have to say singing about an animated Fireman wasn’t exactly where I saw my career going back then.

What I found amazing was that all these years Paddy was more impressed with the fact I sang ‘Fireman Sam’ than that I was at the recording of ‘Pinball Wizard’ for the film Tommy with Pete Townsend and Keith Moon.

The boys wanted to know how I got into radio, then TV then writing Musicals.  From the outside it might look like considered career decisions to move from one media to another.  I think people are still surprised when I explain most of the opportunities came out of the blue and most of the projects I’ve instigated came about because I needed to create some work to support the family.

Playing for Brynhyfryd Junior School, Vetch Field 1969 (missing a boot)

Eventually we got around to talking football.  Growing up in Swansea in the 1970’s for me and my mates football was everything.  We also had an amazing crop of schoolboys, many of whom would go on to become professionals and internationals. When I signed that record deal in 1973 I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a popstar or professional footballer. 

I have to say I still cling to my music dreams.  Sadly, a recent operation on my knee means I’m probably out for the rest of the season at least!

I haven’t achieved either ambition…yet.

And there is that word again ‘Ambition’.  I was proud to be the guest on podcast 191. Although I haven’t listened back to it all I’m pretty sure it’s one of the only episodes that comes without a ‘Parental Guidance’ warning so thanks to the boys for that nod to my past in the Gospel Hall. 

This all just goes to show that Ambition is still Critical.   Ryan and Paddy are an example for all of us, there is nothing stopping you trying to do something extraordinary, except you.

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