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Sixty Seconds with Craig Charles

The DJ, presenter and actor, 54, on Red Dwarf, failed attempts at punk stardom and the Michael Jackson documentary

You returned to Liverpool recently to take part in the 6 Music Festival. What does your hometown mean to you?

There’s no better night out than one in Liverpool. They know how to party. The girls all dress up, the boys are smart and they are all drinkers rather than turning up with a bottle of water and a bagful of pills. It’s a real musical city. They know when someone’s bringing it and they know when someone’s faking it.

What were your early experiences of going clubbing?

I was 16 and I’d got into Romeo And Juliet’s disco. I only had enough money for one rum ’n’ blackcurrant. I remember nursing that all night and dancing to Odyssey, Funkadelic and Michael Jackson. There was loads of skinheads around too. There was a gang called the Lawrence Road Loonies who used to come to St Bridget’s disco in this old church hall, and there were always fights with them.

How do you feel about the idea we should no longer listen to Michael Jackson’s music?

It’s a quagmire. There’s no official ban but we’ve not played Michael Jackson on my 6 Music show since all this came out. And I’ve not played him live, either. My wife is a massive Michael fan and she’s not had him on since watching part of the documentary. If it’s true then I would find it very uncomfortable playing his music. But is it true or not?

Controversial: Michael Jackson

You were in a band in the early 1980s that used to play clubs such as Eric’s in Liverpool. What were you like?

The band was called What For? and we had Roag Best on drums. His brother was Pete Best, who used to be in The Beatles. We were supposed to be new-wave punk but we had a guitarist called Johnny Rocket, who used to turn his guitar up to 11 and do these proper crazy heavy rock solos. I don’t think we ever found our true direction. I played keyboards. At one stage I had an Afro and a green feather earring. If my kids ever see that photograph I’ll be in so much trouble. I used to think I looked so cool!

You’re a Liverpool FC fan. When did you start going to Anfield?

I must have been about 13, 14. The Kop in those days was crazy. I got knocked unconscious one time and passed down over the heads of everyone. The crowd had surged forward and I cracked my head on a barrier. I saw the rest of the game from the touchline. Do I have faith that Liverpool are going to win the Premier League this season? I have hope. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Man City, probably the best team in the world, is an honour in itself.

Your parents were from minority backgrounds, right?

My mum was Liverpool/Irish and my dad Guyanese. My dad landed in Liverpool in the 1950s with a bagful of records and a pocketful of change. While Liverpool was dancing to The Beatles, our house was dancing to Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. I love a load of Irish music too. My wife is from Tuam, County Galway, so we go to see The Saw Doctors whenever they play over here.

Childhood music: Aretha Franklin

I hear you’ve got an underground bar and an underground library. If I come round to your house, what will we read and what will we drink?

We’d read Don Winslow. We’d read a bit of his brilliant novel The Border and then we’d drink a bit of Irish, a nice Jameson’s. No mixer, maybe a little bit of water.

If you could go back and relive one single day from your life, what would it be?

To dance with my father again. He’s been dead ten years now. I just wish he could have shared those years with us as a family. A Sunday lunch with my mum and dad would be a nice revisit of the past. We used to dance round the kitchen and he’d show me all his moves. [Craig sings] ‘People in the party — hot hot hot!’ He was cremated, me dad, and that was his cremation song. I thought he would have appreciated that.

With which historical figure would you most like to go for a pint?

We did a Red Dwarf episode recently where the scientists had cured evil and I got to play guitar with Hitler. It was a weird concept that you could actually cure evil as if it was a virus and all these evil people would become normal.

So, just to clarify, Craig…

No, I don’t want to go for a pint with Hitler.

Catch up with the 6 Music Festival at 6 Music, BBC iplayer and BBC Sounds