Music / May 17, 2021

Commemorating the stolen microphone that earned Mike Skinner a number one album

Music / May 17, 2021

Commemorating the stolen microphone that earned Mike Skinner a number one album

Words: Dylan Murphy

17 years ago today, The Streets released the number one album A Grand Don’t Come For Free, we’re revisiting Mike’s antics that led to the album’s creation.

Mike Skinner is always good for a story or two. For the best part of 20 years, the legendary MC has spun relatable tales about everything from romance, nights out to trying to recoup lost banknotes. Simultaneously, he managed to revolutionise UK music with his blend of spoken word, rap and garage that came off the back of the burgeoning pirate radio scene in the early 2000s with a couple of number one albums. Not too shabby eh?

With it being 17 years to the day that The Streets dropped A Grand Don’t Come For Free, we thought what better time to revisit some of the lore that surrounded the album.

The story goes that Mike Skinner stole a microphone from Jo Whiley’s studio after an interview he did with the Radio 1 DJ. He’d go on to use the mic to record A Grand Don’t Come For Free, which would become a number one in both the UK and Ireland.

A year after it hit the charts, Mike recorded a remix of Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet‘ where he apologised to Jo and owned up to swiping the mic.

He raps:

“Gotta take Jo Whiley’s microphone back to her today, and, um
Yeah, I’m, um, bit nervous, really”…

“I was just gonna post it back anonymously
But, Jo, that’s not what my mum and dad raised me up to be”…

“I don’t know how to say this one but I stole your microphone
While I was on your live radio show, Jo
(Friday the 13th is unlucky for some, I tell you)
The thirteenth is unlucky for some (But not for my mum)
But that Friday was lucky for Mum
‘Cause that mic you loaned me made for a number one
(Number one, so thank you)”

“I slid a Neumann microphone into my pocket
Bowled out the studio just as Avril Lavigne got in, oi
I was nervous like, even though that type of swipe’s quite easy
And not ’cause of how many millions had tuned in to me speak
I don’t feel good about it and I don’t want to repeat it
But the mic went pride of place on Grand Don’t Come For Free
Three years on, now I’m all in, now I’ve won what I needed
So I want to be straight up, and own up for the deed
I wasn’t going to tell you, but I started feeling bad
‘Cause you were so safe when I went in
Around the release of my last
It’s a joke, anyway, what I wanted to say is just, “Sorry”
I took your mic, but I’m sending it back to you, promptly
(You can have it back, seriously)”

Listen to the full song below and blast out A Grand Don’t Come For Free.

Elsewhere on District: Extraterrestrial: Exploring Alienation and Identity in Ireland.