Loose Ends on Radio 4

Loose Ends has been broadcast on Saturday evenings since 1998. It’s the kind of programme I ought to love, and, to be fair, I often do. But there’s something about it that doesn’t quite work for me.

The original presenter, Ned Sherrin, was someone I didn’t quite get on with. Whether his humour went over my head, or if he and I were on different wavelengths, I don’t know. I did meet him once, briefly, at a charity bike ride and he seemed like a nice, decent bloke in real life.

The programme is now hosted by Clive Anderson. Sadly, he’s someone else I don’t really get along with. Even on  TV, he annoys me. And to this day, when he turns up as a panellist on, for instance, QI, I groan inwardly. Can I put my finger on why I am not a Clive fan? No, not really. But being so rude to The Bee Gees in that infamous interview doesn’t help. And I generally dislike being negative about anyone. After all, I couldn’t do that job. As I said before: the format of this programme should make it unmissable listening for me.

But when I do tune in, I usually love the rest of the show. The guests are entertaining and/or informative.

Last week, for instance, there were Jack Davenport, Rufus Wainwright, Amy Lamé and Brenda Blethyn.

Tonight’s edition includes Anna Chancellor, Cerys Matthews, Richard Bacon and Claire Sweeney.

Loose Ends is sometimes presented by Peter Curran while semi-regular interviewers include Emma Freud and Gideon Coe. In the past we’ve heard Robert Elms too. What’s special about this motley crew is that they were all, at one time, presenters on the late, lamented GLR. See? Another reason why this show should be in my top ten.

Loose Ends on BBC Radio 4.


Afternoon Drama – Radio 4

Weekday afternoons at 2.15 on Radio 4, and has been for as long as I can remember, is Afternoon Drama. Usually these are one-off plays but sometimes there’s a serial.

Today was wet. We had at least 12 hours continuous rain, which is unusual, even in England. I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t working in the rain today, but the lovely weatherman says it will be much the same tomorrow.

So to fit it with my dull, grey mood, I listened to a drama today: Erebus. It was broadcast quite a while ago, and it’s no longer available, but I’m glad I squirreled away a copy: literally, for a rainy day, as it goes. It’s billed as “a poetic drama by Jo Shapcott about the search for the North-West Passage.”

I never knew there were so many kinds of ice available to cause trouble in the sea.

And I probably didn’t need to hear about the cannibalism.

Afternoon Drama – Erebus. Look out for it when it’s repeated. Brrr.

I wish I had time to listen to more drama but it’s so much easier to listen to the music shows while I’m doing something else. With drama, I need to concentrate more. Multi-tasking? Well, as I tell my wife: that’s just a good way of messing lots of things up at the same time.

Here’s the Afternoon Drama page and a quick look reveals that out of those available on the iPlayer, I’m most likely to listen to The Biggest Issues as it is about a radio shock jock. I’m not a big fan of shock jocks so I’m hoping this one gets her just desserts… It’s up for another 6 days.

Radio Ga Ga and Radio Academy

It’s my nephew’s birthday soon and his mother, my sister, claimed that he was unable to find a copy of Queen’s Radio Ga Ga online. Well, I had no such problem: there are several versions available to download. So this very lucky 16-year-old-to-be is receiving a CD featuring ten versions of this song. Vocal and instrumental, live and studio recorded. At the end of the process, I was a bit fed up with listening to it.

But, really, it’s not a bad celebration of the medium that we all love.

Certainly, a lot of radio out there is ga ga, blah blah nonsense: pap, bland, background noise. 

But when radio works, it can be fantastic. The song itself acknowledges the famous Orson Welles version of War of the Worlds that scared America to death in 1938 as well as the rallying speeches from Winston Churchill during the second world war.

So I just hope young Rob will enjoy the CD that I nurtured into existence.

I am not a pa id-up member of the Radio Academy but I have been to a few of their events and I do enjoy listening to the podcasts. Or Radio Talks, as they call them. The latest is very interesting…

Helen Thomas is the multi-award winning Executive Producer of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show. Richard Steel, the Executive Producer of Dave and Lisa at Capital FM, is also at the top of his game but works within a commercial radio framework.

Listen to the Radio Academy Radio Talk right here.

Now, I can listen to Chris Evans on Radio 2, no problem, though I’m not able to while at work, and when I’m at home at that time of day, I usually listen to 6 Music, or to something recorded earlier.

But Dave and Lisa on Capital FM leave me cold. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the music they play, but the ‘banter’ between the records sounds, well, forced, contrived, unnatural. While listening to their producers on the Radio Talk, I did laugh at the following exchange…

<Spoiler alert don’t read further if you plan to listen to the whole Radio Talk>

<Also, transcription is not my forté, so apologies for the mistakes, but you get the idea>

Helen: If you’re hearing a presenter ramble on, I can’t stand hearing links that just are never ending, you know, presenters in search of a punchline, I can’t bear that…

Richard: I hate that.

Helen: Never open the microphone…

John: You can hear them vocally searching…

Helen: Yeah, it’s a night… and it’s a tense listen. As a listener, you get tense listening to that. You know, I strongly believe you shouldn’t open that fader unless you know exactly what you’re gonna say, and every link should have a beginning, a middle, an end: as a presenter, you know exactly where you’re going with it, how it’s going to end, what the record’s gonna be, how that’s gonna work […]

Richard: You’ve got to remember your audience as well, haven’t you? And at what point they’re listening. So, the Breakfast show, a lot of people are busy getting their selves ready for their day, they don’t need anything too complex […]

Well, a few quick points:

I know it’s a spontaneous discussion, but Helen the producer was veering towards the rambling there!

And listening to Dave and Lisa, I would say a high percentage of their links are aimless and I lose interest well before the next record or advert, so, sorry, Richard, you’re not doing such a good job of producing, there.


Danny Baker

Danny Baker broadcasts on BBC London 94.9 every weekday afternoon from 3 to 5pm. I listen to the show most days and i have been known to participate once in a while.

There is also a Danny Baker Show on BBC Radio 5 Live every Saturday morning. I don’t usually listen to this one because in its early days, there was too much football for my taste. Plus, there’s only so much Candyman magic anyone can take.

A while ago, Dan suggested he might be sitting in for Chris Evans on the RAdio 2 Breakfast show for a couple of weeks in April. Well, we now know this was either a hoax, or wishful thinking, maybe a genuine mistake or possibly a fishing expedition.

Instead of Danny Baker on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, while Chris Evans was away watching a game of golf, we had that Richard Madeley off TV. I wouldn’t have been able to listen anyway, most days, but I know at least one person who had to turn off the radio and play a CD on the drive to work instead.

One of my pet peeves (if you’re interested) is that Radio 2’s bosses think that you can take a ‘celeb’ off the TV and think they’ll be good on the radio. A few are, but by and large, they just can’t do it. The sense of intimacy that we like radio for is just not there with some people.

But back to Danny Baker. His radio career started with GLR back in 1988. Banging on the desk in the studio (until the producer, one Chris Evans told him to stop), he declared himself the new sheriff in town. Before that, he was a TV presenter. Not only famous for the Daz adverts, he reported for, amongst others, Janet Street Porter and with  Michael Aspel on the Six O’Clock Show in the London LWT region.

From GLR, he moved to Radio 1, Talk Radio (with his friend Danny Kelly), to Virgin Radio (with one Chris Evans) and then back to GLR’s replacement, BBC London. He returned there despite having been told by one radio controller that he’d never work for the BBC again. He returned to present the breakfast show; his co-presenters greeting him each day with ‘Good morning, Candyman’. This greeting is the preferred option with co-hosts and with listeners, even now his daily show is on in the afternoons.

A few years ago he became DJ of the Year at the Sony Awards – at a time when he was not allowed to play records during his show. The irony of this accolade, and the not so subtle message to BBC London management still raises a smile.

The show would be nothing without the listeners who, given the most obscure and unlikely subject matter, come up with some very funny and/or fascinating stories. He can now play music and comes up with some great stuff. Currently, at the slightest excuse, he will play some (or all) of Bernie Winters’ flop 1972 single It’s Bernie. This theme is likely to become the modern equivalent of one of his worst ideas ever: The Cats v Dogs Superbowl. Believe me, if you don’t know already, you don’t want or need to know its details.

Yeah, I know Danny Baker isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think he suffers a bit from the hanging out with Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne a few years ago. All I would say to anyone is, give him another listen.

Danny Baker on BBC London 94.9

Danny Baker on BBC 5 Live

Danny Baker on Wikipedia

By the way, he’s currently writing his autobiography, so that’s something to look out for as Christmas approaches.

Broadcasting House

Very disappointed not to win the BH competition again this morning. I don’t always know the answer to their quiz, but when I do, I do like to enter. I say ‘quiz’, because that’s what Paddy O’Connell calls it, but it’s not really, it’s a montage of sounds that are clues to a news item that occurred during the week.

I won’t tell you the answer but you can listen again here.

It may have escaped your notice that it is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It took me by surprise too when I half heard something mentioned in passing on the radio this morning.

Hah… actually, towards the end of today’s BH, Steve Punt does a pretty good job of exposing the over-exposure of the Titanic ‘celebrations’, not only on Radio 4, but pretty much on every other radio and TV station too. Skip to 57m08s for Steve Punt if you don’t want to hear the rest of the show.

Earlier on, while searching for some Titanic-free output, I heard Norman Jay on Nemone’s show on 6 Music. I haven’t heard him on the radio for quite a while but he always used to keep me company on a Sunday night on his GLR show, while I did the washing up. And every time(*) I’ve been to the Notting Hill Carnival, I always make a pilgrimage to his Good Times bus.

In other, totally unrelated news, this is a long but very interesting review of a couple of new books about David Bowie. Can’t help noticing the writer’s name is Thomas Jones. Major Tom? Related to Davy Jones (aka David Bowie)? 

(*) I just checked: I haven’t been since 2005.


Jarvis Cocker, Joe Strummer

It seems a bit strange to write about Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Supplement programme on 6 Music, just after it’s finished for a while, but it was good and when he returns in September, I’m sure it will be just as fantastic. I love his selection of music, nothing too taxing, some relaxing tunes, and all delivered in a very relaxed manner.

The final show in this run was broadcast on 1st April, and the last song played was David Bowie’s Laughing Gnome, which made me chuckle away. Until, that is, it stopped mid-song. Yet again, the iPlayer did not deliver the whole programme. Grrr, as they say.

His guest on the show was Kathy Burke, there to promote her new TV series, Walking and Talking, to be shown on Sky Atlantic in the Summer. I won’t see it, as I don’t subscribe to this channel, but it sounds fun, and I’m sure I’ll catch it on DVD at some point.

Anyway, she told the story of when she was a teenager, and she bumped into Joe Strummer at Euston Station. She asked for his autograph on her music paper, but he then berated her for cutting the word Clash onto her arm. Since that day, she’s not cut herself and certainly hasn’t had a tattoo.

But it reminded me that a long time ago, at a Save GLR gig in The 100 Club in London, I met Joe Strummer too. I asked if I could take his photo, and he said, “Yes, but you’ll have to take the lens cap off first”.

He really was a top bloke: great music as well as providing health and photographic advice.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Joe’s death and to celebrate, we can look forward to the Strummer of Love, a festival to take place in Somerset, in August, just before what would have been his 60th birthday.

But back to Jarvis Cocker. He’s back with Pulp and currently touring America. Well, he kept that under his hat! Pulp are triumphant at Radio City Music Hall.

Meanwhile, as far as we 6 Music listeners are concerned, we’ll have A Month of Sundays with Karl Hyde after which we can look forward to John Cooper Clarke in the 4pm-6pm slot on BBC 6 Music.

Hawaiian 105

Sometimes you just need to listen to something totally different. You might want some happy, sunshiney music, the sound of people having a good time.

I can recommend listening to Hawaiian 105 for a short while. It’s not all about surfing, there are instruments other than ukuleles. And other than Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, I probably couldn’t name any of the artistes who are played on a regular basis.

It brings back fantastic memories of our holiday recently on Oahu, somehow the rhythms conjure up the sandy beach, the crashing waves, the blue sky and the warmth of the Sun.

So far, I haven’t listened long enough or frequently enough to be annoyed by the adverts. Hawaii is eleven hours behind UK time, so we get their breakfast music in the evening. “Wake up every weekday morning with Billy V from 5am to 10am!Hawaiian 105 KINE…The Hawaiian Music Station, Playing the Best MIX of Yesterday & Today.”

Hawaiian 105.com

The Emperor

Here I am, catching up on an old edition of Radio 4’s Soul Music, the one about Beethoven’s Piano Concert No 5 in E-flat Major, better known as The Emperor.

Most of the time, I’d prefer to listen to modern music, but sometimes an old classical piece will take my fancy.

Beethoven is probably my favourite classical composer, I love all the symphonies, especially the odd numbered ones .

But this piano concerto has so many fantastic melodies: it’s quite sad, or melancholic, which matches my mood at the moment, a cold, grey, murky April day. It doesn’t feel like Easter all.

Many years ago, I heard some of the music in the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock – and this film is referred to in the Soul Music programme. By association, and because it’s such a lovely, moving film, I could not pass up the opportunity of visiting Hanging Rock itself, when I went to Australia in 2002 to see the total eclipse of the Sun. (Scroll down to read an exclusive excerpt from my journal which is currently no longer available elsewhere on the internet.)

Soul Music – The Emperor

This Wikipedia entry describes the concerto in a much more technical way than I’m capable of doing.

My own Picnic at Hanging Rock, 2002.

On the train to Woodend, a bloke saw my t-shirt and said “London? Have you been to London, then?”

“Well, yeah, I live there.”

“Oh, I always wondered what the food and veg was like there.”

“It’s alright, if you’re careful where you buy it.”

“Oh,” he said, as he turned away to look out of the window.

His name was Bernie, if you’re interested!

Anyway, once we got through the industrial north of Melbourne and out into the country, it was lovely. I was worried about the 100% cloud cover though – but the small patch of blue sky spread by the time we got to Macedon.

Woodend is the closest town to Hanging Rock, a small place, but with wide streets so it was still quite hard to cross the road – just too many places to look.

I bought a picnic at a great little bakers: sesame seed rolls with cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beetroot and alfalfa. Guess how much? Two dollars each. Ace! Over the road the cycle shop, where John, the proprietor said I was a bit early. Well, I had got the first available train! I could have the hire bike only when they’d moved a lot of stock out onto the pavement, as the hire bikes were right at the top, at the back. Very handy.

It was a 21-gear mountain bike with front suspension.

And it was a surprisingly short, and easy ride to Hanging Rock itself, which does feel eerie. It looks like an ordinary hill to start with, but
then you realise, there are bare rocks showing through.

I walked to the top, and by this time I was a bit hot and sweaty from the ride of course. Having the bag on my back wasn’t ideal, but you don’t get panniers on a mountain bike.

There was a party of school children, in bright blue uniforms. I resisted the temptation to ask the teachers whether there were any students they wanted to lose…. the film Picnic at Hanging Rock was about a party of
school girls, on a picnic, some of whom go missing… But then I realised that these teachers probably get fed up with such stupid comments!

The Sun was getting hot now too, and there was no longer a cloud in the sky. The birds
and cicadas were the only sound when feet stopped crunching.

Some of the rocks and features have been given names, such as The Eagle, and of course the Hanging Rock itself which does look like it’s suspended in mid-air.

The views were spectacular, Mt Macedon to the south, and the plains to the north. There were some sheer drops too – one is called Lover’s Leap – but I didn’t get too close to the edge.

At the ‘summit’, I listened to the teachers talking about the volcanic activity in these parts, and the lichens which give the rocks their various different colours. There are dozens of plant species which are unique to these parts.

I started on the path going down, and I thought it was quite difficult in places, having to squeeze past rocks and climb down 2 or 3 feet at a time.  They’d never let mere tourists do serious climbing like this at home, I thought. Eventually I got to the point where it was too far to get down to the next level, about a 5-foot drop. I couldn’t even hear the school party any more… I realised I must have gone off the proper path ages ago. I was lost. Damn – all this way to Hanging Rock at last and I’m going to die here… Just me and the Sun and not a lot of water. I figured I had about 4 hours to go. I wondered whether John would mind having to come out here to get his bike back.

What a twit, I thought, getting lost at Hanging Rock. The only way out was to go back up again, which wasn’t easy with that 2-tonne bag on my back. But I got there eventually, looked around for the ‘proper’ path – and really couldn’t work out how I’d missed it the first time! Phew! I would live to see the Eclipse, after all!

In the visitors centre I bought some more water, and then I sat down outside to eat my lunch – my own picnic at Hanging Rock.

Back on the bike, I thought about cycling to Mt Macedon, but I have to admit, I gave up. The bag over my shoulder was uncomfortably sweaty, the Sun was overhead, the road was getting steeper and steeper. So I got not quite halfway and turned right instead of left, back towards Woodend.

It felt so good to be free-wheeling downhill, in the cooling breeze, and it was a very long ride, thank goodness it was downhill! I enjoyed that! It was a shame to miss the mountain, I’ll just have to come back again – a bit fitter! There’s a monument there, which is a huge illuminated cross, to commemorate the men lost in WW1, which is supposed to be visible from Melbourne, 50 miles away.

Back in Woodend, I found a second-hand book shop, and bought a copy of Picnic at Hanging Rock! I thought I ought to read it again! Sometimes parties of American women go in, and ask for a copy each!

I had an hour to kill before the train back, so I went back to the same baker, and had a coffee and the biggest deliciousest Danish ever – blueberry in the middle, and apple around the outside. Yummie!

I know, I know: too many exclamation marks! Sorry about that!!

Can’t beat a nice long lie-in on a Saturday or a Sunday

Unusually for me, I am staying up late 4 nights out of 5, but I managed to get a few days off work, so I have plenty of opportunity to catch up on my sleep. I usually get up at 5am for work, so late nights are generally a no-no. But due to circumstances, here I am, out on Thursday (pub-style quiz at the local dramatics group), out on Friday (Rosanne Cash at Union Chapel), out on Saturday (farewell party for younger daughter who is soon moving to Australia) and out again on Monday (Robyn Hitchcock performing his 1984 album I Often Dream of Trains).

Today, Tuesday was warm and Springlike, and the newsman just told me that March had been the third warmest ever. Then the weathergirl told me it was likely to be very cold tomorrow and we may have sleet or snow.

Meanwhile, on Saturday and on Sunday morning, after I woke up, I listened to a few hours of radio. And not a bad collectiuon of programmes, either: I can recommend them all.

As I write, there are still 4 days to listen to a fascinating programme about Mozart and the many fake compositions attributed to him, some in error, some deliberately. The main nugget I came away with was, that Mozart wrote Super Trouper by Abba. Great stuff, have a listen to Faking the Classics.

I think the Garrison Keillor Radio Show has been broadcast here in the UK since BBC 7 (now 4 Extra) came into being almost ten years ago. It’s a lovely, gentle mix of story-telling and music, mainly bluegrass. Very relaxing.

I listened to most of Barry Took: Mr Point of View in bed that day, but I had to get up to eat, so I caught up with the final hour or so later on. It’s Barry’s autobiography, in a nutshell. I think it mentioned just about every comedy show on radio and TV for the last forty years. I was very fond of Barry Took, and think it’s odd that he’s best remembered now for presenting Points of View. That can’t be right, surely?

Sunday morning is mostly comedy.

The Horne Section is a new production, and last Sunday we heard the last of 4 episodes.

Then there are two sitcoms form the 1950s, which I like to think my folks listened to at the time.

Take it From Here features the very loud (for those days) Jimmy Edwards and a very young June Whitfield.

But this week’s episode of Meet the Huggetts is a classic – at least to me. On the grounds that it reminds me of someone very close to me…

But the comedy stops at 9.00am when I switch to Radio 4 for Broadcasting House. Well, it doesn’t completely stop, as the presenter Paddy O’Connell can be very funny, but this newsy magaziney programme is a good way to catch up on some of the week’s serious news but also to look at the lighter side of life (as they say). The newspaper review is usually so good, I have no desire to go out and buy a Sunday newspaper: it confirms that I’m not really missing much.