Sunday is a brilliant day for radio

I realised that Sunday is quite probably the single best day of the week on BBC radio. Here is a list of what I listened to yesterday ‘live’ and what I’ve recorded for future enjoyment.

12.00 midnight Radio 2 – Bob Harris

9.00am Radio 4 – Broadcasting House

A topical news-based magazine programme with a competition that I enetr once in a blue moon, when i know the answer. It would be wrong to say that I only listen, waiting for the return of Fi Glover.

10.00am 6 Music – Cerys Matthews

11.15am Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs

This week, the guest was Jonathan Agnew. For a 70-year old programme, it’s doing very well, going form strength to strength. Dare I say it: I think Kirsty Young is the best ever presenter.

1.00pm Radio 2 – Elaine Paige

Much of the programme is predictable, Lloyd-Webber, Les Mis, common or garden songs from musicals, but now and then, a great tune turns up. But if not, hearing Elaine’s unique chuckle/chortle brightens up even the dullest, greyest Sunday.

1.30pm Radio 4 – Lyrical Journey

This week, the subject was Eddi Reader’s song ‘Patience of Angels’, written by Boo Hewerdine. I remember when the record first came out in 1994(?): I’m sure Eddi Reader appeared on GLR many times to promite the record, though sadly, I have no such recordings.

3.00pm Radio 4 – The Real George Orwell

‘A journey exploring the man Eric Blair and the writer George Orwell’ – drama and stories written by and about George Orwell.

3.00pm Radio 2 – Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the ’70s

4.00pm 6 Music – Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service

6.15pm Radio 4 – Pick of the Week

A good way of finnding some interesting programmes that I would have missed otherwise. I usually hear it in time to get something off the iPlayer, but there have been several misses over the years. They have played one of my suggestions, once. Although I suspect many listeners nominated the same item.

8.00pm Radio 4 – Feedback

Though I usually try to catch this programme on its first outing on friday evening. It’s the radio version of ‘Points of View’ only much better. Ancompliants about (or indeed praise for) the BBC and its output is welcome here.

10.00pm 6 Music – Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour

He read out one of my emails once and so immediately became my number one topmost favourite radio presenter DJ of all time, ever. But apart from that, this, along with all the other 6 Music shows today, quite easily ticks the box that says ‘they place the music you don’t know you want to listen to’.

11.00pm Radio 2 – The David Jacobs Collection

Old time records, most of the songs predate even my parents’ era, but every now and then there’s a real gem, and the fact that it’s 60 years old really doesn’t matter. I met hime once, at Kingston Readers’ Festival. He asked for directions to the lav.

I also caught bits of Paul O’Grady, Clare Balding, Michael Ball, Russell Davis, Mary Anne Hobbs and 1.5 seconds of the Archers theme tune, that being how long it takes to jump across the room the switch to 6 Music.

BBC News – Record ratings for digital radio stations

Here’s the news article straight from the horse’s mouth:
BBC News – Record ratings for digital radio stations.

But in summary, BBC 6 Music, the Asian Network and Radio 4 Extra have all gained more listeners during the last three months.

Absolute Radio has the highest proportion of listeners tuning in via digital means rather than analogue, FM.

In London, Capital Radio beat RAdio 1 at breakfast time. Chris Moyles’s final quarter saw a continuing decline in his audience.

Overall, it appears that radio continues to attract more listeners and for longer periods each week.

I’ve never been asked but I know my listening habits are well above average. As I’ve said before, there is literally not enough time for me to listen to everything I want to. Yes, I still find time to watch TV, but that is seldom as satisfying. Homeland is great, though, very intense.

But given the time constraints, I’m afarid I didn’t even try to listen to Radio 2’s collection of Beatles programmes broadcast during October. As big a Beatles fan as I am, after all this time, i think I’d rather listen to their music than listen to even more people talking about them and their stories and their influences.

Last weekend’s Bob Harris show was brilliant, from my point of view. He played records by so many of my favourites: Frank Zappa, The Shadows, Steely Dan, Ruarri Joseph, Sam Cook, Tasmin Archer, John Lee Hooker, not to mention studio guests Robert Cray and Martin Stephenson. Here’s the playlist. Never let it be said that Bob Harris doesn’t play folk music! As I write, there is a day and a half to listen to the programme on the iPlayer.


Catch up

Well, I’m catching up on a bit of a backlog. Always will be, I suppose, since many of the shows I want to hear are on late at night.

But, as I write, Tuesday 14th February, 2.30pm, I’m listening to Robert Elms on BBC London 94.9. I’ve been listening to his show, on and off, for, crikey, it must be twenty years or so, since he first arrived at GLR. His knowledge of and interest in all things London are contagious. Today’s show, being on St Valentine’s day, include more love songs than he usually plays, but that’s OK.

Speaking of Robert Elms, it was he who introduced BBC London’s ‘Your Desert Island Discs’ show on the 70th anniversary of the Radio 4 programme devised by Roy Plomley. It featured eleven listeners and their choices of desert island disc with, in a couple of cases, a truly heart-breaking story. Robert himself said that one of the interviews was the hardest he’d ever conducted. The musical choices were interesting, I couldn’t have predicted any of them, I don’t think. I did wonder how he’d cope if one of the contributors had chosen a Beatles song. Robert’s notorious for his dislike of the Beatles, thinking they’re vastly overrated.

I listened to the Radio 4 ‘Soul Music’ programme that featured Gresford, The Miners’ hymn. This tune was written to commemorate the mining disaster in Wales in 1934 by a Durham miner. I was unfamiliar with the tune, but it is indeed very moving.

Last year, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris compiled a series of 16 programmes to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test. I downloaded the whole OGWT40 series with a view to listening to it while on holiday over Christmas. Well, I heard a few episodes, and I am slowly catching up on the rest! And very interesting it is too. There’s a nice mix of chat, replays of the original sessions together with newly recorded sessions. The latest revelation is Midge Ure’s new, acoustic version of ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’. It’s no longer on iPlayer, but I’m sure it will be repeated sometime, probably on BBC 6 Music.

And finally (for now): I listened to Johnnie Walker’s Long Players – the one about Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. And I didn’t break down in floods of tears as I thought I might. Rather, I enjoyed Johnnie talking with David Hepworth about the album. Both Elton and Bernie Taupin contributed to the programme. But ultimately, it was wonderful to be reminded of what a great album this was. Yeah, some songs are better than others, of course, but after eleven years, maybe it’s time to listen to the whole thing from start to finish.

Listening to the radio at work

In case you missed it, I am a postman. I start work at 6 am and get home any time between about 12 noon and 2 pm, very rarely earlier, even more rarely later.

The first 3 hours (more or less) is spent indoors, in the office, preparing mail for delivery. The soundtrack to this activity is the office radio. There is some sort of precedence over who is allowed to touch this radio, and change the station that we listen to.

All I can say is that of the radio stations we tune in to on a regular basis, there are only a couple that I might tune into at home.

These two are Absolute FM (formerly Virgin) and Radio Jackie.

Permission to choose a radio station is a special treated, awarded on the occasion of someone’s birthday. They can choose a different one, or play a CD brought in from home. Woe betide anyone who brings in a CD which is in anyway unusual, that doesn’t preatty much represent what we have to endure most days anyway.

So, Absolute Radio, Absolute FM might be chosen two or three times each year. Genuinely, a birthday treat.

Radio Jackie is on more frequently. It is our local station for south-west London and north Surrey. The breakfast show presenters are nothing special (the fairly ubiquitous bloke with ditzy girl combo) and the travel news might be of local interest, but at least their choice of music is better than most.

The other stations often listened to are Heart FM, Magic FM and Smooth FM. Their playlists are all dire, displaying no imagination whatsoever. The adverts are repetitive and annoying.

A couple of people in the office listen to their own entertainment, putting on headphones and listening to their iPod, or whatever. I tried that, but it didn’t really work for.

More rarely (thank goodness), as mentioned before, we are subjected to Capital FM or Kiss FM. Not my cup of tea at all.

But, when I’m out on delivery, when I’m on a street where there’s not a lot of loud traffic, I listen to my MP3 player. I used to wear a headset and listen to the radio, but the cable gets caught on things, the plug gets yanked from my ear and, probably worse, I can’t hear members of the public when they address me.

So now, I download recorded radio programmes and listen to those as I walk around. These are mostly music programmes from BBC Radio 2 or 6 Music but sometimes shows from Radio 4. Ironically, some of the best music documentaries are on the speech station Radio 4, so I’ll take those too.

So (and I’ve commented on this before) in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to Gideon Coe (6 Music), Bob Harris (Radio 2 Saturday/Sunday show and his Country programme), Desert Island Discs (Radio 4), Cerys Matthews (6 Music).

So far, I haven’t tried listening to recorded, serious talk shows, such as a drama or a political documentary: I suspect they would need deeper concentration that I can manage whilst walking around the streets, trying to avoid obstacles and to deliver at least most of the mail to the right place.


Capital FM – Saturday morning

We had the ‘pleasure’ of listening to Capital FM in the office this morning. Not my choice, but that of a younger chap, and someone else who likes to think he’s a younger chap, and who pretends to like the music offered. I’ll make no pretence: I can’t stand it, it was not a pleasure, but then, the music isn’t meant for me. I’m an old fart, I’m set in my ways.

But what make me think that Marconi would be turning in his grave, and probably regretting that that trip to the patent office, was the inane DJ chatter between the records. Inane? Is there a stronger word? Because it really was diabolical. They were talking about how you take a shower. Or a bath. Or a bath-shower.

It was bad enough being at work on a Saturday; it was bad enough that there was much more mail than we had on Friday. We start work half an hour earlier on a Saturday, and today, we left the office to deliver the mail half an hour later than yesterday.

So that’s a whole extra hour preparing mail in the office.

And all that time, Capital FM. Dire.

And like a breath of fresh air, while out on delivery, I was able to listen to an old Bob Harris Show from Radio 2. Now that’s what I call proper music. A bit of rock, some pop, some country, a chat with a new (or old) band…  Thank you BBC for the iPlayer which allows me to hear programmes in the future..

In fairness, I suppose I ought to namecheck the Capital FM DJs as well, but I have absolutely no idea who they are.