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 – Proms –

The first thing you need to know is: tickets for this years Prom Concerts go on sale tomorrow, Saturday 12th May, at 9.00am.

But before then, you’ll need to decide which ones you want to see. So here’s the link you need …

BBC – Proms – BBC Proms homepage.

I’ve had a quick look and there are  a few concerts (funny how it’s ‘concerts’ for classical music and ‘gigs’ for modern music) that I’d like to see, time and finances permitting.

I suspect I’ll listen to most of these and many more on Radio 3.

My Fair Lady – July 14. Well, we all like the songs, and they won’t mind if we sing along, I’m sure.

Beethoven symphonies 5 and 6 – July 23. Well, alright, I’d like to see all of them, I think he’s my favourite composer, but I do like these two in particular.

The Wallace and Gromit Prom: Musical Marvels – July 29. This includes a showing of A Matter of Loaf and Death, screened for the first time with a live orchestra. Magic.

BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy – July 31. We’ve heard him on the show a few times, but this is a great chnace to see their apprentice José Hernando Arias Noguera play his accordion live.

Delius, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky – August 14. In paticular, I like Tchaik’s fifth symphony. And it’s always good to hear other, unfamiliar music.

Gilbert and Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard – August 19. Well, we all like the songs, and they won’t mind if we sing along, I’m sure. Ahem.

Family Matinee: A journey to Far Corners of tour Musical World – August 27. I’ve always been a fan of Amadou and Mariam.

Desert Island Discs – 70th Anniversary – September 3. This is one of my favourite radio shows, and it looks like this show will be a good mix of selections from the programme.

Bruckner 9th Symphony and Beethoven Piano Concerto no 4 – September 6. Never seen either of these played live. Now’s my chance.

That’s my ‘short-list’. Good luck to you if you’re buying tickets tomorrow!



Loose Ends, Desert Island Discs, Cerys Matthews

Well that was a strange Sunday morning. I heard Broadcasting House OK but a long, long-distance phone call to my daughter, newly arrived in Sydney, meant that I missed both Cerys Matthews on 6 Music and Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. I usually hear one or the other, but this week, I shall look forward to hearing both while at work.

Desert Island Discs – this week’s guest is Tim Minchin.

Cerys Matthews – 6 Music – this week, Cerys celebrates the written word with Trembling Bells and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy live. And next week, her guest is Anaïs Mitchell, who as I’ve mentioned before, we saw in concert a couple of years ago so I look forward to that too.

But I am listening to last night’s Loose Ends mainly to hear Alison Steadman. We saw her just last week on stage at Kingston’s Rose Theatre in the newly revived (and revised?) Michael Frayn play called ‘Here’. I found it hard to watch, I couldn’t emapathise with the characters, but there’s nothing wrong with some challenging theatre once in a while. It’s on at The Rose until next Saturday, 12th May, so buy some tickets now.

Also on the current Loose Ends is actor Richard Wilson and top mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, both of whom are sort of heroes of mine.

Loose Ends – Radio 4.

BBC World Service celebrates 80th birthday

This is becoming a very interesting year for anniversaries and special events.

Never mind the Olympics in London later on, nor the Queen’s diamond jubilee. They’ll be great in their own way, I’m sure. But there are a few much more significant anniversaries from the point of view of this particular blog!

I’ve already mentioned the 10th birthday of BBC 6 Music, and the concert I’ve been unable to acquire tickets for. More here, straight from the horse’s mouth.

And it’s also the 70th anniversary of Desert Island Discs, which was celebrated earlier when each of the BBC local radio stations broadcast a special programme featuring Desert Island Discs from some of their listeners, along with, in some cases, some heart-breaking stories. Some more here. In particular, you may recall the anniversary guest was Sir David Attenborough.

Next up is the BBC World Service, which is 80 years old this year. There is some interesting special programming on February 29th, described here: BBC World Service celebrates 80th birthday.

The World Service will be moving out of Bush House at the end of the year and will join radio colleagues in the equally iconic Broadcasting House.

I have been inside Bush House a couple of times. Once was when GLR were temporarily based there while its Marylebone High Street studios were being refurbished for the benefit of GLR’s replacement, BBC London Live. And then there was a Radio Academy event at which luminaries such as Nick Ferrari and Nick Higham discussed radio phone-ins.

Oh, and one day, I was walking by and spotted through the window the top band Busted being interviewed for a TV show. (Whatever happened to Busted?!)

Busted being interviewed for a 'Celebrity Chat Show'PS It’s Fi Glover’s birthday on February 27th, she’s 21 again, so send her a suitable message 😉

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.


Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. 70 years must be a record for a radio series, surely?

Anyway, I caught up with a couple of recent episodes that made me wonder, as I often have done over the years, whether there is some snobbery towards classical music as opposed to modern music.

The premise of the programme is that each week a guest is interviewed and invited to select 8 gramophone records that he or she would like to have available on a desert island, should they ever be ship-wrecked. The assumption is, of course, that a record player will be available on the island… but that’s taking the idea too far. At the end of the programme, the guest selects one of the eight musical items as a ‘must-have’ as well as a book and a luxury item.

Anyway, David Attenborough (during his 4th appearance on the programme) selected the 3rd of Bach’s Goldberg Varaiations, although Kirsty Young, the current presenter, suggested that, at his request, it shouldn’t be a problem to have the whole set.

Compare this with Dr Brian Cox, who appeared a few weeks earlier. He chose Queen Bitch from David Bowie’s album Hunky Dory. He said that he could have picked any track from that album, that it was probably his all-time favourite. But at no time did Kirsty suggest that he might be allowed, in fact, to have the whole album.

Still, it’s all just a good ruse to get a good interview and hear some music that you might not otherwise come across. And that’s why I listen to this programme, even if I’m not particularly interested in the guest. Len Goodman, for instance, the judge from Strictly Come Dancing, a TV show that I’m not at all interested in and so, by association, I thought Len Goodman’s Desert Island Discs would be really tedious. But it was a very pleasant surprise, he’s a very interesting chap – who just happens, now, to be on a TV show that I don’t like!

So, Happy Birthday, Desert Island Discs, 70 years old. And at last, the BBC have made most episodes available for download here.