Robert Elms – BBC London

I’ve been listening to Robert Elms on and off for nearly twenty years, since he was on GLR and Loose Ends on Radio 4, for instance.

Because of work commitments, I rarely manage to hear a whole show, but I did today.There was a section talking about television. Not TV programmes, but about the technology and the fact that we in London will experience the digital switchover in April. the end of an era: no more analogue TV, all digital.

Maxwell Hutchinson was on today too. He’s been a regular guest for as long as I can remember. He shares a high level of enthusiasm for London, its history, its people and places. Maxwell is an architect and can probably tell you about almost every single building in the city.

And today’s guest was Meat Loaf who has a new record out, which sounds pretty good, entitled ‘Hell in a Handbasket’. Yes, who would have guessed that Meat Loaf would have the word Hell in an album title!

Another feature that I like is Listed Londoner, in which a person of note answers 15 questions about London, what they like and don’t like about this wonderfully interesting city of ours. Yesterday, the Listed Londoner was one of my favourite actors, Timothy Spall, so I am downloading that from the iPlayer since a reliable source described to me as being one of the best ever.

I have met Maxwell a couple of times: once when the statioin was GLR, and once when it was named LDN.

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Robert can be annoying at times though, it must be said. He famously doesn’t like the Beatles, on the basis that they wrote some children’s songs. Nothing wrong with not liking the Beatles of course, but he doesn’t have to keep telling us: that’s what makes us think he’s just being controversial for the sake of it. And he tells us what kind of shoes he’s wearing a little too frequently.

Other than that, he fits the BBC bill pretty well: he’s entertaining, informative and educational.

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.