The BBC is canvassing opinion on Radio 2 and 6Music because they have to keep the licence payers happy. The TV licence payers that is. We’ve got a telly, but Chez Bongo is very much a radio house. From the 6.45am alarm which brings Radio 4 into our lug ‘oles, through the delights of Test Match Special on longwave, the likes of Count Arthur Strong and Ed Reardon on Radio 4 and Danny Baker on BBC London, our gaff is very much radio-powered by the letters B, B and C.
So, what of Radio 2? Mark Lamarr’s God’s Jukebox, Reggae Show, Shake Rattle & Roll and Alternative 60s are great shows, as is Saturday morning’s delightful two hours with veteran Brain Matthew. This is the man who introduced sessions by The Kinks and The Beatles when they were first recorded, 51 years a broadcaster, and he’s still going strong. This is an oldies show par excellence. You might well hear The Searcher’s Needles and Pins, as played on every other ‘gold’ station on an hourly basis, but the commonplace is equally balanced by rarities and artists that you’ll never hear elsewhere. It is a great show for 60s r’n’r, r’n’b, pop, soul, bubblegum and psychedelia.
I have previoulsy given my opion on these pages on 6Music. Marc Riley’s evening show is as good as the Peel show ever was. And I mean that. It’s easy to forget that John Peel played a lot of unlistenable tosh among the diamonds, particularly once the post-punk era had become fragmented in a hundred different directions. The argument that someone had to is a good one, as no-one else played the Mighty Fall in those days (or Misty in Roots), but experimental music is not always easy on the ears, nor is it necessarily any good.
The young bands that Riley showcases are invariably listenable, if not really good. Bands like The Junipers, Django Django, The Race Horses, Poppy & the Jezebels… The standard really is very high, from all these kids in their twenties (plus old timers like Vic Godard, Graham Coxon and Billy Childish) brought up on their parents and grandparents record collections, discovering and being influenced by Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee, Bowie, The Pistols, Pentangle, Hendrix, Bunnymen, Buzzcocks and Joy Division. I am constantly surprised at the current state of indie music. And, aside from vintage Peel sessions, he’s likely to sprinkle the show with classic cuts from The Seeds, The Kinks, Banshees, Pavement and the like.
He opened a show a month ago with The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses. When did you last hear that track? (I’ll tell you my favourite Crazy Horses story one day). It’s an astonishing slab of metal pop, all the more stunning of course because it’s sung by an Osmond. Coming out of the radio it sounded bloody awesome and I conjured a vision which made me smile. I imagined three students hearing this for the first time, their jaws dropping and arguing among each other as to who could be responsible for this aural dynamite. After considering Hendrix, The Pistols, New York Dolls, The Jam, Prodigy, Spinal Tap and Motorhead, they eventually all agree that it’s by Iggy Pop. Made me chuckle, anyway.
We’re also very partial to Gideon Coe’s show and especially keen on Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone, a playground of folk, rock, pop, jazz, soundtrack and exotica where Can rub shoulders with Beefheart, Basil Kirchin, Jean-Claude Vannier, Moondog, Soft Machine and Scott Walker. It also showcases any new bands that fit the bill.
I’ve filled in the questionnaire. It took about 10 or 12 minutes. Please do the same if you care about the high standard of music on the BBC. If you don’t, we run the risk of Catatonic FM; Simply Red, Coldplay, Tina Turner, Will Young, Elton, Spandau Ballet and Queen. Is that what you want?