When not nipping out for a paper and gossiping with neighbours, I’m listening to Sounds of the Sixties. Tim Rice is standing in again for Brian Matthew, who is ill. There’s no better stand-in than Sir Tim because no one knows more about pop history than he does but I’m worried about Brian because he’s eighty eight. If another legend of my youth leaves us this year I shall be distraught.

I was thinking about how, in my early teens, I would listen regularly to Brian Matthew on Saturday Club. Those were the days when The Beatles might appear on the show, larking about and playing live. In these days of stadium rock and tickets for big name concerts at £80.00 a pop, it’s hard to believe how accessible the big names were in those days. The Beatles and other bands famously appeared on variety bills in small theatres even after they’d become well known. When I was a student, the band booked for the weekly Union dance might be Cream. Seems incredible, doesn’t it? Ah, some of you were born too late.:-)

Look away now all purists who only listen to Radio 3 and anyone for whom the word ‘popular’ is a term of abuse. To mark the twentieth anniversary of its Hall of Fame of favourite music chosen by listeners, Classic FM has brought out this Ultimate book, written by Darren Henley, Sam Jackson and Tim Lihoreau with illustrations by Lyn Hatzius. I thought I’d better write it up today, as Easter weekend is when the countdown begins, with the top choices revealed on Monday.

So what do you get when you buy or borrow this large, lavishly produced book? First, the aggregated list of the top 300 pieces of music picked since the Hall of Fame began. Then, potted biographies of the composers on the list, with comments on the chosen works but nothing about the rest of their output. There are recommended recordings and a list of ’25 Recordings You Should Own’. The full page illustrations are very striking; I had trouble picking a favourite.

The chart (what else is it?) has some surprises. Mozart comes in at #3 with his Clarinet Concerto. Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto is #4. But you have to get right down to #37 before J S Bach makes an appearance with the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins. God is thirty seventh; what kind of taste is that?:-) There’s a lot of film music on the list, with John Williams featuring several times. I was pleased to see that The Warsaw Concerto (from the film Dangerous Moonlight) is included, as well as more modern works. I might have hurled the book from me in disgust had there been no Purcell but luckily he does get in.

Why should you read this book (or at least, look at it)? Everyone loves a list to disagree with and this one is a genuine representation of popular taste in classical music. It’s a useful basic reference book. You will almost certainly find some music mentioned here which is unfamiliar and may be worth exploring. ‘What is number one in the Hit Parade?’ I hear you ask. The people’s choice is Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor.
Many thanks to Elliott and Thompson for sending me a copy of the book, which I’ll be referring to again, I’m sure.
not a poll )
When I got back from the market this morning (what a beautiful day it is!), this track was on the radio. It doesn’t get much airplay and isn’t it a lovely song? Bob Dylan's version, 1962.

I heard this song, Sympathique, on the radio this morning and really liked it.

I'm so cross. I have two Pure One Mini DAB radios, which I bought about three and a half years ago. One is in the kitchen and runs off the mains. The other I think of as my computer radio and it runs off the battery. Today, out of the blue, the power switch has gone, so the thing is useless. I have radios which are at least thirty years old and still work perfectly! Grrr!
I was up at six this morning so I’ve already heard a lot of radio. On every news bulletin it’s been announced that ‘Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister’ has blah blah. What a strange emphasis. It suggests that Northern Ireland has a second, third, possibly even a fourth Minister.

GMS was out to get me this morning. Aled Jones and Canon Ann Easter (the unlikely Chaplain to the Queen) were discussing the sad death of a friend and said that only Bob Dylan would do to remember her by. So they played Forever Young, causing crack-up number one. After a little more chat came Adele’s version of Make You Feel My Love. I nearly emailed in begging them to stop.

Nothing on television yesterday evening so I knitted socks to Ill Met by Moonlight, my latest from LoveFilm. Even though it’s a Powell and Pressburger film starring Dirk Bogarde, I didn’t like it. The film is based on the true story (look it up yourselves) of a SOE plot to capture a German general in Crete and ‘make the Germans look fools.’ This is typical of the kind of brave but crackpot scheme which lost lives while doing nothing at all to end the war. Film makers really should have known that the war was not won by suave British officers cocking an eyebrow and spouting poetry. And Dirk Bogarde looked too damned pleased with himself throughout.

photo from IMDb

When I was about twelve I had a photo of Dirk Bogarde on my bedroom wall. Little did I know.

John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights must be amongst the best children’s books ever written. Who can forget Kay meeting Herne the Hunter or fighting off wolves in a British stockade? Let alone the kidnapping of the bishop, clergy and the entire choir of Tatchester cathedral. I like this kind of fantasy which has no chosen one (*groans*) or quest, just magical happenings. ‘When the Wolves are Running’ sends a shiver down your spine but it’s also very funny in parts. I particularly admire that bloodthirsty child, Maria.

I enjoyed the 1984 TV version, with Patrick Troughton as Cole Hawlings (the DVD is still available) but I like the several radio versions even more. The music used for the television series was a variation of that originally heard on the radio on Children’s Hour during the war. The arrangement was by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. I agree with this Wikipedia contributor who says,
For many people who grew up listening to radio Children's Hour programmes, the haunting harp theme in the Symphony as the First Noel motif starts is as magically evocative of the spirit of Christmas as is the lone chorister who starts to sing Once in Royal David's City at the beginning of the King's College, Cambridge Festival of Lessons and Carols.

I loved the two books about Kay when I was a child, and in my early teens read Reynard the Fox and Sard Harker. Does anyone read these now, I wonder?
I had a weird experience on Saturday as I was driving to the market. I had SOTS on the radio and suddenly found that I knew every word of a song I swear I haven't heard or given a thought to since the sixties. It was If I Had A Ribbon Bow, the first single by Fairport Convention and I sang along merrily. It took me back in an extraordinary way, yet I can't remember why. Here it is; it takes a while to get going.

The singer is Judy Dyble, not Sandy Denny.
Why does the BBC feel the need to interfere with my biorhythms? Today has been deemed 2Day and the entire day's schedule has been changed. As a creature of habit, I dislike this very much. The last thing I want to hear at seven in the morning is jazz. So I'm listening to Radio 3 and it's lovely!

Ray Davies has a new album out, See My Friends. This no doubt accounts for the extensive Kinks coverage at the moment. Before Christmas I watched Ray Davies – Imaginary Man, a film by Julien Temple. I found this madly irritating; a needlessly arty film which did the greatest British songwriter of the 1960s no favours. Even I got tired of endless shots of him wandering around London singing to himself.

Far better (or more accessible to people with low tastes?) was yesterday’s radio programme: Johnnie Walker with The Kinks, We’re Not Like Everybody Else. Johnnie really knows the music. He spoke to Dave as well as Ray. Above all, there were plenty of songs, including some of the covers. It was interesting to hear what it was like appearing on the same bill as The Beatles. That John Lennon was an arrogant bastard.

Part of this video was used in Imaginary Man. They look like something out of The Wrong Box.

Coming up: the 1950s on TV.
I recently filled in a survey about the BBC. I complained a lot but every time a box came up for ‘I’m glad the BBC exists’, I ticked it. Now, from half my friends’ list, comes
I’m proud of the BBC by wonderful Mitch Benn.

A kind soul has made a list.
the list )

Yesterday I read The Longest Whale Song, Jacqueline Wilson's latest, almost at a sitting. She really is a compelling writer. This is just a little hint to parents, grandparents, pregnant women etc. that the book is about a woman who almost dies in childbirth. You know what your children can stand; I'm just saying.

The main story is really about the developing relationship between Ella, the daughter and her stepfather Jack, whom she has previously disliked. Suddenly they are thrown together with the worry about mum, both having schools to go to (he's a teacher) and a new baby to look after. I didn't find it depressing, although a tear-jerker in places and really it's an excellent book.

BTW JW was talking to Claudia Winkleman about the book and her writing on The Radio 2 Arts Show yesterday evening.

My ears pricked up when I heard the Radio 2 trailer for Laurel Canyon, because it’s rare to hear Frank Zappa’s name mentioned on the radio. Of course the programme was on when I wanted to watch Rev so I caught it on Listen Again. It’s about various musicians and bands who have lived in Laurel Canyon: the Byrds, the Doors, Joni Mitchell and of course, Frank Zappa. The programme is introduced by Micky Dolenz and the best thing about it is the music. Just saying, in case anyone else wants to catch up before the second episode.

For those who wish I’d say something about books rather than witter on about Peter O’Toole or Frank Zappa, look here for the ten most expensive books sold on AbeBooks in July.

Radio 2 must do more to appeal to older listeners, says BBC Trust | Media | guardian.co.uk

Straight from the Grauniad via 'post to Live Journal'! Never say I don't keep up.
Fact I didn't know: Radio 2's remit is to appeal to an audience of people over thirty five. Heh. The Trust's report says that the average listening age, currently fifty, must not be allowed to drop. Particular effort must be made to regain the lost audience of people over seventy five.

Other recommendations included urging Radio 2 to put more public service content including "social action" campaigns in its daytime output
Good grief, the last thing I want from R2. Haven't they noticed everyone switching off You and Yours? And The Jeremy Vine Show is *dire* as a means of discussing topical issues. Half the time the man has no idea what he's talking about.

while comedy programming should be "refreshed" and "better differentiated" from comedy on BBC Radio 4.
Since comedy on R4 is currently dire, this is a Good Thing.

Hang on, I know what the over seventy-fives need: The Light Programme.

Need I point out that although I heard this story on the radio news, it was impossible to find anything about it on the BBC news web site?
Woke up this morning, switched in the radio; it was just coming up to six o'clock. The first news item was that Terry Pratchett 'wants a tribunal set up to help those with incurable diseases end their lives with help from doctors.' (Quote from BBC web site.) Why was this considered to be the most important story in the world at that moment? Because it's the subject of a Panorama programme on BBC 1 this evening of course, schoopid. I wish Sir Terry no ill, quite the reverse but a) I don't want to wake too early and then hear talk of assisted suicide and b) it isn't news. So I switched off again. I may soon give up Radio 4 altogether, I'm so sick of its mission to depress.

Normal service, i.e. January books, will be resumed later.

Why the head banging? It’s due yet again to the complete and utter uselessness of the BBC Radio web site! I knew that this Sunday, 31st January, there was to be a reading at 7.45 on Radio 4 of Jennings' Little Hut. Now, how hard would it be to ensure that typing ‘Jennings’ into the ‘Explore the BBC’ box would bring up any relevant programmes? No such luck! What you get is ‘Garth Jennings, director of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy’ and pages of other irrelevant information. I Googled ‘Jennings BBC Radio’ and the programme came up, first hit here. Why Google rules the earth. I know I’m always going on about this but I’ll continue to do so because it’s so frustrating and it’s my money that pays for the rubbish site. Anyway, heads up for Jennings.

Switch from Radio 4 to Radio 7 at 8 o’clock to hear a reading from Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time. For those who don’t know it, this is a time slip story where the action takes place in the same house but split between the twentieth and the sixteenth centuries. It’s rather sad. There’s a very brief synopsis here.

Typical of the BBC that they deemed a new breakfast show on Radio 2 to be worth about five minutes of television news time plus endless trailers. And the hot issue of the weekend? What would be the first record played by Chris when the prog started up at 7 a.m. (It was All You Need Is Love by The Beatles.)

My bedroom radio is tuned to Radio 4 and as it’s the old fashioned type I can never be bothered fiddling about retuning it. So I wake up to the Today programme and tire of it very quickly. With the day underway I’ve been happy to have Terry Wogan burbling away in the background, partly because he and his listeners had a good laugh at all the ludicrous non-news stories which made me switch off Today. Now there’s Chris and his phone-ins. I don’t deny he’s a good broadcaster but he’s so shouty. I feel a switch to Classic FM coming on.
Praise. The RAC. There's been a problem with my car since Christmas Eve. I had it booked into the garage today but although it started this morning, it wouldn't move. A wonderful woman from the RAC fixed the whole thing and I only had to pay for the parts. Result!

Blame. BT. No broadband for most of the afternoon. 'We are experiencing major difficulties with broadband'. This is the company which boasts in TV ads of the reliability of its service.

Praise. Radio 2. Currently broadcasting The Beatles, Here There & Everywhere which I am *loving*. I also loved the Great British Songbook: the Sixties the other day, which was pure gold.
Because I really hate the whole Children in Need campaign.

Thanks to Susie Vereker, I’ve just read this list of the 50 Most Annoying Things About the Internet. I’m sure people could add to it. Now for a good thing about the internet: reading people’s book recommendations. Not necessarily the latest books, but older, perhaps out of print books which the writer loves.

Radio 4’s A Good Read has been doing this for years; guests introduce a book they’ve enjoyed to be chatted about. Now Open Book
is catching up, with two weeks on Neglected Classics, all recommended by established writers.

The List

William Boyd
The Polyglots by William Gerhardie
Susan Hill
The Rector's Daughter by F M Mayor
Hari Kunzru
A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
Ruth Rendell
Many Dimensions by Charles Williams
Colm Toibin
Esther Waters by George Moore
Programme Two: Sunday 25 October
Beryl Bainbridge
The Quest for Corvo by A J A Symons
Howard Jacobson
Rasselas by Samuel Johnson
Val McDermid
Carol by Patricia Highsmith
Michael Morpurgo
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
Joanna Trollope
Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

I’ve read Rasselas, The Snow Goose and A Hero of Our Time. Oh ho, I’ve just spotted a copy of Esther Waters on the landing. I should follow Susan Hill’s excellent example and read it.



January 2017



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