It’s that time of the year again where I take a reminisce over those who have put my
favourite broadcast medium to the very best use, and inevitably showing me how
it should be done.
I’ve scoured my audio archive, and have chosen the following inspiring shows.
Benji B and The String Ensemble: BBC Radio 1 (TBI Media) 02 January
When it comes to music on the radio, I guess you could say we peaked too soon.
Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but I was blown away by what has to be the most
innovative idea ever heard and in this case seen on a radio show.
A maverick disk spinner doing his stuff whilst being accompanied by a string quartet.
Words really can’t sum up the brilliance of this fusion of future beats
and amazing orchestration, so if you have a spare hour or so,
watching the above video will be time definitely not wasted.
It even inspired professional music producers to give their own adaptions,
and in some cases doing even better with New York producer Ahmed Sirour adding
some extra keys to make the take off of Jerimih’s “All The Time” even more classy.
I really hope this isn’t the only time the 1s and 2s and the string section join forces,
as 2013 has seen even more amazing rhythms that could be enhanced by an orchestra.
Mary Anne Hobbs: BBC 6 Music (Wise Buddah) January-Onwards
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will probably agree that I could write a review of
this show just by copying and pasting the vast number of tweets I have posted with
the #6Hobbs hashtag, from day one of what has become another standout show for 6.
Not just an average weekend breakfast show, but an educational hangover cure
of sorts, sounding even better when half-asleep with Mary Anne’s dulcet
Manchester tones helping you shake off the hard stuff from the night before.
Assisted by a top production team, including recent escapee
Kate Cocker (now at Key 103), the show also provides a number of
brilliantly assembled packages ranging from three minute epiphanies
to inspiring interviews under the banner of “The Key Of Life” with
John Cooper Clarke being a personal highlight of the latter.
But if I’m being really honest, the best bit of the show is right at the very
beginning where Mary Anne welcomes in her early risers with a delightful
In fact, I’ve even combined the many utterances of that greeting into a personally
made audio alarm clock.
What do you make of this?
Well it’s a lot less startling than the noise I’ve currently got as my ringer,
(the gunge siren from Noel’s House Party)
Mary Anne may be modest in being a worthy successor to John Peel, but a combination
of wit, warmth and the ongoing abiliity to find many amazing new tunes
the “Dream Daughter” comes very close.
Jazz At The Movies: BBC Radio 2 (Folded Wing) April-May
It’s been another amazing year for Folded Wing with their first programme
for BBC Radio 4, and a piece of audio that involved a radio presenter
from a community radio station in Canterbury screaming like an maniac…
Seriously though, this two part Jazz documentary hosted by Jamie Cullum
has to be the company’s stand out show of ’13.
When I first heard about this programme, I thought “oh no, I’m not a big movie
person and this will be really over-indulgent”.
On listening to the programme itself, and the amazing introduction from
the very Los Angeles hotel that appeared in “The Fabulous Baker Boys”
I knew that this was going to surpass my expectations by a long way, with
not an indulgent, but personal journey through the jazz pixie’s love of movies
combined with the love of jazz itself.
The first programme looked at the swing scene bringing back many memories
of the Cotton Club compilations I grew up listening to through my parents
record collection in London at an early age, and the controversy surrounding
All that was enough to lead me into the second programme that was even better,
revisiting an interview with Clint Eastwood in the days before he started
pissing about with chairs.
As well as a man who could make the films of Woody Allen
sound more interesting than my film studies lecturer
at college did.
But the piece de resistance was a “sonic duet” between Jamie Cullum
and Michelle Pfeiffer on the song “My Funny Valentine” that on listening to whilst
walking down the bridge of my birthplace of Stratford in East London, caused me to stop,
savour the sights of the area and burst into tears.
That sums up what I love about radio the most, it can be listened to almost anywhere
and when listening on the move, it’s even more powerful.
A series certainly worthy of a repeat run in the new year, and with so many
stories and even more inspirational jazz movies, it could possibly stem a second series?
BBC Radio 1 Stories: “Mixed Up Teens” (Wise Buddah), 04 November
The Radio 1 Stories strand can normally end up going two ways.
Either really inspiring, or really patronising, sometimes moreso than an
edition of Blue Peter.
Thankfully, there have been many documentaries this year that have gone in
the direction of the former, including “The Story Of Trock” looking at Doctor Who
inspired songs by crazed fans, and “Crossroads: The Girls”, an emotional insight into
a woman’s prison to name just two.
But my overall standout comes from producer and sound wizard Paul Thomas,
and Kyle Lynd giving a sonic exploration into the misunderstandings of teenagers
over the last 5 decades.
I suppose what made the documentary work so well was a lack of presenter, allowing
a mixture of music, archive interviews, and special sound design to guide the
listener through a journey going deeper into the issues around adolescence,
and allowing them to make up their own mind.
That’s an issue that’s frustrated me with many documentaries in the “Stories”
strand, where the presenter feels the need to undermine the listener, either
by stating the obvious, or adapting the Robert Webb-esque sneery manner,
demeaning what is otherwise a great subject.
But all that is absent in this superb soundscape and here’s hoping
BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra commission more docs of this ilk,
letting the sounds themselves, tell the story.
Other honorable mentions that I badly wanted to include in more depth include
Absolute Radio’s The Manuscript, breaking into radio panel show territory
with fantastic brand alignment, Crikey DM! providing an aural insight into the story
of Cosgrove Hall, 99% Invisible for providing ongoing inspiration, and challenging
the conventional idea of a radio documentary, Colin Murray’s Soundcape on 6 Music,
resurrecting the halcyon days of his “Audio Bully” feature, and BBC Radio 2’s
The People’s Songs, a year long insight into popular songs, through the
voices of the public and the wit of Stuart Maconie.
But my overall radio highlight of 2013, comes from BBC Coventry And Warwickshire
in February of this year during a football phone in, and a near Alan Partridge moment
where an opinionated caller faces the consequences of leaving a match too early.
Here’s to more amazing noises emerging in 2014.