Radio City #2 – Brian Matthew

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Radio Two, as you would expect, has three regular weekly decade-based oldies shows every weekend, each highlighting one of the three decades during which the R2 core audience turned eighteen.

The excellent Johnnie Walker presents Sounds Of the 70s on a Sunday afternoon, which unfortunately mixes dull feature interviews with interminable West Coast rock, while Sarah Cox’s Sounds Of The 80s is a similar waste of a great presenter – a request-heavy trawl through the decade in the Saturday evening graveyard slot.

Sounds Of The Sixties, though, is an absolute bloody miracle of a show.

-Brianb+w

Presented by 87-year-old veteran broadcaster Brian Matthew, who was there pretty much at the start of rock’n’roll / pop music radio in the UK, hosting “Saturday Club” from 1957 and “Easy Beat “from 1960. He added TV to his CV from 1961, presenting “Thank Your Lucky Stars” for five years.

His clipped received pronounciation was very much BBC standard of the time, but the man’s enthusiasm for the music shone through, so he never really appeared “above” the bands he interviewed – you can hear plenty of examples of his rapport with The Beatles on the various sessions they recorded for the BBC between 1962 and 1965.

He continued on various shows on BBC Radios One and Two through the seventies and eighties -“My Top Twelve” was a particular highlight, his relaxed interviewing style allowing him to get quite a lot out of the likes of Rod Stewart, Rick Wakeman and (just twelve days before her tragic death) Mama Cass Elliot.

The uninitiated might expect Sounds Of The 60s to be simply a selection of chart hits such as you might hear on Gold or Absolute 60s – and I’m not knocking those fine stations, by the way, sometimes you just need something nice and familiar, which is the way 80% of all commercial radio works.

But Sounds Of The 60s is something different. Sure, there are hits, but these are interspersed with B-Sides, rare tracks from well-known artists and downright obscure sounds from bands nobody has ever heard of apart from a tiny number of aficionados.

The Sixties were such a time of musical change that it is relatively straightforward to build a playlist that covers tracks from the early 60s (1960-1962, pre-Beatles), the mid-Sixties (1963-1966,the Beat boom,Beatles,Motown,etc) and the psychedelic late 60s (1967-1969).

Beatles-with-Brian-Matthew

Each of these three eras is covered in each show, which means that any given “avid” will almost certainly not like all every song played but that’s fine, because the songs from “your” mini-era will inevitably be excellent.

An example playlist from 30/01/2016 contained The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, The Ribbons, The Four Seasons, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (below), Bobby Vee, Sanford Clark,Kathy Kirby,Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, The Drifters,Gene Pitney, The Ugly Ducklings and The Honeycombs …
… and that’s just the first half of the show (“Side One”).

There are requests, but the show has been going for so long now (since 1990 with Brian at the helm, before that introduced by Keith Fordyce) that all us loyal regular listeners (“avids” – yes, the show has its own slang, and even John Peel never managed that!) both want and expect something different.

There are special features – a strangely arbitrary one where Side One Track One and Side Two Track Two of an album is played and the Loose Connection where a listener selects three songs linked as tortuously as possible by a common theme. I have yet to get one right.

If I have one slight complaint I’d like to hear more black music but that’s just a personal preference. The show does exactly what it is supposed to do, which is why it has lasted so long (and with the same presenter for the past 26 years)

Sounds Of The 60s group on Facebook

There’s an excellent Sounds Of The Sixties Facebook Group which I’d recommend to anybody who likes the show, especially when the show is actually on air.

Despite the saying, if you remember the sixties, that doesn’t mean you weren’t there, but it does mean that you’re an invaluable resource for fielding questions about the era if you don’t remember it yourself (which I don’t, not really, as I was just too young)

One of the topics exercising the fans just now is the vexed question of who will take over when Brian finally calls it a day? It’s hard to see Tony Blackburn or Johnnie Walker (the only survivors from that era) doing as good a job – both their talents lie in other directions. My vote would go to Craig Charles or a similar enthusiast – let’s hope a replacement is not required for a few more years yet.

Sounds of the 60s bingo on Twitter

Sounds Of The Sixties bingo

Every week you choose five artists, use the hashtag #sotsbingo and if Brian plays an artist you’ve chosen you get a point. It’s fiendishly hard. The average score is zero, and I’ve only managed more than 1 point on one occasion. It’s also great fun. I think Brian would approve.

See you round the radio on Saturday morning, avids. Leaving you with this obscure tune from 1961 featuring a man who decided (wisely or not, who can say?) to stick to playing other people’s records rather than making his own.

Previous post – Radio City #1 – Huey Morgan

Next post – Radio City #3 – Charlie Sloth

FESTIVE FIFTY YEARS AGO 1962 – PART TWO

December 27th, 2012

Welcome to the second part of the rundown of the Festive Fifty from 1962, or more accurately, my version of what might have appeared in the Festive Fifty in that year if John Peel had been (a) in the country (b) working for the BBC and (c) compiling a Festive Fifty. Enjoy!

40. LORD BLAKIE – Maria.

Lord Blakie was one of the lesser-known calypsonians to come out of Trinidad in the late fifties. Always in the shadow of the global superstar Mighty Sparrow, this was his finest hour, winning the first official “road march” with this song. He is so damn cool in this clip, too.

39. JET HARRIS – The Man With The Golden Arm.

Debut solo hit from the former Shadows bass player.

An off-the-cuff remark by Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch about Harris’ wife’s ongoing affair with Cliff Richard(!) led to Harris quitting the band in April 1962.

A mere four months later he was in the chart with this brilliant, searing arrangement of the theme from the 1955 Frank Sinatra film.

The subject matter of the film – heroin addiction – could be seen as a statement from Harris about his own addiction problems, although these involved the bottle rather than the needle.

38. GINO PARKS – Fire.

A massive blast of angry noise which was very much out of sync with the vast majority of Motown’s early 60s output.

Gino Parks can be said to have been ahead of his time – this record certainly was, by two or three years.

Unfortunately Berry Gordy’s ideas about what the “Motown sound” should be meant no place for this kind of record , and Parks had few further opportunities at the label.

37. THE EVERLY BROTHERS – I’m Not Angry.

A B-side which would undoubtedly have received more airplay on Peel’s show than its more famous A-side “Crying In The Rain”.

In 1977 Elvis Costello included a track with the same title on his debut album, and the similarities go beyond the title to include the meaning and intent of the protagonist.

By the end of both songs, the listener is left in no doubt that the guy in the song is fooling nobody, let alone himself.

36. THE VENTURES – My Bonnie Lies
Never massive in their home country in the same way their UK rivals The Shadows were in theirs, nevertheless The Ventures laid the instrumental groundwork for the surf sound that formed the second (ahem) wave of American rock’n’roll music.

This record, a hepped-up reworking of an old weepie, was only a minor hit, but its inclusion here can be traced to another, vocal version of the song that was popular in this year (in the UK at least).

35. RAY CHARLES – Half As Much

In which Ray Charles really pulls out all the showstopping stops and creates a huge, fat middle of the road record that is a million miles away from “What I’d Say”. The piano playing and voice are more restrained but still classic.

34. GENE CHANDLER – Duke Of Earl

In a later era, the likes of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey would make careers out of doing voice exercises to music, but this was probably the first worldwide hit record to be created out of a doo-wop band’s warm-up routine.

Neither a fast doo-wop number or a slow ballad, its intermediate pacing made it stand out and it went to No. 1 in the early weeks of 1962.

33. ELVIS PRESLEY – Return To Sender

Elvis’s career was at least as much about making films by 1962 as it was about making music, and this song was one of the highlights from the bikini classic “Girls Girls Girls”.

32. BOB DYLAN – Talkin’ New York

If you can argue – and you can – that the truest work of an artist is in his early, penniless, hungry years, then how much truer is that of folk music, where honesty is the most prized, maybe the only, virtue?

This is one of the two self-compositions on Dylan’s first album, and it’s a cracker, honest and true, detailing Dylan’s experiences on arriving in the Big Apple as a 20-year-old singer and trying to get noticed.

“New York Times said it was the coldest winter in seventeen years
I didn’t feel so cold then”

31. LITTLE OTIS HAYES – I Out-Duked The Duke

Answer Records were a great tradition of the fifties and sixties, briefly being revived as a record industry stunt with “F.U.R.B”, a record which didn’t really live up to it’s illustrious predecessors of two or three generations ago.

This one is a belter. Little Otis takes the basis of the tune of “Duke Of Earl” and gleefully rips out a derogatory lyric about how he “popped the Dook’s girl” while he was out of town. Magnificent.

So, tomorrow evening it’s numbers 30-21. See you then.