Book review: Hello Again…, By Simon Elmes
Remembering stars with a good face, and voice, for radio
This engaging if uncritical history of British radio starts conventionally with Marconi and Reith. It reminds us how the new medium became a central feature of British life.
Astonishingly, the Brains Trust, where listeners' questions were debated by "a ferociously intelligent trio", attracted up to a third of the population in the Forties. However, the book earns its sub-title, "Nine decades of radio voices", when Simon Elmes, radio documentary supremo at the BBC, applies his expert ear to the great names of the medium.
Roy Plomley, inventor of Desert Island Discs, utilised "a knowing chuckle [that] sometimes could be lightly critical", while Richard Dimbleby "comes over as matter of fact, unemotional or perhaps wry". John Arlott's delivery had "a rolling, long-legged style, with sentences and clauses so long and involved that he could be left, literally, gasping for breath". Kirsty Young, current custodian of the Desert Island, has "a wonderful radio voice, dark, dancing, playful and smiling."
Unfortunately, Elmes's choice of quotes does not always match his analysis. Tackling the camp innuendo of Julian and Sandy in Round the Horne, Elmes chooses an oddly lacklustre example. At Bona Books, Julian asks Kenneth Horne, "Would you be interested in Spenser's Fairy Queen?" "Oh, no. He's not interested in mine."
Occasionally, the dedicated radio listener may feel that Elmes toes the party line too assiduously. He maintains that John Peel "knew what made compelling, stylish and timelessly hip radio". In fact, the jarring stuff Peel put out on Radio 1 for his last decade or more was unlistenable for all but a tiny minority. Elmes describes Peel's Radio 4 programme Home Truths as "an unbeatable double whammy" of warmth and family, but some of us found it sentimental and hackneyed. Elmes notes that the lack of a young audience is "being vigorously tackled" at Radio 4 but not what this means: a series of dire comedies at 6.30pm that has the core audience dashing for the "off" button.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Crash victims in car flattened by shipping container emerge with just minor injuries
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
- 4 Exclusive: David Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
- 5 Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun become involved in Twitter row over Israel-Gaza conflict
Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor 'wheel on people who have mental health problems' says comedian Jo Brand
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Orange Is The New Black season 3: Pornstache isn't coming back
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains