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.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove