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.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre