Radio: Damon's thigh - that's radio

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The Independent Culture
ON THE late-night music and chat show, The Jamesons (R2), former News of the World editor Derek Jameson and his wife Ellen were discussing the outrageous good fortune of the mil- lionaire who'd won the Lottery:

Derek: What a rascal!

Ellen: By the way, you can talk. We both won the Lottery this week.

Derek: We did. Ten pounds each!

Ellen: Well, it pays for this week's go, doesn't it?

Derek: Better than a kick you know where.

Ellen: That's right. Let's have some music. "This Old Heart of Mine", the Isley Brothers.

It's a very civilised marriage, the Jamesons have: they don't interrupt, they tell each other things they both know. But it's unnerving for Derek. Whenever he shares some of his philosophy of life, Ellen says, that's right, let's have some Tammy Wynette.

Some DJs send you to sleep, others wake you up. On Friday morning Chris Evans (R1) was doing a telephone interview with Damon from Blur. On 14 August Blur release their latest single. On the same day, Oasis release their latest single too. One of these songs will go to No 1. Damon was speaking from a hotel room in Liverpool. He'd been on the ale and got back at three in the morning. Evans was all chirp, Damon was all grog. Evans asked him what he thought of Oasis's "Roll With It"?

Damon (on phone): Do you know, I haven't heard it.

Chris: Haven't you!?! Let's get it! Let's get it! Let's play it next! I'll play it to you now!

In studio: rummage, rummage.

Damon: I've got no clothes on.

In studio: drawers open and close.

Chris: We don't need to know that, Damon. It's too much information.

Damon: I'm naked in my bed.

Chris: Would you like to slap your thigh to prove that?

Damon: Yeah.

Down the phone: sound of hand slapping thigh. In studio: cheers from Chris and the production team. Chris gets hold of the record.

Chris: Stay on the phone. Listen to it. Tell us what you think.

He plays "Roll With It".

Chris (over music): You still there?

Damon is still there, singing along to "Roll With It" by singing the not completely dissimilar "Rockin' All Over The World" by Status Quo.

Damon: "And I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it ... who-o-o-oaho!"

Everyone in the BBC studio, joining in with Damon: "And I like it, I like it. I like it. Here we go-oh, Rockin' All Over the World."

Chris (to Damon, mindful of lawyers): You weren't suggesting anything there by any chance, were you?

Evans has been presenting the breakfast slot (6.30-9am) for three months. Hiring Evans was R1 controller Matthew Bannister's expensive gamble to win back listeners. On Friday the listening figures for the last quarter will be announced. If R1 hasn't increased its audience share then there is only the public to blame. Evans has an unbeatable sense of his job. So often radio could be rehashed print journalism. But as the excerpt shows, Evans is hard to transcribe. He deals in sound effects (the rummage, rummage; getting Damon to slap his thigh), seizes on openings (the fact that Damon hadn't heard his rivals' record) and creates a moment where none had existed. It was pure radio, unfolding before our ears.

In the summer of 1914 Robert Graves was 19 and Siegfried Sassoon was 28. They met when they both joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and their intense friendship was charted in Casualties of War (R4), the second in the series Artists and Admirers. Writers in wartime seem to be the only people who are going to get something out of it other than a bullet or a medal. Copy. "I rather want to see the summer out," wrote Sassoon in his diary, "and get the experience of the big battle."

It's always hard to listen to the letters and poems of the First World War poets without thinking of the people who utter the words: actors with wavy hair and loose-fitting cardigans, who lean in too close to the microphones. First there's war, then there's poetry about war, then there's beautifully read poetry about war. Instead of rifle fire and the squelch of mud, you hear sculptured consonants, whispered urgency and elegantly dying falls. Far better to sing along to Status Quo. It's refined programmes about First World War poets, and husbands and wives holding scripted conversations about the Lottery, that keep Chris Evans in business.

Sue Gaisford is on holiday.

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