RADIO : Return of the living dead

A Jolly Good Show BBC World Service
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The Independent Culture
Old DJs never die, or even fade away as much as you'd like (this may be some comfort to Bruno Brookes, soon to be departing). Sometimes they die back for a while, only to sprout again years later, as luscious and verdant as ever - Johnnie Walker is an example, now back with his Saturday afternoon show on Radio 1. More often, they find a niche on local radio - Johnnie Walker again, doing weekdays on GLR, the BBC London station; David Jensen, formerly "Kid", is another instance, doing drivetime on Capital.

These days, there's also the Virgin option, which has claimed Richard Skinner and Tommy Vance. And, of course, there's the traditional, graceful slide into Radio 2, as performed by Ed "Stewpot" Stewart.

For all those who have been worrying about Dave Lee Travis since his scandalous departure from Radio 1 - 18 months ago now - it's good to be able to report that he's alive and well and living in Bush House, where he presents A Jolly Good Show on a Saturday morning (and repeated twice on Tuesdays) for the World Service. He has been repeating the same basic formula there for years now, working with nothing but two silly voices (one supposedly posh, one supposedly demented), an ability to mispronounce African names ("I love all the names we get from that particular continent," he confessed last week), and the conviction that what he's doing is deeply eccentric (he always calls the station "the BBC Wild Service").

As we all know, DLT is about as wild and crazy as using a shampoo and a conditioner. Every week he has a spot called "Off the Wall", in which he chooses an unpredictable record, always with the warning that it could be something completely mad. This week, for instance, it was a little- known album track by someone called Billy Joel. Whoa! Slow down there!

Remarkably, most of his listeners go along with his conceit. They write letters, by all accounts many of them filled with comments like "I think you must broadcast a warning like `A Jolly Good Show is injurious to the mind' because this programme has turned many people crazy". The truth is that few people can appreciate jokes of any sophistication in a second language; with an audience consisting largely of people learning English, DLT has found his natural home. And there let us leave him.

If Travis is still bestriding the world like a hairy colossus, Simon Bates's domain has shrunk since he left Radio 1, in October 1993. He's now doing the late-morning slot on London News Talk, the successor to LBC, running a workmanlike current affairs chat show. He takes an "I'm an ordinary bloke who doesn't understand the issues" stance that's more plausible than the efforts at serious journalism he came up with on Radio 1; and on the whole, he's far more likeable without all those celebrities to grease up to.

But there's an air of pathos about the show that can at times be hard to bear. Last Friday, the conversation turned briefly to life after death. "Have you ever seen a ghost?" he asked somebody, and got the answer "I'm looking at one". You could almost feel sorry for him.