Radio: Surely they didn't mean to say that?

Exploding countries are only the baffling start. Sometimes they set out to deceive
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The Independent Culture
The other day on R1, Alisha's Attic appeared to be singing "I will shower you". Closer attention, however, revealed a less hygienic, more poignant, desire: "I wish I were you". It reminded me of an alarming item on the lunchtime news, some time ago. What I heard was "... Mexico, the biggest detonation in the world". Again, sharper concentration was rewarded by the truth: Mexico was the biggest debtor nation in the world.

You can't always trust what you hear. If you-know-who is saying, firmly, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman - with Miss Lewinsky", well Don't Believe a Word of it (R2), says Dick Vosburgh. As his delicious survey of damned lies, faulty judgements and laughable posturing illustrated, there is nothing so enjoyable as pointing out the mistakes of others.

Vosburgh's leitmotif sprang from a noble sentiment unadvisedly expressed by the songwriter Sammy Cahn. Cahn was recorded protesting about young writers stealing titles from earlier songs, something that he would never do. To illustrate his point, he complained that someone had dared to write a song entitled "Day by day" - which he had already used - "so diminishing both my song and his own". But that title, said Vosburgh, had already been bagged before Cahn nicked it: he played all three.

Thereafter, he returned to Cahn every few minutes, with more stolen titles. Between such increasingly outrageous examples, he pointed out other errors - the critics who had seen "no staying power" in Rodgers and Hart; another who invited us to "weep over the lifelessness of the melody" in Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and the one who could find no quality at all in Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera (that, incidentally, was Schoenberg).

Then there were the performers who misrepresented their careers, like Marlene Dietrich coyly referring to The Blue Angel as her first film, when, in fact, it was her 18th. And those who proclaimed values inconsistent with their own lives, like Rex Harrison vowing never to let a woman in his life, when both he and the song-writer, Alan Jay Lerner, had clocked up six wives apiece - and Lerner, at least, was still clocking.

Worst offenders, however, were the makers of film biographies. In a programme stuffed full of plums the juiciest was the biopic of one George M Cohan. Cohan, in Yankee Doodle Dandy, fell for a girl called Mary, wrote and sang a song for her and spent nine reels growing old with her in marital bliss. In reality, however, he divorced an Ethel and thereafter married an Agnes: nary a Mary, ever.

A sly and witty radio biography of the film-maker Stanley Kubrick was broadcast on Sunday. Looking for Stanley (R3) is tricky, but those who have endured working with him know exactly what he's like. By their accounts, he is demanding, manipulative, cold and pretty unpleasant: he has been known to demand 95 takes of a single shot. A schoolfriend described his chilling sense of "organised activity directed towards a single goal" - an attitude which was, he said with pleasing understatement, uncommon in a teenager. Such single-mindedness results in some filmic masterpieces and some disasters. After seeing Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Spielberg remarked: "It was like going through the Prado, without lunch".

And talking of lunch, and truth, and lives lived to the full, it is high time to give The Food Programme (R4) its due. The regular team of Derek Cooper and producer Sheila Dillon - assisted by Jean Snedigger, Simon Parkes and others - wage a tireless campaign to ensure that we are not poisoned by sinister additives, grotesque factory farming or synthetic, chemical fodder. The programme is nearly 20 years old and is consistently inquisitive and original.

Take last week's recondite and fascinating edition. A reporter went to Ronaldsay where the sheep are descended from an Iron Age flock (that's the last millennium BC). These small, mottled creatures graze on the beach and live on high-iodine seaweed: the mutton, when braised, sparkles and tastes deliciously strange (I rang the R4 help-line for you, to see if it was commercially available, to be told, alas, "not yet".)

And another man, called Mr Duckers, met up with a Mr Swann to do a spot of damp, pre-dawn wildfowling in Wales (I'm not making this up). Actually, it gave me another of those audio-hallucinations, when Swann said "Tea'll come through in a minute" - but, of course, he'd really said teal. They shot a few birds for the pot and, while Cooper was enjoying them, he remarked that some people think they are making a class statement if they taste partridge - which is plainly daft: anyone who eats a battery chicken, bred so as to be unable to stand up, should have no ethical problems with game-birds.

I hesitate to say it was a game old bird who chose her Desert Island Discs (R4) this week, but veteran reporter Clare Hollingworth is well into her eighties and boy is she game - and staggeringly un-PC, raving about the thrill of being "in a plane that's bombing something". Her choice of music was startling - consider numbers 2, 5 and 6 - but they all remind her of amazing scoops. She chose:

"A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" (Vera Lynn)

"Deutschland Uber Alles" (Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk)

"Moonlight on the Ganges" (Glenn Miller)

"Rumanian Carnival" (Max Jaffa)

"La Marseillaise" (Musique de la Garde Republicaine)

"Dong, Fang Hong - The East is Red" (Anon)

Schubert's Eighth Symphony (BBC Symphony Orchestra)

"Land of Hope and Glory" (London Symphony Chorus and Northern Sinfonia)

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