The Week In Radio: Lots to celebrate as passions run high in poet's corner


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There are occasions when only Gary Barlow, Grace Jones and a hula hoop will do. Fortunately, those occasions only come round every 60 years, so it's important to have something else to listen to in the meantime. And while BBC Radio 2 lined up a seamless flotilla of Jubilee programmes – Sixty Amazing Years segueing into We Are Sixty and then a 60 years-themed Sunday Half-Hour with music from the choir of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy on Sunday alone, there were odd pockets of airtime that offered a more leftfield perspective on the damp pyrotechnics of the long weekend, if not ever managing to ignore them entirely.

First, a nod to BBC Radio 5 Live's The Day I Met the Queen and Bill Roache, aka Coronation Street's Ken Barlow, who deserves a medal of some sort for what might be the oddest sentence uttered in the name of the Jubilee. "I remember she was highly amused by the fact that the regimental goat ate cigarettes," he said mistily of his encounter with the monarch in 1953, when he was serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Kingston, Jamaica. "She was shrieking with laughter like a little girl... I actually fancied her, which is a terrible thing to say. I probably shouldn't even say that."

Probably not, Bill! Moving swiftly on, there were more oblique references to the anniversary to be found on the music stations. In a safely treasonous bit of scheduling, BBC 6 Music programmed the John Lydon Playlist, an hour of noisy music and glottal-stopped musings from the old Sex Pistol at noon on Sunday. Never mind that "Rotten Lydon", as he calls himself, is now the UK's most dependable anarchist and about as punk as a crumpet oozing with mid-priced butter, this was a refreshingly eclectic oasis in a weekend soundtracked by Zadok the Priest and Bond themes.

Lydon presented a tight hour of "the best and the worst of music", without too much waffle. "I know I should spend more time chit-chatting away and explaining how much I love these records but I really want you to hear them," he said, affably.

There was, naturally, some Public Image Ltd and a smattering of Pink Floyd but there was also, unexpectedly, Dolly Parton, some "truly awful, terrible" Clarence Carter and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love": "Nice and long and proper. Makes you realise that there's happiness in the world, if you look for it." Has the snarly punk gone soft in his old age? Of course he has, but we already knew that and this was a lot more engaging than simply hearing him spit out "God Save the Queen" for the umpteenth time.

Carol Ann Duffy was the guest on Private Passions, Radio 3's classical twist on Desert Island Discs. In a gently highbrow show, Michael Berkeley drew out the Poet Laureate's lifelong love of music, an art form she declared to be superior to poetry. She would, she said, have liked to play all Mozart but happily for listeners her choices were more wide-ranging, taking in The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro alongside Chopin, Christy Moore singing Yeats and Diana Krall's version of "Danny Boy". There was a bit of Jubilation as she read out her aptly watery official poem "The Thames" but the show ended on a lightly subversive note as she chose the song she'd like to be played at her funeral. As the famous "der der DER" trombones of The Stripper faded out, the Queen's bard could be heard giggling and asking: "Can I put my clothes back on now?" Well, it's one way to celebrate.