Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades, BBC4 -TV review: 'Danny celebrates dad rock, but it's a woman who calls the tune'
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Tuesday 11 February 2014
"Hey kids, and welcome to my world," said Danny Baker at the start of his new BBC4 programme. But, kids, be warned, you're not really welcome. Like a garden shed, or the last un-gentrified pub on the high street, Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades is a dads-only zone. Strictly no entry for any smartarses under 50.
I snuck in though, and so did honorary dad, Viv Albertine, the Slits guitarist, and, as of last night, in at No 1 on my personal Heroes of Rock chart rundown. Viv provided an all too rare female perspective on the appeal of heavy metal: "Those riffs were talking to young boys' penises, I think," she mused. "And...?" replied a slightly defensive Danny Baker. "The problem with that is...?"
For three consecutive evenings, on BBC4, Danny and three studio guests will attempt to put 40 years of rock music into some kind of perspective, one decade at a time, beginning with last night's episode, which covered the Seventies. Yes, musos, Danny is fully aware that decades are a specious concept when it comes to categorising creativity, but, hey-ho, who cares? It's still fun to swap gig anecdotes with the likes of Viv, Peter Hook from New Order and Loyd Grossman. He did used to write for Rolling Stone, y'know, and in Danny's words, he'll always be "The Pete Best of MasterChef".
A spirited studio discussion was interspersed with selections of archive clips, which a gleeful Danny used to illustrate his bold challenges to rock's received wisdom. Thought punk came out of a cultural vacuum? Think again. See no link between Black Sabbath and Never Mind the Bollocks? You were wrong. And isn't all that prog rock just self-indulgent pseudo-intellectual noodling? Well, yes, that's still true, whatever Danny has to say about it.
For all his lofty links and clever comparisons, the night's most wilfully gnomic line came not from Baker, but from Grossman, who offered this summary of Seventies youth culture: "All revolutions ultimately end in the banality of a disco ball."
No, I'm not sure what the pasta sauce bloke was on about either, but as with all these musical nostalgia-fests, the creation of a brand new cultural paradigm is less important than whether it has you rifling through old LPs in search of an underrated masterpiece you haven't heard for years. Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades and its companion show, Danny Baker Rocks, had exactly that effect.
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