Killer Bs, Radio 4
Test Match Special, Radio 4
'He has a lovely voice, pleasingly deepened by years of smoking'
Sunday 17 August 2008
Tuesday after lunch on Radio 4 is devoted to what is unappetisingly called a "music feature" but you should not let that put you off. Last Tuesday, Anthony Barnes gave us a potted history and appreciation of the B-side, which, for the benefit of younger listeners, was the obverse of a seven-inch vinyl "single" – a black round thing which span at 45 revolutions per minute and produced sounds when you dropped a needle on it. Ask your grandparents for more technical details.
If I infer correctly that the songs played throughout the programme were all B-sides, then there were many surprises: "You Can't Always Get What You Want"; "I Say a Little Prayer"; "Hound Dog"; "Don't Worry Baby"; "How Soon Is Now?"; "I Will Survive"; and, er, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" – these can't all have been B-sides, can they? (In some cases they started out as B-sides, but as their quality and popularity became manifest, were re-issued more prominently.)
There's a formula to programmes like this, which tap directly into the nostalgia people feel for the subjects. There was a rather over-stretched one about doing mix tapes a few weeks ago, presented by David Quantick, in which enthusiasts in early middle-age remembered their joy in hovering over the pause button while listening to John Peel (I did it myself); here, Quantick was brought on again, and was, as always, illuminating and informative (you can't make this kind of programme without David Quantick appearing on it – it's in the BBC's charter somewhere); he even dug out an old Ringo Starr B-side which, he assured us, told us more about what it was like to be with The Beatles than many biographies.
And, of course, we were told about that band's great B-side, "Rain", in which they felt free to begin experimenting with backwards guitars, and about the double A-side of "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" (although the programme forebore to mention that it was this policy which prevented it from reaching Number One; sales of the physical record were, for chart-reckoning purposes, in effect halved).
There was really only one thing wrong with the programme, and that was its title: Killer Bs. This was a joke which outstayed its welcome on its first airing, so I am going to make the lady in the armchair look a little more grumpy than she actually might have been while listening.
No more Test Match Special until December now. One of the joys of this otherwise miserable summer has been Phil Tufnell's welcome into the ranks of commentators. An underrated player in his day (and a worthy King of the Jungle in I'm a Celebrity ...), he is proving to be a charming radio presence.
He has a lovely voice, pleasingly deepened by years of smoking, and is, moreover, sharply critical of Geoffrey Boycott. I don't think they're allowed in the commentary box at the same time. "Geoffrey calls everyone rubbish," he said at one point last week, "even when they're rubbish."
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