Shake, Rattle and Roll, Radio 2, Tuesday
The Phone, Radio 4, Tuesday
If Mark Lamarr's worried, then so am I
Sunday 12 December 2010
I looked myself up in the digital archives, as you do, and discovered that I've written about Mark Lamarr once only, and that was in passing.
Heroically undeterred by my apparent indifference, he's established himself as one of the BBC's prize assets, his warm-hearted yet no-nonsense style perfect for shows such as Shake, Rattle and Roll (currently in its 21st series), The Reggae Show, God's Jukebox and my favourite, Mark Lamarr's Alternative 60s. When he occasionally stood in for Jonathan Ross on Saturday mornings, that show became suddenly listenable.
Now you've got only two more weeks to catch him on Radio 2 after his recent announcement that he'll be leaving at Christmas because "it's become obvious over the last year the station has become much less interested in non-mainstream music, and my position has been extremely uncomfortable". If he thinks Radio 2 is too middle of the road, can't he decamp to 6 Music? I mean, where's he going to go? Capital Gold? The BBC should be holding emergency meetings to work out a strategy for holding on to him, and if an earlier time slot can do the trick – that's one of his complaints, apparently – he should be shifted forthwith.
In Tuesday's Shake, Rattle and Roll, his programme devoted to rock'n'roll, R&B and rockabilly, he did describe it as "the penultimate show of this series", which holds out some hope that he may be persuaded to reconsider. His treatment of a compilation, The Rarest Rockabilly Album Ever, encapsulated his style perfectly. He poured scorn on the title – none of the tracks were "rare" by his standards – and the cover, with its nonsensical teddy boys, while commending the music itself in the strongest possible terms. And it's not just talking the talk: he already owns every one of the 58 tracks on 45s (that's small-format vinyl sound recordings, for anyone under 30). It's a niche show, for sure, but it's the kind of programming the BBC has always done so well, and if Lamarr's worried, then so am I.
Despite frequent outbreaks of clunkiness there's probably less to worry about regarding BBC Radio's drama output, and the first play in The Phone, a series of thrillers each based around a mysterious mobile, was tremendous. Peter Ringrose's sound design built up a dark, bleak, oppressive atmosphere – you could almost see the pea-soup fog swirling round the radio.
The tension built superbly as an apparently hard-as-nails emergency doctor and her driver went about their night-time business. On a call to a mostly derelict estate there was a patch of water over which she had to be ferried; oh, and the ferryman had a snarling dog. Meanwhile, Craig the driver was playing Fauré's Requiem while he waited in the car. You sensed this wasn't going to end well. It's on iPlayer till Tuesday, so I won't say any more. But don't listen to it when the kids are around.
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