The History Plays, Radio 4, Tuesday
Abject Bloc, Resonance FM, Tuesday
The day they decided to break a butterfly upon a wheel
Rebranding tends to make me suspicious, coming across as cynical if it works, fatuous if it doesn't. The BBC's latest example is just puzzling. Henceforth, "plays" will be known as "drama", as in "The Afternoon Drama", or "The Friday Drama". Radio 4's drama commissioning editor explained: "We don't really make plays; we make drama." I'm lost for words at the notion that several intelligent people will have actually spent time thinking about this rather than getting on with their jobs.
It's not as if it will affect the quality, and Jagger in Jail, the first of five counterfactual History Plays – shouldn't that be "History Dramas"? – was very nice. Written by Nigel Smith, it depicted the drug-busted Rolling Stone in the Sixties sharing a cell with a post-office robber who turns out to be an old schoolmate. Banged up for three years, he's missed the revolution.
"The governor let D-wing watch Ready Steady Go! the other Friday, but there was a bit of a riot over Cathy McGowan's minidress, so never again," he tells Mick – who, he feels, gets far too much publicity. "There's wars and riots and marches all over the shop and what do we get in the papers? Your ugly mug every day," he says. "I feel that way about Herman's Hermits," Jagger replies.
From time to time it's necessary to clear the passages, cleanse the palate, feel the bracing benefits of a short, sharp shock. When such an occasion arises, there's only one place to go, and that's Resonance FM. On Tuesday, the Abject Bloc series continued: an hour of strangeness curated by John Wild and Tim Goldie. Four words stand out in my notes: "buzzing", "hissing", "crackling" and "weird". There was some Fall in there, some rap, the "Having a Gangbang" song and schoolkids singing "Career Opportunities" by the Clash. But mostly there was ear-shattering, mind-stretching music, or noise, whichever you prefer. John Cage would have loved it.
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