The Week In Radio: I've Never Seen Star Wars, Radio 4, Thursday
The Carmine Appice Story, Radio 2, Saturday
O Lucky Man!, Radio 4, Thursday
Thursday 25 September 2008
According to the continuity announcer, I've Never Seen Star Wars is "a journey outside the comfort zone". Every week, a guest will be invited to try a series of things he or she has never done before, and then engage in witty banter with Marcus Brigstocke: this week, for example, Phill Jupitus tried foie gras, pigs' trotters, Findus Crispy Pancakes, and – understandably, after that lot – colonic irrigation. Brigstocke sat in on this one with him, and their reminiscences about the process were jarringly candid: almost as disturbing as Russell Brand's account on his Radio 2 show a few months back of having a cyst removed (the "radioactively" green pus was what stuck in my mind).
That episode aside, it all felt oddly well-worn: celebrity guests are by definition familiar; Brigstocke is now established as the Mark Lawson of comedy – reliable but perhaps a tad overexposed – and his gags here were based largely on confirming prejudices: when Jupitus admitted he'd never read Dan Brown, Brigstocke chimed in for an easy laugh with "Course not. What's the point?" Ho-hum: BBC light entertainment business as usual.
To get really outside the comfort zone, you were better off listening to O Lucky Man!, an ironically titled tribute to the director Lindsay Anderson. Friends and colleagues, including Malcolm McDowell and David Storey, testified that, though the satire of films such as If...., Britannia Hospital and O Lucky Man! was painted on a broad social and political canvas, its basis was in Anderson's deep personal misery. As a child, he suffered from a chilly relationship with his father; as an adult, from an inability to come to terms with his homosexuality. It is possible that he never had sex – at any rate, at the Royal Court, he was nicknamed "the singing virgin"; for me, the interesting part is the information that he was always singing –that is much harder to reconcile with his prickly image.
John Harris's tribute was well informed and enthusiastic, and contained some fine anecdotes – the best from David Sherwin, a frequent Anderson collaborator, who wrote the screenplay for O Lucky Man!: "Goodness, how we wrote it I really don't know. One of my ex-wife's lovers beat me up, so I was practically blind. Then I seemed to write most of the script under section in Tooting Bec hospital." But the programme was also irritatingly one-sided: by attending purely to the feature films, Harris gave the impression of an artist perpetually frustrated and underrated; Anderson's much more productive careers in documentary film and in the theatre went practically unnoticed.
The Carmine Appice Story was an unexpected treat. Appice (pronounced "A-piece") was the drummer for the psychedelic covers band Vanilla Fudge in the Sixties, and more or less invented heavy-metal drumming: John Bonham of Led Zeppelin apparently borrowed his entire shtick. Appice is also, it turned out, a terribly nice man, though Pete Mitchell, who presented and produced, could have helped him out by cutting some of his duller anecdotes. But I did enjoy his sparring with his girlfriend, Leslie "Radio Chick" Gold – as the nickname suggests, a radio host – who has a bad habit of talking about their relationship in public. Appice was listening with his band in a tour bus when she announced on air that the first time the couple had sex she had to fake it. That is what the phrase "outside the comfort zone" means.
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