In Tom Stoppard's play The Real Thing the protagonist is fretting about appearing on Desert Island Discs. All the castaways have such esoteric tastes: the perfect piece of Chopin or an aria from The Ring; and when they do have a piece of contemporary music to show their street cred it is Pink Floyd. But he wants to choose "Um Um Um Um Um Um Um Um Um Um" by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.
I feel in a similar quandary about the new radio station being launched today by the BBC. The first new music station from the corporation in over 30 years, Radio 6 Music will eschew the charts and current fads to play cultured but little played oldies and cutting edge new material. So the contemporary sounds of Turin Brakes will be played alongside bands whose once similarly trendy names have not passed our lips for decades. Sly and the Family Stone, if the BBC has its way, will be back in vogue.
It sounds highly commendable. It's been an absurdity of national music radio, both BBC and commercial, that whole swathes of most people's record collections never get airplay. Quite where one tunes in to hear a Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell track I've long since given up trying to guess. And it's not just the old stuff. It'll be a long car journey before much from Gomez or Goldfrapp comes on.
Nevertheless, reading through the BBC publicity material for the new station, I find myself getting the same sort of inferiority complex as the chap in the Stoppard play.
Craig Charles, the former Red Dwarf actor who is fronting a show on Radio 6 Music, explains his musical passions thus: "It's a homage to people like Bootsy Collins and George Clinton and Johnny Guitar Watson, so it's set in a time warp; it's like a bubble in the Seventies where people wear purple trousers and yellow fly-away collars."
Now, in one way he's a man after my own heart, or at least after my own wardrobe. I can relate to the purple trousers, though no one else could at the time as I recall. But I can't remember jigging about in those purple trousers to the sounds of Bootsie Collins.
The dark secret of all rock fans is that along with the influential stuff that Radio 6 Music will be playing, we all had our covert moments listening to rubbish. While Craig Charles was letting it all hang out, in the jargon of the time, to Johnny Watson and his eponymous guitar, I may well have been humming along to "Johnny Reggae", a ditty that its composer, Jonathan King, should have offered as a previous offence for the judge to take into consideration.
I also had a penchant for a band called Sparks with a tall high-voiced chap and his brother, a little fellow with a moustache and madly staring eyes. Those contrasting personas wouldn't mean much on radio.
But it's more likely that they are not on the Radio 6 Music playlist, because they have not managed either of the two sine qua nons for appealing to a new generation: their music has not been the backdrop to an erotic recollection in a Nick Hornby novel, nor used by Quentin Tarantino as the soundtrack to cutting off a policeman's limb.
The BBC is meeting a need for cultured music fans with its new music station. Now it should turn its attention to meeting a social service for rock fans in need of corrective therapy for disturbed youth. Let's have a new station that plays the music that genuinely never gets played: the ephemeral rubbish that is never brought out for a dinner party, never played to one's children, never even discussed among consenting adults.
Roll on Radio 7 Rubbish where the playlists will bulge with The Sweet, Shakin Stevens, Herman's Hermits, Suzi Quatro and for the real anoraks the Mindbenders in their post-Wayne Fontana phase. Now that really would be minority taste.Reuse content