Nicholas Lezard: Higher wittering on that does not deserve to be silenced

Share

There seems to be some question about the future of Danny Baker's show on BBC London radio. Yesterday he tweeted that he's being sacrificed on the altar of cuts; the BBC says he's not.

Then again, it's possible it employs more than one person called Danny Baker, and that's who's under threat and it's all a big misunderstanding.

Getting rid of Baker isn't a welcome or clever proposition. BBC London may have dumbed down from its heyday in the 1990s, but you can't say that its presenters between 9am and five in the early evening are lazy, unengaging oafs who should be doing real jobs somewhere else. You have Vanessa Feltz as the doyenne of phone-in show hosts; Robert Elms as an engaging motormouth and source of interesting London lore; and from 3pm to 5pm, you have Danny Baker.

I've been following his career since the late 1970s when he was hired by the NME after co-founding the seminal punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue. This was the NME's golden era, and Danny Baker's shtick was to be funny. Although the other writers could crack a joke when they had to, it was with Baker that the knack came easiest.

He also had a very un-doctrinaire approach to music, unlike the practically Leavisite puritan fervour in those post-punk days. He liked disco, for goodness sake; and said so. Yet this led to a fascinating conversation with the Sex Pistols' John Lydon in the Christmas 1979 issue, one of the magazine's enduring high points.

His radio show, after some years of doing shouty TV (which tested some people's patience, admittedly), is a little marvel of what we may call The Higher Wittering On. The illusion of seamlessness is achieved by having music play continuously while he and his co-host talk, but it's not that much of an illusion. There is a natural gift of the gab there, and a professional ease that makes it all look effortless.

This all comes after a gruelling bout with cancer – whose defeat, he memorably attributed on Desert Island Discs, to science, not any personal qualities. (He also, equally memorably, described some of his colleagues as "halfwits and boss-eyed bozos".) Fittingly, when it comes to his playlist, you never know what he's going to play next. He recently began a show with "Hosanna" from Jesus Christ Superstar and an early Roy Wood rock'n'roll single which ends with a bagpipe solo. No show can live up to such an opening, said Baker after playing them back to back, but if anyone's show can, his can.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice