In what seems the first time in a long time this week’s Another Country is brought to you from Studio 6 at the BBC in Glasgow. We’ve been on the road, at C2C and eased off air for a triumphant Scotland night at Hampden (I managed to get tickets, so had no argument) over the last few weeks. So a return to a pile of records and two hours to play them seems about the happiest scenario I could imagine this Tuesday evening.
A dear friend and previous producer rather despaired of me during my Sunday Morning shifts a few years back when I admitted I’d be quite happy just shutting up and playing a bit more music. She had to gently point out this wasn’t the reason we had been commissioned to be on air. But really, is there anything better? I say this as we can all be DJ’s so easily these days. Any fool can hit a couple if buttons and music will spew out of your smart phone for days on end. No repeat guaranteed? Oh yes, it can do all of that and no ads, news, weather or traffic announcements. So why believe in the radio? I happen to think the clue is in that great song by Mark Germino about the mythical DJ Rex Bob Lowenstein:
And his name is Rex Bob Lowenstein
He’s forty-seven, goin’ on sixteen
His request line’s open but he makes no bones
About why he plays Madonna after George Jones
No algorithm will suggest that, no matter how hard you try. The joy of playing artists from different age groups, decades, ethnic groups and sexes is what makes curation such a joy. I’m still indebted to some of the great radio people from the seventies and eighties who shaped my musical taste. In times when (if you missed the back announcement) you might wait years to find out what you’d just heard there were moments and nights on the radio when songs would explode my world. The next day you might well walk in a completely different direction because of what you’d just heard on the wireless, and, if you were a songwriter, your emphasis and artistic arrow might point in a whole new direction. I was reminded of this again a few days ago when I enjoyed a quiet holiday breakfast leafing through the brilliant Paul McCartney song book, The Lyrics, where he talks about how he imagined being different artists as he wrote particular songs. I was so glad it was not just me! Yes, I loved Jackson Browne but then I heard The Only Ones and I just wanted to be Peter Perrett.
On this week’s AC you can do a little imagining yourselves. Do you want to be Jimmie Rodgers, Caitlyn Smith, Bob Dylan, Trisha Yearwood or even Brandy Clark? In another dream you may fancy being in a bluegrass band called Mighty Poplar or singing cowboy songs like Andy Hedges.
You decide. You can listen in live on BBC Radio Scotland FM this Tuesday evening from eight or at a time and place of your own choosing on BBC Sounds. Either way do join me if you can.