Billy Bragg travels back through the primeval swamps of skiffle and beyond. TV review by James Woodall
If you were a fan of “Rock Island Line” when it became a pop hit, you’d have to be at least in your mid-70s now. In 1956, Paul McCartney heard Lonnie Donegan perform it live in Liverpool, and Paul’s rising 77. How many below that age know it is moot, though that doesn’t necessarily disqualify it from the hour-long documentary treatment. For blues lovers, it’s a benchmark. “Rock Island Line” dates from the late 1920s and was first recorded in 1934.
Billy Bragg dependably and articulately fronted up this BBC Four history of the song, a protest paean to, or (as it might once have been called) a Negro spiritual about, a railroad network begun in the mid-19th century. Trains eventually steamed to many points west, south and north of Chicago – Rock Island sits west of Chicago, on the east bank of the Mississippi.
Those first recorded voices of the song belonged to black prisoners in Arkansas, way to the south. Key here was that another erstwhile convict, Huddie William Ledbetter – aka Lead Belly, who was violent but musically hugely influential on the 1950s and 1960s: Dylan references him on his first album – was present at the recording, clocked the performance and made the song his own. He died in 1949. Continue reading →
Last year, on Thursday, January 4, Channel 4 launched what would become one of their most popular comedies to date. All anyone could talk about was Derry Girls… ‘Are you watching Derry Girls?’ ‘You must watch Derry Girls!’ ‘It’s got Tommy Tiernan as the dad! Tommy Tiernan!’
The raw, rampant gra surrounding Lisa McGee’s creation was so huge, it was enough to turn you off watching it all together — which, I’m afraid, something yours truly fell foul of. Indeed, I’d never watched Derry Girls until this commission.
Why not? Perhaps it was just a feeble rebellion, or maybe it was being saved for a mental rainy day. Or, possibly, I just didn’t want to see Tommy Tiernan shouting for half an hour…
Either way — with the transmission date for series two looming — not only am I trying to persuade you it’s worth all the Twitter hype, after finally binge watching it, I’m now convinced it’s not just The Inbetweeners set in a different town, in a different decade — but with added Tommy Tiernan, less vomiting, and only a few passing references to Clunge’s more familiar cousin, Fanny.
No longer do I wonder if the show merely had people guffawing maniacally around their couches because January 4 is generally when most people are in a post-festive doom spiral and, therefore, primed to laugh at anything. Okay so. Here are the reasons why Derry Girls is a bona fide hit.
The RadioTimes.com team recommends their favourite podcasts – from politics to comedy to real life stories
Podcasts are everywhere in 2018. But how do you find shows that are actually good?
To answer this question, the RadioTimes.com team has sorted the proverbial wheat from the chaff, the brilliant from the merely mediocre. We have pulled together our top recommendations – in no particular order – from podcasts that will make you laugh to podcasts that will make you cry.
Fortunately… with Fi and Jane
Nothing warms the cockles more than the sound of two incredibly sharp, intelligent and mischievous women discussing totally random things for 40 odd minutes. BBC Radio veterans Fi Glover and Jane Garvey have one special guest per episode and discuss everything from Marxism to sex positions. [ . . . ]
“How do accents start and where did they come from?” asks Sachin Bahal from Toronto in Canada.
Hannah is schooled in speaking Geordie by top accent coach Marina Tyndall. And Adam talks to author and acoustics expert Trevor Cox about how accents evolved and why they persist.
We meet Debie who has Foreign Accent Syndrome – an extremely rare condition in which your accent can change overnight. After a severe bout of flu, which got progressively worse, Debie’s Brummie accent suddenly transformed into something distinctively more European.
A musical drama about a young musician’s quest to find the truth about her family. The drama stars much loved iconic Scots actor Bill Paterson and, in her first appearance in a radio drama, the award winning folk musician Karine Polwart.
As BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer Of The Year 2018, Karine Polwart is a multi-award-winning Scottish songwriter and musician, as well as a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken-word performer and published essayist. Her songs combine folk influences and myth with themes as diverse as “Donald Trump’s corporate megalomania”, Charles Darwin’s family life and the complexities of modern parenthood. She sings traditional songs too and writes to commission for theatre, animation and thematic collaborative projects. Karine is six-times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including twice for Best Original Song.