Saturday, 2 January 2010

Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70s

I've been so busy I've not managed to have a moan about Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70s on Radio 2. And now it's another year all of a sudden, but secure in the knowledge no-one will have sorted it out yet, can I now register my disappointment in the above show.

I am a big fan of Radio 2's Sounds Of The 60s, presented by Brian Matthews since what seems like time immemorial (but is possibly insert research here - oh, I said that out loud). Whenever I have an early morning gig, which I do, I'm not rock & roll all the time, I get to hear Brian (or SOS as it's probably known) of a Saturday morning from 8am to 10am and I find the show a perfect Radio 2 production. It informs, educates and entertains (as Lord Reith wanted), but more than that it flatters the intelligence of the listener. And in two important ways. Firstly it thinks you, the listener, might be interested in popular music you haven't heard before, presented with information attached (every song has a story and Brian never lets you go without a quick one). And secondly it invites you, the listener, to suggest the music.

As a result the show is intelligent and interactive, entertaining and educational. And fun and not boring and stimulating and some of the records are horrendous, but presented in such a context that you know you're never more than 4 minutes away from something you'll prefer.

Which brings us to Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70s, which is the opposite. He plays his choice of records which has already, after only a few weeks, become repetitive. I've already heard Fleetwood Mac's The bloody Chain twice. And he disdains what most of his 30, 40 & 50 something listeners would call popular music. Having already spoken out against the Bay City Rollers & the Wombles, disco struggles to get a look in and novelty records can forget it.

As I remember the 70s as a hodge podge of one hit wonders, novelties, wild trends and obscurities, I was reminded tonight of how feeble the record choice of Sounds of the 70s is by a programme featuring music I mostly didn't care for, BBC 4's Guitar Heroes. It featured guitar based acts from the 70s that I'd heard before but not on Sounds of the 70s, like The Runaways and Chris Spedding and Focus and Davy Graham & Nils Lofgren & Ted Nugent & Ralph McTell. I wouldn't like them all, but it struck me that they'd not been on SO70. (The ones that had were The Faces and The Who, who I feel I've heard a bit much).

Looking back at the previous GH episodes, I'm pretty sure these acts have appeared on that TV show but not on on Johnnie Walker's (I would assume definitive) radio show: Johnny Thunders, Robin Trower, Horslips, Nazareth - and this is only guitar heroes, which he favours anyway. Extrapolate this non-scientific survey into the fields of bubblegum pop, or teenybop, or singer-songwriters, or funk, or krautrock, or philly disco, or comedy records, or folk, or glam, or prog rock or punk or two tone or Top Of The Pops cover albums or Eurovision or... it can become a very long list.

So, I'd love to dwell but Casualty's getting exciting. All I'm saying is I'd like Johnnie Walker's Sound of the 70s to be more like Brian Matthew's Sounds of the 60s.

God help us if anyone dreams up Sound of the 80s. They wouldn't. Would they?

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