Sunday, 19 July 2009

Desert Island Discs

There seems to be a trend in declaring the death of mediums at the moment. Just yesterday I had a long, semi-concious and fully drunken chat with my bassists father who called me "niave" for thinking the media could survive the recession.

One such medium, that in my opinion would have already died a death if it weren't for car stereos, is Radio. Those god awful afternoon dramas, annoying DJs, terrible playlists, amatuer adverts and the fucking Archers aside, it is simply a medium that filled the gap between social cohesion and TV.

The fact is that everything Radio can do, TV can do better. With a few exceptions - one being Desert Island Discs. There is something so inherently sonic about the show that the idea of adding the visual seems completely destructive. Music is an Aural pleasure, and thus a TV or live version of it would leave one not knowing where to look. In fact I think most people would close their eyes and pretend it is a radio show.

I listened to Desert Island Discs for the first time in years today, because the hero that is David Mitchell was on. As a self confused non-muso he chose a wonderfully mixed bag including, amongst others, "Rainbow Connection" sung by Kermit the Frog, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Major and Radiohead's "creep". He also chose "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, stating that is would be the perfect song to go mad to on a desert Island. To watch David Jiggle about to the Spanish Flea on TV would be too much to bear.

Listening to Radio still has its pleasures, ones I forgot until this morning. It makes you concentrate on the music (thus why Dizzy Rascal's "Bonkers" is so completely intolerable in this form....actually any form) and also listen to what it's speakers say, rather than gawp at how the camera adds ten pounds to David Mitchell (although less cameras must be on him recently). Radio still has it's place, it's just that that place has moved, and it needs to remember why it is different to TV not why TV is better than it.

Long live Desert Island Discs, and long live Radio.


  1. Radio doesn't date like TV does. Dramas from the 70s and 80s now look old. Radio Dramas like under Milk Wood and Terminus could be rebroadcast now and sound like they were made now.

    The Afternoon Play on Radio 4 is often bad because it's badly written. There's also much more quality comedy on Radio than TV.

    Think of all the money that's spent on TV programmes that are dire. Certain things radio can't do very well like Nature programmes but words spoken by the right voice in the right situation can be very powerful.

  2. I agree with the idea that radio doesn't date as much as TV - but we shouldn't assume that is the rule. Just as TV scripts and ideas become dated, so do radio scripts. The reason radio hasn't dated is that the technology hasn't evolved as far as TV capabilities have. There are also examples of TV and film that have dated technologically, but still hold the viewer through excellent scripts/acting.

    I don't mean to say that desert island discs is th only exception - you rightly say that spoken word can be more powerful as a disembodied voice through a speaker. Poems, lectures and often panel shows/comedy shows suffer from being made into TV programmes (That Mitchell and Webb Sound being an example).

    Thanks for you comment!