Tuesday, November 01, 2005

REMOTE CONTROLLED: Music on TV and Radio the last few days

"It sounded like Enya played backwards in a blender" complained Jeremy Hardy during one of the musical rounds on Radio 4's News Quiz on Friday night - he'd just been listening to a snatch of Ian Brown's FEAR.

It's been a curiously busy time for music TV and radio, or at least, so it's seemed, the last few days. Last night, George Michael popped up on Newsnight being interviewed by Kirsty Wark, which meant we had a queasy moment when the BBC's flagship TV current affairs programme carried footage of Mike "Smitty" Smith wearing an amusing pullover from Whams debut TOTP performance. Michael feels that subsequent events in Iraq have vindicated him over the whole Wag The Dog affair (a scandal so small it never quite warranted a "-gate" suffix). Funnily enough, you can often hear people muttering to themselves as they search for lost relatives or body parts in the aftermath of a carbomb in Basra, "well, at least it vindicates George Michael."

Luckily for him, Kirsty didn't attempt to pin him down on why he was happy to turn up at Bono and Bob's Live8 when the two men have offered so much support to Blair and Bush if he felt so strongly about it all.

The meeting gets an extended run-out in what appears to be a regular BBC FOUR "x ... talks to Kirsty Wark" slot; last weekend it was Jarvis Cocker. His main concern was over the excitement that greeted the opening of Ikea's Edmonton store: "That's what gets people worked up, a cheap settee."

Just a word, though, Jarvis - we yield to nobody in our admiration for you and your body of work (except to those who reckon Relaxed Muscle wasn't more than a blind alley), but the huge glasses and hair look... are you trying to recreate the look of Daniel Craig's Geordie from the end of Our Friends In The North or something?

We don't know if Virgin is happy with the performance of its Virgin xtreme radio station on Sky, but it might find a few more listeners tune in if it appeared on the Sky EPG under a name that suggested it was a Virgin radio station - we stumbled across it by chance on Saturday night despite it showing up in channel listings as the less-than-inspiring "On Air"; likewise, Virgin Classic Hits won't entirely be helping attract its target audience with an EPG listing of "Radio". The fact they've been broadcasting for ages without anyone fixing that basic problem would suggest there's not the greatest amount of attention to detail going into the channels.

Back to TV with pictures, and the hugely disappointing Girls and Boys, which bills itself as "Sex and British Pop", but really uses a couple of lines about boys with long hair to try and pretend that this isn't just another bogstandard trot through the history of pop music. This week was the 1970s, which meant you got lots of lovely footage of Bowie, Bolan and Pauline Black interspersed with the same people giving the same self-justifying interviews as they've been doing for the last thirty years.

So you had Angie Bowie telling us how she invented David and everything he ever did. Although no matter how many times she tells the story about her reaction to his coming out to the Melody Maker was simply to go "You got a front page and three pages - good", you can see she's still not convinced herself of it.

And here's Malcolm McClaren, revealing that "I think I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show several times..." - since "several" means little more than "more than twice", how can you not be sure of that?

Up pops Hugh Cornwell, attempting to justify the whole strippers-on-stage thing as insisting The Stranglers thought that punk was "too politically correct" - a curious anacrhonistic claim which sounds more like a desperate effort to have come up with an excuse over the last couple of decades. Still, at least it's better than "JJ did it and ran away", we guess. He's not challenged on why, if the idea was to protest against how punk had strict rules about how you dressed and what you think - as he claims - the best way to do that was whipping strippers on stage rather than, say, not wearing black clothes?

Pauline Black, at least, was good value - "I thought 'why should I sell sex? I'm gonna wear a hat", as if wearing a hat is the polar opposite of being sexual. Never seen Cabaret, then.

Despite constantly failing to actually develop any thesis in favour of cramming in more clips (what did the Sex Pistols meets Bill Grundy incident have to do with either sexuality or gender?) the programme did at least find space to mention Northern Soul, which often gets left out in the Glam - Prog - Punk - Disco evolutionary school of 1970s music. Next week, of course, the New Romantics. And, we'd guess, Kate Bush in a leotard.