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Radio-Activity III: Scott Walker's Birthday On The Wireless
Jude Rogers , January 19th, 2013 07:48

This week, Jude Rogers looks at some great shows around Scott Walker's birthday celebrations, and asks for your tips from the airwaves

Before I begin properly, a request and a promise: I won't just be reviewing BBC programmes here in Radioland. If you'd like to recommend any stations or programmes to share with The Quietus gang, that ideally post Soundclouds later or have play-again features, then please comment below. I've already been trawling the airwaves, and the internet too, where much of this glorious stuff can be found. The results of my (and possibly your efforts) will begin next weekend.

But for now back to Auntie, mainly because I have to mention last Sunday's Scott Walker love-in. Our own John Doran helped kick things off on Tom Robinson's Now Playing @6Music show, thoughtfully reminding us of the late 70s wonder that is The Walker Brothers' Nite Flights (I agree, John, it's very Bowie, but also totally Roxy).

John Doran's half-hour on Tom Robinson's Now Playing @6 Music show (from 32:34): LISTEN HERE

After that, Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone brought us the birthday boy himself. Walker hasn't been, shall we say, resistant to press attention of late (a Wire cover story, a Simon Hattenstone interview in The Guardian, a profile here, again by John, a David Toop grilling at Pitchfork) but the experience of hearing him, with Our Stuart, offers another experience entirely.

A confession first: I basically want to be Stuart Maconie. He does tons of disparate stuff, and does it brilliantly, the git: writing best-selling travel books, making documentaries about music and walking, co-hosting a great daytime show with Mark Radcliffe, and broadcasting whatever weird shit he wants to here, as well as on this show's even wilder cousin, The Freakier Zone (about which more later). Maconie's style is probably too chummy for some, but for me it's spot on: clever and deeply informed, but also welcoming and accessible, so much so my mother could tune in to this particular show, and get something out of it (although she'd prefer hearing 'Take It Easy On Yourself' than 'Epizootics!', more than likely). To me, though, here's Lord Reith's rationale for the BBC in one Northern man, who knows he's here to inform, educate and entertain.

Scott Walker interviewed on Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone: LISTEN HERE

Maconie's also a good interviewer, whose questions seem simple, while actually containing multitudes. His first question addresses Walker's recent album, Bish Bosch, with respect, but also reaches out to sceptics that might be listening in: "How do you imagine, or hope, that people might listen to the record?" It's an experience, he adds, not something you'd throw on when you'd have a few friends round for something to eat. Walker replies with a great line, that provokes laughter: "It depends on the kind of party you're throwing". The aural nature of their encounter is also handled well – snatches of music are built in so we can analyse this album together. Maconie also plays some of TS Eliot's The Waste Land to address Bish Bosch's lyrical approach, and tries out the theory that many songwriters sing versions of themselves, but Walker does not. We also get the treat of hearing Walker's speaking voice: as lustrous and gorgeous as you like. It's all great stimulation for the ear, as well as the brain.

Maconie goes even deeper into this stuff on The Freakier Zone, discussing the musical influences on Walker with The Wire's Rob Young. Diamanda Galas, David Lynch and Jonny Greenwood are all interesting choices, but the third movement of György Ligeti's Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments is a league of its own – jittery, powerful and utterly mesmerising. Be quick though, as this programme disappears tomorrow night...

Scott Walker in context on The Freakier Zone: LISTEN HERE

If you fancy more wild music, I advise going to bed to Anthony Braxton's Falling River Music quartet, as I did on Monday. Their improvised set for saxophones, cornet and guitar was something I forced myself to listen to at first, but God I'm glad I did – and how great it was to hear 90 minutes of this stuff on mainstream radio.

Anthony Braxton's Falling River Music on Radio 3: LISTEN HERE

There's been plenty more in the way of great music chat too, with Tom Robinson's interview with Brian Eno being another down-to-earth joy, especially when Eno talks about his love of early doo-wop. Any Quietus reader who runs a mile from folk should be made to listen to Martin Carthy on Desert Island Discs too. Such brilliant stories! And such mesmerising song choices, including a recording of Italian dock-workers singing a ballad called 'La Partenza', which sounds as a full-on and discordant as any Throbbing Gristle. And finally, Peter Paphides played Bruce Springsteen's 'I'm On Fire' to the Maccabees on his 6 Music show Vinyl Revival, only at 45 rpm rather than 33, revealing that the sped-up New Jersey hollerer sounds just like Dolly Parton. With moments like these, BBC, I forgive you everything.

Brian Eno on Tom Robinson: LISTEN HERE Martin Carthy on Desert Island Discs: LISTEN HERE Pete Paphides turns Bruce into Dolly (from 33:35): LISTEN HERE