Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 28 September

Our reviewer waxes lyrical about a Radio 2 legend

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWEven if you're not interested in current events, radio news bulletins perform a useful service. They allow the listener time to reach the radio in order to switch networks when a programme they can't stand is about to start.

From noon until drivetime, I avoid Radio 2 like the plague.

I like Jeremy Vine, but can't bear his callers. With Steve Wright, it's him I can't stand. I can hear how well-produced the show is, but the faked enthusiasm, the same old music beds he's been using for the last 20-odd years and the bum-aching tedium of the bits where he talks to his 'zoo' all conspire to keep me away.

Worst of all are the emails from listeners all beginning 'Love the show, Steve'. Do they really all say that, or does Wright add the salutation himself?

On Radio 1 in the early 1980s, Wright was a breath of fresh air. Now his show smells well past its sell-by date.

Until noon, though, Radio 2 can have me for a sunbeam. When I'm up early enough, I enjoy Chris Evans, as I have since I first heard him on GLR over 20 years ago. I hear far more of Ken Bruce, though, a welcome survivor from the Radio 2 of Ray Moore, Terry Wogan and John Dunn, sharing the same gently sarcastic and self-deprecating manner.

One line of Bruce's has stuck with me for nearly 20 years. On playing a Des O'Connor record, he announced that he'd been into a music shop to buy O'Connor's latest release. The shop assistant asked if he wanted vinyl, cassette or CD. 'Oh no,' replied Bruce, 'I only wanted the sheet music.'

The centrepiece of Bruce's show, as it has been for the last 16 years, is the PopMaster quiz, a fiendishly difficult against-the-clock contest for music experts. One recent contestant declared himself so nervous that he'd cocked up painting a skirting board. 'It looks like a dog's hind leg,' he admitted, 'I'm going to have to do it again.' Sadly, he didn't win.

As hard as PopMaster is for contestants, it's just as bad for the presenter. The great Alex Lester, who sometimes emerges from 'the best time of the day' to stand in for Bruce, once explained to me the mechanics of playing all of the music clips and jingles. It sounds like patting your head and rubbing your stomach while trying to land a jumbo jet. Truly is Bruce the PopMaster master.

Ken Bruce, BBC Radio 2, weekdays, from 9.30 until noon.


Robin Lustig, Sony Award-winning presenter of The World Tonight on Radio 4 and Newshour on the World Service, is to step down from presenting duties at the end of the year to return to reporting. It was a difficult decision, but 'now is a good time for me to see if I'm still capable of doing anything else', he says.

Follow Louis on Twitter: @LadyWireless or email him at:

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