Thursday, 03 May 2012

Radio Reviews: 4 May

Written by Louis Barfe

Let's hear it for the nice chaps...

The airwaves aren't full of them, but there are still some clever gents out there

Louis-Barfe-newBWEven though I moved away from the capital nearly a decade ago, I've always tried to keep up with Danny Baker's shows on BBC London. I've been a fan of his since he pitched up on BBC Radio 1 in the early 1990s, replacing Dave Lee Travis on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and filling the airwaves with pop culture erudition, superb music and strange stunts, including the creation of electrical storms by placing CDs in microwave ovens (don't try this at home).

At the time, supporting and defending Baker could be a lonely business, with many listeners favouring the Hairy Cornflake, and abandoning Radio 1 in their droves. Baker's critics dismissed him as the mouthy Cockney from the Daz adverts, and while Baker does talk a lot, that's because his mind's always making connections, dredging up obscure facts from his elephantine memory and minting jokes. He's not just doing it because he loves the sound of his own voice. He is also aided by his sidekicks Amy Lamé, David Kuo and Baylen Leonard, the latter a fund of wildly improbable stories about his life, which turn out to be true.

Nearly 20 years on, there are signs that Baker is finally being appreciated. Perhaps the turning point came when he was diagnosed with throat cancer, an ailment that he handled with tremendous dignity and humour.

Through it all, though, he has had loyal listeners who 'get' what he does, and their calls and emails fill each show. On a recent show, a listener recalled winning a raffle on holiday, the prize being 16st of beef. The delight at winning the prize was soon tempered by bafflement at what to do with 224lb of flesh before returning home. Baker's reaction was gleeful. In the same show, he played Kissin', a late 1950s rock and roll record by, of all people, Barry Cryer, sounding more Hovis than Elvis. You won't find this sort of playlist elsewhere.

Like Baker, Nicky Campbell is an intelligent, well-read chap, and this came to the fore on 5 Live's Breakfast the other morning when, in making a point about an arcane matter of economics, a contributor quoted a few lines of Hilaire Belloc. To the contributor's delight, Campbell completed the quotation and declared that the pair of them were 'talking Bellocs'.

Danny Baker, BBC London, weekdays at 3pm.

5 Live Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, weekdays at 6am.


On 10 May, BBC Radio 2 will be mounting another 2Day, featuring all of the station's bestknown presenters across a 12-hour period. The event culminates in an evening show presented live from the 100 Club in London by Chris Evans, and featuring guests like Jamie Cullum and Sir Tom Jones.

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

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