I thought I’d mention my enormous admiration for the BBC’s Great Lives podcast which has been absent for a while but has, in the past couple of weeks, been slipping elegantly onto my iPod once again. As the title suggests, this is a production dealing with the biographies of fascinating folk but it’s the format that provides this listener with deepest satisfaction. Engaging host Matthew Parris traditionally, er, hosts a couple of characters, one a (forgive me) celebrity enthusiast of the great life in question while the other guest is an expert, often a biographer of that edition’s focus. The (forgive me again) celebrity’s job is to wax lyrical and come over all enthusiastic and devoted while the expert pithily debunks myths and bombards the listener with wondrous facts and tales. The recent edition when Sir Ranulph Fiennes and historian Juliet Barker examine Henry V proved an utterly compelling half an hour and I’m currently loving (but failing to stay awake through) wry comedian Rich Hall’s take on Tennessee Williams. It’s the juxtaposition of (...and again) celebrity and great life that often delights and I’ve appreciated John Major on Rudyard Kipling, Kate Humble (who I’ve ne’er admired really but who came across really well) on Miriam Makeba and, O tempora! O mores!, Paul Daniels on Harry Houdini. I wonder who the next one will be about*.
If any hepcats are reading this and wanting some more recommendations for podcast joy, then I am always thrilled to mention my favoured magazine Word’s weekly (or so) broadcast which never fails to entertain. Essentially, ageing dudes Mark Ellen and David Hepworth and guests chew the fat, reminisce and demonstrate more wit, wisdom and humour than I frankly deserve. Another favourite of mine is Chicago Public Radio’s Sound Opinions during which a pair of cooler-than-cool Illinoisan music journalists and anglophiles (Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot) debate with giddy effervescence new releases and old long playing classics. Guests of the highest vintage (Grizzly Bear, Joan As Policewoman, Steve Earle) often pop by. It’s pleasing to hear views about modern music from a different source although the affable pair love British music with as much unabashed fervour as the latest stateside sounds. You can search for all these treats on iTunes.
*I'm informed that upcoming shows include Neil Innes on Vivian Stanshall and, heck, Christopher Biggins on Nero. The prospect of both, but especially the latter, renders me delirious with excitement.