Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Saturday List #104 - Ten reasons why The Robert Elms show is the best thing on radio

Image result for robert elms bbc radio london
Robert Elms
If you live in London, you are blessed to have a great local radio station. This is BBC Radio London. It has many great shows and presenters. It is my radio station of choice. It plays great music and if you live in London, it is a portal to great things. Of all its shows, the best is The Robert Elms show. Robert calls it "Radio for Grown Ups". Roberts show is the one thing on the radio that you listen to and you are likely to learn something interesting or to your benefit every single day. This could be great new music, a new show in town, a new film, London events and all manner of interesting people, or just an amusing local fact. If you haven't listened to the show, check it out. It is on Mondays to Saturdays 10am-1pm. You can listen again to shows anytime.

It is high time a Top Ten reasons why it is the best show. These are mine, do you agree, here they are:-

1. Notes and Queries - This is where (usually) four listeners ring up with a query. It can be lost music, interesting architecture, a historical figure, an incident or event. Then other listeners ring up and solve the mystery. It is fascinating radio. I've rang up and found out all about a few mysteries that have intrigued me through the efforts of the listeners. Perhaps my favourite was when I asked about the Brevitt club, which I found my Dads membership card for. This was a club of rather interesting note, frequented by RAF officers.

2.  The studio Piano. Robert has an old beat up piano in his studio. It has produced some of the best live music you will hear. I am a musician. I love great well produced music, but I prefer the energy of a live performance. Roberts piano has elevated his show. For me, often it is the real star of the show. Numerous guests have come in and performed. One of the most moving this year was Carl Smyth from Madness this year. If you miss the best bits, Robert plays them again in the last half hour on a Saturday.

3. Maxwell Hutchinson. Max is the architectural expert. If you tried to sell the concept of a radio slot with a rather dapper posh bloke, talking to an oik from Burnt Oak about buildings, they'd think you were nuts. But it is fascinating. Max had a stroke a couple of years back. It was like an illness in the family. When he finally came back, I nearly shed a tear.

4. Cover to Cover. This is a weekly slot where Robert plays an original track followed by a cover and asks listeners to give their opinion as to what is best. It never ceases to amaze me what an amazing catalog of music the human race has built up. No other show would ask listeners to compare the Tom Jones and Smokey Robinson versions of "Its not unusual".

5. The Fourfar. This is a slot where four songs, picked by listeners on a theme, by an artist or with some other often tenuous link is played. For me, this has often introduced me to great tracks by artists that I've not heard before (and believe me, I listen to a lot of music).  Music is my greatest pleasure. Unlike football, there is no real downside (apart from when an icon like Bowie dies).

6. The Reggae track of the day. Robert plays a reggae track every day. Everyone should play a reggae track every day. It lowers stress levels and makes you feel good. On a more serious note, it is a genre of music that is neglected and Robert is spot on keeping it alive.

7.  The Listed Londoner. Every Monday Robert has a guest in. They are asked fifteen questions and talk about their lives. They are all people with strong London connections. It is invariably fascinating as Robert seems to only manage to select great guests.

8. The London weekender. This is the other end of the listed Londoner spectrum. A regular listener tells us their perfect London weekend. You simply ring up and ask. I've found all manner of great little gems through this.

9.  Funky Friday. Now I am not a funkster and I have to admit, this was not my favorite spot on Roberts show. He used to simply play a half hour of his favourite funk tracks. I used to hoover the studios then. Not because the music wasn't great, but it wasn't my thing and it just didn't do it. This year, Robert brought in a new concept. He has a co curator and they play alternate tracks and discuss them. It has revitalised it and although I am not a funkster, the widening of the funk gene pool and the stories from clubs around town has traansformed it into great radio.

10, Round your manner. This is the Tuesday slot. Robert picks a district of London and this is the theme for the show of the day ( Max comes in who talks about the architecture of the area). Now I've got to confess that of all his slots, this is the one that is most hit or miss. It is either brilliant or not. Sometimes, you get to find out the most fascinating things and sometimes there isn't too much. Being a North Londoner, the south London bits I don't really enjoy, but anything that doesn't take a chance is never going to hit the heights.


All these ingredients add up to a great, informative show that is compulsive listening. BBC Local radio is under threat. Shows like the Robert Elms show are the lifeblood of our community. This is why we need local radio. It is important that we recognise the importance of Local Radio and such shows.

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