Will Gary Glitter ever get radio airplay again?

Gary GlitterMention the name Gary Glitter to most over-30s in the UK and you’ll usually get a look of contempt. Once one of the darlings of the 70s glam-rock music scene, he is now synonymous with his various convictions for child porn and transformation from a slightly manic-looking pop star to a bald-headed weirdo with a grey goatee.

In fact, you’ll rarely – if ever – hear one of his songs played on the radio. Radio 2 – the most likely outlet for his tunes – regularly overlook him in the likes of Pick of The Pops or their festive/bank holiday countdowns.

So there was naturally a bit of a kerfuffle when Gwyneth Paltrow decided to perform a cover version of Do You Wanna Touch Me on the TV show Glee – a song, in case you’re interested, that in January 1973 reached No.2 in the UK singles charts.

Glitter – real name Paul Gadd – committed a pretty heinous crime, but is that a reason to expunge his music from the annals of history? I don’t think so.

Take the following music artists, for example: Jerry Lee Lewis (married his 13-year-old cousin), James Brown (convicted of armed robbery and arrested numerous times for domestic abuse) and Phil Spector (convicted of murder).

If radio bosses carried out the same punishment on their music, as has been on Glitter’s, the likes of Great Balls of Fire, I Feel Good and Be My Baby would rarely be heard ever again.

And imagine what a dilemma radio bosses would have had if Michael Jackson had been found guilty of the child abuse crimes of which he was accused back in 2005. Can you imagine radio stations without the option of playing Beat It, Billie Jean, Wanna Be Startin’ Something or Smooth Criminal?

As I said before Glitter is obviously a disturbed individual, but his music should be separated from the man. Let’s not forget that his music was loved so much during the 1970s that he achieved 3 No.1s and another 8 Top 10 hits – no flash in the pan.

And in case you think he’s been completely expunged from popular music, take a closer listen to Katy Perry’s worldwide smash hit I Kissed A Girl. Do you recognise the drum beat that kicks it off and continues throughout the song. Yup, it’s a sample taken from none other than Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part 2.

Let’s hope that someone finally decides to make the sensible decision and allow people to make up their own mind and hear Gary Glitter’s music for what it is – whatever the actions of the man.

And the point of celebrity DJs is…?

Jason DonovanToday in the car, I suddenly realised, after 20 minutes of paying no attention, that I was listening to the aural wonder that is Heart Radio.

Now I could probably fill an entire blog with my thoughts on Heart, but my observation today was specifically about the DJ, or rather the lack of it.

Every Sunday from 12-4pm, Heart employs that well-known radio presenter Jason Donovan – yes, that’s right – Jason Donovan. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but Donovan’s CV over the years may have included a number of TV, film and singing highlights, but at no point did he train to become a DJ.

Worse still, during the 20 minutes I was tuned in to Heart, I heard Donovan talk for just 90 seconds. Now, if that is a representative average, that adds up to a total of 18 minutes over a four-hour show, which is completely astonishing.

At a guess Jason Donovan is probably paid around £50k a year, so with maybe 4 weekends off a year, he’s pulling in £57 for every minute he actually speaks on the radio. A gig that I’d gladly take.

Aha, you’re saying, but he does a four-hour show every Sunday. There’s a bit more to it than simply speaking.

The thing is, though, DJs no longer really have to do what we once expected of them in the glory days of radio. The likes of Kenny Everett splicing his own shows together is long gone. Very few DJs choose their own records, even fewer actually know how to use the electronics. The reason Mr D got the job was because he’s a name. And he’s a name that appeals to the radio station’s core demographic – in this case, 30/40-something women who remember the 80s exceptionally well.

And, on the face of it, it would make sense if it weren’t the fact that his presence on the radio is barely enough to warrant people tuning in. People listen to Heart for the, ahem, ‘more music variety’, not who presents the show.

But it’s not just Heart who are guilty of promoting celebs who have no experience into relatively high-profile shows. Radio 2 have done it on more than one occasion. Davina McCall famously stood in for Ken Bruce back in 2007 and provoked 150 complaints.

More recently, Patrick Kielty – let’s face it, a dodgy Irish comedian – has inveigled himself onto the network, for no other reason than he’s mildly famous (having heard him, it surely isn’t for his broadcasting technique).

What’s more irritating is that every time a non-radio person gets him or herself onto the radio, it stops someone who has learned their trade and probably deserves their chance more. Is it really that important for radio stations to pull in a ‘name’ just for quick, cheap listening numbers, rather than try someone who actually has experience, but no ‘reputation’?

Interestingly, radio listening figures are at their highest for many years, so the fact that ‘celebs’ are infilitrating the airwaves doesn’t seem to have made that much difference, but it would be nice if at least some of the radio stations gave credence to substance over style.

Stranded on a Desert Island

Desert Island Discs evokes strong memories for me. As a kid, when I was in the car with my dad travelling home after a weekend, it would invariably be on and I would be subjected to listening to people I’d never heard of being interviewed, choosing pieces of classical music I had no interest in.

In fact, the only time I ever remember someone not choosing a non-classical piece was when the boxer Alan Minter was being quizzed and he picked Boney M’s Brown Girl In The Ring, although I'm sure he wasn’t the first. 

Those were the days when the dulcet tones of Roy Plomley would introduce the week’s castaway when Radio 4 seemed like the last thing on earth I’d ever want to listen to regularly. 

But now, 30-odd years on, with the arrival of the weekly podcast, Desert Island Discs has become staple listening. 

Part of the attraction are the mellifluous tones of Kirsty Young, who has the most soothing voice – a voice made for radio, dare one say it.  

But the diversity of the guests are what makes DID so appealing. In the past couple of months you could have listened to Morrissey, Michael Caine, Professor Mary Beard, James Ellroy and Mary Portas to name but a few. 

Often the names are household, but there are always a few less well-known guests – often the ones who end up being the most interesting. 

While Desert Island Discs is not exactly the confessional box, the intimate nature of radio and the polite, yet incisive questioning of Kirsty Young mean you do get an insight into people that you probably wouldn’t get from, say, a Michael Parkinson grilling, or a magazine feature. 

Sixty-eight years and counting – who wouldn’t bet on it lasting another 68?