Thursday, 17 September 2020

My Top Ten Radio Shows (Right Now)

"I'd sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights..."

It's a cheesy old line, but Roger Taylor was onto something there. I've always listened to night time radio to help me through the long lonely hours, to stop my mind racing at 3am, to take comfort from music and a friendly voice.

A few years back though, radio was supplanted by streaming. Although there were a couple of shows I listened to, I found myself losing interest in a lot of night time radio (or my favourite old shows were one by one taken off the air and replaced by bland, airbrushed blah... i.e. Radio 2 over the past five to ten years.

Night time radio's a tricky one, because it can't be too loud. I loved Peel, but rarely listened to his show to calm my troubled mind or help me get to sleep. Because you never knew when he was going to play some screeching unlistenable toss to shake you out of your slumbers.

Recently, and largely due to the increased anxiety of these uncertain times, I've listened to a lot more radio. These are my favourite shows right now to keep me company through the wee small hours. Thanks to BBC Sounds (the iPlayer was better, but... progress), I can listen to any of these whenever I want. The majority are on the BBC purely because I can't listen to commercial radio. Don't even start me on the sorry state of that medium. I worked in it for 25 years and it breaks my heart what they've done to it. Besides, there's nothing relaxing about your late night radio being interrupted by an ad break. Take it from one who used to write the bloody things.

I record these here for posterity, for my own memories, to remind me of what gets me through the nights, as Mick used to sing. A sample track is given for each.

10. Gimme Country Radio

 Only just discovered this because Chuck Prophet is one of the DJs. Free streaming country music. If you like that sort of thing. Which I increasingly do.

Leon Russell - Jambalaya

9. Radcliffe & Maconie

Only at number 9 because I don't really listen to them at night time. I do catch up with them on a weekend morning though, comfy as an old pair of slippers. Back in the day, Radcliffe meant as much to me as Peel did to an earlier generation. I'm glad he's still doing what he does best: wittering on the wireless. And Sam has liked Stuart Maconie ever since he won on Richard Osman's House of Games.

Nice to hear this on the radio last weekend.

Cinerama - Dance, Girl, Dance 

8. Ralph McLean

Stumbled across Ralph on BBC Radio Ulster and got rather addicted to his Country and Rock & Soul shows. Only an hour and a half (they've cut him down recently, which is a shame) but he's a similar age to me and even more addicted to music. Often does themed shows - last week he did 90 minutes of Otis Redding and other people singing Otis's songs. It was a bloody good listen.

Otis Redding - Hard To Handle

7. Huey Morgan

Huey's early Saturday morning Radio 2 show is still an essential download. They took it off the air for a few months during lockdown and I really missed it. It's not as good as it used to be when he was on at 3am, or even midnight, and you can tell he's toned his act down in recent years to keep the Radio 2 bosses happy. But he's still a good radio friend, even though he breaks the "talking directly to you" DJ rule by continually addressing his listeners as "ladies and gentlemen". His 6Music show is also a good listen, but too loud for nights. His favourite Queen song is Dragon Attack and he plays it every three weeks or so. It's not one I care for that much, but I like that he gets away with it. Plus it's the place I first heard this beauty...

The Good Rats - Advertisement In The Voice

6. Roddy Hart

On Radio Scotland - which is basically what Radio 2 should be, and confirms for me once again that I have far more in common with my Scottish pals than many of my own countrymen. Roddy is a singer songwriter in his own right (he's played with Kris Kristofferson, so credit where it's due) and that's his bag on the radio. He likes a lot of the same obscure indie songwriters I dig, and has introduced me to a few new ones. Always worth dipping into.

Bill Callahan - Pigeons

5. Iain Anderson

The king of late night Scottish radio, though I never knew him when he was at his peak. Glad to have discovered him in the last few years though. Radio like it used to be. Plus his lyric quiz frequently gets me wracking my brains. I used to think I was pretty good with spotting lyrics...

Jim Croce - You Don't Mess Around With Jim

4. Guy Garvey's Finest Hour

Laidback Sunday afternoons, and the only 6music show that doesn't try too hard to be hip. Guy's natural northern delivery really does feel like a friend chatting to you in the pub. Now with added Simon Armitage, so what's not to love? (As Radcliffe always says.)

Tiny Ruins - Me At The Museum, You At The Winter Gardens

3. Bruce Springsteen - From My Home To Yours

Already covered here. Basically my dream radio show.

Childish Gambino - This Is America

2. Another Country With Ricky Ross

I used to get pissed off with pop stars becoming radio hosts... almost as though they were doing professional DJs out of their jobs. Thankfully, pop stars are now doing a great job of saving radio... and they generally get left alone to play what they want rather than having to conform to the shackles of playlists like Rex Bob Lowenstein did.

Anyway, Ricky Ross. The bloke out of Deacon Blue. Turns out he loooooves country music. And he knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Blaze Foley - Clay Pigeons

1. Natasha Raskin-Sharp

If you'd told me a few years ago that my favourite radio show would be presented by a woman from TV's Bargain Hunt, I'd have laughed in your face. But I am addicted to Natasha's Thursday evening Radio Scotland show... I usually listen to it on Friday and Saturday nights and to say it's a highlight of my week is really no overstatement.

I'm not sure I can explain why. Natasha is a good 15 years younger than me, unlike most of the presenters above who are either my age or older. And unlike a lot of the shows above, I reckon I usually know between 30 and 50% of the songs she plays. But no other presenter I can think of captures the eclecticism of Peel (without the loud bits - so perfect for my ageing ears), moving effortlessly from Television to Chicken Shack, Yo La Tengo to Can, Dawn Penn to Devo. I never know what she's going to play next, only that I'll like it. This is what radio should be. Long may she reign, the Queen of (my) late night radio...

Guest Post Thursday will return soon... otherwise, you might have to put up with more of this waffle.

You know what to do.


  1. To my shame I don't listen to music on the radio as much as I used to.
    I'm familiar with the Radio Scotland DJa with trhe exception of Natasha Raskin-Sharp who I will now be checking out.
    I rely on Brian to keep me up to date with Scottish bands and you for Scottish radio programmes

  2. Mental note to check out Natasha Raskin-Sharp's show duly made.

  3. My daughter just wouldn't believe how little we had access to growing up - Radio Luxemburg on a crackly transistor radio late at night without your parents knowing.

    Will have to check out Natasha. Iain Anderson presented the local morning show on radio when I moved to the Highlands - Mr WIAA always liked him.

    My current dilemma is a breakfast radio show - Can't stand Ms Ball's constant chatter and haven't found much else I like. Terry Wogan will be turning in his grave.

  4. During daylight hours, if my radio is on it'll either be tuned in to 6Music or Radio 4, though these occasions are becoming ever more rare these days. I have a massive podcast backlog that consumes much of my listening time during the day and is my constant companion all night long - the gentle background wittering cuts through the silence, distracting my brain just enough to allow me to drop off.
    I'm intrigued by the sound of Natasha Raskin-Sharp's show though and (to quote John Medd) will definitely give it a coat of listening to.


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