Entertainment Radio

Sunday 18 August 2019

Glorious Mystery...but is Lyric the right place for it?

Cillian Murphy (Ian West/PA)
Cillian Murphy (Ian West/PA)
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Cillian Murphy, as John Kelly explains in The Mystery Train (Lyric FM, Sun-Thu 7pm), "doesn't do interviews". He is famously, and admirably, guarded about privacy and family.

So this isn't really a standard interview, as such; the Cork-born actor isn't promoting a new film, TV show, or, indeed, himself. It's more or less two guys playing records and chatting about music, which makes sense: this world-famous movie star began young adulthood with rock 'n' roll dreams.

Cillian, we heard, used to be lead singer in the band Son of Mister Green Genes; brother Paudie was also in the group. They were offered a six-figure deal in the mid-1990s, "back when that sort of thing still happened".

But it never happened for Son of Mister Green Genes. Murphy reckoned they weren't commercial enough to make it big, his brother was only 16, and he felt that the ceiling of his own musical talent was relatively low. Correctly, Cillian guessed that acting was more his forte.

This was a really enjoyable two hours of radio. Murphy is a dream interview (not interview) subject: smart, funny, hugely interesting. Kelly's a veteran arts broadcaster - doyen of the field in Ireland by now - and his laid-back, droll and intelligent questioning brings out the best in guest and format.

And yet. Eilis O'Hanlon, who writes for this newspaper group, and others have rightly pointed out that a programme like The Mystery Train seems to make something of a nonsense of Lyric's remit as a classical station.

It's not as if they must churn out wall-to-wall Beethoven and Bach every day. There's also a place for jazz, avant-garde, world music, modern composition, electronica…pretty much anything instrumental. But not just "songs", to reduce it to that.

Whereas a show like The Mystery Train plays a lot of songs. They're cool songs. Great songs. Alternative songs and obscure songs and unheard songs. Kooky songs and surprising songs and "wow I never knew she did a cover of that" songs. But they are songs.

Which, essentially, is what Radio 1 shows like John Creedon (Mon-Fri 8pm) and Late Date (Mon-Fri 11pm) are already doing. Playing the sort of songs you won't hear elsewhere.

It's good radio, but is Lyric the place for it? This sounds a bit "angels dancing on the head of a pin" pedantic (possibly dancing to a kooky, surprising cover of an obscure alternative song), but it's an important point.

There are tens of thousands of radio stations around the world, probably millions of different shows. Of those that aren't talk-radio, the majority are playing songs. Very few are airing instrumental music, jazz, avant-garde, electronica, etc, etc. Personally, I feel Kelly and his fine programme should be moved, to Radio 1 or somewhere else, and Lyric be steered back towards its original raison d'être.

Meanwhile, as my two regular readers know, I love Halloween: the most spook-tacular time of year. As usual, I gravitated towards BBC Radio 4 for some fiendishly good radio at Samhain.

This year their Fright Night series delivered in spades. I especially liked Why Do We Enjoy Being Frightened? (Tue 10pm), a documentary with a self-explanatory title; Hammer Horror's The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula (Sat 2.30pm), a radio drama based on a semi-legendary unproduced film script; Seven Terrifying Ghost Stories (Sat 7pm), one of which featured Leap Castle in Offaly; and the Book at Bedtime (Mon-Fri 10.45pm) dramatisation of The Omen.

Ugh - so creepy. I still couldn't name a child of mine Damien…

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