Sunday 18 February 2018

Radio: There's life after death on rolling news

DAVID BOWIE: Iconic rock star who finally fell to earth
DAVID BOWIE: Iconic rock star who finally fell to earth

Eilis O'Hanlon

News programmes went a tad overboard following the announcement of the death of David Bowie.

It was undoubtedly sad for his family and fans, but did it really merit this wall-to-wall coverage? Clearly the answer to that was "yes" if you're a certain type of middle-aged white rocker who imagines his own personal musical tastes somehow have greater cultural, even cosmic, significance than those of other generations.

On music programmes, this was all perfectly forgiveable. From The Ronan Collins Show and The John Creedon Show (the latter offering up a satisfying mix of music by, or inspired by, David Bowie), to Marty in the Morning, The John Kelly Ensemble and Blue of the Night on lyric fm, each show marked the passing in its own way. Even Lorcan Murray got it on the act, playing a recording of Bowie performing a song from a Bertolt Brecht play on Classic Drive.

But there was another David doing the rounds too. This one was called Dave Fanning, and his thoughts on Bowie were equally inescapable.

He began the day on 2fm's Breakfast Republic. Then it was over to The Ryan Tubridy Show. From there, a quick jump over to Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show before coming back to RTE for that afternoon's Ray D'Arcy Show, and ending the day with appearances on 2fm's The Alternative and In Colour on 2fmx, the dedicated digital station. There may have been more.

Fanning is a bona fide Bowie devotee. He knows his stuff, and devoted much of his 2fm show last weekend to Bowie's last album, Black Star, issued a few days before his death.

But by any standards this was too much Fanning for one day. His appearance alongside both Tubridy and D'Arcy on Monday was particularly regrettable, especially as both shows also featured interviews with Bowie's Irish guitarist Gerry Leonard. It was an illustration of how the two broadcasters are awkwardly straddling the same territory right now and need to stake out a greater individuality.

Ironically, the best coverage of Bowie's death came on shows where it might have been least expected, such as Drivetime, where Mary Wilson spoke on the line to Henry Mountcharles, struggling with a serious chest infection, about how he persuaded Bowie to play Slane Castle in the 1980s. On Today With Sean O'Rourke, meanwhile, there was a genuinely unforced and engaging interview with bassist Peter Hook of New Order.

Hook had never met Bowie, and wouldn't have wanted to, having turned down opportunities to meet two more of his musical luminaries, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. "Don't meet your heroes," he advised with a laugh, "and that includes me".

Speaking of heroes, Sunday With Gay Byrne was hosted by Aengus McAnally, who revealed that the man himself will happily be back on air this weekend following his recent heart attack. Truly, they don't make them like that any more.

Sunday Independent

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