Saturday 20 January 2018

Radio: Wogan's perfect balance between here and there

Bob Geldof: has spent the last forty years complaining about the country of his birth, anywhere he's allowed.
Bob Geldof: has spent the last forty years complaining about the country of his birth, anywhere he's allowed.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It happened to be on The Dave Fanning Show (2fm, Sat-Sun, 10am) that Bob Geldof got in his latest little dig at Ireland - but let's face it, it could have been anywhere.

The man has spent the last 40 years whinging about the country of his birth, anywhere he's allowed and indulged.

His Wikipedia page profiles Geldof as a "singer-songwriter, author, occasional actor and political activist". But actually, his real job is as National Self-Flagellator.

This sort of thing plays very well in Britain - the exiled Irishman forever lambasting that priest-ridden, narrow-minded, hateful et cetera et cetera et cetera hell-hole across the Irish Sea - and Geldof has been ladling it out like a particularly distasteful soup for decades.

So here we had him discussing the current refugee situation; and yes, even in the midst of a humanitarian disaster in Africa, Geldof somehow found a bash-the-Paddies angle.

Not alone that, but he harped back, as always, to the miserable (exaggerated) past.

On the Late Late Show, he pontificated: "I say to Gay Byrne that I always viewed Ireland as a sort of deep-diving whale that every Friday night it was allowed to come up and vent for two hours and then go back down again, get pushed back down again."

It goes on: "I am an economic migrant, Britain accepted me and let me get on with it. I couldn't do it in Ireland, which made me very bitter about Ireland but made me eternally grateful to the British people."

Never mind the fact that he came from a relatively well-off background - the guy went to Blackrock College, for God's sake. Or the fact that Ireland of the past, while very imperfect, was nowhere near the cesspit he describes. Or the fact that, in all likelihood, he emigrated to Britain because it was a better place for a rock musician to succeed, rather than being forced to go because he was starving from a famine.

Even if all of Geldof's invented history were true - which it hardly is - the truth remains: you're boring us now, Bob. You've been singing this same song for the bones of half a century.

We get it: you don't like Ireland. You're embittered. You're better than all of us. The British are better than us. You have issues.

Grand, then get some counselling to help you achieve "closure". Just please, please stop bad-mouthing this country abroad.

In stark contrast, Terry Wogan is another Irishman who moved to Blighty chasing showbiz stardom - but he doesn't seem to have any hang-ups about it.

Indeed, as proved again by an extended interview on The Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri, 9am), Wogan has attained an almost-perfect balance between his Irish and English identities.

He had no problem accepting a knighthood from the Crown, and was warm and amusing when recounting his audience with the Queen. (The bit about how she ends conversation with the plebs by giving them a gentle shove had me spluttering coffee over the laptop keyboard.)

He's grateful of the good life he's made in the UK, and clearly loves the country and its people. But he's not slavish about it; there's no sense of the "whipped cur" grovelling at his master's table, eternally thankful for what has been "given" to him.

Wogan's a sound man, a Limerick native who speaks fondly of his roots without banging a nationalist drum, and manages to reconcile that with the fact that he's lived and worked in another country for most of his life.

All very simple, really. Hopefully Bob Geldof was listening.

Another interesting interview this week came courtesy of The Tom Dunne Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri, 10pm). What I like about this programme is that, while not totally music-based, they play a lot of songs.

Actually that's kind of odd for me - if I want to listen to music, I'll pick the tunes, thank you very much - but if you're listening to Newstalk for large stretches of time, Dunne's show breaks up all the chattering and nattering.

Anyway, that interview: Tom spoke with Willy Vlautin, frontman for the band Richmond Fontaine and also a highly regarded novelist.

(I read his debut, The Motel Life; for me it was somehow underwhelming, but I could see why others would like it.)

Vlautin and Dunne had a big old chin-wag about some of the American's favourite songs. And apart from being witty, self-deprecating and charming - very much like Terry Wogan, in fact - Willie also brought to bear his expertise.

The guy is a musician himself, a song-writer, a performer: so his words and thoughts on a wide range of songs naturally carried more weight than if it was just, well, someone like me droning on about music.

The same, of course, applies to former Something Happens singer Dunne. A lovely hour's radio that seemed to rush by.

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