Wednesday 23 October 2019

Holy show! Popping through the Bible songbook

The end of another year, and the majority of radio shows reviewing the good, the great and the Greens of 2011. But we don't want to wallow too much in reminiscence, do we?

Especially since this was the quintessential GUBU year from beginning to end. So much death and destruction and doom and disaster . . . far better, I feel, to forget all about it and pretend it never happened.

Instead of end-of-year reviews, then, I listened this week to two lovely shows, one of which even had a sort-of Christmas theme. Pop Goes the Bible! was one of those very cool productions BBC Radio 4 throws out on a regular basis: a brilliant and original concept, properly worked out and followed through.

The basic idea was: we're approaching the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into English. So presenter Paul Gambaccini looked at the hundreds of pop songs that were inspired by the Christian holy book.

I was surprised at some of the tracks on his list.

Did you know, for example, that The Byrds' hippie-dippie classic, Turn! Turn! Turn!, had a Biblical basis? Less extraordinary were the inclusion of people like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and U2, who have often addressed the themes and questions of scripture.

A hugely entertaining and informative programme, only let down for me by the fact that Andrew Lloyd Webber also made the cut; though I suppose, with a song title like Jesus Christ Superstar, it was inevitable.

Almost, you might say, prophesied.

Moving from faith to science, The Infinite Monkey Cage is a great show on the same station.

It's hosted by Robin Ince and -- all us science nerds are very impressed by this -- Professor Brian Cox: he of the rock-star hairdo and mind-bending Higgs boson-chasing at CERN.

This week they had a sort of battle of the sciences, as physicist and chemists each asserted the primacy of their discipline. This probably sounds very highfalutin and not that funny, but trust me, it was great crack. And there was an Irish element too, as Dara O Briain demonstrated once more his intellectual chops by fighting the physics corner.

Clever, engrossing, witty and educational: a pretty good way to end the year on radio.

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