Michael Jackson

George Byrne

Where would we be without BBC4? In the past this outstanding channel has given us the extensive and erudite Britannia series covering the development of folk (the three-part Folk Britannia being one of the best music programmes ever made), punk, rock, soul, jazz, reggae, prog and metal in the UK and their themed Friday nights are the best excuse you'll ever need to stock up on a few cans and leave the pubs to the younger folk.

Well, their offering next Friday is When Albums Ruled the World, a 90-minute look at when LPs sold by the millions. It concentrates on the massive sellers of the 1970s and 1980s, when acts such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, Carole King, Queen, the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson dominated the albums charts for sometimes years on end.

By way of a lead-in to the show, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the station gives us Danny Baker's Album Showdown.

The format here is simple: on each night the affable and knowledgeable Londoner has three guests in to discuss what they consider to be the greatest rock, pop and r'n'b/soul albums ever made. Simple.

I think we can probably guess what direction Jeremy Clarkson might head down on the Tuesday, but as former Smiths producer Stephen Street is on the show too there should be some balance.

Boy George and former Word editor and Whistle Test presenter David Hepworth really know their stuff so expect Wednesday's pop rundown to feature Bowie, the Beach Boys and Blondie.


Thursday could be the most diverse discussion of the lot, with Martin Freeman, Mica Paris and DJ Trevor Nelson trying to pin down r'n'b and its many offshoots into soul, funk, rap, doo-wop and disco.

So, while there are some who predict the death of the album in the internet age it still remains the long-form format of choice for most bands and fans. Roll on next week, and thank you again BBC4.

Danny Baker's Album Showdown is broadcast at 9pm on BBC4 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

> George Byrne