Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Swapping Stations

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Swapping Stations

Article excerpt

'Do you feel like crying?' asked Shaun Keaveny on his 6 Music breakfast show this week, before replying, 'Text us your tears.' It was Tuesday, the first day back at work for many listeners. And Keaveny was trying to cheer us up. Then he played 'Grey Day' by Madness.

Keaveny's lucky. 6 Music reckons that its listeners, being creative types, don't have to get up so early to leave for work. Their alarms will be set for later, and Keaveny doesn't have to be in the studio for his threehour show until 7 a. m. By which time, over on 5 Live, Phil Williams and Rachel Burden have already been up and chatting for an hour with their version of the Today programme - a little less news, a lot more football. According to them, the first day back at work after Christmas and New Year is the busiest day of the year for car mechanics, as everyone gets back into the car for the daily commute after a week, ten days, a fortnight at home. (Over on 4, Today reported, in contrast, that it's the busiest day of the year for solicitors because so many marriages disintegrate amid the festive decorations - not the first time I've heard that one. ) As a New Year penance, I decided to put on trial the big breakfast shows, getting up before dawn to listen in to Williams and Burden on 5 Live, Keaveny on 6, Richard Madeley on 2 and Mark Forrest on Classic FM.

Most of us listen to the same stations every morning as a way of smoothing our way into the day, and also I guess because it requires too much effort to retune, or find that other preset button. Yet a change of station provokes a quite different wake-up call, like swapping from a chipped but much-loved mug to the new snazzy version just received for Christmas. Even on such a minor scale, the altered perspective, the different way of being, can shift the gloom, lighten up the winter blues, create the illusion that change is possible.

Swapping stations, though, can also be a bit disorientating, like having coffee rather than tea as your first taste sensation of the day. Your aural nerves are shocked into overdrive when subjected to blasts from Hendrix rather than a dose of Elgar; or a debate about football referees instead of 'Thought for the Day'.

On 5 Live, Phil Williams talked to a woman who had attended the Salford vigil for the student who was shot dead at Christmas. Her nephew had been murdered a few years earlier. 'Do you think you're living among an underclass? …

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