Magazine article The Spectator

Isn't One Paxman Enough?

Magazine article The Spectator

Isn't One Paxman Enough?

Article excerpt


Isn't one Paxman enough?

Michael Vestey

When it was announced earlier this year that Radio Two's increase in audience had made it the most listened-to radio station in Britain - nearly 11 million people are said to tune in - I wasn't sure if I should be pleased or depressed. True, it has some excellent broadcasters, but to me the banality of the music means I can't normally bring myself to listen to it. I have made an exception for this column.

I can no longer bear pop music and Radio Two's has become more contemporary over the years. I can take the wordplay and melodies of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin in small doses. Noel Coward was right about the potency of cheap music. Unfortunately most popular music since the late 1950s has been even cheaper. When I hear a modern pop song it reminds me of the extraordinary vulgarity of the age. My partner, Katie, does not agree. We have an arrangement over music that keeps the peace. She doesn't play pop in my presence; I don't play my classical music in hers. The result is, of course, that when we are both in the house, no music is played at all. This is not entirely satisfactory but it works, though I do miss Verdi's Requiem and anything by Handel, not to mention all the others. Alone in the car it's a different matter.

In fact, as I was researching this column by listening to Radio Two for most of the day, she stalked through and barked, 'Thank God, there's some proper music in the house.' It happened to be the day that Jeremy Vine, tiresomely predicted by the press to be 'the new Jeremy Paxman', was on Radio Two. Isn't one Paxman enough? He was standing in for Jimmy Young who was said to be taking a holiday but who had been complaining that at the age of 75 or so he was being axed. The dropping of JY has been an annual event for some years, often coinciding with the arrival of the autumnal feast of the Holy Cross.

Vine seems to be everybody's stand-in; I've heard him replacing someone on Radio Five Live and Eddie Mair on Radio Four's Sunday morning Broadcasting House. Will he be the new Libby Purves on Radio Four's Midweek? If I were him I would put my foot down; being an all-purpose broadcaster is all very well but that's what you can remain, never quite finding the right slot. He's an accomplished broadcaster as he has shown on Newsnight, Broadcasting House and the Jimmy Young Show. …

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