A radio series about trains in popular music? In 1990s Britain, where the romance of the railway is but a fading, Betiemanesque follr memory, such a thing might seem about as relevant or exciting as an in-depth assessment of refrigerators in the movies.
In the USA, though, the railroad is still a potent part of the national psyche, and inhabits that twilight where myth and history mingle. There were no frontiers left to conquer in the Old World by the age of rail, but it played an essential role in opening up America and will forever be associated with the country’s pioneering heritage. The rail network made a huge country feel smaller, generated prosperity and was celebrated in song right from the start.
In the two-part Hine Pound Hammer, Hank Wangford explores the impact it made on American culture in songs by ‘The Singing Brakeman’ Jimmie Rodgers, one of the founding fathers of country music, Woody Guthrie (‘the voice of a lot of the travelling men and
"Hank Wangford: travels the Rock Island line
f hobos’), Merle Haggard, lefty Frizell,
; George Jones and Johnny Cash, who
9 ‘does stunning versions of all of the
f Appropriately, the first song
i Wangford himself ever learned to play was Rock Island Line, but apart from
; Michelle Shocked’s 1988 song If love
I Was A Train, recent examples of the
i genre seem to be thin on the ground.
; He disputes the suggestion, though, that the magic of the railroad died out
, with the steam train.
‘I don’t think it did,’ he says, “because I was noticing that the sound of a diesel horn may not have the 3 magic of a specially-tuned steam whistle - and you could tell each engineer by the tune he put on his whistle and the way he pulled it - but
; it’s still a very evocative sound. You 1 hear that at night, coming from the ‘ shunting yards, across Meridian in
Mississippi. Very, very captivating.’ (Alastair Mabbott)
Hine Pound Hammer begins on Saturday 25 April at 5pm on Radio 2.
I Forties Season: High Life (Radio 3) Sat 25 Mar. 10.15pm. ‘The Forties Season' looks at women‘s roles during the World War II and asks if the post-war thirst for sexual and social liberation was a direct result of increased wartime independence.
I Murder At The Cameo (Radio 4) Sat 25 Mar. 10.30pm. George Kelly was hanged in 1950 for his alleged part in the murder of two men in a Liverpool cinema. Bill Morrison's drama-documentary reveals the ﬁndings made 40 years later by a retired Liverpool businessman and asks. was Kelly the victim of a fatal miscarriage of justice?
I A View From Abroad (Radio 4) Sun 26 Mar. 11.45am. The holiday show tables are turned as Dutch travel writer Adriaan van Dis reveals his views on Britain as a foreign land.
I The Louis Jordan Story: The last of the Moss (Radio 2) Tue 28 Mar. 9.03pm. With theatre spaces across Scotland still echoing to the sounds of hit West End musical Five Guy Named Moe. Russell Davies tells the story of the man behind the music. ‘Mr Personality' Louis Jordan.
I Friday Feature: The Mall (Radio 3) Fri 31 Mar. 10.45pm. Russell Davies worships at the altar of the shopping mall as he travels round California. Minnesota and Northern Alberta in search of what makes Americans shop till they dr0p.
I Studio 3: Ron Koop’s Last Roadshow (Radio 3) Sat 1 Apr. No April Fools joke we're told. The banks of Manchester's Ship Canal are to host the world's ﬁrst drive-in radio broadcast. where the public will access a live show by tuning into their car radios en rnasse at the opportune moment. The production. a collaboration between BBC Radio Drama and Industrial and Commercial Theatre. is an eco-drama about a futuristic. underground. car- owning movement and features celebrity car crash victims such as the late James Dean and Eddie Cochrane.
I letters From Prison (Radio 3) Mon 3 Apr. 10am. The letters of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. arrested in 1943 on suspicion of a plot to kill Hitler and executed in 1945. His writings. all made whilst in prison. are read by Denys Hawthorne and broadcast over a series of four programmes.
I The Secret History (Radio Scotland) Mon 3 Apr. 11.45am. Described by the New York Times as a cross between Dostoyevsky. Euripides. Brett Easton Ellis and Evelyn Waugh. Donna Tartt’s best- selling psychological suspense thriller is given a special reading on Radio Scotland by William Hope. Tartt’s book has been adapted for ‘Storyline’ by novelist and short story writer Brian McCabe.
I Shimmying Down Bold Street (Radio 4) Tue 4 Apr. 10.02am. Good Sex Guide frontwoman Margi Clarke takes us down her favourite Liverpool street in a new series of insider views from various
At 48DD. Angelee reckons she has the biggest boobs on the beat. You don't get many ofthose to the pound. missus, and Angelee‘s are worth a ﬁver a feel each. (Straight sex costs £20.)
This is Bradford’s Lumb Lane. the creepy kerb-crawler infested area where the Yorkshire Ripper picked up four of his twenty victims. In the street market economy. everything has a price and Angelee knows precisely what her assets ~— on the Lane the Page Three euphemism is depressingly accurate — are worth. ‘lt‘s like a supermarket.‘ she explains. ‘Everything’s a set price and you reel offthe shopping list. Ifthey want something they haven't paid for. you look them in the eye and say. you can‘t touch that - you haven't paid for it.‘
Angelee and her pal Anne recorded her experiences of working the Lane in Manningham Diaries (Channel 4) for The Red Light Zone, which explores the fascination with the twilight world prostitutes inhabit. The film intercuts the two women reading from their own diaries with shots ofthe Lane‘s regulars leaning into car windows reciting their shopping list. It didn’t titillate, but it did ask some uncomfortable questions about male sexuality. What takes men to Lumb Lane and similarly seedy areas of any big city is anyone‘s guess. but the combination of sex. low-life. ears and the danger of being caught seem to exert an irresistible pull.
The prostitutes working the Lane are there for one thing only — money. The reasons for needing money vary. from crack cocaine to new shoes for the kids to a down-payment on a new life. Angelee was philosophical. She didn’t hate the job itself. or even the punters. For her it was steady nine-to-ﬁve, Monday-to-Friday employment, which she kept separate from her personal life by refusing to sleep with her boyfriend on a working day. ‘My sex life would be better ifl wasn’t working,’ she admitted.
Coincidently, the night after The Red Light Zone opened for business. Kay Mellor‘s drama Band of Gold (Scottish) started a six-week run. Not for the first time since Mona Lisa, Cathy Tyson has squeezed into the micro-skirt and patent-leather boots that are the screen hookers uniform. Her patch is ‘The Lane’ in an unnamed Yorkshire town.
With the Bradford women still fresh in the mind. it was hard not to feel Tyson‘s model good looks work against her. But still she managed to capture that feral look of the real working girl.
This is Bradford by all but name. and sure enough there‘s a prostitute killer on the loose in Band of Gold. The first episode followed Geena. a desperate mother who turns to prostitution when the loan sharks start to circle. Just as sympathy for the character is developed. Geena's battered body is dumped on a patch of wasteland. By the end of the second episode. the Lane is another girl down with no sign of the police catching the killer. For the girls, it‘s time to work in pairs.
For Sunday night viewing. this is uncompromising stuff which is only superﬁcially about the hunt fora serial killer. Kay Mellor has written a man- hater of a script with police. pimps and punters congealing into a sorry mass of rnaleness. In her spotless semi. Cathy Tyson uses gallons of bleach to disinfect the surfaces every time a man comes to visit, while in the bath she scrubs at her body with an obsession that makes Lady Macbeth appear grubby.
Previously on Secret lives (Channel 4), Walt Disney was labelled a Fascist and Freud exposed as a fraud; the last in the series came pretty close to calling Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis a high-class whore.
JFK’s appointments secretary was conﬁdent Jackie had started an affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis by the time of her husband‘s assassination in Dallas. When she married Onassis. they signed the kind of pre-nuptial agreement beloved of Hollywood’s more ﬁnancially paranoid stars. The couple hardly lived together and after Onassis died Jackie is believed to have netted $20 million. making her the woman of independent financial means she always craved to be.
From then on it was shopping and lunch, while the image of the mysterious widow was maintained by never opening her mouth in public. This was a hatchet-job. but then what did she actually do to win the public’s love? Maybe Americajust needed its Camelot princess and Aristotle was
happy to foot the bill. (Eddie Gibb)
76 The List 24 Mar-6 Apr 1995