Tuesday 14 August 2018

Ain't It Grand...

Among Radio 4's more annoying features – which currently include a jaw-droppingly infantile 'history' series, with 'jokes', called Did the Victorians Ruin the World?, and the least funny topical comedy ever broadcast (and God knows it's got a lot of competition), Where's the F in News – where was I? Oh yes, and then there's the habit of larding every factual programme with snatches of music, or even a 'music bed', to the point where some become unlistenable: I recently had to turn off a perfectly decent programme on economics because the accompanying music was, as Danny Dyer would say, 'doin' me 'ead in'.
  The use of music is usually either crassly literal or entirely irrelevant – but sometimes something turns up that catches the ear, in a good way. It happened the other day with a programme about undertakers, which kept giving us snatches of a wonderfully macabre song called Ain't It Grand to Be Bloomin' Well Dead, which I knew only by title and had never heard. Sung in a broad old-fashioned cockney accent, with a sneer in every verse, it's a little gem of black, cynical, deeply misanthropic comedy. Looking it up, I discovered that it's a traditional song of obscure origin, and was popularised by the man singing it on Radio 4 – Leslie Sarony! Yes, Leslie Sarony, the jolly songster who gave us such jaunty classics as Forty-Seven Ginger-Headed Sailors and I Lift Up My Finger (And I Say Tweet Tweet), not to mention Jollity Farm. And here's something for fact fans: Sarony, who was also an actor and busy to the end of his long life, played Uncle Stavely in the final series of Peter Tinniswood's fondly remembered I Didn't Know You Cared. 'I heard that! Pardon?'


  1. I'm finding R4 almost unlistenable these days. The question is - has it changed, or me?

    1. Always a wise question to ask oneself. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. The BBC is slowly committing suicide in plain sight or even high visibility.

  3. There are still good things on R4 – and of course there's R3 and the World Service, not to mention 6Music and BBC4, all of which have a lot to offer. But I remember a time when it was possible to listen to R4 all day without feeling an irresistible urge to switch channels or turn off. Those days are long gone now, that's for sure.