I’m listening to Sounds of the Sixties at the moment, as I’ve invariably done on Saturday mornings for the last fifteen years or so. I’ve said things in the past about the decline in quality of the programme since the change of Producer in 2008 and, whilst there no longer seem to be the same degree of pre-Beatles dominated shows, and the practice of ending the show with big band stuff every week has been long abandoned, it’s not the attraction it used to be. But it’s still Saturday morning, and a comfortable introduction, and I still never miss it if I can help it.
Today, however, and for the next few weeks, we do not have our old mate Brian Matthew presenting. Brian is feeling ‘under the weather’ and in his place we have Tim Rice, who has dome this sort of thing before.
Given that Matthew is now 88, and has just become BBC Radio’s oldest regularly scheduled broadcaster, this isn’t a surprise. Indeed, I confess that I detected a bit of a tremor in his voice last weekend, as if his voice was weak already. But it’s an unpleasant reminder that the show depends so heavily on his voice, its even, avuncular, knowledgeable, enveloping, smoky tones, to create an atmosphere that’s at least as vital as the music.
Matthew is a consummate professional, relaxed and natural. Tim Rice isn’t a broadcaster of that level. He’s stiff and stilted, without any flow of words, the rhythm of each sentence broken by brief but noticeable pauses every six or seven words. And besides, he doesn’t sound like Brian Matthews, and Sounds of the Sixties doesn’t sound like Sounds of the Sixties.
So for all my gripes about the programme, I want to wish our old mate well, and see him back as soon as possible. Because without him, and he can’t go on forever, much as we might wish it, and we’re reminded of the dreadful toll 2016 has taken by the announcement this morning of Fidel Castro’s death, only two years older than Brian Matthew, without Brian, the programme stops being compulsive listening. Saturdays would change.
Good health, Mr Matthew. Hurry back.