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Punk Britannia on BBC Four and 6 Music

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James Stirling (6 Music) James Stirling (6 Music) | 17:06 UK time, Monday, 28 May 2012

John Lydon

John Lydon (Photo: Andy Dunn)

June 2012 is a month of big anniversaries across the UK and in my role at BBC Radio 6 Music, I have had the pleasure of piecing together our Punk Britannia season alongside colleagues at BBC Four.

Punk Britannia marks 35 years since Punk’s heyday in 1977, which exploded across the country during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. BBC Four will focus their content around an insightful three-part documentary series, which will be supported by additional programming and BBC Radio 6 Music will feature a range of curated shows from some of punk’s most iconic names, alongside a series of themed shows.

It all starts on BBC Radio 6 Music with John Lydon on Friday 1 June from 12am-1am. As a teenager, Rotten Lydon (as he wonderfully refers to himself in the show) announced himself to the world as the focal point of British punk. Combining a healthy distain for current music trends and illustrated by a polarising fashion sense, the Sex Pistols spearheaded a musical revolution still reverberating today. His views on popular culture and subsequent career with Public Image Limited and collaboration with hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa cemented his importance to the British music scene.

John Lydon’s Playlist takes us on a journey through his record collection, making some surprising stops on the way. The shows include music from and stories about – T-Rex, Black Sabbath, Edith Piaf, Petula Clark, Johnny Cash and ABBA.


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One of Punk’s most iconic figures, Siouxsie Sioux (10 June, 12-1pm) shares her inspirations from the world of music and arts. New York innovator Patti Smith (17 June, 12-1pm) showcases the variety of her tastes in her playlist and The Damned’s Captain Sensible (24 June, 12-1pm), picks out his music highlights and reminisces on the explosive years of punk.

There will also be specialist punk-themed shows throughout the month - including two Now Playing @ 6 Music specials (3 and 17 June, 6-8pm) where Tom Robinson invites listeners to collaborate on a British and US Punk playlist.

Documentary A Tale of Two Punk Cities (17 June, 8-10pm), looks at both London and New York’s claim on the genre. Its presenter, Vivien Goldman has the best job title in the world - Professor of Punk and Reggae at New York University. Vivien is also a founding member of The Flying Lizards and has the best punk anecdotes I have ever heard. She knows everybody! The documentary hears opinions from a choice selection of musicians, including The Pistols, Chrissie Hynde, Siouxsie Sioux, Lenny Kaye, Neneh Cherry, The Slits and Public Enemy. The show delves into the worlds of punk, reggae & hip hop – highlighting the cultural exchanges which formed the majority of current music trends and it’s a great listen.

On 25 June from midnight-1am, DJ Don Letts will musically recreate one of his legendary Punky Reggae nights from London club The Roxy, live from the Radio 6 Music studios. Huey Morgan also celebrates the musical legacy of his hometown with a New York special (17 June, 1-4pm) and listeners will also hear from the Sex Pistol’s guitarist Steve Jones from LA (25-28 June, 7-9pm).

BBC Four’s three part music documentary series, Punk Britannia, traces the historic cosmology, meteoric impact and smouldering aftermath of the most genuinely transformative force in British popular music history. Kicking off on Friday 1 June at 9pm, part one takes in the early 70s cultural landscape, from the influence of American punk and pub rock, to the Damned and the explosion of the Pistols in 1976. Part two (8 June) focuses on the ‘white heat’ of the punk explosion; looking at how it became the new pop and part three (15 June) is about post-punk and the genre’s development from 78 onwards.

Punk has left a genuine impact on music, attitudes, fashion and art and it’s wonderful to be able to tell the story across BBC Radio and Television. Punk Britannia catches up with the most distinctive voices in a movement that blazed briefly - this first wave of punk happened in a flash - but has never been shut up.


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VIDEO: Watch more exclusive clips from Punk Britannia at BBC Music Showcase


Read the BBC TV blog post by Andy Dunn, director of the first episode of BBC Four's Punk Britannia.


Join us on Twitter using the hashtag #PunkBritannia


At A Glance - Punk Programme Highlights in June:


Friday 01/06/12

6 Music Playlist 1/5: John Lydon (6 Music; midnight)

Punk Britannia 1/3: Pre-Punk 1972-1976 (BBC Four; 9pm)

We Who Wait: TV Smith & The Adverts (BBC Four; 10pm)

Saturday 02/06/12

Stiff at the BBC 1/2 (BBC Four; 0.55am) 

Stiff at the BBC 2/2 (BBC Four; 1.25am)

Classic Concert: Sex Pistols at Finsbury Park, 1996 (6 Music; 2am)

Anarchy in the UK 1/2 (6 Music; 4am)

Sunday 03/06/12

Anarchy in the UK 2/2 (6 Music; 4am)

6 Music Playlist 2/5: John Lydon pt 2 (6 Music; midday)

Now Playing @ 6 Music Punk Special (6 Music; 6pm)

Monday 04/06/12

Evidently... John Cooper Clarke (BBC Four; 0.30am)

The Live Music Hour: Siousxie and the Banshees (1981) (6 Music; 3am)

My Way: The Sid Vicious Story (6 Music; 4am)

Tuesday 05/06/12

Punky Reggae Party 1/3 (6 Music; midnight)

Wednesday 06/06/12

The Jam: Made in Britain 1/2 (6 Music; 4am)

Friday 08/06/12

Punk Britannia 2/3 (BBC Four; 9pm)

Sunday 10/06/12

6 Music Playlist 3/5: Siouxsie (6 Music; midday)

Friday 15/06/12

Punk Britannia 3/3 (BBC Four; 9pm)

Sunday 17/06/12

6 Music Playlist 4/5: Patti Smith (6 Music; midday)

Now Playing @ 6 Music Punk Special (6 Music; 6pm)

A Punk Tale of Two Cities - Vivien Goldman (6 Music; 8pm)

Sunday 24/06/12

6 Music Playlist 5/5: Captain Sensible (6 Music; midday)



The making of BBC Four's Punk Britannia

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Rebecca Mounsey | 15:59 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012

In February Rebecca Mounsey completed her contract with the BBC's Production Training Scheme - eighteen months of training and working in placements across both TV and Radio productions. BBC Four's Punk Britannia is her first production working in her new role as an Assistant Producer.

Brian James of The Damned

Brian James of The Damned (photo: Andy Dunn)

Punk Britannia is a new three-part series on BBC Four that spans from 1971-1981 and maps some of the uncharted as well as the more familiar territory of this thoroughly British movement.

In the first in the series, we look at those who started it all with a fresh take on 50s rhythm and blues and electrifying stagecraft from bands like Dr Feelgood. The second episode looks at the teenage upstarts that broke the mould and were at the heart of the punk explosion of 1976-78. The final part of the series explores what happened next: the era of maverick indie record labels, post-punk and new wave.


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During the course of the BBC's Production Training Scheme, I had worked on projects varying from royal weddings to the Hackney riots, from a history of Pixar Studios to a history of homosexuality. I've also had more training than I could shake a proverbial stick at! I had hoped that when it came to an end I would be able to find a position that would feel like a new challenge and be a project that I could feel at home with and passionate about.

In my first role as a bona-fide Assistant Producer, Punk Britannia has been a dream project to work on. I mean this quite literally, and not in the clichéd sense. I've had the opportunity to meet some long-time musical heroes and been able to ask and hear, first-hand, the ins and outs of one of the most exciting times in rock music.


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Working on the series has taught me that no amount of training could compare to the immeasurable amounts that I have learned from watching, listening to and getting stuck in with an incredibly talented and generous production team. Each of whom has inspired me and brought something unique and brilliant to the table and I'm very proud to be cast alongside them all.

The fact that we have spent so much time together since February and are still pretty chipper, is testament to how much fun we've had. Whether it was travelling with, filming, researching, or even being locked in caravan site with each other - we have had a crazy time and inevitably become firm friends over shared anecdotes and a pint or three.

At the age of 27, I'm not as old as punk itself and maybe it's because there was no such movement for my generation, that we still look back enviously. The one thing that is truly fantastic about working on this series has been that despite punk being 35 years old, it still feels fresh and exciting. What's really heartening is that the artists who were right in the thick of it still feel as passionate and enthusiastic today for what the movement was and what it has achieved. Those teenagers of 1976 might have felt like they had "No Future" - but through their music, political expression, shock and outrage they created a legacy that we are still fascinated by to this day.

No Future? Not so.

Punk Britannia starts at 9pm, Friday 1st June on BBC Four.

Gems from the Arena vault shine again

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Alexandra Mattholie | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Last summer we collaborated with BBC Music Online to explore the Arena archive and choose a selection of clips to go online. There are now more than 150 clips up on the Arena webpage.

Music has always been close to Arena’s heart and with an archive of over 500 programmes, running from 1978 onwards, there are countless musical treasures stashed in the archive.

Many programmes contain one-off performances and interviews with an eclectic mix of the most celebrated and left-field musicians of the twentieth century: Van Morrison, Nico, Dire Straits, Celia Cruz, Joe Meek, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Poly Styrene and Gilberto Gil - to name just a few.

Previously, we showcased Arena: Produced by George Martin. Clips from the documentary feature alongside clips of Cilla Black singing along with Liverpool supporters and Charlie Drake throwing a boomerang in his back yard - among other unexpected delights.

We felt that it would be fun to do something similar with all these music clips. So here they are - Joy, Rage, Despair and Hope, Yearning and Wanderlust.


The Best Albums of April 2012

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Mike Diver Mike Diver | 13:56 UK time, Thursday, 3 May 2012

Well, that was one impressive month for high-quality new album releases. I've an idea that a fair few of these might feature in the year-end best-of lists.

Album of the Month

Death Grips - The Money Store
(Columbia; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Zane Lowe, BBC Introducing in Wales

"On this, the first of two albums due for release this year, Death Grips achieve the density and intensity of several Bomb Squads, Public Enemy's famous production wing. It hardly betrays signs of softening before their new paymasters, Sony. If anything, what they lose in sonic impact you gain in range: they seem to invent new rhythms and textures on each track. What is that sound on Lost Boys? Avant-dancehall? Industrial slowcore? System Blower is well titled: it, like so much around it, threatens to blow your speakers with every maximalist second. Bring the noise? It's already here."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Blackjack (external YouTube link; contains language which may offend)

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The best of the rest...

Poliça - Give You the Ghost
(Memphis Industries; released 30 April)

Recommended by: Lauren Laverne, Nemone, Zane Lowe

"Already heralded by the likes of Justin Vernon and Jay-Z, this Minneapolis outfit has a lot of hype to live up to. And on debut offering Give You the Ghost, they do just that. It's difficult to pick holes in Give Up the Ghost, to separate its influences or pigeonhole it to a specific niche. Poliça have created something that is both unique and universal, with stunning production, intelligent musicianship, and creative use of sounds and samples. Something very pop."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Lay Your Cards Out (external YouTube link)

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THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE
(Sub Pop; released 9 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson, Lauren Laverne, 6 Music Album of the Day

"Over tracks that draw upon murky jazz ambience and hypnotic off-kilter hooks, THEESatisfaction run a discursive gamut: defiant and swaggering when stating their independence (QueenS, with its dancefloor-ready funk); playful and wise when musing on life's rich and sour ironies (the sunshine-through-the-clouds hit of Existinct); affecting and profound when touching upon society's darknesses, and the darknesses within themselves (the mesmerising Deeper). When Cat and Stas speak and sing, you really should listen."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for QueenS (external YouTube link)

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Actress - R.I.P.
(Honest Jon's; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson, Benji B

"R.I.P.'s structure supposedly references Milton's Paradise Lost and the book of Genesis, but listeners might find the concept a limiting one, despite its scope. What persists here is far less epic, but also more penetrating: it's the way its maker infects the algorithmic certainty of his software with an all too human tentativeness, a trait that makes the album's title not a stock phrase, but something longed for."

Read the full BBC review

(No official video available)

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Orbital - Wonky
(ACP Recordings; released 2 April)

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Now Playing

"Nobody would expect an eighth album by a band 20-plus years into its career to sound this fantastic, but time away has obviously helped re-energise the brothers into crafting this triumphantly grand return. It will leave middle-aged ravers ecstatic, and should allow a new generation to understand what their folks have been banging on about all these years."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Wonky (external YouTube link)

- - -

Quakers - Quakers
(Stones Throw; released 2 April)

Recommended by: Zane Lowe, Gilles Peterson

"Lining up a constantly revolving lyric-spitting cast, Quakers negate any danger of a cypher-slash-compilation vibe via a production consistency that holds together the disparate rhyming contributions with the elasticity of freshly chewed gum. An astute mix of cult name vocalists - Prince Po, Dead Prez, Aloe Blacc - all weigh in with cameos of note, though a clutch of lesser names hit hardest, with 'less fat, more heat' the motto."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Russia With Love (external YouTube link)

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Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Crown and Treaty
(Luxor Purchase; released 30 April)

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day

"Although the product of many hours of writing and production, Crown and Treaty avoids sounding overworked or belaboured, creating instead a soundworld of dazzling vitality. Much of this invigorating freshness emanates from the numerous layers of musical information that's been lovingly threaded into each of these nine tracks. Without compromising their artistic vision one iota, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have gone from black-and-white art-house to breathtaking widescreen, and the results are quite simply glorious."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Joyful Reunion (external YouTube link)

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Jack White - Blunderbuss
(XL Recordings; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Vic Galloway, Zane Lowe, 6 Music Album of the Day

"There's a sense throughout Blunderbuss - trust him to choose such an archaic weapon - that White is positively revelling in the role of the wronged lover. So you never get the sense that he's being entirely serious; he's too eccentric and machismo-camp to suggest otherwise. It's what defines him as an artist and it's why he may be the only great rock superstar of recent years. Indeed, after all these years, there's still nobody quite like him."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Love Interruption (external YouTube link)

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Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society
(Decca; released 2 April)

Recommended by: Jamie Cullum, Jazz on 3

"She likes songs as well as solos. Her guiding spirits are Stevie Wonder and Wayne Shorter, both of whom she covers here. Hence there is no end of chordal finesse, finely wrought melodies, subtle but nonetheless hard-edged rhythmic pulsation, and above all a glowing sound canvas - electric piano colours à la Innervisions are dominant. We know that she has talent as abundant as her Afro. The essential question is: what will it grow into?"

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Black Gold (external YouTube video)

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Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland - Black is Beautiful
(Hyperdub; released 16 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson

"Black Is Beautiful is this pair's most immediately accessible album, but its 15 tracks (14 of which are untitled) don't sound much like hits. Like its predecessors, this set works best taken as a whole, when its unstable collage has time to establish what turns out to be a powerful atmosphere. It's a rapidly changing landscape, where the thrashing live drums of (Venice Dreamway) melt into bleary soul, lo-fi G-funk and psychedelia. Their project is one that invites thought, but crucially doesn't neglect to elicit feeling."

Read the full BBC review

(No official video available)

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