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God's Jukebox

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Karen Miller Karen Miller | 16:36 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Roddy Hart writes about this week's show:

One of the undoubted privileges of doing this show (and there are many) is being able to raid the BBC music archives for inspiration when putting a playlist together. Back in the days when I used to dep for the inimitable Iain Anderson (which gave me a rather unexpected start in the radio game), I would turn up at the production offices armed with numerous polybags full of CDs grabbed from my own modest collection. If the faces of my producers displayed the perfect mix of compassion and consternation at my brazen attempts to hijack their carefully considered shows, then imagine how they felt when I began my own Thursday night slot and duly discovered the BBC's BVJ (Big Virtual Jukebox). Archiving just about every record you can possibly think of (within reason), it is the ultimate plaything for us radio geeks: accessible, cross-referencing, fast and seemingly bottomless. If God has his own jukebox, then this would surely be it.

So as is becoming routine, I began my week sifting through tracks new and old to suggest for inclusion on Thursday's show. Although I'm still partial to a record store visit and always will be, the BVJ is proving irresistible when it comes to researching songs for our Undercover Writer feature. Each week we pick a songwriter and then visit some particularly attractive interpretations of their work - when we featured Elton John for example (a man with whom my love affair exists exclusively in the 1970s), the BVJ threw up Kate Bush doing a berserko and brilliant version of "Rocket Man". And I certainly wouldn't have discovered Buffalo Tom's lo-fi countrified version of Paul Weller's "Going Underground", or Natalie Merchant's spot on live version of Bowie's "Space Oddity", had it not been for the BVJ.

Which leads me to the genius that is Randy Newman - this week's Undercover Writer. Although of course widely revered by his peers as an acutely gifted songwriter, he has always seemed to hover on the fringes of the mainstream and so I feared I may struggle to track down some decent covers of his work. How wrong I was. In addition to the usual hackneyed versions of some of his better known songs (step forward Tom Jones, and please make sure you leave that hat on), I uncovered an embarrassment of Randall Stuart Newman related riches: Aaron Neville singing "Louisiana 1927", Dusty Springfield lightly dancing her way through "I Think It's Going to Rain Today", Linda Ronstadt with the knowingly provocative "Sail Away", Neil Diamond with a fingerpicked version of the normally piano led "Feels Like Home", Voorman featuring Don Preston tackling the wonderfully acerbic and ever so slightly cheeky "Short People". Oh, and Joe Cocker with a superior take on "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (sorry Tom). Not all will make the final cut, but we can all thank the Big Virtual Jukebox for those that do.

Also on the show, we'll be putting LAU's exceptional new album "Race The Loser" under the microscope as my Record Of Note, and our Live On Arrival comes from the indomitable Roxy Music. Can't say fairer than that. So I do hope you'll join me on Thursday night from 10.05pm on BBC Radio Scotland.


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