VOX POP: MIDDLE-AGED SPREAD
RADIO 2, TUESDAY
SATURDAY PLAY: 21 DOG YEARS: DOING TIME AT AMAZON.COM
RADIO 4, SATURDAY
RADIO SCOTLAND, SUNDAY
FRESH from a Yes concert, I looked forward to hearing Vox Pop: Middle-Aged Spread, because it concerned people like me: the so-called "50 Bloke", an over-40 who spends that amount on CDs and DVDs at weekends.
Apparently, we’re the most important people in the music market, accounting for half the CD album sales in the country. Teenagers download, grown-ups buy, which prompted presenter David Hepworth to wonder if record shops were becoming "heritage destinations".
Perhaps, but, as someone put it, it’s more like living in an extended present than a dead past. Time-shift goes haywire at concerts, where generations converge. Bands like Westlife cover old songs, so mother and daughter can enjoy the same gig. At the Yes concert, three generations were present.
Danny Kelly, one of Hepworth’s guests, said we were all on the same journey, with some embarrassing fellow-travellers: "disco vicars" and the dreaded MILTs (Mums In Leather Trousers).
The programme adduced different attitudes between men - serious browsers with alphabetically ordered collections - and women, who buy impulsively from supermarkets on the weekly shop.
According to Marie O’Riordan, editor of Marie Claire: "The whole problem with this middle-aged music phenomenon is men. I mean, men just refuse to grow up."
On the other hand, we all recognise the following phenomenon, reported by Hepworth: "Whenever a woman goes into a room, and a record’s playing, she turns it down".
Fascinating though this was, the programme was off-key in some respects. The aging trendy guests weren’t old enough. One bloke spoke of nostalgia, meaning Madonna and George Michael. That’s not nostalgia, sonny, that’s yesterday afternoon.
The aging trendies name-checked current acts in pathetic attempts to keep up, thereby missing the point: 50 Bloke is buying the backlog from his youth; CD versions of old vinyl; new releases if the bands reform; unpluggeds, rediscovered rarities, retrospective collections and BBC sessions.
The programme’s music was execrable. Though it ended with the Rolling Stones, we’d to suffer Suzi Quatro, Elton John, Prince and the inevitable Norah Jones, stuff that makes self-respecting middle-aged rockers vomit.
While bragging that Radio 2 was the new rock’n’roll, Hepworth gave us the old, easy-listening Radio 2. He’s old enough to know better.
Another thing: if the over-40s are buying all the CDs, how come you hardly see them in HMV and Virgin? Because they’re all buying on Amazon.
Mike Daisey, dubbed the dot.comedian, worked for the internet booksellers at their Seattle HQ. The experience seared his soul. In 21 Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com, an adaptation of his one-man stage-show, he recalled how the agency where he was temping received the following instruction: "Send us your freaks." With a degree in aesthetics and medieval history, he qualified instantly.
What a world he discovered, full of clear-skinned geeks who never sweated. The talk was of preference accumulators and paradigms of growth. Customer services was a dark warren, with a soundtrack of hyper-clacking keyboards. The job consisted of listening, caring and grovelling (but rarely helping). Daisey reported: "I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep the hatred out of my voice."
Told he was spending too much time in the bathroom, he contemplated urinating faster. He upped his call-resolution rate by hanging up on customers. Soon, he was promoted to business development. "Everyone had spiky hair and leather clothes, and they were named after verbs, like Catch and Skip."
There was nothing to do but read newspapers on the net. But the money was good and soon he was considering voting Republican. On another visit to the bathroom, he realised his life was going down the plughole. He resigned but he still loved the company. Couldn’t get it out of his head.
The only thing that helped was a fortnight’s holiday in Spain, "home of the laziest people on Earth". Ah, the unbearable irony of being. This was clever, off-the-wall stuff, brilliantly observed, cynically chronicled, and entertainingly delivered in breathy, edgy tones. It was first broadcast on WNYC (New York public radio), so hats off to them.
Now, let’s be really middle-aged and listen to a show about gardening. A century ago, intrepid botanists from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden set off for China to bring back exotic species, making their homes in Himalayan foothills and recording in their diaries: "Roads: none. Jungle: frightful".
In Growing Together, Eleanor Bradford followed in their footsteps, taking a pack-pony and a couple of tame botanists to the Botanic Garden’s field station at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. How lovely to hear adults get excited at flowers. How pleasing that they’re reversing our history of plundering Chinese flora by helping species endangered by native herbalists. Now, if you’ll pass me that camomile tea, I’ve a Genesis retrospective to listen to.