By John Curley
In November and December of 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a really fantastic series of programs called Mastertapes. The series, which was recorded in London at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, devoted two programs each to the artists and concerned an album that was vitally important to their careers. The first program, called the A-Side, featured the artist in conversation with John Wilson, the program’s host, as well as performing songs from the album being discussed. In the second program, known as the B-Side, the artist took questions from the studio audience and performed additional songs. The programs in the Mastertapes series have all been archived on the BBC Radio 4 Web site and are an absolute delight to listen to. The series consists of fourteen 30-minute programs. The main Mastertapes page is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nr9tv.
The first two programs in the series were devoted to Billy Bragg and his album Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. To listen to the programs, go to the audio links below:
Next up was New York City-based singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega discussing her album Solitude Standing. To hear those programs, go to:
Veteran British singer-songwriter Paul Weller talked about The Gift, the final album by his first band The Jam. Weller’s Mastertapes appearance can be heard at:
Legendary songwriter Ray Davies was featured in conversation and performance concerning The Kinks’ albums Lola and Muswell Hillbillies. Davies’ Mastertapes programs can be heard at:
The final two installments of the first series of Mastertapes featured three members of The Zombies—Rod Argent, Chris White, and Colin Blunstone—talking about The Zombies’ album Odessey and Oracle. Those programs are available for listening at:
There is audio and video of live tracks from the series at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p010s4kz. Some of the live performances, particularly those by Corinne Bailey Rae, Paul Weller, and Suzanne Vega, are absolutely outstanding and well worth a listen.
Photo galleries from the series can be viewed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/galleries/p0110j6y.
Additional performance and interview clips can be accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nr9tv/clips.
There will be a second series of Mastertapes programs in 2013. Among the artists featured in that series will be Richard Thompson (who will discuss his 1992 album Rumor And Sigh) and former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson (who will talk about Dr. Feelgood’s 1975 album Down By The Jetty). Johnson’s appearance on the program is particularly noteworthy since he has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.