Once a month or so I get to have a chat on RNZ and present a feature – 40 minutes or so of talking and music selections around a theme or particular act. These are fun. And challenging. It’s live radio. This year was particularly challenging given the pandemic and lockdown precautions meant recording live from home via a Zoom link. So no face to face contact, no visual cues with an engineer to fade music, no whispering between songs to find out how it is going – just play the music and talk and hope you hit your mark and come in on time.
But I love that live thrill. The seat of the pants of it.
Anyway, a couple of years ago the comments section said they were sick of an old white guy talking about old white guys (when I had been asked to come on and present about the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ Abbey Road). Sad to know that comment came from an RNZ staff member. But, also, you take on board feedback if and when you can.
So for 2021 I was keen to not feature old white guys. To look at more black music. To talk about some of the female musicians I’ve loved for so long and not really covered in a journalistic sense…
I presented eight music features for Jesse Mulligan’s RNZ Afternoons show in 2021. It was a pretty good range of music too I reckon – stepping outside of classic rock tropes, ignoring contemporary trends. Talking about music I loved and remembered well.
I’ve compiled them all here so you can have them in one spot, catch up on any you missed. Just click the link to be taken to the show.
First up was Kate Bush – and what a thrill to work through her classic catalogue.
Next was Billy Preston – I love a good Beatles link. But Preston played with Ray Charles and Little Richard and did so many sessions for others, appearing on classic records by so many artists and then all of his own music. He had quite a troubled life, and there was a sad decline, so though this was about the music first and foremost it was good to be able to talk about that a bit too, bring in some biography.
Bonnie Raitt was next – and what I loved about this – apart from all her brilliant music – was that she hasn’t released anything recently, wasn’t touring, or in the news. I just got to talk about her and play some of her music because she’s brilliant. And I love her work.
Grace Jones was the feature for the middle of the year – and again, this was really just about loving her work. Though I focussed in on the fact that her Nightclubbing album (maybe her very best) was 40 years old.
September marked the 30th anniversary of a big month in music – this was a fun one; basically in September of 1991 there was an enormous amount of new music that was BIG – Nirvana’s Nevermind, RHCP’s Blood Sugar, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ two Illusion albums – add in Mariah Carey fully developing into an RNB Torch Balladeer Sensation, some great hip-hop (A Tribe Called Quest) and a few other things – I got to play favourites and reflect on a time in music that meant a lot to me when I was coming up…
The music and movies of John Carpenter – I’ve loved Carpenter’s movies forever and a crucial component is the soundtracks. Which he often creates himself. In recent years he’s become more of a musician than a filmmaker. Okay, so it was an old white guy. But how often do you hear full radio segments about film music? This one was such a treat to get over the line; timed too for Halloween! Bonus.
Marvin Gaye was on my mind all year so that made him a perfect radio feature subject – I realised this year I had lived longer than Marvin Gaye. And that seemed weird to me. And what a trauma-filled life, so that was the focus of the chat, in and around playing some of that wonderful music. I always tried to mostly feature the lesser-known, or less-obvious stuff. But there was a hit or two in there as well.
And finally Billie Holiday – another artist I’m always thinking about, one I’d wanted to feature for a while – and again there’s just so much to play so I did my best to give some of the flavour of what she offered as one of the greatest and most influential jazz vocalists.
So that was 2021’s music features on RNZ. And if you click those links you can check out each show on its own.