Katty Kay in Washington and Christian Fraser in London report on the events that are shaping the world.
University Challenge icons and real-life best friends Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull are on a road trip with a difference. Feeding their insatiable appetite for knowledge, they visit Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales in search of hidden gems of British scientific and technological ingenuity.
Their genius guide through England showcases an assortment of remarkable inventions. It begins with a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach to experience Sir Hiram Maxim's 1904 Captive Flying Machines, the oldest amusement ride in Europe. These miniature rocket-shaped aeroplanes were designed by the eccentric inventor who created the first portable machine gun but whose ultimate goal was to achieve powered flight. A vertiginous spin on this historic ride gives Monkman the perfect opportunity to describe in detail the theory of centrifugal force.
Next, Southport, a quintessentially British seaside haven. It is also home to the only lawnmower museum of its kind in the world. Here, Monkman and Seagull celebrate an invention that has changed the landscape of Britain forever. As Seagull puts it, 'If an Englishman's home is his castle, then our grass is the field of our ambitions and hopes'. Monkman and Seagull are intrigued to discover the reason why the man who invented the lawnmower had to test his prototypes at night. They are also fascinated to discover that the museum is home to a lawnmower once owned by one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.
Their next stop takes Monkman and Seagull off the beaten track to Emley Tower in Huddersfield, a colossal broadcasting mast that is one of the tallest freestanding structures in the UK, where they put their mathematical prowess to the test and measure its height using only a piece of string and a protractor. After a quick and very cosy pit-stop at the smallest museum in the world in West Yorkshire, they approach the culmination of this week's adventure - the giant telescopes of the mysterious Jodrell Bank Observatory near Macclesfield, where they contemplate life on other planets.
Using the latest 3D scanning technology, Alexander Armstrong and Dr Michael Scott uncover 2,500 years of hidden history in Naples, from its earliest Greek and Roman origins.
They explore how the volcano of Mount Vesuvius both nurtured the region and exacted a terrible price on the local population. They also delve into a labyrinth of fascinating underground spaces that helped build and sustain the city.
On 18 November 1978, over 900 men, women and children lost their lives at Jonestown, a remote settlement established by the People's Temple in northern Guyana. They were led to their deaths by cult leader Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher who turned into an egomaniacal demagogue. Jones had insisted his followers perform 'revolutionary suicide' by drinking poison - either voluntarily or by force.
Using unreleased recordings, photographs taken by members of the People’s Temple, previously classified FBI documents and new testimony from survivors and Jones's own family members, Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle investigates how and why this tragedy happened.
Jim Jones grew up and established the People's Temple in rural Indiana. As his racially integrated church and practices came under scrutiny, he moved his congregation to California, where its growing popularity brought Jones political power, but also a drug habit coupled with a paranoid need to control his followers. It was there that the abuse and misconduct at the heart of the People's Temple attracted the attention of the press, ruining Jones’s public image.
Fearing further repercussions, he moved his loyal followers to a remote jungle settlement in Guyana, claiming they would create a utopia there.
In the second of this three-part series, Professor Robert Bartlett explores the impact of the Norman conquest of Britain and Ireland. Bartlett shows how William the Conqueror imposed a new aristocracy, savagely cut down opposition and built scores of castles and cathedrals to intimidate and control. He also commissioned the Domesday Book, the greatest national survey of England that had ever been attempted.
England adapted to its new masters and both the language and culture were transformed as the Normans and the English intermarried. Bartlett shows how the political and cultural landscape of Scotland, Wales and Ireland were also forged by the Normans and argues that the Normans created the blueprint for colonialism in the modern world.
We would all love to live in a cottage. It is the national fantasy - thatch on the roof, roses over the door, fire in the grate. Dan is in Stoneleigh in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. The village has barely changed in 500 years, its cottages perfectly preserved. But even better, there is a treasure trove of documents in the local abbey which reveal centuries of daily life in extraordinary detail. Whether it is the pub owner fined for serving poor beer, the widow told to pay for her new home with her best chicken, or the first glass windows in the village, this film charts the cottage's transformation from humble medieval hovel to modern dream home.
In the first of a two-part series, the BBC delves into its archives to discover British acting greats as they take their first tentative steps on the road to success. Long before they were knighted for their services to drama, we see early appearances from Michael Caine in a rare Shakespearean role, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon.
Featuring unique behind-the-scenes footage alongside a wealth of classic British productions like War and Peace, the Mayor of Casterbridge and the Singing Detective, it reveals many career-defining moments from the first generation of acting talent to fully embrace television drama.
Series looking at American art. The first episode is set in the Wild West and begins with the sublime art of the Hudson River School, whose 19th-century evocations of the vastness of America did so much to fuel the myth of the promised land. Another huge influence was the mysterious rock art of Native Americans, which set a stirring precedent for non-naturalistic painting. The film culminates in a celebration of Jackson Pollock, born in Cody, Wyoming, who arrived in New York wearing a Stetson and cowboy boots, and whose famous drip paintings were influenced heavily by both the moods of the American west and the example of Native American artists.
WEDNESDAY 08 JANUARY 2020
WED 19:00 Beyond 100 Days (m000dhh7)
Katty Kay in Washington and Christian Fraser in London report on the events that are shaping the world.
WED 19:30 James May: The Reassembler (b087kbc8)
When it comes to cooking James May is not the first name that comes to mind, but when it comes to reassembling cooking appliances, James is your man.
James reassembles the 135 parts that make up a 1960s Kenwood Chef a701a Food Mixer. This literal food revolution is responsible for mixing more cake batter than Mary Berry has mixed in her entire lifetime.
On James's journey to reassembling the food mixer he comes face to face with some mind-boggling components that will all come together to work in unison in the hope of making a chocolate cake mix. From reassembling the planetary gear system and the AC electric motor James muses on the imperial measurement system and shows off his trendy new magnification head gear as he attempts some dreaded soldering.
WED 20:00 Earth's Great Rivers (b0bx73pk)
This episode is a pioneering exploration of the latest discoveries concerning the Amazon - by far the greatest river on Earth. It is the river of superlatives, flowing more than 4,000 miles from the Andes to the Atlantic. Its 1,100 tributaries drain the greatest river basin on the planet and along its incredible journey it collects and transports one-fifth of the world's fresh water. Its outflow into the Atlantic Ocean per second is greater than the next six rivers combined. It truly lives up to its mighty reputation.
Due to its enormous size, it still hides secrets - it truly is the mysterious river of myth and legend, and it really does have monsters living in it, like giant electric eels and botos - the world's largest species of river dolphin. For most of its length, it is impossible to see into its murky waters. However, there are a few secret springs, bubbling with water as clear as gin, providing an unparalleled window into the Amazon's rich and spectacular underwater world.
One exclusive location is the Blue Lagoon, home to an anxious young couple - a newly discovered species of cichlid. These fish take their babies out for a swim in this natural aquarium bounded by an ominous underwater curtain of dark river water. Camera traps reveal some of the infamous predators lurking within, like freshwater stingrays and Amazon barracuda. Prowling nearby are giant electric eels capable of generating more than 500 volts, who give the cameraman a run for his money.
The team scoured the entire river system for its most beautiful locations. The rocky terraces of the Cristalino River were the perfect setting to try out float cams which enabled the team to join a family of giant river otters on a fishing foray. In Peru, there is a newly mapped Amazon tributary which boils! Scientists believe it is the longest stretch of thermal river in the world, creating a snake of steam over the canopy at dawn. The show joins shaman Juan Flores as he prays to the water spirits and makes medicine from the river's sacred waters and medicinal plants he collects from the jungle nearby.
Every year the Amazon floods on an almost unbelievable scale. Stretches of the river can rise by ten metres and the weight of so much water temporarily sinks the earth's crust by three inches! GPS drone technology reveals this gigantic transformation as never before, transporting viewers through the many vistas and atmospheres of the great river, capturing swathes of rainforest steaming in the dawn, and revealing the incredible expanse of the immense river which, in some places, stretches far beyond the horizon. It creates the Amazon's legendary flooded forests, home to the hoatzin, or stinkbird, so named for its particular and pungent smell - they feed on a diet of leaves and are basically flying compost heaps.
On the shores of the river town of Alter do Chao are some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Brazil. Known as the Caribbean of the Amazon, it hosts a dolphin-themed carnival complete with hundreds of sequined dancers, spectacular floats and colourful processions. When all this water finally reaches the sea, it creates the last and newest secret world of the giant river, the Amazon reef. Spectacular drone footage captures the spectacle of the Amazon's fresh water floating over the surface of the ocean as a vast green cloud (which can cover more than a million square kilometres).
High-tech submarines allow cameras to reveal the wonders of the Amazon algal reef, not just packed with technicolour fish but also home to 'gardens' of giant sponges, many a thousand years old and a metre across. The sponges feed on the nutrients that the Amazon has collected on it's incredible journey. No other river shapes the landscape, and even the ocean, in the way the Amazon can, and what is so fantastic is that it is still one of the few remaining healthy great rivers on Earth.
WED 21:00 Storyville (m000d28j)
Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle
On 18 November 1978, over 900 men, women and children lost their lives at Jonestown, a remote settlement established by the People’s Temple in northern Guyana. They were led to their deaths by cult leader Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher who turned into an egomaniacal demagogue. Jones had insisted his followers perform ‘revolutionary suicide’ by drinking poison - either voluntarily or by force.
Using unreleased recordings, photographs taken by members of the People’s Temple, previously classified FBI documents and new testimony from survivors and Jones’s own family members, Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle investigates how and why this tragedy happened.
Unable to support a growing number of followers, the Jonestown project quickly began to implode. Jones’s excessive drug use, irrational behaviour and the isolation of his followers raised the alarm back home.
To learn whether the rumours coming from the jungle were true, California congressman Leo Ryan travelled to Guyana. Desperate People's Temple members saw his visit as a chance to escape Jonestown and its erratic and dangerous leader. Sensing the end, Jones triggered a tragic chain of events, forcing his followers to a dark conclusion.
WED 22:20 The Normans (b00thpzb)
Normans of the South
Professor Robert Bartlett explores the impact of the Normans on southern Europe and the Middle East. The Normans spread south in the 11th century, winning control of southern Italy and the island of Sicily. There they created their most prosperous kingdom, where Christianity and Islam co-existed in relative harmony and mutual tolerance. It became a great centre of medieval culture and learning.
But events in the Middle East provoked the more aggressive side of the Norman character. In 1095, the Normans enthusiastically answered the pope's call for holy war against Islam and joined the first crusade. They lay siege to Jerusalem and eventually helped win back the holy city from the muslims. This bloody conquest left a deep rift between Christianity and Islam which is still being felt to this day.
WED 23:20 Treasures of Ancient Egypt (p01mv16n)
The Birth of Art
In a visual treat taking in Egypt's greatest historical sites, Alastair Sooke tells the story of ancient Egyptian art through 30 extraordinary masterpieces. Tracing the origins of Egypt's unique visual style, he treks across the Sahara and travels the Nile to find the rarely seen art of its earliest peoples. Exploring how this civilisation's art reflected its religion, he looks anew at the Great Pyramid, and the statuary and painting of the Old Kingdom. Sooke is amazed by the technical prowess of ancient artists whose skills confound contemporary craftsmen.
WED 00:20 Dames of Classic Drama at the BBC (b06nxrv3)
Today, they are at the centre of British cultural life and among our greatest exports - the acting dames, an exclusive club of stage and screen greats who were honoured for their services to drama. But, lurking in the BBC archives - from long before their talents were recognised by royal decree - we find the early work and some career defining moments of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren. David Tennant narrates the story of our dames of classic drama, from a golden age of British television drama.
WED 01:20 Arena (b08s3fcd)
Blood and Soil
This episode takes a look at the stories of those early music pioneers whose names have largely been forgotten.
In the small South Carolina town of Cheraw, Elder Burch held lively church gatherings which inspired young musicians - including jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie's autobiography cites Burch and his sons as direct inspirations; it is no exaggeration to say that modern music would not look the same without Burch's early influence.
The programme takes a look at the gritty songs and musicians that came from the coal mines of Logan County, West Virginia - The Williamson Brothers, Dick Justice and Frank Hutchinson. The hellish conditions of the coal mines inspired them to find a way out, through their music.
Finally we head to the home of the blues - the Mississippi Delta, where Charley Patton captured the sounds and struggles of life in the cotton fields. Patton's significance cannot be understated; he is widely considered the most influential musician in the birth of blues, teaching some of the best blues artists that followed including Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson and Honeyboy Edwards.
WED 02:25 Earth's Great Rivers (b0bx73pk)
[Repeat of broadcast at 20:00 today
THURSDAY 09 JANUARY 2020
THU 19:00 Beyond 100 Days (m000ddyj)
Katty Kay in Washington and Christian Fraser in London report on the events that are shaping the world.
THU 19:30 Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey (m0001kwx)
A Turtle's Journey
Ride on board with a green sea turtle as it swims around its spectacular coral reef home of Sipidan in Malaysia. Using only natural sounds and elegant embedded graphics delivering detailed information, this is an immersive journey into the turtles’ world like no other.
The turtle embarks on its daily routine, revealing how they utilise all the different areas of the reef, from the inner shallows to the deep drop-off – introducing us to all the fish and animals that they share one of the richest and most diverse places on our planet with in a mesmerising half-hour.
The turtles were filmed for Blue Planet II and part of an ongoing study into their behaviour for the Marine Research Foundation.
THU 20:00 The Great British Year (p01db15t)
Starting on New Year's Day, Britain is in the grip of winter. Time-lapses show a magical country shrouded in frost and mist swirling in hollows. Water becomes the enemy as it freezes, and the wildlife must cope. Red squirrels resort to subterfuge, and kites track a farmer ploughing to get at the worms beneath the frost. As winter fades, adders bask in the sun and the woodland floor erupts with snowdrops. On a lake in Wiltshire, new hope is captured in the evocative dance of the great crested grebe.
THU 21:00 Gravity and Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives (b08kgv7f)
Physics professor Jim Al-Khalili investigates the amazing science of gravity. A fundamental force of nature, gravity shapes our entire universe, sculpting galaxies and warping space and time. But gravity's strange powers, discovered by Albert Einstein, also affect our daily lives in the most unexpected ways. As Jim tells the story of gravity, it challenges his own understanding of the nature of reality.
The science of gravity includes the greatest advances in physics, and Jim recreates groundbreaking experiments in gravity including when the Italian genius Galileo first worked out how to measure it.
Gravity science is still full of surprises and Jim investigates the latest breakthrough - 'gravity waves' - ripples in the vast emptiness of space. He also finds out from astronauts what it's like to live without gravity.
But gravity also directly affects all of us very personally - making a difference to our weight, height, posture and even the rate at which we age. With the help of volunteers and scientists, Jim sets out to find where in Britain gravity is weakest and so where we weigh the least. He also helps design a smartphone app that volunteers use to demonstrate how gravity affects time and makes us age at slightly different rates.
And finally, Jim discovers that despite incredible progress, gravity has many secrets.
THU 22:30 Horizon (b0761llv)
The Mystery of Dark Energy
Horizon looks at dark energy - the mysterious force that is unexpectedly causing the universe's expansion to speed up.
The effects of dark energy were discovered in 1998, but physicists still don't know what it is. Worse, its very existence calls into question Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity - the cornerstone of modern physics.
The hunt for the identity of dark energy is on. Experiments on earth and in space generate data that might provide a clue, but there are also hopes that another Einstein might emerge - someone who can write a new theory explaining the mystery of the dark energy.
THU 23:30 The Joy of Winning (b0b9zsfb)
How to have a happier life and a better world all thanks to maths, in this witty, mind-expanding guide to the science of success with Hannah Fry.
Following in the footsteps of BBC Four's award-winning maths films The Joy of Stats and The Joy of Data, this latest gleefully nerdy adventure sees mathematician Dr Hannah Fry unlock the essential strategies you'll need to get what you want - to win - more of the time. From how to bag a bargain dinner to how best to stop the kids arguing on a long car journey, maths can give you a winning strategy. And the same rules apply to the world's biggest problems - whether it's avoiding nuclear annihilation or tackling climate change.
Deploying 'The Joys of...' films' trademark mix of playful animation alongside both oddball demos and contributions from the world's biggest brains, Fry shows how this field of maths - known as game theory - is the essential key to help you get your way. She reveals ways to analyse any situation, and methods of calculating the consequences of getting what you want. Expect tips on taking advantage of what your opponents do, but also pleasing proof that cooperation might get you further than conflict. Fry also hails the 20th-century scientists like John von Neumann and John Nash who worked out the science of success. They may not be household names, but they transformed economics, politics, psychology and evolutionary biology in the process - and their work, Hannah demonstrates, could even be shown to prove the existence and advantage of goodness.
Along the way the film reveals, amongst other things, what links the rapper Ludacris, a Kentucky sheriff, a Nobel Prize winner and doping in professional cycling. And there's an irresistible chance to revisit the most excruciatingly painful and the most genius scenes ever seen on a TV game show, as Hannah unpacks the maths behind the legendary show Golden Balls and hails Nick Corrigan, the contestant whose cunning gameplay managed to break the supposedly intractable 'Prisoner's Dilemma'.
Other contributors to The Joy of Winning include European number one professional female poker player Liv Boeree, Scottish ex-pro cyclist and anti-doping campaigner (banned for two years in 2004 for doping) David Millar, Israeli game theory expert Dr Haim Shapira - who shows why it is sometimes rational to be irrational - and top evolutionary game theorist Professor Karl Sigmund from the University of Vienna.
THU 00:30 Akala's Odyssey (b09sc141)
Writer and hip-hop artist Akala voyages across the Mediterranean and beyond to solve some of the mysteries behind Homer's monumental poem, the Odyssey. Travelling between spectacular ruins, such as the sacred shrine of Delphi or the Greek colonies on Sicily, Akala's journey culminates on the small island of Ithaca, where he ponders the theory that this is the destination which Homer had in mind as he composed the epic.
Along the way, he finds out what Homer's works may have sounded like to their first audiences, discovers how the rhythm of those ancient words connect to the beats of modern hip-hop and comes face to face with the characters from the masterpiece. He also investigates how this epic poem became the cornerstone of Western literature and how his own experiences as an artist have been impacted by a 3,000-year-old classic. Akala has undertaken this quest as part of his mission to compose his own response to the Odyssey - a new hip hop track called Blind Bard's Vision, which turns the tale on its head all over again. This is Akala's Odyssey.
THU 01:30 Bought with Love: The Secret History of British Art Collections (b0376y1l)
Britain's country houses are home to astonishing world-class art collections full of priceless old masters and more. In this three-part series art historian Helen Rosslyn opens the doors of some of our most impressive country houses to tell the story of how so many great paintings came to Britain and of the adventurous men and women who brought them here.
In the first episode she reveals the immense influence of the 17th-century pioneer collectors such as Thomas Howard, the 'Collector' Earl of Arundel, King Charles I and his entourage known as the Whitehall Group. Rosslyn explores how this group also brought a taste for the Baroque to Britain, commissioning continental artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck and later Antonio Verrio.
Featuring Verrio's extraordinary Hell Staircase at Burghley House in Cambridgeshire, as well as highlights from the collections at Arundel Castle in Sussex and Wilton House in Wiltshire, the series offers not only a visual treat but a surprising narrative to our national treasures.
THU 02:30 Gravity and Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives (b08kgv7f)
[Repeat of broadcast at 21:00 today
FRIDAY 10 JANUARY 2020
FRI 19:00 World News Today (m000d26h)
The news programme for audiences who want more depth to their daily coverage. With a focus on Europe, Middle East and Africa.
FRI 19:30 Top of the Pops (m000d26k)
Mark Goodier and Andy Crane present the pop chart programme, first broadcast 5 January 1989 and featuring Erasure, Kim Wilde, a-ha, Duran Duran, Boy Meets Girl, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, Climie Fisher, Inner City, Neneh Cherry, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and The Four Tops.
FRI 20:00 Easy Listening Hits at the BBC (b011g943)
Compilation of easy listening tracks that offers the perfect soundtrack for your cocktail party. There's music to please every lounge lizard, with unique performances from the greatest easy listening artists of the 60s and 70s, including Burt Bacharach, Andy Williams, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, The Carpenters and many more.
FRI 21:00 Top of the Pops (m000d26m)
Sybil Ruscoe and Simon Mayo present the pop chart programme, first broadcast on 12 January 1989 and featuring The Darling Buds, Will to Power, Milli Vanilli, Duran Duran, Boy Meets Girl, Marc Almond and Gene Pitney, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, Mike + The Mechanics, Roachford, Fine Young Cannibals, Roy Orbison, Freiheit, Cookie Crew, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine.
FRI 21:30 Chris Packham: Forever Punk (m000d26p)
Chris Packham, environmentalist and life-long punk, reveals how, as a teenager with undiagnosed Asperger's, punk rock may have saved his life. By giving him a purpose, he was able to harness his creativity, which led to him becoming a TV presenter with a determination to champion wildlife.
Now more than 40 years on, as Chris goes to Buckingham Palace to receive a CBE for services to the environment, he asks himself if he has, over the years, turned into the type of 'establishment figure' that his 17-year-old self would have hated?
In a highly personal and revelatory film, Chris sets out to question both himself and other former punks who, like him, rocked against racism, fought for gay rights and caused their parents untold grief, to discover if the values they all believed in still hold true today.
Chris meets some of the legends at the heart of the movement, including punk icon Jordan Mooney who was known as punk's first muse, artist Jamie Reid who designed the Sex Pistols' record covers, The Clash's first drummer and now chiropractor Terry Chimes, chart-topping vicar Rev Richard Coles and gay rights campaigner and Radio 6 DJ Tom Robinson.
He also meets Joe Talbot, lead singer of indie band Idles at the famous punk venue the 100 Club and even hooks up with his own punk band, The Titanic Survivors, who he left in 1978. They have since reformed and are still playing some of the songs that Chris wrote.
Chris concludes that the spirit of punk perhaps lives on not just in the music but in the rebellious spirit of the young and is still at the heart of many modern-day protests.
FRI 22:30 Punk at the BBC (b01k1nhx)
An archive celebration of BBC studio performances from the British bands that broke through courtesy of punk, from its pub rock roots with Dr Feelgood to its explosive heyday with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and many more.
FRI 23:30 Smashing Hits! The 80s Pop Map of Britain and Ireland (b0bb2pyf)
Two 80s icons explore the distinct sounds that came out of different parts of Britain and Ireland in one of pop's golden decades.
Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox and one of the men behind Band Aid, and Kim Appleby, who had a string of hits with her sister Mel in the Stock, Aitken and Waterman-produced band Mel and Kim, go on a journey back in time to the 80s to figure out why certain cities produced their own diverse tunes.
It's a fascinating tale. Emerging from the ashes of punk, British and Irish music ripped up the pop rule book in the 80s and topped the charts worldwide. But there was no definitive 'British' pop sound. Innovative chart-toppers were being produced by artists hailing from all over the UK and Ireland.
In this second episode, Midge and Kim explore the sounds that came from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They start in Glasgow with the American influences that shaped a substantial part of Scottish music, look at the punk and folk backdrop to Irish music and, finally, delve into the Welsh merger of folk and punk.
The show features evocative archive, superb music and interviews with significant figures, like Bob Geldof, Clare Grogan from Altered Images, Pat Kane from Hue and Cry, Moya Brennan of Clannad and Mike Peters from legendary Welsh band The Alarm.
FRI 00:30 I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock (m0005wwn)
Part one of Katie Puckrik’s voyage through a halcyon period of Los Angeles studio craft when studio-based artists like The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates produced the smoothest R&B and married it to adult themes about longing, aspiration and melancholy.
In its day this music was never identified as a genre, but in the 21st century, in a nod to its finely crafted nature, it has come to be known as yacht rock. Katie’s account of yacht rock is both the soundtrack of her American teen years and a reappraisal of a critically neglected era of music, when the sophisticated smooth sounds of the West Coast were a palliative for an America in turmoil.
Starting with the forerunners of this soft sound, Katie looks at the singer-songwriters of Laurel Canyon as well as soft rock pioneers such as the band America, whose songs offered Americans an escape from economic depression at home and the enduring conflict in Vietnam abroad. Popularised by a boom in FM radio stations, this smooth, easily digestible sound found mainstream appeal. Katie argues that the pure yacht sound was born in 1976, when seasoned session musician Michael McDonald joined The Doobie Brothers. Alongside The Doobies’ mellow tracks, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates also delivered perfect studio-engineered productions that remain as escapist and indulgent a listen today as they did when they were made.
The gleaming yacht sound was in part defined by a group of session players and composers, including McDonald, who played across the range of ‘yacht’ bands, informing their specific tone and level of musicianship. In this film, one such musician, Jay Graydon, talks about the yacht phenomenon and being part of the scene back in the day. Meanwhile John Oates reveals some of the inspirations behind his hit She’s Gone. Other contributors include producer Mark Ronson and JD Ryznar, creator of internet hit the Yacht Rock Show.
FRI 01:30 Chris Packham: Forever Punk (m000d26p)
[Repeat of broadcast at 21:30 today
FRI 02:30 Easy Listening Hits at the BBC (b011g943)
[Repeat of broadcast at 20:00 today