"On this drivetime show, we not only give you talk, we give you music," announced Tom McGurk on his first programme for 4FM. Now whose idea was that, I wonder?
The people behind 4FM, the new multi-city radio station aimed at older listeners, must never listen to the radio themselves if they honestly think there isn't enough Tina Turner on it already. They also clearly believe there's a vast 'demographic' of listeners who like nothing better than a bit of Elton John in the middle of a serious interview. Presumably these listeners also ask for a side of ice-cream with their salmon or beef, and draw little cartoons in the margins of their tax returns.
There are some serious things that can reasonably be interrupted by music – funeral masses come to mind – but current affairs is not one of them. RTé tried the same thing years ago on Tonight with Vincent Browne (a minute's silence please) and it was just as idiotic as it sounds. Browne would break off from filleting some petrified public servant for a recording of 'Kathleen Mavourneen', and no-one knew where they were.
At any rate, McGurk's musical interludes, combined with his own softly-softly approach, meant that his interview on Monday with Taoiseach Brian Cowen was more like Desert Island Discs than Drivetime. Think Sunday morning instead of rush hour.
In case you've been finding lately, reader, that you're getting just a teensy-weensy bit sick of the sight and sound of Brian Cowen and the rest of the whole godforsaken lot of them, we won't retrace the whole interview here. But there were one or two highlights worth revisiting for comedy's sake (since laughter, unlike music, is entirely acceptable in the midst of current affairs).
McGurk thanked the Taoiseach for coming in, and squeezed in a plug, speculating that Cowen's presence was a signal that he wanted "to recognise that 4FM, despite all the economic devastation, is up there and is going to succeed".
The Taoiseach responded with the following stream of consciousness, as if bent on forging, in the smithy of his soul, the uncreated conscience of his race: "I think it's a great indication of just the sort of people, the can-do attitude that we need in this country to be honest, and the faith that people have in the project and the concept that they've devised and that they've worked on... if I may say so a very strong presentation team which shows I think a great degree of confidence in the professionalism of those who have, uh, worked so hard to bring this day about."
Cowen also used his new favourite quote, lambasting those commentators who say the economy was never anything more than "a building site with a flagpole on top". Love that. He'll never get rid of that one now.
McGurk wanted to know if the Taoiseach was hurt by the accusation that he had lost his leadership. He also asked if he was being kept awake. I'm not joking. "Are you sleeping well? Do you sleep well?" he inquired, much as you might ask a feeble relative in hospital. (Mind you, if you are visiting someone in hospital, it's more germane to ask: "Have you seen anyone yet who is in any way remotely connected, even if only by marriage, to your consultant?")
For the record, Cowen was not hurt, and is sleeping, but he suddenly went all surfer dude on us. "A lot of politics is about psychology," he said. "People have to get their heads to where we're actually at." Like, far out, totally. The Cowenmeister. El Cowenerino.
Even some DJs have been getting away from playing music these days, on the grounds that audiences seem to prefer giddy chat to exhausted hits. Witness Tom Dunne, erstwhile host of one of the few respectable music programmes on mainstream radio, and now host of yet another brainless forum for listeners' texts.
Having said that, last Tuesday your correspondent became new all-time bestest friends with Tom Dunne, after listening to his feisty defence of air travel, and of cars. After all, this green hegemony is all very well, but it can only go so far, and you can keep your sanctimonious hands off my Alfa.
Dunne was interviewing Alex Hochuli, founder of Modern Movement, an organisation set up recently to counter the arguments (mostly environmental) against aviation. It's high time, before taxation boots us all out of the sky and the rich have it to themselves
Predictably enough, the interview was followed by a stream of texts, with one listener asking won't someone please think of the children. Dunne replied that he is thinking of the children, that he wants his children to inherit a planet they can fly around in. Air high five.