Richard Littlejohn by Rowan Tallant

Richard Littlejohn on Radio 2 on 1972: a gay old time

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The Years That Changed Britain Forever BBC Radio 2, Sundays/BBC Sounds

You’d have to say it’s surprising Radio 2 has given Richard Littlejohn a show. It’s not a station for shock jocks, unless the shock is jocks boring their listeners to death or, worse, expiring on air themselves from boredom.

But here he is lining up alongside Vanessa Feltz, Michael Ball and Tony Blackburn – not literally, which they might be glad about, seeing as they’re more or less mentally stable, decent broadcasters who’ve not even managed one book between them described as “a 400-page recruiting pamphlet for the British National Party”.

Still, perhaps there’s an unexpected, warm, creative side to Littlejohn – like those interesting sonatas Fred West composed in his spare time. Who knows? (Littlejohn’s favourite jam.)

Littlejohn’s show has a long title, to match his nose: The Years That Changed Britain Forever: Let’s Head Back To 1972. (1978, 1992 and 2013 are coming.)

“Not necessarily the years you think they are,” he says, which could mean anything. Who knows? Perhaps he’s got hold of some stuff about how the calendar was secretly manipulated by a previous Labour government.

Anyway, this is great! He’s got a lot to get stuck into. The miners (bad), Bloody Sunday (sad) and, best of all, the first official gay pride march in London (gay). He’s also playing some music from the years that changed Britain forever, which should provide some relief.

Rod Stewart: You Wear It Well
A pleasant heterosexual track. Adorned with a Littlejohn anecdote about how he spent more time in the pub than at college when he was training to be a journalist. Well, well.

Rolling Stones: Tumbling Dice
A sleazy, decadent, androgynous shambles recorded by drug-addled faux-outlaws writhing in the basement of a French chateau, probably having group sex at the same time. Not sure why anyone would play this, unless they like group sex with faux-outlaws in a basement. Tax, or something?

He does mention about strikes, joining the EEC and how then-PM Edward Heath threatened to dissolve parliament, signed away our sovereignty and sacrificed our fishing waters at the last minute. It was his deal or no deal, and where have we heard that recently? Who knows?

Roxy Music: Virginia Plain
A sleazy, decadent, androgynous shambles recorded by drug-addled faux-art students and the spawn of a coal miner, probably having rough experimental group gay sex at the same time.

When Smallcock does talk, it’s robotic. He reads from a dry script that lacks the ribald humour and singular approach to ethics that characterise his newspaper work. Only wheezing lungs betray that he’s an actual breathing humanoid.

Lee Dorsey: Working In The Coal Mine
Crassly topical, tokenly black. So tokenly topical it was released in 1966. He plays this so he can wax unlyrical about the rise of some “obscure regional union official” (Arthur Scargill). And what would have happened if he hadn’t risen? Who knows?

Let’s face it, this show is as thin as a ghost’s condom. It’s just a mild list of events with mildly connected records, mildly underscored by Tinymeat’s contempt for working-class action and leftwing politics, peppered with a lot of what-might-have-happened-if-this-or-that-didn’ts.

And who knows? If we hadn’t joined the EEC and Scargill hadn’t risen, we might have been able to keep eating nothing but mince and potatoes, and get the kids, the feral ones, back down the pits, for a short, sharp shock. Who knows?

Then he introduced Alan Johnson, who changed from a postman to all-purpose union official and Labour action man in 1972. Is there any show Johnson won’t appear on? Loose Women? He’s got breasts after all. Who knows?

Derek And The Dominos: Layla
More like it. Eric Clapton, a heterosexual ex-boozefan known for public blurtings in support of Enoch Powell, who made his fortune playing black music (Clapton, not Powell) – but in an upright, English way. The right way. Directly responsible for the formation of Rock Against Racism. Mind you, he doesn’t mention that.

Then he gets on to the IRA and what have you. Chats to Johnson about it, and says we’re still haunted by the events of Bloody Sunday. Yes! You can imagine him tossing in bed every night.

LJ and AJ refer to ‘Derry/Londonderry’ and also ‘Londonderry/Derry’ as if they can’t quite get off a somewhat elderly fence that is collapsing beneath them. Apart from an interesting segment on postal workers as agents of the British state, there’s nothing new here.

Wings: Give Ireland Back To The Irish
A stone-cold muthafuckin’ classic from Paul McCartney’s mature cheese period, with an excellent, catchy chorus reminiscent of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Unfairly banned by the BBC, but a brave attempt to bring about peace all the same.

“Not one of McCartney’s finest. We’re not talking All My Loving here,” says Ratbrain. Slight misunderstanding there, but we’re only just past halfway through.

It seems Little Richard has rushed the first half, if my timer is right, so as to dedicate the whole second half to gay. Unsurprising really. He loves talking about gay.

We all know about the first gay pride march. It was a small step towards a Conservative government legalising same-sex marriage. Who saw that coming? Who knows?

David Bowie: Starman
Gay, or faux-gay, writhing group sex, etc etc. Linda Bellos comes on, but not to Richard. “Linda Bellos is a lesbian feminist,” he says. “What was it like being a lesbian?” Yes, good question!

And Linda answers it very interestingly, although maybe not to Miniknob’s liking. His tone was more like that classic lads’ mag cover line, ‘Lesbian sex – what’s in it for you?’ (short article).

90 per cent of the marchers were men, he says. Is that a criticism? Who knows? Linda points out that gay men were criminalised, unlike gay women, so had a bit more to moan about, although women could still lose their children, their job and all the rest of it. Linda should have done the show. Insight, all that shit. Can’t beat it.

Elton John: Rocket Man
Gay, but the lyrics say he misses his wife. Confusing. “If gender fluidity is all the rage today, it’s nothing new!” says Micropecker. Who knew?

T Rex: Children Of The Revolution
Gay, as in what your dad thought was gay. “Looking like he’d just climbed out of Dorothy Perkins’ window,” he says about Marc Bolan. Who knows? Can anyone remember what was in Dorothy Perkins’ window? Only Richard, who drew it in his diary.

“Was it the last year of the sixties or the first year of the seventies?” No. It was 1972. Sweet bi-curious Jesus, we’re running out of steam and ears here. Back to basics, boys.

Slade: Mama We’re All Crazee Now
Badly-spelt loud merchants. A damning indictment of trendy pseudo-modern teaching systems? An uncanny augur of Richard Littlejohn’s newspaper columns? Who knows? Whatever way you lick it, it’s all very disappointing. Roll on 1978. I think we know what’s going to happen. Dire Straits.

Illustration: Richard Littlejohn by Rowan Tallant

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