Interesting Radio

The Orson Welles Radio Tapes

Orson Welles was the multi-talented polymath who was a pioneering figure in twentieth century theatre and film.

2015 marks the centenary of his birth in Kenosha, Wisconsin and various celebrations have been taking place across the world at festivals and cinema societies.

He is still best known for co-writing and directing Citizen Kane (1941), a landmark in film history, but also made astonishingly audacious stage productions, such as a production of Macbeth in Harlem with an all black cast.

However, it was on radio where he reached national attention in 1938 with his infamous adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel ‘The War of the Worlds’, which was so convincing it caused widespread panic.

His Mercury Theatre group not only produced acclaimed work on stage but also on the airwaves from 1938-40 and again in 1946, with a stock company of actors including Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins and Helen Hayes.

Courtesy of the Internet Archive site, here is a selection of his work, which includes literary classics, especially Shakespeare, but also dramas by Thornton Wilder and Noel Coward.


> Shakespeare

The Bard was a pivotal figure in Welles’ career and various abridged productions Welles produced included Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Richard III and King Lear.


> Mercury Theater Productions in 1938

If Welles was sadly denied creative control for most of his film career, his radio work was a different story. In 1938 he was given full reign in various adaptations of literary classics, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Treasure Island, and The Count of Monte Cristo. The music was by Benard Herrmann, a future collaborator on Citizen Kane.


> Radio Almanac Pt. 1

A mix of comedy, trivia, music and drama, with Agnes Moorehead as president of “the Orson Welles Swoon Club”. Guests include Nat King Cole and Kid Ory.


> Radio Almanac Pt. 2

Before The War of the Worlds made him (in)famous, the 22 year-old prodigy funded his theatrical productions with radio work, including a year playing avenging crimefighter ‘The Shadow’.


> Wartime Broadcasts

A collection of shows made during World War II, including the liberation of Paris, the Fifth War Loan Drive and
GI Journal. A fascinating snapshot of the time, it shows a more serious side to Welles, as well as illuminating a key episode of twentieth century.


> Commentaries

Long before Rupert Murdoch (a modern day Charles Foster Kane) owned the New York Post, Welles was a columnist on the paper and also had a weekly political radio broadcast, covering such topics as the atomic bomb tests, and the blinding of war veteran Isaac Woodard.


> The Bogdanovich Interviews

Director Peter Bogdanovich became a friend of Welles and conducted a series of audio interviews between 1969 and 1970. They discuss his life and career, including the success of Citizen Kane (1941) and later films such as The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958), and Chimes at Midnight (1960). In total this runs to about 4 hours, but is fascinating if you are interested in the filmmaking techniques Welles pioneered and the general arc of his career.


> The Lost Tapes of Orson Welles (BBC World Service Documentary)

Presented by Christopher Frayling, this 2014 documentary was broadcast on the BBC World Service. It explores audio of the conversations Welles had with his friend Henry Jaglom from 1983-85 and explores his life and career. Contributors include Welles biographer Simon Callow and film writer Peter Biskind.


> Find more about Orson Welles at Wikipedia
> WellesNet – A great resource for fans and aficionados


BBC 6 Music at 10

Radio station BBC 6 Music celebrates its 10th birthday this week.

Not a lot of people know this but I was present at the birth of the station in early March 2002.

If I remember correctly, the schedule for that opening week included:

Although it was only a minor job, it was my first official BBC work and was so happy I even emailed Jenny Abramsky, who was then head of BBC Radio.

I got this reply:

Reading this ten years later, it is striking how many things have changed in the past decade: the collapse 0f the ‘old’ music industry; the Hutton crisis; two wars; the extraordinary rise of Apple not just as the biggest music retailer on earth, but the most valuable one period; the London bombings; the financial meltdown, resulting recession and squeeze on public finances that indirectly led to the near-death of 6 Music itself.

It was an unwelcome birthday present to read on March 2nd 2010 that Director-General Mark Thompson wanted to shut it down, but a listener-fuelled campaign (with heavy use of social media) led to its survival.

The station had always suffered from lack of exposure rather than quality of output, so the resulting had the marvellous triple effect of boosting awareness, saving the station and  increasing the RAJAR figures by %50.

It really was just like a Frank Capra film.

Or an episode of The Thick of It, as this mash-up demonstrated:

In September 2010 I was also fortunate enough to be asked to do semi-regular film reviews for Nemone’s show, so even though it’s in an adjacent building, it felt like a return of sorts.

Mostly, I was just glad that the station had survived in an era when its hard to find decent music on the radio.

Presenters like Adam & Joe, Lauren Laverne, Jarvis Cocker and Huey Morgan have helped keep the original ethos of the station alive.

Even in a era of Spotify and YouTube, it is still important to have a curated music experience to guide you through what’s worth listening to.

Every time I go in to 6 Music I’m impressed at the quality of feedback via email and Twitter, and since I’m always being asked recommendations for films, here is a series of music and film playlists.

Each one consists of an individual film, album and song for every year of 6 Music’s existence.

The choices were prompted by a simple test of what came in to my head when I thought of the station.


  1. Adaptation (Dir. Spike Jonze, 2002)
  2. The Station Agent (Dir. Thomas McCarthy, 2003)
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2004)
  4. The Constant Gardner (Dir. Fernando Meirelles, 2005)
  5. Children of Men (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
  6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Dir. Julian Schnabel, 2007)
  7. Son of Rambow (Dir. Garth Jennings, 2008)
  8. A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard, 2009)
  9. Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy, 2010)
  10. The Interrupters (Dir. Steve James, 2011)


  1. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
  2. The Postal ServiceGive Up (2003)
  3. Arcade FireFuneral (2004)
  4. M83Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005)
  5. The KnifeSilent Shout (2006)
  6. LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver (2007)
  7. PortisheadThird (2008)
  8. PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
  9. The NationalHigh Violet (2010)
  10. The Black KeysEl Camino (2011)


  1. NYC by Interpol (2002)
  2. Such Great Heights by The Postal Service (2003)
  3. Naked As We Came by Iron and Wine (2004)
  4. Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun by M83 (2005)
  5. Silent Shout by The Knife (2006)
  6. Australia by The Shins (2007)
  7. Time To Pretend by MGMT (2008)
  8. Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear (2009)
  9. Not in Love by Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith (2010)
  10. Lonely Boy by The Black Keys (2011)

Happy Birthday 6 Music!

> BBC 6 Music
> More information about the station at Wikipedia
> Observer article on 6 Music at 10