How Roald Dahl Shaped Pop – review

Radio 2

How Roald Dahl Shaped Pop (Radio 2) was full of peculiar and often upside-down compliments. "Not everything's nice," was how Jarvis Cocker summed up Dahl's writing. "His stuff was really sick and twisted," enthused Kate Nash. It features, said David Tennant, who presented the programme, "a good dollop of rudeness". Tennant said that as he said everything here: with a vigorous enunciation and plosive push that was the aural equivalent of Space Dust on your tongue.

Ultimately, this account might have overstated things somewhat – it's more accurate to say that Dahl shaped some pop, and some musicians – but it was a bright and lively listen because Dahl doesn't really lend himself to dull soundbites. Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes), for example, recalled the effect his writing had on her as a child: "I would pour different thicknesses of shampoo and colours of toothpaste into Tic Tac boxes and make these bizarre horror pieces". Alex James, praising Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, said it was simply beyond compare, "like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And tomato ketchup."

There were some great details, too. We heard how Sammy Davis Jr came to have his only US number one (The Candy Man), a tune about Willie Wonka. And we also learned what Dahl thought about pop. "Pop singers are horrible," he insisted.


Elisabeth Mahoney

The GuardianTramp

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