Rocky road

Antonia Quirke worries about the guys at this station.

Darren Redick
Planet Rock (

Wednesday afternoon at Planet Rock, and Darren Redick is 20 minutes into Quadrophenia - four songs back to back at four. I say four, but sometimes it can seem that Darren has been on air all day and not said very much at all: he just prefers to put on "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh. I'm into Darren Redick. I particularly like it when he says the names of English towns in his showbiz-pro rock accent. He's from Washington, DC and used to be a ballet dancer, but wound up, via a part in Carousel at the National, as a salesman at Wey Valley Radio in Hampshire; so when he says, "The M180 heading westbound is not a place of joy - severe delays as the roads close at junction four for Scawby and junction three for Scunthorpe," I just throw my head back. Anyway you cut it, mixing that up with Darren "The Badger" ("it's a hair thing") Redick makes for a hysterical combo. "Junction 13 for Stroud and 14 for Thornbury." Oh, Darren, say it again!

Generally speaking, I worry a bit about the guys at Planet Rock. I mean, there really is only a certain number of times a person can hear "Breathe" or Exile on Main St, just as there is only a certain number of times a person can read those slightly extended reviews of The Godfather in weekend TV guides in which the journalist says Brando put cotton wool in his mouth for the audition and James Caan was originally up for the part of Michael. I mean yaddyya, Christ, I want to kill myself, move on. Plus they play a load of acoustic-set junk on the station - all those great musicians sobered up and brought to heel, forced into precision in front of "an intimate small audience". Nothing worse than a behemoth rocker fumbling through the Unplugged set he has condescended to grant us. It's a hole in the radio.

And I have, on occasion, even heard Planet Rock play Robbie Williams. Robbie. Imagine being on first-name terms with an industry? But the Planet Rock website is perfection. It has a constant update of rolling rock stories - "Slash heading back to the UK", "Billy Idol to pen life story", "Ozzy imagines he's Lennon", "Bruce says his new doc is not for kids". They pop up enticingly, and not without melancholy, like those reports in the Daily Mail about Ryan O'Neal making a pass at Ali MacGraw at a Love Story anniversary reunion, or O'Neal (it's always O'Neal) being photographed coming out of the dentist in anti-fungal flip-flops. And I'm a fan of the station's depressing ads for Strongbow, and Dylan's mono recordings. ("One speaker. One voice. One powerhouse of a sound. This is an old collection which includes deluxe booklets, vintage photographs and expensive sleevenotes . . .")

Anyway, back to Darren. Speak, Redick. Why do you never speak? More of your loose change, please. But, hey . . . no bother if not. The effect striven for at Planet Rock - and brilliantly attained - is one of tragic inevitability. There are no abrupt swerves or surprises. Yes, I say, lulled by "Breakout" by Foo Fighters, yes, that makes sense; yes, obvious. And so the afternoon unfurls with an unruffled logicality, to the delight of the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Award-winning Digital Station of the Year's 718,000 listeners.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 October 2010 issue of the New Statesman, What a carve up!