"If, by some stroke of fate, you were suddenly given control over half an hour of primetime programming on a national radio station — perhaps NPR (in the U.S.) or BBC Radio — What would you broadcast?
"With what material would you fill those 30 minutes, to entertain, enlighten, or even annoy several million of your fellow citizens? Ten of your favorite songs? A famous recorded speech? Would you sing, or read poetry? Just rant about the injustices or follies of the world?
Think specifically about the nature of radio: what can you do with sound that you wouldn’t be able to do with other media.”
Easy, I would plump for a mix like that old BBC show, Anything Goes. But it would be mostly music. I would play at least five of my favourite songs:
- Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles
- (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones
- If Not For You by Bob Dylan (and not Blowin’ In the Wind)
- Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel (and not Sound of Silence)
- Me and Bobby McGhee by Janis Joplin
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns…
No, I haven’t known much of the rustic life and never climbed anything more taxing than a guava tree (and taken some painful tumbles: "what goes up must come down," Spinning Wheel — Blood, Sweat and Tears, circa 1960s). Still, that poem speaks to me. I was young and easy once, happy as that lilting house, the future rosy with hope and dreams.
Yes, I can recall my carefree childhood as vividly as Dylan Thomas reprises his — though not with the same eloquence. But the reason why the poem has such a powerful hold on me is its intense yearning for lost youth. Oh, I am happy enough even now. I have my wife, my son — my two greatest friends who were never there when I was falling down trees. I know how lucky I have been. But this is the happiness of an ageing man. I am reminded of the last lines of Fern Hill:
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Yes, there’s no escaping Old Father Time. We have to make our peace with him. I am happy with what I have gained though it’s impossible to forget what I have lost. That’s why it will be Yesterday Once More on my radio show. Not a la Carpenters but something more lively. My Generation wasn’t born old, baby, we liked Blue Suede Shoes and Woodstock. That’s why I will slip in only one poem on my radio show. So I can sign off with Forever Young (by Joan Baez, not Bob Dylan)!