The Saturday Play on Radio 4 might be seen as an unlikely slot for rock n roll excess – and so it transpired as Mark Davies Markham’s Deep Down and Dirty Rock ‘n’ Roll (starring Suggs, as the trailers repeatedly told us) was an engaging look at the quirks of the middle-aged without ever really delivering on the down and dirty side of rock.
Let’s get Suggs out of the way. I’ve nothing against Suggs. He’s an affable fellow and I enjoyed his show when he was on Virgin Radio. But this was not his radio acting debut as the cleverly phrased trails had it. This is only true if you’re prepared to forget I Think I’ve Got a Problem in which Suggs had a band in his head and Bob Monkhouse said witty things. I don’t remember it necessarily being classic radio but it definitey existed and Suggs definitely acted in it. So nur.
On to the programme then. Leaving aside how – in the age of twitter and cameraphones – a vaguely famous rock star could hide in plain sight for a decade and a half in Guildford (BBC writers always seem to place Guildford in a cut off void of its own rather than portray it as a quite busy and politely cultured town thirty minutes away from London’s glittering Southbank) and why said rock star would be happy leading a dreary life of his own the interconnecting stories were pretty compelling, if a little over-polite.
Suggs and Burn Gorman were Ed and Carl – members of a rock band whose legend is sustained by the fact that Carl is missing presumed dead (but he’s in Guildford with a family and attendant problems). Whilst Carl’s been in genteel decline in suburbia Ed’s been living the rock dream and has no money. Their band – Lost Youth – is about to put out another album of ‘lost lyrics’ and Carl realises he may want back on the act … but that would bugger up all manner of things and maybe he’s actually happier looking on. The sub-stories had Carl’s wife thinking that Carl was being unfaithful – his daughter thinking she was pregnant and realising that Carl isn’t actually her daddy.
But everything turned out well – ultimately nobody was harmed during the making of this programme. Emotions that might have been raw were debated and expressed politely rather than emerging in a fury. It all seemed less rock n roll and more Chas n Dave. Not that this is a bad thing but it seemed a bit of a tease, like we were promised something a bit edgy and what we got was Ambridge Extra. That said, I did enjoy hearing the snippets of Lost Youth and there were some good lines – and the story did genuinely hold me all the way through.
And Suggs can act – and if he wants to call this a debut then who am I to argue?