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Radio review: Lulu’s Musical Map of Glasgow; John Shuttleworth’s Lounge Music; Karaoke as Art?

A stream of programmes has been commissioned to mark the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow this year, so perhaps it was inevitable that one of the city’s most famous exports – Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie – was asked to reflect on what it was like growing up there.

Better known in the entertainment world as Lulu, the actor and singer kicked off her trip down memory lane by matter-of-factly telling listeners how old she was (one of her earliest musical memories was singing the ditty In a Golden Coach during the Queen’s coronation when she was four). This was unusually honest behaviour for a performer, and suggested that Lulu’s Musical Map of Glasgow might not be a run-of-the-mill ego trip masquerading itself as a feature about something else.

[pullquote]Lulu’s mum took some persuading that she should be allowed to frequent some of the local music clubs, but what a lucky break it turned out to be[/pullquote]

No one can really blame Lulu for celebrating a half-century in the music business and for being proud of what she achieved at an incredibly young age (she made her first recording in a music shop when she was eight), but here she didn’t overplay her working-class roots as much as some performers are prone to do.

She sounded more at home recalling the music that influenced her from a very young age, particularly black American artists such as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin – a passion boosted by visits to nearby US air bases, where she used to sing and listen to tracks on the jukeboxes.

Lulu’s mum took some persuading that she should be allowed to frequent some of the local music clubs, but what a lucky break it turned out to be for the artist when she went to see Scottish rock and blues musician Alex Harvey in action. It was Harvey’s performance of the song Shout that inspired Lulu’s first big hit when her version reached No 7 in the charts in 1964.

John Shuttleworth, aka writer and performer Graham Fellows, is always hoping that someone will record his songs, and he gets his wish in the new series John Shuttleworth’s Lounge Music. The ‘lounge’ of this title doesn’t necessarily relate to the comic character’s whimsical style of music, but more to the front room of his house in Sheffield where he invites guests to chat and sing.

First to call in was Chas Hodges – of Chas and Dave fame (although Dave was busy elsewhere indulging his passion for restoring gypsy caravans).

Much about the half-hour amused, including the usual interruptions from John’s wife Mary and his agent Ken Worthington (also voiced by Fellows), who hassled Chas about joining his tiny stable of artists.

The series is likely to stand or fall on how well the invited guest is able to ad-lib and engage with Shuttleworth’s dry sense of humour. This first instalment was something of a hit and miss affair, although Chas’ rendition of Shopkeepers in the North was a highlight.

Shuttleworth has occasionally left his lounge to perform at local venues and make use of their karaoke machines, but where would he go if he really wanted to let his hair down? Well, according to critic Katie Puckrik, who presented Karaoke As Art?, the place to be is Portland, Oregon.

It’s not as if the people of Oregon take themselves too seriously when it comes to karaoke; it’s more that they’re not embarrassed about having an unconditional love for the pastime.

While Puckrik can occasionally sound as if she is trying too hard to be crazy and cool, it was entertaining hearing her hop from one karaoke joint to another, with the options ranging from singing while stripping to bringing along your favourite puppet to mouth the words for you.

She also met eminent KJ (karaoke jockey) John Brophy, who runs the Baby Ketten Karaoke nights in Portland. Brophy has deleted the top 100 favourite songs from his list and created replacement tracks that genuinely take karaoke aficionados out of their comfort zone.

Not one to sidestep a challenge, Puckrik put herself in the line of fire by singing live with a karaoke band called Karaoke From Hell. Fittingly, the presenter didn’t seem to care what the end result sounded like; she just wanted to have a great time during her few minutes in the karaoke spotlight.

Lulu’s Musical Map of Glasgow, R2, Monday, July 21
John Shuttleworth’s Lounge Music, R4, Sunday, July 13
Karaoke as Art?, R4, Tuesday, July 15