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When the decision to dump Rattlebag and Mystery Train from the RTE Radio 1 schedule was taken, accusations of dumbing down were rife. So is there scope for arts and music programmes with a bit of depth in Montrose? John Kelly insists that there should be.
Peter Murphy, 16 Oct 2006
“But the sense I got from the letters I received, and what people said and continue to say to me, was an impotent rage against the powers-that-be these days. There’s a conflict between the sorts of things that prosper and are promoted and get pushed, and the sorts of things that are given less and less wriggle room. And the people who value certain things feel that they’re being dismissed as a bunch of freaks. I’m not talking about letters from people who are mime artists or run theatre companies or are a lobby group who see Rattlebag as a shop window or my programme as a place to get their record played when nobody else will play it. These are letters from regular people.”
Kelly strongly refutes any notion that Mystery Train catered exclusively to an elitist audience comprised of esoteric musicologists.
“I’ve been playing pop music from when pop music began,” he says, “but the broader you get, the more you’re treated as if you’re doing something incredibly narrow. I could do a programme which might typically have Kylie Minogue, Miles Davis, The Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash, Mahler and music from Ethiopia, and somehow it’s viewed as narrow, whereas if you went on and played half an hour of country ‘n’ Irish music, that’s fine. The people that didn’t like the Mystery Train, either in or out of RTE, would say, ‘Oh yeah, he plays Chinese music,’ and that’d be it. Music from every genre dismissed in one sentence, in a kind of lazy, insular, xenophobic way. If you see music now in terms of television, it’s presented to young people as a talent competition. And it’s about the music business. The real stars of the programme are the judges and it seems to be getting more appalling. I just wonder what it promotes, what it does to talented young people. They must think, ‘There’s nowhere for me to go. I’m not like that. I’m not an extrovert. I don’t talk this American psychobabble about, ‘If you wanna make it you just do it.’