The Alien Balladeer

In this series, Murray Lachlan Young is the Alien Balladeer. With his outsider's eye, he goes prospecting for insight and truth from the worlds of the people he meets, bringing humour and dignity in a song to his subjects - and an occasional sharp dig in the ribs. In this series myths are exploded and new ones arrive to take their place.


01The Ballad Of The Naked Rambler20130121

The Alien Balladeer meets the Naked Rambler. Murray Lachlan Young writes and performs a song about Stephen Gough as he walks from Perth Prison wearing nothing but his boots

Murray accompanies Steve along the streets of the city and into the countryside of Perthshire as he is unexpectedly allowed to go on his naked way by Tayside Police. To the jeers and heckles of building site workers , the toots of passing cars, and the averted gazes of fellow pedestrians, Steve reveals more than expected. Often he would have been rearrested and returned to his cell within seconds but now, with the sun on his skin and the wind in his...well everywhere, he takes a rare chance to explain his motivation. But all is not harmony, as we hear from those who are disgusted and alarmed by the thought of Stephen Gough at large.

It's a story that Murray weaves into a ballad for our age as Steve Gough treads the border country between societal norms and the law. Should a person be imprisoned for being naked in a public place? Is any harm being done? And how should we deal with those who refuse to live within our normal boundaries?

02The God Shaped Hole20130122

Murray Lachlan Young writes and performs a ballad about the popularity of earth-based religions and the search for meaning in our materialist world - with the help of a witch, a vicar and a couple of West Country 'Obby 'Osses.

To collect material for his song, the Alien Balladeer sets off to Cornwall to discover the attraction of paganism.

The origin of the Padstow 'Obby 'Oss celebration is uncertain, but it has all the raucous bawdiness of a pre-Christian fertility festival, so Murray is surprised as he witnesses one of the 'Osses welcomed into a church where it dances down the isle, surrounded by Christian imagery. This remarkable example of tolerance and community dispels Murray's preconception that he will find tension between the Church and older forms of worship, but raises the question in his mind: just what are we all searching for?

02The God-shaped Hole20130122

03The Glastonbury Tatter20130123

Over the last forty years, music festivals have become a huge part of UK popular culture. But what happens when the crowds depart?

Murray Lachlan Young visits the site of the Glastonbury Festival to write a ballad about the armies of litter-pickers who, every year, turn a wasteland of Glasto-detritus back into a rural idyll within days of the final encore.

But for some, this is far more than a clean-up, it's a way of life. The Alien Balladeer puts the litter-pickers centre-stage as they wander the scenes of other people's revelry, creating their own story from what is left behind. What's really going down in today's disposable world? And just what is a Tatter?

04The Pole Dancer's Lament20130124

Murray Lachlan Young meets a pole-dancer working in a London club and visits another who's hung up her thong. He weaves their contrasting opinions about the industry into a ballad.

In a programme that could not be broadcast on television before the watershed without copious pixilation, the Alien Balladeer takes full advantage of the medium of radio to provide a vivid picture of the working world of the pole-dancer. Murray spends an evening at a club, speaking with its manager and chatting to one of the women who works there as she dances for him. Murray's partner, the singer Bess Cavendish who provides backing vocals on some of the Alien Balladeer songs, joins him at the club and offers her own perspective on what she sees. In the end, this female perspective leads the song-writing process and Bess sings the completed ballad, The Pole Dancer's Lament.

05 LAST20130125

Murray Lachlan Young writes and performs a ballad about Dave who lives in a tent in the woods and tells tales of war, post-traumatic stress and his long journey to redemption on the back of a horse.

A dark, intimate encounter in a rainstorm, under cover of canvas and forest, produces a remarkable account of bravery, despair and the unsupportable weight of expectation when the Alien Balladeer meets a former soldier. After being tempted into the forces by the lure of recruitment posters, Dave recounts his first harrowing introduction to the real business of soldiering and of the time when he had the power in his hands to take a life, but chose instead to save it. He talks also of how life and the company of others became almost unbearable on his departure from the army, and how his equilibrium only returned after a ten-year journey though Britain with his horse Troy. From these quietly spoken, sometimes stuttering tales, Murray creates a ballad about the archetypal Soldier.