Song Stories

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Without You20110209

Without You is one of pop's most romantic and epic love songs, and the first of three classic tracks going under the spotlight in Radio 2's Song Stories. 40 years after it was first recorded, Pete Waterman considers the song's success and the tragic tale of the two men who wrote it - Pete Ham and Tom Evans of powerpop pioneers Badfinger.

Without You featured on Badfinger's 1970 album No Dice, but it was consigned to mere album track status. After being covered by Harry Nilsson in 1972, the song went on to become one of the all time classic love ballads and an international smash hit. Mariah Carey, Shirley Bassey and Donny Osmond are just some of the other artists who've covered it.

As the song took on a life of its own, Badfinger didn't enjoy quite the same level of success. A favourite of the Beatles, Badfinger were one of the first signings to the Apple label, and they had been tipped for international stardom. However, Badfinger soon became the poster boys for everything that can go wrong in the music business. They built up debts, inter-band relations became fractured and record label turmoil meant their records were never properly promoted.

Frontman and principal songwriter Pete Ham was unable to cope with the pressure and disappointment and, on 24 April 1975, he committed suicide. On 19 November 1983, Tom Evans also took his own life. And the suicide note carried a tragic reminder of Without You, with Tom stating that he "wanted to be where Pete was".

Pete Waterman explores the composition and lyrics of this tour de force of pop song-writing. Now considered ahead of its time, Pete asks what makes it such a winning formula, able to transcend generational and national boundaries, and why, 40 years on, is it still such a great song to record?

The programme travels to Swansea, where the Badfinger story begins and features archive interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and members of Badfinger. Contributors include Spencer Davies; Catatonia frontwoman and 6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews; and the former partners of Pete Ham and Tom Evans - the remarkable women about whom this song was written.

is one of pop's most romantic and epic love songs, and the first of three classic tracks going under the spotlight in Radio 2's Song Stories.

40 years after it was first recorded, Pete Waterman considers the song's success and the tragic tale of the two men who wrote it - Pete Ham and Tom Evans of powerpop pioneers Badfinger.

Without You featured on Badfinger's 1970 album No Dice, but it was consigned to mere album track status.

After being covered by Harry Nilsson in 1972, the song went on to become one of the all time classic love ballads and an international smash hit.

Mariah Carey, Shirley Bassey and Donny Osmond are just some of the other artists who've covered it.

As the song took on a life of its own, Badfinger didn't enjoy quite the same level of success.

A favourite of the Beatles, Badfinger were one of the first signings to the Apple label, and they had been tipped for international stardom.

However, Badfinger soon became the poster boys for everything that can go wrong in the music business.

They built up debts, inter-band relations became fractured and record label turmoil meant their records were never properly promoted.

Frontman and principal songwriter Pete Ham was unable to cope with the pressure and disappointment and, on 24 April 1975, he committed suicide.

On 19 November 1983, Tom Evans also took his own life.

And the suicide note carried a tragic reminder of Without You, with Tom stating that he "wanted to be where Pete was".

Pete Waterman explores the composition and lyrics of this tour de force of pop song-writing.

Now considered ahead of its time, Pete asks what makes it such a winning formula, able to transcend generational and national boundaries, and why, 40 years on, is it still such a great song to record?

The programme travels to Swansea, where the Badfinger story begins and features archive interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and members of Badfinger.

Contributors include Spencer Davies; Catatonia frontwoman and 6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews; and the former partners of Pete Ham and Tom Evans - the remarkable women about whom this song was written.

Pete Waterman considers the success and tragic tale behind the song Without You.

02Mack The Knife20110216

Andy Serkis takes a look at Mack the Knife, the second track under the spotlight in Radio 2's Song Stories. It's catchy, it swings and it's instantly hummable. Few could mistake the opening notes of this smash hit, yet many would never dream that "Mack'" started life far removed from the glittering lights and dizzying heights of 1950s showbiz America.

Its actual beginnings were in Berlin, during the decadent Weimar Republic era. German playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill hastily wrote the Mortitat - or Mack the Knife - to open their new play, The Threepenny Opera. Brecht's lyrics of murder, rape and arson introduced Macheath, a cutthroat criminal of Victorian London's underworld, and soon the play became a massive success in Europe.

In 1954, two decades later, The Threepenny Opera finally became a hit on Broadway but nobody could predict what would happen next. With the Blitzstein translation cast recordings as a template, Louis Armstrong breathed swing into the song with his big band sound. Soon Bobby Darin followed with his Grammy-winning "definitive" rendition. And the roll call includes Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, Westlife and Frank Sinatra.

Andy Serkis tells the phenomenal tale of how Mack moved from east to west, bad to good and a gritty tango to sugary pop. We hear from those who where there: Kurt Weill's wife Lotte Lenya, George Avakian, who brought the song to Louis Armstrong, Ahmet Ertegun, who produced Bobby Darin's rendition and his manager Steve Blauner.

Marianne Faithfull, Ute Lemper and Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) discuss what made them sing it; Alan Cumming talks about "being" Mack; and theatre composer Dominic Muldowney examines the different versions throughout the years and explains why Mack the Knife will be sticking around for a long time yet.

Andy Serkis takes a look at Mack the Knife, the second track under the spotlight in Radio 2's Song Stories.

It's catchy, it swings and it's instantly hummable.

Few could mistake the opening notes of this smash hit, yet many would never dream that "Mack'" started life far removed from the glittering lights and dizzying heights of 1950s showbiz America.

Its actual beginnings were in Berlin, during the decadent Weimar Republic era.

German playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill hastily wrote the Mortitat - or Mack the Knife - to open their new play, The Threepenny Opera.

Brecht's lyrics of murder, rape and arson introduced Macheath, a cutthroat criminal of Victorian London's underworld, and soon the play became a massive success in Europe.

In 1954, two decades later, The Threepenny Opera finally became a hit on Broadway but nobody could predict what would happen next.

With the Blitzstein translation cast recordings as a template, Louis Armstrong breathed swing into the song with his big band sound.

Soon Bobby Darin followed with his Grammy-winning "definitive" rendition.

And the roll call includes Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, Westlife and Frank Sinatra.

Andy Serkis tells the phenomenal tale of how Mack moved from east to west, bad to good and a gritty tango to sugary pop.

We hear from those who where there: Kurt Weill's wife Lotte Lenya, George Avakian, who brought the song to Louis Armstrong, Ahmet Ertegun, who produced Bobby Darin's rendition and his manager Steve Blauner.

Marianne Faithfull, Ute Lemper and Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) discuss what made them sing it; Alan Cumming talks about "being" Mack; and theatre composer Dominic Muldowney examines the different versions throughout the years and explains why Mack the Knife will be sticking around for a long time yet.

Andy Serkis looks at Mack the Knife's long journey from Weimar Berlin to glitzy Broadway.

03My Way20110223

Michael Buble presents the inside story of a song created for Sinatra, covered by Elvis, and desecrated by Sid Vicious.

The song started life as a French song, Comme D'Habitude, it has been covered by rap stars, flamenco bands, opera singers and even Sesame Street characters, and become a favourite funeral song in the UK. Yet, Sinatra professed to hate the song, and the "My Way killings" in the Philippines have been reportedly provoked by karaoke versions of the song.

The final instalment of Radio 2's Song Stories features an exclusive interview with the song's creator, Paul Anka. There are also contributions from Donald Trump, Julio Iglesias, Julien Temple, "Mr Las Vegas" Steve Wynn, Sinatra biographers James Kaplan and Will Friedwald, and many more.

The song started life as a French song, Comme D'Habitude, it has been covered by rap stars, flamenco bands, opera singers and even Sesame Street characters, and become a favourite funeral song in the UK.

Yet, Sinatra professed to hate the song, and the "My Way killings" in the Philippines have been reportedly provoked by karaoke versions of the song.

The final instalment of Radio 2's Song Stories features an exclusive interview with the song's creator, Paul Anka.

There are also contributions from Donald Trump, Julio Iglesias, Julien Temple, "Mr Las Vegas" Steve Wynn, Sinatra biographers James Kaplan and Will Friedwald, and many more.

Michael Buble presents the inside story of My Way.