Of all the revelations to come out of Mike Skinner’s mouth during his entertaining recent appearance on Off Menu, it wasn’t his surreal tangents into the mind of psychologist Carl Jung or that he can say “sparkling water” in multiple languages that surprised me the most. No, it was his claim that he knows someone who regularly orders Deliveroo for their dog. For their dog! It’s these useless nuggets of information from podcasts I often enjoy most.
Outside of pet takeaways, this is the more serious listening I’ve been getting stuck into, with five recommendations from me and five from you. Want to see your favourite podcast in the next column? I’m @GregCochrane on Twitter, or tweet @NME using the hashtag #PodcastsForThePeople. Sharing’s caring. What Greg’s been listening to:
Slow Burn: Biggie And Tupac
The low-down: When US podcast Slow Burn takes on a topic they do it properly. Previously that’s been heavyweight political moments like the Watergate Scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Season Three is a thematic departure, but no less thorough, as they revisit the fractious relationship between two of rap’s titans, and their unsolved murders. There’s something to learn here for even the most ardent Tupac or Biggie fan. Particularly how two friends came to war through a sequence of miscommunication, hearsay and media hyperbole that drew a lasting dividing line between east and west coast hip hop. It’s not just their cultural and musical impact that’s enduring, but also the questions surrounding their deaths, which came just months apart.
Where to hear it: Apple podcasts, and other major podcast apps
The Sun King
The low-down: Few figures – if any – have influenced the shape of modern media more than Rupert Murdoch. His journey to global influence began in the late 1960s when the Australian arrived in the UK. He led The Sun to new levels of popularity before later heading to the America to launch Fox News. David Dimbleby presents this podcast – yet to pull on the slippers after retiring from Question Time – and he recalls meeting the “good looking, a bit awkward” Murdoch in those early days. This is a journey about money and influence and ruthlessness. The story behind how a newspaper man built an international multi-platform empire that can shape elections and even withstand a major scandal like phone hacking. As one contributor puts it in the opening episode: “It’s about the sort of power that puts its foot on your rival’s throat and pushes it…”
Where to hear it: Audible
The low-down: Like the BBC’s other recent hit podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen Tunnel 29 is based on a true life tale, going back to post-WW2 Germany and an escape tunnel dug underneath the Berlin Wall. It’s the extraordinary tale of Joachim Rudolph, whom along with a small group, burrowed a coffin-sized channel under the fortified barrier separating West and East. The undertaking itself was extraordinary – trying to evade detection from Stasi security forces, shovelling earth with their hands – but things become even more surreal when an American TV network gets involved and things start to go wrong. Helena Merriman does a superb job of telling this compelling piece of modern history, and episodes are rarely more than 15 minutes long. You’ll race through it.
Where to hear it: BBC Sounds
The Score: Bank Robber Diaries
The low-down: The Score starts with an engrossing question: You can’t rob a bank without a plan, can you? Well, the answer is yes, yes you can. This series promises to be an “all access pass into the mind of one of Southern California’s most prolific bank robbers”. Listeners meet Joe Loya, who recalls his first robbery in 1980s San Diego, and the mad dash that followed. (The first thing he bought with the $4500 he’d stolen? A case of Dr Pepper). But this isn’t just to romanticise his many illegal pursuits, it’s also a podcast about psychology and how Loya summons his inner demons to create enough adrenaline to commit the crime, but also how his “wit, ferocity and heart” meant he felt entitled to the booty. Plus, once caught, whether he could somehow find redemption. Captivating stuff.
Where to hear it: Acast, Apple and other podcast apps
The low-down: The first mini-series of this podcast closed out recently with guest Wilko Johnson. Host and journalist Andy Welch keeps the premise refreshingly simple: it’s a collection of conversations about guitars and the people that play them. It’s interesting how much variety that can reveal. Former The Coral member Bill Ryder-Jones recalls being ditched by his guitar teacher in episode one (who told a woeful porkie about moving to Dubai), while Jessica Staveley-Taylor discusses her early memories of performing publicly with The Staves “on stools… like Westlife”. It’s no instruction manual, each episode is more of a love letter to our six stringed friends.
Where to hear it: Pippa, Apple, Spotify and other podcast apps
What you’ve been listening to
Recommended by: Bob, @Bobwgreen on Twitter
The low-down: With an annual global TV audience of 180 million people, Eurovision is music’s BIG stage. But what about the songs that’d didn’t make the cut? That’s the idea behind this podcast, which dips back into various national finals and revisits tracks that deserve a second hearing. Y’know, those that could have been the next Duncan Laurence (he won in 2019, remember?).
Bob says: “People can relive the exciting final on their final podcast of the 2019 season.”
Where to hear it: Google Podcasts, Apple, Spotify and more
Recommended by: Matt, @MattWPhotograph on Twitter
The low-down: With Edith Bowman on presenter duties this podcast is well-established. It’s now built-up an enviable archive of guests discussing the expert art of making visuals and sounds work in masterful union. It’s not just from the music perspective; notable directors, producers and actors all get involved. Recent episodes with Sam Riley (discussing Joy Division film Control) and Mica Levi (Monos, Jackie) are the ideal place to get on board.
Matt says: “A great way to find new music and the reasoning behind it.”
Where to hear it: Audioboom
Walking The Floor
Recommended by: Bec, @IamRebeccaC on Twitter
The low-down: Chris Shiflett from Foo Fighters was making Walking The Floor long before every other musician had a podcast. And if you think Dave Grohl is the musical librarian in that band, think again, especially when it comes to country, blues and punk. The artists Shiflett has spoken to are huge. Think Chris Stapleton, Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow right through to Bob Mould and John Doe. Wind back to Cindy Wilson talking about 40 years of The B52s on episode 108 for a particularly good dose. New episodes arrive every fortnight.
Bec says: “Walking The Floor has been pretty spot on for four years!!”
Where to hear it: Libsyn – and other major podcast places
Noble Blood Podcast
Recommended by: Zoe Kaye, @BelatedListener on Twitter
The low-down: Since they’re in the news a lot right now, here’s a show about “history’s most fascinating royals”. Hosted by author Dana Schwartz, this podcast dives back into the past to search out stories of tragedy, scandal and love affairs. “When you’re wearing a crown, mistakes tend to mean blood” is the tagline. If that doesn’t tempt you, I’m not sure what will.
Zoe says: “Because it’s excellent…”
Where to hear it: Stitcher, Apple and other big podcast platforms
Off The Beat & Track
Recommended by: Oskar Doughty, @Poppa516 on Twitter
The low-down: Another music one, Stu Whiffen hosts this show and asks guests to take a musical detour through their life by selecting seven songs that mean something to them. There’s a new conversation every week. Members of Babyshambles, Gene, The Bluetones, and most recently Mystery Jets (Blaine Harrison) have all been on.
Donad says: “Highly recommend. Nice collection of guests so far and Stu is a relaxed interviewer.”
Where to hear it: Acast