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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The podcast way to do history


I read about the Sharon Tate murders not long after they happened. I followed Watergate as it unfolded. I've clearly forgotten enough of what I picked up back then or missed enough of what memoirs have subsequently brought into the public domain to be fascinated by two recent podcasts devoted to them.

You Must Remember Manson is a spin-off from You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth's acclaimed series of looks at the seamy side of what she calls "Hollywood's first century". Recited by the author in a characteristic style, as if from the depths of a chaise longue situated beneath a slowly revolving fan, Longworth's Manson series devotes whole episodes to looking at people like Dennis Wilson and Terry Melcher who were more than incidental figures in the story. It's fascinating to hear the story told from a showbiz point of view.

Slow Burn is a newly-launched podcast about Watergate which sets out to tell the story in pieces, which is the way it first came to light. It starts with the amazing and sad story of Martha Mitchell, the loose-tongued wife of Nixon loyalist John Mitchell, and continues with the saga of Wright Patman, the Texan populist whose committee first set out to prove a link between the money found on the Watergate burglars and CREEP, the Committee To Re-Elect The President. Where there are parallels with what's going on at the moment with Trump and Robert Mueller, let's say they don't resist them.

This is obviously the way to do history via the podcast medium - not so much by drawing the threads together as by separating them, seeing where they lead back to and treating them as a collection of life stories.

It seems to work.