On hearing the name Amy Winehouse, there’ll be those who won’t immediately be reminded of her supreme talent and her extraordinarily expressive, soulful voice, who won’t think of her as the creator and performer of evocative Fifties and Sixties-flavoured pop songs, nor as the winner of a stack of awards: Grammys, Brits, Ivor Novellos and more.
Instead, recalling the dreadful news that broke on the afternoon of Saturday, July 23, 2011, the first thought of many will be of yet another pop casualty, in this case a tragic soul who’d ultimately succumbed to alcohol poisoning, whose many demons had finally won the battle she’d waged with them for so long.
So it’s refreshing to be able to put those darker memories to one side, respectfully and momentarily, and simply focus instead on the sheer pleasure Amy Winehouse brought to millions with her music.
CLASSIC ALBUMS (BBC4, 9pm) is able to do precisely that because, unlike many other programmes, it’s not obliged to give us the story of Amy’s whole life.
For the most part it’s just the story of a brilliant record she made, Back To Black, which came out in October 2006 and which catapulted her to a stratospheric level of stardom.
Admittedly, these music-focused shows aren’t always to everyone’s taste, at times concentrating a little laboriously on the technicalities of the creative process.
“There were some quite hard frequencies in her voice that I had to manage,” the album’s engineer shares with us at one point. Yet in Amy’s case, so much of what she did was personal, heartfelt and instinctive that you’re never far from another nicely human insight.
Before starting work on one track, Amy popped out to put the kettle on, for example, as producer Salaam Remi recalls. It was a kettle that gave off an old-fashioned whistle when it boiled.
As Amy began recording her vocals, it could be heard screeching away in the background. Amy insisted the kettle stayed on the track.
Elsewhere tonight, this week’s BRITAIN BY BIKE WITH LARRY & GEORGE LAMB (Channel 5, 8pm) finds the pair in Northern Ireland. At one particularly welcoming stop-off, the Crosskeys Inn, a 17th-century pub in Toomebridge, County Antrim, one of the local folk musicians lets George (below) test his flair for drumming, on a traditional instrument called a bodhran.
After a brief, frankly lame attempt, George admits: “Literally, I can’t sing a note, can’t play a note!” immediately making himself hot favourite to be the UK’s next representative at Eurovision. Later, over the border in Carlingford, the chaps go leprechaun hunting with a man called Kevin.
“I am Ireland’s last leprechaun whisperer,” he announces. Larry laughs.
“You’ll have to take this seriously,” Kevin insists. “I can’t have you laughing every two seconds.”