The A Word

I was genuinely pleased to see the return for a second series this week of BBC drama The A Word.

I really enjoyed the first series which I had watched for one simple reason: Christopher Eccleston. 

Eccleston is an actor I could watch endlessly; I’ve never seen him be in anything bad, and I’ve never seen him be bad in anything.

And before you ask, my admiration for him pre-dates his brief stint as Dr Who. It even pre-dates his appearances in Danny Boyle directed movies like Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later.

Although actually, the source of my admiration for Eccleston comes from the same year as Shallow Grave, 1994, but I didn’t watch that until after I’d seen – and because I had seen – Cracker.

Cracker was a rarity in my book: a compelling, well-acted, well-scripted drama on ITV; I can’t think of a single drama they have shown which comes anywhere close to how good that show was in it’s first and second series. Much of that was down to the writing, by Jimmy McGovern; as with Eccleston, to this day, I try to watch anything which has his name attached to it.

The show also introduced me to a couple of other actors that I still try to catch as often as possible: John Simm, Samantha Morton and Robert Carlyle.

In fact, Carlyle plays a large part in the reason I loved this show.

Spoiler alert.

One of the reasons Cracker left a massive impression on me was the shocking, death of Eccleston’s character, DCI David Bilborough, at the hands of Carlyle’s Albie Kinsella, in the first story of the second series, “To Be a Somebody”.

This was something I had never seen before: a main character brutally, unexpectedly, killed off. Other TV shows have since followed suit (although I’ve never watched it, Spooks springs to mind). And if you think about it, that’s drama reflecting real life; when people die young, or in the line of duty, you generally don’t expect it, so the loss is a bolt from the blue, an absolute shock.

But I digress. When I saw that Eccleston was going to be in the first series of The A Word, I knew I was going to have to watch it.

The A Word is about Joe,  a young boy on the autistic spectrum, and the effect that his condition (and other things) has on his extended family.

Joe finds it difficult to engage with people, but he finds it very easy to engage with music; he has a pair of headphones permanently attached to him, can quote the year each song he listens to was released, who it was by, etc, and often the bulk of his conversation is focused on song titles and lyrics of his favourite songs.

And joy of joys, he has bloody great taste in music. Here’s three songs which featured heavily in the first series:


The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet

And – don’t knock this one, it’s bloody great, if not quite in the same league as the two it’s sandwiched between here:


Will Young – Leave Right Now

And, since I haven’t posted it for a while, and it remains one of the greatest (indie) records ever:


The Wedding Present – Kennedy

The entire first series is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, should you be so inclined.

Or, some kind soul has compiled a playlist of all the songs which featured in Series 1 over on YouTube, which you can have a look at here.

So, could the second series match the very high standards it had set itself in the first series?

Oh, yes.

Here’s what the music over the first scene was:


Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays


And then, a little later, gloriously, this:


The Wedding Present – Brassneck

Note: not the album version, but the Steve Albini produced single version. Class.

So anyway, if you enjoy the sort of stuff I post here, give The A Word a look. You might even quite like the drama aspect, but if you don’t, you’ll love the soundtrack.

And if Joe isn’t writing his own music blog by the time Series 3 comes around, I’ll be very disappointed.

Either way, that should have got your weekend off to a decent enough start.

I’m tempted, as the series progresses, to feature all the great songs that feature in the show. We’ll see (if I can be arsed).

In other words: More soon.

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12 thoughts on “The A Word”

  1. TheMadster asked me to compile a series one soundtrack for her which I took great pleasure in doing (though I’m sure I missed a couple things out – I don’t remember seeing any reference to Will Young…). I await her request for series two. I love the fact my daughter has great music taste. Well, one of them does…

  2. We watched the start of this new series this week and I thought of you guys, here on the music blogosphere, who like Joe would be able to churn out the year and artist with no problem. Maybe I missed the background to Joe’s musical tastes but they seem from too long ago in most cases to be from his parents collection so I’m thinking maybe from his granddad’s. Talking of whom, like you I first remember Christopher Eccleston from Cracker & as the Shallow Grave flatmate which to me doesn’t seem that long ago but here he now is playing granddads! That freaks me out when actors suddenly morph from being the romantic interest/parent to a young child to the grandparents. Having just looked him up however he is only aged 53 whilst his son in the show Lee Ingleby is 41 so a stretch really, but it seems to work.

    1. That’s an interesting point that they haven’t addressed in either series: who steers Joe towards such cool songs? If it’s his condition, then sign me up!

      1. I know you are just being light-hearted here but trust me, you wouldn’t want his condition – Anything at all that makes kids remotely different from their peer group makes life incredibly difficult for them, and for their parents. We’ve only had much less serious issues to deal with over the years but watching this show it takes me right back to those days of spending hours on end talking about nothing else except what it to be done. Fortunately all good now.

        On a less serious note, I think they must have inherited much of Maurice’s record and CD collection then, as a lot of it from the late ’70s/early ’80s when (going by his fictional age in the show) he would have been in his late teens/early 20s – Just at the right age for much of it!

  3. Oh why have I not seen this? It sounds excellent in so many respects, the subject, the actors and the music. Although I’m not a Wedding Present fan (I know, I should say that very quietly around these parts but… well I just did…) that’s still a good choice and I really like the idea of the other not-so-obvious musical choices. I must tune in – thanks.

  4. I am a huge fan of Chris E too… but I haven’t seen The A Word yet. He was excellent in The Leftovers though, and I’ve been a fan since Shallow Grave and Our Friends In The North. I didn’t see Cracker at the time but caught up with it a couple of years after all the hype… CE’s fate was still shocking.

    One of my meagre claims to fame is the time I was in the adjacent toilet cubicle to Chris at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. He was on his phone to his agent. I might have listened in. I like to tell myself I heard the moment he was offered Dr. Who… But I suspect they were talking about Hamlet (which he did there a couple of months later… I came back to see it… I didn’t wait in the stall all that time).

  5. Jez, thanks for the nod in the right direction not really the sort of thing that would normally appeal to me but the music….. up there with the Peaky Blinders, no mentions of whats happenening in series 4 please, I’m saving it for later.
    Going back to the A word, which when I was younger probably meant Anarachy, how a about Songs for the A word post? If I could be as bold as to suggest the Delta 5 and Mind your own business.

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