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The Music Doctor

It would take a lot to dislodge David Tennant from his position as the creditable face of Saturday night TV. In fact, it would take the Dr Who star to admit that he owns an album by, oohh, Beverley Craven, say, the gobsmackingly tedious singer-songwriter of whom the best that can be said is she is not Dido.
'Actually, I have two Beverley albums,' blushes Tennant, his facial hair partially concealing his red cheeks. 'I have the eponymous one that I fall back on if I'm in a bad way, and I also have the album that came out after that. Love Scenes, I think it's called.' He hangs his head in shame. 'Now that is too Radio 2 even for me.'

Today at least Tennant is attuned to Radio 1, having just been interviewed on Jo Whiley's show. Afterwards the DJ's children, unable to believe that they're in the same room as a bona fide Time Lord, shyly pose for photos with the 35-year-old, while his PR strives to negotiate a passage past the paparazzi who are camped outside the building. At times like these, surely, he must feel like a pop star.

'Not really, no,' shrugs Tennant. 'You wouldn't want to be a pop star in order to get hassled outside Radio 1. You'd want to be a pop star to get stuck into some big number that everyone knows the words to. I'm very jealous of people who have either been, or are still, in bands.'

Which explains why the man born David McDonald, on learning that there was another actor of that name, adopted the surname Tennant after leafing through Smash Hits and alighting on a piece about the Pet Shop Boys. 'The other name I picked out was Kirk Brandon of [forgettable post-punk group] Spear of Destiny.' You made the right choice. 'I think so,' he says.

Reborn, Tennant spent his teenage years in Paisley, where he was energised by Scotland's 'white boy soul groups', chief among them Love and Money and Hipsway. Later, he fell for fellow Scots Simple Minds' bloke-rock, which led him to, first, U2 then, strangely, the Housemartins. Crucially, Hull's finest were, like Tennant, socialists.

'That certainly helped, yeah,' he nods. 'But what particularly appealed to me about them was their punk sensibility. That and the fact that, you know, they made great tunes.'

Tunes are everything in Tennant's universe. Tunes are why he prefers Hard-Fi to the White Stripes; why Coldplay's album X&Y is far superior to Radiohead's recklessly adventurous Kid A; why Avril Lavigne is great and R&B is rubbish. In fact, for the most part, he's bemused by black music.

'See that?' he asks, pointing at a poster for 1Xtra, Radio 1's R&B and hip hop-based offshoot. 'Sometimes I'll tune into that and be a bit, well, lost. Which makes me feel very 'west of Scotland'. I don't feel very urban; I feel terribly white. Which depresses me enormously.'

He has little reason to feel downcast today, having earlier received in the post the new albums by Morrissey, the Flaming Lips and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Morrissey one, particularly, he has high hopes for, convinced as he is that the great man's solo sets are, by and large, better than his efforts with the Smiths. His favourite album, though, isn't Mozzer's Viva Hate but Sunshine on Leith by folk-pop pair the Proclaimers, the slightest mention of whom prompts superlatives galore.

'I proselytise about them whenever I can because they're a great band who are ignored by too many people,' he says. '[Little Britain's] Matt Lucas is a big fan, actually. It was very liberating finding someone who I could talk about them with because it was like a secret.'

As for Beverley Craven, Tennant's search for a fellow fan goes on.

'Now she is more of a guilty pleasure,' he concedes. 'But,' he adds, desperately trying to distance himself from her, belatedly aware that he has divulged too much, 'I haven't had a Beverley moment in some time, you know.'

As the Patient places such an emphasis on tunes, the charming Aberfeldy ('A Friend Like You'/'Love is an Arrow') were immediately dispatched. The Redskins' Eighties belter 'Kick Over the Statues' was sent, too, combining as it does white-boy soul and socialism, not to mention a healthy dose of punk's irreverence. Chef Raekwon ('Rainy Dayz'/'Ice Cream') and Truth Hurts ('Addictive') represented hip hop and R&B respectively, while Howling Bells' ('The Bell Hit'/'The Night is Young') gothic, blues-informed rock'n'roll is not unlike the White Stripes shorn of their chaotic streak.

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To the batch of Scottish groups of whom the Patient approves - Simple Minds, Love and Money, Hipsway - he can add another: Edinburgh's Aberfeldy.

'They were my favourite. Kind of Belle and Sebastian meets James Taylor. It's very nice, though a bit twee. But as you've probably revealed my Beverley Craven fetish, I can't really complain about twee, can I?'

Certainly twee isn't a charge that can be levelled at the Redskins. 'That reminded me of 'Mr Johnson' by [Eighties pop-cum-comedy act] the Yes/No People. It's political, is it? Oh, I feel a bit stupid now. But I could see myself in a field dancing around to it.'

He was less convinced by Howling Bells , who reminded him of rock-trad folk group In Tua Nua, but liked the way that Truth Hurts' Bollywood-soul fusion 'went from Ofra Haza into Destiny's Child'.

Chef Raekwon, meanwhile, left the Patient perplexed. 'I wish I liked it more, but it stretched the limits of my cool. There's a great line about his dick, but I'm not that convinced it's meant as a joke.'
Source: The Observer Music Monthly June 2006