Sunday, 31 January 2016

My Top Ten Terry Wogan Songs

That's another one gone then.

I grew up listening to Terry Wogan. He was a warm and friendly voice on the radio; he often made me laugh, sometimes till I cried; and like all the best DJs, he introduced me to some great records. Here's ten that will always remind me of old Tel...

10. Franz Ferdinand - The Dark of the Matinee

The only pop song I know that mentions Terry by name, and that's what drew my attention to Franz Ferdinand in the first place. It's about a band starting out and dreaming of a better future - including an interview on Wogan.
So I'm on BBC2 now, telling Terry Wogan how I made it
What I made is unclear now, but his deference is and his laughter is
My words and smile are so easy now
Yes, It's easy now
Yes, It's easy now
It's a curious, dreamlike interlude in the song which doesn't quite fit with the rest, but that's what makes it great. It certainly helped lift Franz Ferdinand a step above other turn-of-the-century guitar bands like the Libertines, though I'm not sure they ever did anything so self-consciously odd again. 

9. Ray Moore - O' My Father Had A Rabbit

I resisted including The Floral Dance or any of Terry's own musical recordings (although he did have a damned fine voice and if you can track down his duet with Cerys Matthews on Que Sera Sera, recorded for Children In Need a few years back, you'll be amazed), but I couldn't resist this. For many years, Ray Moore presented the show before Terry on Radio 2. Moore was a quiet, very well spoken gentleman representative of the old school BBC, with a wickedly subversive sense of humour (much like Tel himself). Somehow, Moore's jokey charity record based on a rhyme from his Liverpudlian childhood reached #24 in the charts in 1986. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1989, but not before being reunited with his old radio sparring partner one last time... 

8. Billie Jo Spears - What I've Got In Mind

When I posted my initial reaction to Terry's death with the video for my #2 song, saying how it always reminded me of Terry, my old pal Sally responded immediately that she agreed... and then mentioned Billie Jo Spears. A few weeks back, I picked up a Billie Jo CD in the local charity shop and was surprised by how many of them I remembered... from a long, long time ago. My misspent youth: listening to Terry Wogan on the wireless.

7. Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy

Any excuse to play some Glen (and Jimmy Webb). I thought about crowbarring the Greatest Record Ever Recorded in here again, but it's Rhinestone Cowboy, not Wichita Lineman, that reminds me more of Terry.

I guess I can trace my love of country music to Sir Terence. While rock and indie and alt-everything else came later, Radio 2 was the station I listened to as a small child, and Terry introduced me to many of my favourite country singers. 

6. Clifford T. Ward - Home Thoughts From Abroad

Apparently, the album this comes from was Terry's all-time favourite 33 1/3. I didn't know that till compiling this post, but I did know the song... thanks to Tel.

Clifford T. Ward slips into the Nick Drake category - a heartbreaking singer-songwriter too shy and retiring to play the fame game. One listen to this song will tell you he could have been massive... if he'd had the confidence.

Couldn't we all...

5. Peter Gabriel - That'll Do

Written by Randy Newman, who only does film scores these days, this was the theme to the second Babe film, Pig In The City. Getting Peter Gabriel to record it along with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains and the Black Dyke Mills brass band lifted it beyond the schmaltz of its roots, turning it into something really quite moving. When Terry appeared on Desert Island Discs, he chose this as the favourite of all his selections.

4. Harry Nilsson - Without You

The record that was at Number One in March 1972, the month I was born. A couple of weeks later, Terry Wogan took over the Radio 2 breakfast show and became the most recognisable radio voice of my childhood. And he played this song a lot...

3. Charlie Dore - Pilot of the Airwaves
I've been listening to your show on the radio
And you seem like a friend to me...
Says it all, really.

2. Harry Chapin - W.O.L.D.

Another favourite of Tel's, for obvious reasons as it's about a morning radio jock who's feeling his age. There's a radio edit of the song that ends a little happier than the album version, but I'm sure Terry used to play the original, sadder version. (I might be wrong: my memory makes its own rules.) Hearing this song on Terry's show when I was a kid introduced me to the late great Harry Chapin and I've been a fan ever since. 

1. Hoyt Axton - Della & The Dealer

I've been wanting to feature this song here for a while. It's a longtime favourite of mine and I know for certain it was Terry who introduced me to it. I've never heard anyone else play it on the radio, and I'm not sure I'd have heard of Hoyt Axton (beyond his most famous role as Zach Galligan's dad in Gremlins) otherwise. It was the first song that came to mind when I heard about Terry's death, so it makes Number One today...
If that cat could talk, what tales he'd tell,
About Della and the Dealer and the dog as well.
But the cat was cool,
And he never said a mumblin' word...

Good night, Terry. Dallas wouldn't have been the same without you...


  1. As a long time Harry Chapin fan who will be singing along with Steve Chapin, John Wallace and Howie Fields from the original band at a charity gig in Florida on Monday night I am not ashamed to admit that Terry's death and the memories of the music he played and the emotions which he tugged over all of those years brought me to tears on Sunday morning. He was the morning DJ, and I miss him. But enough of this maudlin stuff, remember when he did the Wimbledon commentary in 1978. Now that was even better than the th stuff he read out on Wake Up To Wogan, even when hecwasxreading my letters!

    1. Thanks, Bernard. Have a great gig tonight.

  2. I can't tell you how delighted I am to see that you've referenced the great Ray Moore in this top ten. I was far from being the target audience of either broadcaster at the time, but my Dad alerted me to the impromptu hand-overs from Moore to Wogan each morning, which often over-ran and took on an hilarious life of their own. Someone should compile a few of 'em.
    RIP old Tel.

    1. Knowing the BBC, they've all been deleted. But yes, I'd love to hear some again.

  3. No Dusty Springfield or as Tel would have it Rusty Springboard?

    1. Sadly no room - nor for any Manly Barrymore either.

  4. Phew. Saw the headline and expected to see the Floral Dance...glad you're on a different path altogether!

  5. Brings back so many memories. Terry and Paulie Walters....they both knew their music and they woke us all up right. RIP to them both now, heaven has itself a great breakfast show


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