Wednesday, 7 June 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #9: The DJ Sucks

In case you're wondering, I'm not going to even try to write these posts in chronological order, so this week's post is about stupid things DJs say, inspired by a news story I read last week. I wouldn't have believed it - as one commentator remarks, it's beyond even Alan Partridge - except... having worked in radio for as long as I did, it doesn't surprise me at all. You really should click the link and read it.

You put a microphone in front of anybody for a few hours a day, five or six days a week, and sooner or later they're going to say something stupid. You have to accept that. DJs regularly lose their jobs for saying stupid things on air without considering the consequences. I used to work with Chris Moyles, long before his Radio 1 days, and I was there in the studio with him one New Year's Eve when he made a daft remark "about the station's previous programme controller" which cost him his job at that station. I quote from Iffypedia to show I'm not revealing anything here that isn't already in the public domain... or wasn't referred to in Moyles' 2006 autobiography... which I only read because I wanted to see what he said about said incident. Despite the fact that he often comes across as an arrogant knob on air, I always found Moyles to be quite the opposite off air, and I felt bad when they got rid of him... but I digress. The point I'm trying to get to is that sometimes DJs say or do daft things on purpose, even becoming notorious for it, and their career often goes from strength to strength as a result. It's a gamble, but it can pay off.

My first experience of this came in December 1988, shortly after the death of Roy Orbison, when the first jock I ever worked with in local radio landed himself in the tabloids for the following gag (and the "storm of controversy" it created)...

Q: What's definitely not getting plucked this Christmas?

A: Roy Orbison's guitar.

I only worked Saturday mornings at that time and I remember a friend of my mum's calling us up and saying, "Isn't that the DJ Rol works with? Do you think he'll get in trouble? Will he lose his job?" I was worried, because I'd only been there a few months at the time and who was to say if my job might have gone with his...

So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into the studios the following Saturday morning, only to be greeted with the reality of radio. Everybody in the station thought the press coverage was great: on air, they were playing it up as "he's had his wrists slapped for that gag and he won't do it again"... off air, he was a hero.

It was still a terrible joke. It wasn't even funny.

9. REM - Radio Song

This week's radio song is no stranger to a bit of controversy itself, since it was criticised by musos at the time for its mix of rock and rap (from guest vocalist KRS-One), as though REM were trying too hard to be hip. I don't think they were, and Stipey himself claims this song was a bit of a piss-take, aimed at lightening the band's image. Which I think it did wonderfully...
What are you saying?
What are you playing?
Who are you obeying?
Day out day in?
Baby, baby, baby, baby
That stuff is driving me crazy
DJs communicate to the masses
Sex and violent classes
Now our children grow up prisoners
All their lives radio listeners!



  1. There's the oft repeated story of one afternoon late in Mark & Lard's Radio 1 tenure, when Radcliffe let rip with an expletive or two live on air. This was subsequently explained away by the fact Radcliffe and Riley were thoroughly sick of the sight of each other by that time.
    I was never a massive fan of 'Radio Song', though I did enjoy hearing it it again after a considerable amount of time.
    My main bone of contention with Moyles is that he didn't actually appear to be all that interested in music, it was just used as a background bed for his relentless musings. I never really liked the stuff people like Tommy Vance and Tim Westwood played, but at least they came across as passionate and knowledgeable about it.

    1. It always breaks my heart that Mark and Lard ended up hating each other. They were so good together.

      I agree, Moyles' Radio 1 show became all about Moyles and nothing to do with the music. Evans is the same. It's the curse of the breakfast show jock - their ego becomes bigger than the music and often they don't love music at all. (Same goes for Wrighty, although he's never done breakfast.)

      Thank heaven then for Terry... and Shaun Keaveny.

    2. Also, on your point about Vance and Westwood - I often listen to Trevor Nelson for the exact same reason.

  2. I, on the other hand, was a fan from Radio Song from the off. Always thought it was a great companion piece to 'Panic' - the world is collapsing around one's ears so one turns on the transistor for some comfort (wouldn't make any sense nowadays what with the glut of multimedia).

    1. Once again, we come back to the point that you can't ever imagine someone getting the same kind of comfort from Spotify.

  3. As tasteless as his "joke" was, I confess that a chuckle did escape when I read it. I'm so ashamed! ;-)

    1. Don't be, Marie. I think I probably laughed more than I should have done at the time.

  4. Ah but Wrighty was briefly the Radio 1 Breakfast DJ around the time of the Matthew Bannister shake-up but didn't work for him so he left soon after only to join Radio 2 and fill the slot he is still in (nearly 20 years later!). Time to hang up his headphones methinks but maybe he is still there because he has miraculously not made any massive bloopers over the years which considering the amount of hours of airtime he must have put in, is quite a feat. If I ever hear the term "serious jockin'" again however, I will throw something large and heavy across a crowded room.

  5. Didn't know, until reading these comments, that Mark and Lard had fallen out by the end of their R1 days. Such a shame.

    Cracking song this, by the way.


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