Wednesday, 27 September 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #19: Most People Are DJs

I'd not been working in radio long before people started to mimic my voice. This is not unusual in a radio station: you've not really arrived until half the staff are doing an impression of you. In fact, when I think back on a lot of the people I worked with in my early radio days, the immediate memory that comes to mind is their voice. Or rather, their impersonated voice. Everybody impersonates everybody else in radio (or at least in the station I worked in), and most of the impersonations are not very realistic: just exaggerrated mockeries based on a few distinct vocal traits.

"Myyyy impersonayted voice sound-ed lyyyke this. Kind of a bit sloooow and hevvy on the ack-sent, particularly noticeable when pronouncing words like caaaaaaaaaaar. That is, the thing you drive."

I do have a Yorkshire accent, but as with most accents, there are subcultures. Mine is from a rather weird part of Huddersfield called Sla-wit. That's how the locals pronounce it. Sla-wit or Slou-wet. It's actually spelled Slaithwaite, but even poshoes don't call it Slaythwaite. If you want to be posh, you call it Slaff-wait. If you dare say Slaythwaite, that's when the pitchforks and torches come out.

Being the last-but-one stop before Lancashire, the Yorkshire accent in Slawit is pretty broad, and has lots of harsh Anglo-saxon vowel sounds, most notably the "arrrrr"-sounding A. (My dad is from the next village over: truly the end of the line, Marsden. You don't get much broader.)

These days, we don't really bat an earlid when we hear a regional accent on radio or TV, but in the land before time that was the late 1980s, there was still a belief among many that people on the radio should talk proper, BBC English... or at least sound like Gary Davis. Most local DJs therefore had one leg in received pronunciation and the other in trans-Atlantic twang. It was cleeee-ar I wuz nev-ver go-inggg to gettt a jobbb soundeeeng lyke a Yorkshire twatttt.

Luckily, my mum had the answer.

Enter: Mrs. Kay.

19. The Hold Steady - Most People Are DJs

Most people want to be DJs. I'm convinced of that. Who wouldn't want to sit in a studio spinning records three hours a day... then call it a day? The dream job, right? All you need is the voice and the patter. I had one of them.
I was a teenage ice machine. I kept it cool in coolers. I drank until I dreamed.
When I dreamed I always dreamed about the scene.
All these kids look like little lambs looking up at me.
I was a twin cities trash bin. I did everything they'd give me.
I'd jam it in my system. she had me cornered in the kitchen.
I said I'll do anything but listen to some weird talking chick
Who just can't understand that we're hot soft spots on a hard rock planet.
Baby take off your beret.
Everyone's a critic and most people are DJs.


  1. It's true that most of us want to be DJs. With the world of podcasting, some of us have taken a stab at filling that void. Have to admit even I have been tempted.

  2. Love how this story is slowing unfolding - So much more interesting than my (ex-) world of public sector finance!

    My other half's family, on his mum's side, are from Lancashire so I can just imagine the accent pre-Mrs Kay. My childhood accent was the Doric of Aberdeenshire but now long gone sadly as very colourful indeed. Think you're right, if you love music, we've all at some point wanted to be a DJ but so much more difficult than it seems. Hat's off to you.

  3. Coming from Glasgow I have English as a second language!

  4. Enjoying reading this in an imagined Yorkshire accent. Perhaps you should write all your posts in it!
    I always wanted to be a silent DJ, the kind who just spins the records between sets at a gig, or at a themed music night, and doesn't have to say a word or have anyone notice them. I think a few of your readers may have done that too... lucky buggers!

  5. I've been listening to a fair bit of Test Match Special these past few weeks (yup, I'm a cricket fan!!). I imagined that post as being read out by Geoffrey Boycott.



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