Thursday, 6 January 2011

I am the DJ, I am what I play

Fading in, drifting out
It was difficult to tell whether it was a prog rock intro,
The batteries going
Or Radio Caroline sinking again
I can still remember listening in horror, and awe,
As the Mi Amigo foundered
But in the murky soup of half heard refrains
Of snatched lyrics, came a voice that spoke to me
Emperor Rosko, Tony Prince and Simon Dee
From Luxembourg Stuart Henry’s powerplays
Told me what to listen to
Caroline told me what I should be listening to
If only I could hear it

If you have never heard “Riders on the Storm” or “The End”
Solemnly introduced
If your ears have not strained into the ether to catch
The plaintif glissando keyboard of Ray Manzarek
Or the ghostly motif of a Dave Gilmour solo
Late into the evening- you have not lived.

I didn’t care much for Radio One
Johnny walker played a Birthday dedication for my Aunty Joan once
She was very excited
But apart from Alan Freeman on a Saturday afternoon
When classic rock was classic rock from the moment it was played
It never really spoke to me
Apart from John Peel

Ten O’Clock in the evening could never come soon enough
To go to bed, turn the lights out
And hear the voice
Bob Harris was past it you see
Lost in pointless, derivative American soft rock, like “the Cars”
Each band vying with the other for the title of
“ most vacuous and banal”
But John was different
He always had the latest demos from the hottest bands
Along with those from bands you had never heard of –
And will probably never hear of again
But it mattered.

I met him in a pub once before a Magazine gig
Pete and I were nervous about approaching him –
but we shouldn’t have been
He was friendly and kind – it really was no trouble
Dave Lee Travis almost crashed into my car once
At at the Hemel Hempstead magic roundabout
I didn’t like him
Not like Ann Nightingale
She sat next to me at a Who gig,
She was like your best friend’s sassy older sister
You hoped that you stood a chance- but knew that you didn’t
Still, I plucked up courage to ask her – for her autograph
She signed my ticket, I’ve still got it
Stuck to the back of my Quadrophenia album.

The late night phone ins were odd
Anna Raeburn was naughty, but nice
And I once phoned into a late night current affairs programme
He wouldn’t let me go
Not because I was the only one on the lines
I was the only one on that night I think
I also met Les Ross on a karaoke Contest panel

But he didn’t like music
Which I always thought was a bit of a drawback for a dj
He spent all evening telling me about the songs he hated
How he wanted to personally throttle Whitney Houston
For “the Greatest love of All”
(Les did have some redeeming features)
How they couldn’t play the songs they wanted to play
And half the time the d js weren’t there anyway
And each song was about audience share and product reach
And I guess that is when the music died on the radio for me

For when DJ’s risked jail, their boats sank, and records jumped
And you could hear the faint rustle of paper as the vinyl
Was pulled out of the sleeve
It still meant something to me,
It still mattered
It mattered how the latest Slade single was misspelt
Or how many weeks T Rex would be No 1
Or how long Bowies Space Oddity had been in the chart for
Because once it mattered not what you said, or who you were –
But what you played
That John Peel had discovered Joy Division- and so had you
It was a personal gift, not a marketing ploy
It neither retained you for the next commercial break
Nor were you wanted for your demographic to justify the license fee
It’s mono compression splintered into a thousand sounds,
And thoughts, and delights and dreams
And they had shared it with you,
Before smashey and nicey had swung on Morrissey’s rope
Before the video and the personal appearance and the poster
It was personal then you see.

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