Three years ago, Jokerside opened its account with a look back at Chris Moyles’ final show on Radio 1. So, in the month of that third anniversary it’s very good of Chris Moyles to stage a much-hyped come-back on the retooled, regenerated and surely soon to be revived Radio X (formerly, XFM).
And he’s brought friends. Jokerside listened to his comeback show…
LOOKING BACK THREE YEARS… JOKERSIDE’S OPENING GAMBIT, A REVIEW OF CHRIS MOYLES LAST STEPS FROM BROADCASTING HOUSE, WAS A BLOODY MORBID AFFAIR. AWASH WITH TALK OF EPOCHS, ERAS AND AONS ENDING. Without so much as a Sic transit gloria mundi – although no one could have heard it over the wails of the gremlin scribes being crushed underfoot. “That’s no way to start a blog….” Splat. Well, now the next generation, a forgiving bunch, sit in polite applause. And it’s not simply that the intervening content has taken all their ire. No. A new era has begun. On 21st September, two days before autumn, pips rang out at 6.30 am on a new radio station with a familiar voice.
“I’m glad the stars have aligned…”
Three years ago there was the quandary, subsequently proved to affect a large Moyles diaspora. On Radio 1, the belligerent Breakfast experiment saw the station target the younger market with masochistic downsizing to the no-gimmick Nick Grimshaw show. Even the show’s name was diminished. The idea of hanging on to Radio 1, so at least a few songs in the charts would stick in the head, was soon untenable. It was a change less admirable than the inarguable logic and commitment behind its change. And that’s from someone who previously abandoned the show during Sara Cox’s ill-advised reign. Grimshaw simply wasn’t boisterous enough, none of that balance of seat of the pants, intuitive and delicately planned broadcasting.
At the end, Moyles himself had knowingly pushed listeners onto BBC 6Music. Aside from that there was the rising trajectory of Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2, with his increasingly dazzling work ethic and fine-tunery now surely keeping him at full stretch. The Today Programme and FiveLive were serious options, but missing some notes. Away from the state broadcaster, the Global channels were an option, although Classic FM and Heart were again not boisterous enough. There was more hanging on this than I thought.
Perhaps like Johnny Vaughan, now lodged in the drive time slot after Moyles, it was a safe bet that the former Saviour of Radio 1 wouldn’t return to the early shift after his record breaking stint and dignified withdrawal. But so he has. There’s still something to say. And as undeniably one of the most gifted radio raconteurs of his generation, I’m glad the stars have aligned on what’s now called Radio X to make that happen.
“Britain’s newest fun time radio station”
In short, since 2012, that heady year of the Olympics, Britain hasn’t changed too much. Sure, the Tories have a majority and now nobody knows the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but the most devastating thing to happen in UK politics since the coalition of 2010 (bar Tony Benn passing on) was the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, cemented a week before Moyles’ return. Even Bond, who’s last Albion-centric excursion helped solidify 2012 as one of the UK’s best years is returning within six weeks of Moyles’ debut. And just as the self-styled saviour, occasional enfant terrible of the airwaves left at the Queen’s Jubilee, so he returns just as Her Majesty’s taken the record for the longest reign. Back then Doctor Who was about to lose a companion, same now. The more things change, the more they stay the same – as I used to say in an old job of mine. But while the world seems to have shuffled during Moyles’ exile, the DJ is fond of saying that he’s a changed man. Though not too changed…
21st September 2015
“This is the Chris Moyles Show. Radio X”
“Born from the love, and sex I suppose, of XFM.” After the pips, those oh so familiar lilting chords of the Chris Moyles Breakfast Show… snapped out by distortion and guitar chords… And the American voice over of Paul Turner brought it all crashing back.
“After serving three years in a women’s only prison… The wait is finally over…”
All the scale and bombast was there and then that first line: “Hello again Great Britain Well this is a bit weird isn’t it?” A brand new radio station, as Moyles said, what better place to start? There was the playful threat and candour, the banter about him being a loose cannon and the slightly less wry than it used to be acknowledgement that there are rules that come with the job… Tellingly Moyles pointed out that he’s now 41 (having been 29 when he seized mornings on Radio 1) before launching into a strange, familiar and strangely familiar team.
“Excuse me, do you have a penis? Come on in!”
“Everyone here has their job on merit” – apart from Dominic Byrne, Moyles joked. There he was putting himself up for early starts and constant insults about his age, heading up the news in an ever more active role in the set-up. “Why don’t we just get a professional?” asked Noel Gallagher later on.
Producer Pippa Taylor, poached from the BBC, was introduced and the focus on Moyles’ extended and amusing riff on the misplaced PR that posited the Radio X as bloke-centric. Ruddy blokes eh? That, said Moyles, was news to him and everyone else. He led the charge explaining “that’s a load of balls”. And already I was laughing out loud. It reminded me that three years ago I’d said that Moyles can make me laugh out loud. Not many, if any on breakfast shows in the UK can aim for that, let alone do it. “It’s not a radio version of a Yorkie bar,” he said. And there’s even a Paul’s voice trail later on to rub that in…
Later in the show there’s the suggestion that listeners should text in with the first word ‘elephant’, an accidental comment on the elephant in the room? But Dave’s there; the team was rounded out by the other Dave. Dave Masterman. “I think I’d rather Ventshed” he said to Dominic’s anagram skills that gave him the nickname “madam”. A previous producer for the XFM breakfast show under Jon Holmes, it must have been more than curiosity that dragged him into the Moyles circus. That nickname’s the reward. “Dave’s not looking well though is he?” says Noel about Dom later in the show, before being introduced to Madam. “Ah, there’s Dave”.
The New Moyles
“The new Chris Moyles, the nicer Chris Moyles”
There was a lot of talk, much of it on the newness of the situation, the studio where everything new makes a noise, where the DJ doesn’t know who most people are. That old Moyles magic of letting his audience in on every part of the show, while keeping control. And it’s not like he’ll stop talking and play more music once he’s ‘settled in’…
A lot of talk, deliberately capturing the fact that Moyles has been out of practise, that everything’s new and it’s seat of pants time. “There’s a lot to clear up on Day One” – including plenty of references back to the “old place” to get out the way. But as he’s at pains to point out, he’s a slightly changed man. “I found the Lord”. That, of course, the Lord pub in Reading.
There’s a deliciously nostalgic touch, with the usual arch barb, from referring to “Actual Jaimie Theakston from off of Live and Kicking” in a rival studio, “Dave Berry from the Sugababes and Lisa Snowden from George Clooney” – all the Global stations in the same building in Leicester Square promise a lot of fun to come.
And that’s always going to grow, for all Moyles’ protestations that he’s “Sensible, fit, mature…”
Instantly picking on parts of this fresh station, particularly the news soundbites that put Dom at the punchline, and top dogs like Executive Director Richard Park, not someone who went unmentioned during Moyles’ BBC days, in the crosshairs. A special circle of the studio is reserved for anyone connected with PR or marketing. Quite right.
“Fresh Rock – has to be the crappest, lamest term for any kind of rock.”
As was acknowledged from the off, no one expected a Moyles show to be packed with tunes. The first comes an incredible 28 minutes in and it’s inevitably a joke: Girls Aloud’s Love Machine. The Rolling Stones, Florence + The Machine, Muse and associated competition, Kings of Leon, Oasis, High Flying Birds, Bowie, Courteneers, Blur, Stone Roses all follow… That prompted Moyles to confess that he’ll play things he’s not heard of – but surely not things he hates anymore than he had to on Radio 1. Royal Blood are there to, likely to become the poster boys of Radio X if that’s the right word. Described here as an 18-piece from Ipswich. Olly Murs is similarly “indie, folk, alternative” – and there’s little chance of him making an appearance.
If there’s a main sticking point it’s of course censoring the main who “doesn’t know much about music” from playing what he wants.
“Chris really wanted the next song to be Taylor Swift, so reluctantly here’s some indie music…” is the pre-prepared voice-over. Moyles pointed out the irony of Taylor Swift appearing on a station that would never play her music. Within a week, the papers have spun the same brewing tension from Sam Smith.
(It’s worth noting as I right that the late night slot has more freedom with the recent David Cavanagh John Peel retrospective leading into Laurel and Hardy on Radio X).
“These ads are really getting in the way of my creativity”
The other joy is watching the return to commercial radio. For all the freedom, there’s the brilliant struggle with adverts. “I left commercial radio in 1997!”. And the expectations of his three year contract. “We start today! And go on to they probably rebrand in a couple of hours or it doesn’t make any money…” There’s also more freedom to play with the sector, away from the inner ribcage of BBC radio.
And another thing remembered: jokes that can roll on and on, such as the impressions that follow the revelation that there’s a Belgian Radio X.
In 2012, the last radio show seemed in a lugubrious way, the easiest kind of review. Not so the first, with any structure fledgling. Competitions are on a commercial level (leaving the way for Moyles to take the piss out of the prize money) way away from the post- text scandal BBC. There’s a laugh when one caller complains “been waiting to play Carpark Catchphrase for God knows how long…” And Moyles sounds weary as he points out that he ran that for eight years.
And talking of the BBC, “the other place” that will surely fade from its myriad mention during that first Chris Moyles Show, there’s time to wonder at hindsight. Three years ago it seemed safe to say that Moyles’ final years at the BBC coincided with “one of the Corporation’s most tumultuous periods”. How simple that seems know he returns on a commercial rival. Not that the BBC’s often ruffled, but at least his salary isn’t a bone of contention.
And revealed through Noel Gallagher’s entertaining appearance, hidden away is the commercial spin on that most Radio 1 tradition, the Radio X Road Trip. Still brings a flash of seeing Chris and Comedy Dave dance around the Roadshow stage in Brighton in Star Trek jumpsuits.
It’s safe to say that Moyles’ return is a big deal, with the Radio X app and website ambiguously crashed under the pressure during the show, supposedly requiring the station to buy more space. Much weight is added to that when the Sun’s Dan Wootton heads in to confirm it at the end (““It’s something we would have said on the air anyway”).
The cult of Moyles continues. And the radio’s reset for a while. After all, The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show +1 and I’ve still not heard a bad show.
Why not read what Jokerside had to say when Chris Moyles exited Radio 1…
Categories: Music & Radio