Category: Music & Radio

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David Bowie: Persona and Personae – Which Bowie are you?

Which David Bowie are you?

“Didn’t know what time it was, the lights were low-oh-oh
I leaned back on my radio-oh-oh
To find out which Bow-ie-ie… I was…”

Originally published on Mirror Online

It’s here, the handy intergalactic flowchart to find out which Bowie persona you really are!

Click on the infographic to view the original article and find out your resounding Bowie characteristics below!

Which David Bowie are you?

Which Bowie Are You? - Mirror Online
Via: Mirror.co.uk

So, which Bowie did you end up as and what does it all mean? Here’s a handy guide…

2000s Bowie (As heard on ‘Heathen’ and’ Reality’)

“All things must pass”

Hung-over from the eclectic drum n’ bass days, you’re the older, reflective Bowie; contemplating his life work, acknowledging the past but still wonderfully “struggling for Reality!” Often ripping into classic covers of bands you inspired, no wonder you’re prone to smile on camera a bit more than you used to.

Aladdin Sane (As heard on ‘Aladdin Sane’)

“Cold fire, you’ve got everything but cold fire”

The older Ziggy? Cousin of Ziggy? Something else..? Spinning out from the Spiders of Mars’ web, A Lad Insane you may be, but also the most definitive Bowie look. Cast an eye over your people and bask in the red glow of the lightning bolts blazing across their faces.

Diamond Dog (As heard on ‘Diamond Dogs’)

“Hot tramp, I love you so!”

Finding yourself in a dystopian future with remarkable similarities to Orwell’s 1984, it may be no surprise that you’re the swansong of glam. You may look like Ziggy with all the trappings and, er, a bit more on display, but revolution is in the air. At least you’ve got a tail. Prone to belting out what is possibly the ultimate Bowie track, ‘Rebel Rebel’ you truly are the dog’s.

Earthling Bowie (As heard on ‘Earthling’)

“Sending me so far away, so far away”

After a prolonged grounding, you’re the one who went back to space. Beating Britpop at its own game with glorious McQueen stylings, you’re the most zeitgeisty Bowie, hitting the fastest crazed and basking in a new level of cool. You may not be leading the pack this time, but “Little Wonder” you’re a commercial giant.

Hunky Dory Bowie (As heard on Hunky Dory)

“Hung up on romancing”

Dreaming of sailors fighting in the dance hall while immersing yourself in the works of Aleister Crowley and Nietzsche, you’re the complicated Bowie from which the seeds of personas flourished. Dark and literate you may be, but still with the tendency to wear a good dress and fully aware that you’re “not much cop at punching other people’s dads “.

Jareth the Goblin King (As seen in Labyrinth)

“Nothing, nothing, tra-la-la”

King of Goblin…. Muppets. You’re the star of show in the cult 80s classic with lots of hair and very little trouser fabric. Any slights at your appearance should be met with a resounding play through of the film soundtrack. On a loop. “I… can’t…  live… within you…”

John Blaylock (As seen in The Hunger)

“Forever…?”

Bound to have fun for longer than the average person, you may want to be a little less trusting in your love life.  The tragic victim of Tony Scott’s directorial debut. Aging before our eyes in just hours, the doomed vampire was a part Bowie was destined to play during his rather eclectic acting career. The fact the last Twilight film emerges DVD at the same time as Bowie’s new album is surely no coincidence.

Major Tom (As first heard in Space Oddity)

“Tell My Wife I Love her Very much” “She knows”

The tale of the doomed astronaut that launched possibly the most influential career in music. A recurring character in the catalogue, you’re another tragic character and the first, but by no means the last Bowie persona to have a suspected hedonistic streak… Presumed lost in 1969 in the hype of the moon landings frenzy, your demise may have been greatly exaggerated in ‘Ashes to Ashes’ 11 years later or when popping up later to say ‘Hello Spaceboy’. You can never be sure. You’re the oldest and most lasting Bowie with a title track still ripe for influence and Conchord parody in equal measure.

New Romantic Bowie (As first heard on ‘Scary monsters (And Super Creeps)’)

“I know when to go out and when to stay in. Get things done”

You’re the most successful Bowie, reaching huge heights of success and shrugging off the increased criticism. Whether waxing on about red shoes, Blue Jean or Modern Love in general you can lead from the front while your former child fans, including Culture Club, Duran Duran and countless others, nip at your lime suit trousers. Watch out for tour managers bearing glass spiders…

Nikolas Tesla (As seen in The Prestige)

“Nothing is impossible”

One of the most prominent roles of the Bowie-lite past decade. Who better than this legendary inventor? You’re the Bowie who sports a moustache that can only be described as ‘fine’, just don’t expect anyone to leave you their cat to look after.  A quiet man of reason you may be but also acutely aware of the phenomenal power you can harness –  unlikely to stay put in one place for long.

Thin White Duke (as heard on Station to Station)

“The European Canon is here”

Terrestrial or not, you’re the surely the dark character made flesh from the film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’. With an alien dissociation from humanity, you’re really not expected to put recyclable rubbish out on the right day.  Dark, menacing and all together rather unpleasant as you wander from Station to Station. Even with one thin white foot touching the ground, your paranoid mind is caught between everything from kabbalah to Norse mythology despite the dawning ‘Golden Years’.

Tin Machine Bowie (As heard on Tin Machine I and Tin Machine II)

“Tin Machine, Tin Machine, take me anywhere”

Every once in a while, a man just needs to be part of a band. You can’t be a solo singing sensation forever, right? You are the democratic Bowie, lead singer and co-writer with in the four-piece combo Tin Machine. The glam of The Spider from Mars is far behind you as you belt out hard rock anthems. The Bowie least likely to invite critics around for afternoon tea.

Ziggy Stardust (As heard on Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars)

“Wham, bam, thank you Ma’am”

What is there to say about the biggest and best Bowie persona – the alien who came to Earth for rock music and fun (though not necessarily in that order)?  Tune-meister, fashionista and Top of the Pops ground-breaker all the way from your ‘Starman’ to your ‘Queen Bitch’ – you are a legend.  One word of warning though: you’re very likely to take it” all too far”.

Read more Bowie on Jokerside:

David Bowie and the Lost Trilogy

The Forgotten Trilogy

David Bowie The Next Day

The Next Day

Bowie on Jokerside

The worst news

David Bowie Station to Station at 40

The Duke

David Bowie Station to Station at 40

The Golden Years

David Bowie: The Forgotten Trilogy

Space Jokertoon

bowie1

As The Next Day is released, a look back at one-named little wonders: Hours, Heathen and Reality

FIRST THINGS FIRST: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FORGOTTEN TRILOGY IN DAVID BOWIE’S BACK CATALOGUE, THERE AREN’T EVEN MANY THINGS RESEMBLING A TRILOGY.  Of the most famous, the sublime ‘Berlin trilogy’ of Low, Heroes and Lodger, only Heroes was completely written, recorded and mixed in Berlin.

But that album, relatively shorn of a persona, may well be the most famous, the most influential, the most definitive Bowie album.  So much so, it’s no surprise that Bowie’s first album in a decade, released this week, modifies/obscures the cover of that 1977 albumIt makes even more sense considering the album’s first single clearly harked back to those Berlin days.  There is no doubt that much has happened in the intervening 36 years but Bowie would never again match his 1970s work rate – a period that once made him wonder if he had ‘overachieved’.

So, the forgotten trilogy?  A trilogy out of nothing.  But it just so happens that the first review I read of Bowie’s new album The Next Day remarked that it was his best album since 1. Outside.  A strange claim in the normal mix of things, but framed in the classic Bowie critique it’s as good as comparison as any; referring back to an abstract point in his back catalogue that has no doubt improved with age.  Legendarily, every album following Bowie’s commercial success, but critical slide, with Let’s Dance was declared ‘the best thing he’s done since Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)’.  In this review it was 1.Outside – not a bad album – but when fairly bundled with the following Earthling, it manages to totally exclude Bowie’s late 1990s and early 2000s work.  Rather harshly in fact.

While Bowie albums are rarely one genre, they tend to be described by their predominant genre – Young Americans may be soul while Earthling is drum ‘n’ bass.  But between Earthling and 2003, when Bowie started his 10 year break, he actually released three albums. The assumption is that these may not be so easily recognisable as his previous work, potentially even forgettable and so lend themselves to be conveniently written out of history.  It’s always harsh.  By making a trilogy out of them, I myself am conveniently writing out the 2001 All Saints album of collected instrumentals.

So it’s unfair but convenient to wrap the three albums up as the forgotten trilogy – a wonderful jumble of nostalgia and retrospective with I’d say more than one classic Bowie song between them.

Hours: The Last of the Dreamers

Hours surfaced in 1999, and may be my most listened to Bowie album simply by dint of it hitting my first year at University, and fresh into my discovery of Bowie/post-Art School haze.

Hours’ opening track, Thursday’s Child, sets the tone of reminiscence, with rather haunting backing vocals from Holly Palmer pushing up to a duet at points.  It’s subdued but effective, no doubt a side-effect from its origin, as with much of the album, as a soundtrack for the video game Omikron: Nomad Soul.  A neat throwback to Bowie’s recent closeness to touring partners Nine Inch Nails, contributors to games such as Quake, videogames seemed a perfect step for Bowie.  In the previous two years Bowie had refinanced his back catalogue and issued Bowie Bonds while diversifying on the web and now he was forging forward with videogames.  Bowie had always, unsurprisingly, been tech-savvy – reportedly sending his first email in the early 1980s – and games were a neat fit, Tony least culturally.  Not only that, Hours was the first album to be released in its entirety as a download before its physical release.  “Thursday’s Child has far to go” but is still ahead of the curve.

Of course, the result had to be a little obtuse.  Rejecting his recent working methods of sprint writing and recording, Bowie alongside guitarist, former Tin Machiner Reeves Gabrels, settled in Bermuda to write the album.   The result was, despite its brilliantly crazy cover and trend setting technology, Bowie’s most straightforward album for a long time.

Second track Something in the Air harks back to its revolutionary namesake in name alone, although the reference is not lost.  As with much of the first half of Hours, Bowie talks from the past and present about what may be a past or fading love affair or metaphor for any facet  of his career.  Where he has danced too long, he may be referring to his endless attempts to reconnect and win new fans, now or at any point of his career.  “I guess I never wanted anyone more than you”.  In the later songs, he seems to be calling to his muses, particularly in second single Survive.  “Where’s the morning (sic) in my life?”  he asks.  “I’ve got ears and eyes but nothing in my life”  – the muse may be gone…  Or she or his critics remain with their naked eyes on him.  Bowie recalls razzle-dazzle clubs every night while wishing he sent a valentine – but to who?

The result is rather melancholy first half, culminating in Bowie asking if he’s Dreaming all his Life – grasping at the memory of his muse; asking if it was “air she breathed”.

By What’s Really Happening, grunge had replaced the romantic softness of the earlier songs, but the questions haven’t stopped.  A song later Bowie returns to the Pretty Things, this time stating that they’re going to hell – which just might be one of the best titled songs in his career – but this time there’s an edge of mistrust and deceit, a far cry from the revolutionary mock-chastisement of the song’s 1971 near namesake. The riff of Pretty Things Are Going To Hell is glorious while Bowie starts to provide a few answers: “I am the blood in the corner of your eye” indeed.  Prolonged instrumental intros soon take a turn for the Heroes, and when Bowie surfaces he sings about the Angels of Promise once again, this time in discordant chorus.  Brilliant Adventure then delves into the orient, a long held interest surfacing again while drawing up memories of his previous Fantastic Voyage and other Berlin work.  But this is not the Bowie of the 1970s.  Where he had once blurred ‘Lennon’ and ‘Lenin’, Bowie now muddles ‘shallow’ and ‘shadow’ In Hour’s TS Eliot inspired climax; upbeat music and downbeat lyrics.

Bowie’s reasons for such a retrospective at this point remains unclear, but this Bowie is by no means passive.  While 27 years earlier, he sang of five years to live he now speaks of Seven Days.  Seven is a key number linked to the spirituality that the album is steeped in, helped along by the auto tuning, the light synth hangovers and Gabrels guitar from his previous two albums.  It’s better sculpted and more unified than other albums a decade either side, but in the Bowie universe that can equate to bland.  This album was the first of Bowie’s since 1972 not to breach the US top 40, but its significance was to be more obvious in the following years – notwithstanding several reissues.

Of course the clue was not only in the name of Hours, but also its cover.  Among pastel geometric shapes, Hours era Bowie cradles a possibly dead Earthling era Bowie in homage to La Pieta.  Bowie had transformed once again, but had he properly disposed of the retrospection?

Heathen: Have I stared Too Long?

No, clearly not.  Perhaps Hours wasn’t long enough, perhaps not hard enough – but within three years he returned with a new album of retrospection.  This is a good thing, because out of a tumultuous few years, Heathen emerged magnificent.  The intervening time saw the commencement and then abandonment of the Toys album, his self-proclaimed Pin-Ups II.  The resulting fall out with his studio, perhaps led to Heathen’s harder edge.  But probably more key was that Bowie had fallen back in with Tony Visconti.  Not only the producer of the “last good Bowie album” Scary Monsters but involved in much of his legendary 1970s work.  Work on Heathen had also started in the same studios as Philip Glass had used to record his versions of Bowie’s Berlin masterpieces in the early 1990s – an auspicious start.  Clearly Bowie was intent on harnessing the past, much as he would again 13 years later.  “Out in space, it’s always 1982” he sings in Slip Away.

Surrounded by the religiously, gothic, Walkeresque parenthesis, Heathen’s body is an outstanding run of songs.

Just as Bowie had stepped in to help his heroes earlier in his career, so he reasoned in the early 2000s that in times of trouble he would look at his peers and inspirations.  If that’s true, Heathen really is an example of greatness coming from adversity.  This is Bowie at one of his most collaborative, with alumni of The Who, Nirvana and King Crimson making guest appearances. Perhaps as an extension of Toy, Heathen contains three covers, a scintillating version of the Pixie’s Cactus, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spacecraft – which returned Bowie to space in a well-fitting spacesuit – and a cover of Neil Young’s I’ve Been Waiting for You with Dave Grohl blistering on guitar. The departed were present as well.  Afraid, is a twisted and rippingly great riposte to Lennon’s God.  Bowie was still competing even if he felt too old to appear in a video.

Bowie is still paranoid, perhaps even more so, but also angrier about impending old age and the inevitability that it would take from him his newly found familial stability.  By Everybody Says Hi – a throwaway, but sweet song – he’s seemingly at dotage.  Even if a song later he’s demanding a better future, backed by a Christmas tinkling.  There is no doubt about Heathen‘s depth.  “From factory to field how many tears must fall.  Down there below… Nothing is moving”

Far more atheist than the agnostic Hours, Heathen  still raises more questions than answers.  Far removed from the glam or literature of his past, the album builds perfectly to its sublime close, Heathen (The Rays).  A simple lament, and one of Bowie’s best.  Were that something agnostic could be beautiful, for this would be a prime example.

The overall result is an album every bit as good as it’s artwork –one of his best covers.  The quality and tone is such that it’s no coincidence Bowie chose to duet Heathen with Low at point of the album tour.  It’s that good an album, let alone a companion piece.  Hours had shown the effect of Bowie’s mastery of drum loops and drum ‘n’ bass, but here they reach a new maturity – kept in check by someone in full control, with a deeper, more visceral and atavistic argument than Hours’ sometimes obscure spirituality.  Partially aided by the failure of Toy, which allowed some songs additional time to grow, most thanks must go to the newly re-fostered relationship of Visconti and Bowie.  They again crafted one of Bowie’s best.

Responding to the obvious questions about its contempraneity, Bowie replied that many of his albums could have been seen as reflective to an event like 9/11.  It’s true that the album was recorded before the terrorist attacks in Bowie’s adopted hometown, but certainly provides a deeper spiritual experience than its immediate predecessors.  New York and a change in his attitude to promotion would surface a short time later.

Reality: Back where I started from…

Pounding back on a schedule, Bowie resurfaced just a year later with 2003’s Reality.  After little fanfare for Heathen but a fair tour with what he proclaimed to be his strongest ever band – Reality was a return to the stadiums.  It had been a while.  As the title suggested, this was Bowie at possibly his most straightforward.  Alas, it would be a stadium album for a stadium tour that would finish him off for ten years.  I saw him at the start of the tour, then near the end.  In Birmingham he was blinding, wheeling out the lovely Days was a nice and unexpected touch – but by the Isle of Wight, I was surely suffering Bowie fatigue.  That is not to say it wasn’t stupendous – he even wheeled out the full Station to Station.  Suitably amazing, but weeks before he had to call time on his biggest tour for years.

A cartoon Bowie adorns the cover of Reality, not the religious heretic of the earlier album nor the old Bowie crossed out 10 years later on The Next Day.  Anime Bowie was the figurehead of a more powerful live rock.  Some of the ambiguity found in Hours was fading, Bowie even suggested that Reality was a “sense of New York”.  This was his true response to 9/11 (most notable in the stinging Fall Dogs Bombs the Moon) and he was taking it out on the road.  Big time.

The songs were accessible, the lyrics retaining a tension after Heathen.  Words mangled in this new world, from its blistering opening New Killer Star through to covers that were again cunningly chosen.

At the time Bowie was wisely cherry picking his back catalogue.  The start of the century had seen him as long haired as Hunky Dory, with a suitably elaborate coat.  Now the hair was styled and foppish, the clothing more regular, as he wheeled out Rebel Rebel as his universal anthem.  He even released it on an album bonus disk alongside Queen Bitch.  The 1970s were writ large, but he was no slave to them.  While his covers were less, they were carefully selected.  I remember a critic at the time wishing that Bowie would end his extended Pin Ups project.  However, in Reality as in Heathen they’re seamless.  In the latter, The Modern Lover’s Pablo Picasso sets a simple statement while recalling Bowie’s own Andy Warhol on Hunky Dory in spirit.  It sets the New York tone intended.  Later on, Bowie picks up the ‘All things must pass’ lyric at the end of Heathen, by covering George Harrison’s Try Some, Buy Some.  And a rather marvellous waltz it is too.

Never Get Old – the theme to that Vittel advert, surely has one of the most simplistic bass scales ever heard in a Bowie song, but then it’s straightforward shouty pop.  Looking for Water recalls the thumping rhythm lines of his 1970’s work, including Boys Keep Swinging, whilst retaining Reality’s  general discordance.  Two great middle-eights set this album for me, the lament on the brilliantly understated Days – the more Hours-like song on the album, if not in production terms – and then that of the title track, a blistering and stadium rock tune full of references to bowie past.

If Bowie remained spiritually agnostic to a point from Hours running into Heathen, here Bowie seems to be testing his own grit and direction.  At points he is introverted , possibly verging on actually  being that Loneliest Guy or singing the haunting avant-garde closing track for eternity.  In terms of this, diversifying the tunes and sending the show out on the road seemed a fair response.   Defaulting to the dark as standard throughout his career, recent new parenthood may have affected Him, but he has said before that he generally approaches similar subjects from different angles throughout all his albums.  Reality was another example.  Alas it was to end sourly, but still after 10 years away from the studio, there was to be The Next Day

The History Years: Simon Mayo’s 2001 departure from Radio 1

Mayo

Mayotrix

Chris Moyles has crossed the road from Broadcasting House, but he’s not the first. 

While I pay tribute to ‘The Saviour’ here’s my archive look at Simon Mayo’s departure.

The History years‘ – Originally published 7th March 2001 in York Vision

Matt Goddard wonders what he’s going to do in the mornings now Simon Mayo’s ‘gone on to better things’.

“SIMON MAYO IN THE MORNING, HE’S NO LONGER YAWNING…  Anymore…  La, la, la, la, la, One FM”.  Blur rings out and suddenly you’re in the past and the present at the same time – oh, and in bed.

It’s all so reassuring.

It was the same on the morning of 16 February when an era ended.  After 15 years, Simon Mayo left Radio One and took some important parts of my teenage memories with him.

Now, I know not all of you care about Radio One or particularly Simon Mayo, but I also know a lot of other, equally distraught people.  Mope.  You don’t HAVE to carry on reading this, but in writing it I’m attempting to vindicate the hundreds of hours I’ve spent listening to Mayo’s show rather than doing something slightly more important.

Mayo’s show was the mainstream movie-show of choice.
It’s not that Radio One had the best critics.
Oh, no, no, no…”

Somehow he showed more innovation in his dead-pan presentation than anyone, and managed to justify that lie-in until 12 on a Thursday morning.  If I woke up in time, I’d guess the ‘Mystery Years’, then just lie-in to hear ‘Dead or Alive’, oh, and then just a bit longer to hear ‘King of the Movies’ (or the oh-so-superior One World), then the ‘Eleven-Thirty-Three’ or ‘Millennium Anthems’ oh, and then to hear who Wicky-Wah-Wah-Will’s been that day.  After that I’m chucked out of bed by Jo Wiley.

No more.  Much as I love Jo on Channel Four at midnight, she’s single-handedly solving my lie-in problem.

There were other jewels in the 9-12 show: ‘God of the Week’ constantly confirmed what you always thought about Jim Carrey or David Duchovny.  When producer George ‘regenerated’ into Producer Will last year I laughed for hours – it’s the little attentions to detail that make a show.  Sara Cox take note.

A big bonus was the fact that I’m a movie-lover.  Mayo’s show was the mainstream movie-show of choice.  It’s not that Radio One had the best critics.  Oh, no, no, no.  Yet the BBC gave Mayo the biggest budget for ridiculously high concept prizes and his team had the ingenuity to match.  Perhaps by the end, they were losing it (how many times was the lame ‘Kind of the Movies’ competition won by the fastest search engine?) but there are great memories.

Last year, the fantastic’ One World’ shifted into ‘One World is Not Enough’ for the 19thJames Bond film.  The prize escapes me, but I couldn’t stop uttering the catchphrase for weeks.  The fantastic Matrix competition to see the premiere in Paris; all the finalists lost, and Jo Wiley had to wait while Mayo did what he does best.  Oh, and don’t forget the Phantom Menace compo, the only element of Star Wars: Episode One which lived up to the hype.

His last show was suitably impressive.  Some of the familiar parts of had to go for times-sake, but ending on a Lemmy comment and Ace of Spades: Genius.

Moby, Terrorvision, Feeder, a very ingratitude Travis, Everclear all sent in messages of tribute and I think everyone was surprised by some impromptu interludes from The Shirehorses and the Proclaimers.

Special mention has to go to ‘The Mystery Years’.  You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.  It’s been around for as long as I can remember, but obviously it’s got easier as it went on; more nineties-centric.  The favourite year by far on the day was 1996, and what a year it was.  The Manic’s Design for Life’ slid into the Prodigy firestarting.  And to end on Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger – does that song make a great conclusion to everything?  Sure, back then Oasis were the biggest band in the world, but anyway 1996 was fantastic.  Yep, it was my long post-GCSE summer, so it was particularly great for me.

Mayo’s apparently going to resurrect ‘The Mystery Years’ in may on Five Live, but it just won’t be the same in the afternoon.  Especially clashing with Mark and Lard.

A typically BBC quote went up on the website – whoever said they weren’t diplomatic?  – but what are they up to?  Like Mayo on the said morning, I don’t think there’s a need to slag off their aggressive radio policy.  However, Mayo isn’t DLT.  The last year has seen them ditch the Roadshow all in favour of the One-World, One Love slogan and Leeds street parties.  Sure, sounds great – I know the world’s changing but I’m being made to feel old by BBC execs just a few years older than me.  What about my day?  Don’t they know how disturbing it is to wake up at 10, hear Jo Wiley and think it’s the afternoon?  It’s messing with ME.

His leaving present which reminds him of Radio One, a mirror and a razorblade.
That’s because everyone here is so smart and clean shaven obviously’

Sure there were slights at the BBC on Mayo’s last day, most notably the last questionnaire, annunciated by Angus Deayton.  He asked a representative number of people, ‘Apart from joining FiveLive, what else could Simon Mayo have done next?’

‘3% said sit back and admire his leaving present which reminds him of Radio One, a mirror and a razorblade.  That’s because everyone here is so smart and clean shaven obviously’.

Hmmmm.  As the last day suggested, not many ex-Radio one DJs go on to bigger and better things (Simon Dee, Simon Bates, Mike Reid, DLT..?).  Ii hope Mayo’s an exception.  At least he gets to have a lie-in of student standards now.  It’s easy to forget he was with Radio One for 15 years.  In any line of work that’s amazing, least of all fickle Radio One.

He even managed to hold the breakfast Show for five years, imagine that now.

Oh well, maybe it’s good Mayo’s left.  After all, I can get up early, so some stuff, not waste money or time phoning the BBC and get a degree.  Yeah, whatever, bring back 1996.”

JokerMatt subsequently scraped a degree and his ‘One World is Not Enough’ impression still has it. 

The Mystery years subsequently resurfaced on the Chris Moyles Show – another 15 year Radio 1 alumni, with a record eight years on the breakfast show –  and Simon Mayo has been reconnected with Mark Kermode to once again take the mantle as BBC’s Mr Film. 

Chris Moyles Exits Stage Left in 2012: ‘Some weird victory’

Chris Moyles Leaves Radio 1

Saviour

A first Jokerside post to break the rule…  Radio may not be discussed here much, but this time it’s personal.  I’m in a quandary: unless my wine taste radically falls in line with Scott Mills, and that probably wouldn’t buy me much time, Radio 1 is now off limits.  Now I just don’t know where to take my morning ‘non-visual speak time/hit snooze button time’.  Yep, Chris Moyles has emphatically left the building and crossed the road…

TIME TO TOUGHEN UP.  Eras are forever ending.  It’s time’s fault.  Stupidly, religiously and unrelentingly travelling forward.  In some parts of the universe there must be eras ending every micro-second.  On this small planet we now generally count them best according to knowledge: cultural and technological.  While some people may strictly measure only the most significant eras, a few hundred epochs of ice or dinosaurs, others may choose monarchs, stamps or nationalised rail networks.

Nowadays, in these ever more ‘connected’ and fast moving times, it can be easier to adopt eras that are, well, fittingly shorter.  Small, generationally defining time periods are now used to measure the most important things that have ever existed in the world – that would be: music, TV and film (imagine that brewing X-Factor: The Movie epoch…).  Basically, it’s those sound waves that have been broadcast for a hundred years to those small pockets of the universe where any casual listeners may properly describe Tony Blackburn’s broadcasting career as an Eon.  Whatever your view of an era – personal, peer or galactic – one thing is for certain: they end.

And so yesterday morning, not less than three years after Sir Terry Wogan stepped from his TOG tower in Broadcasting House, Chris Moyles ended his tenure as BBC Radio 1’s longest running breakfast show host.

I’ve listened to Moyles since his arrival on Radio 1 and I can measure parts of my life against his BBC career: A-levels to his Saturday show, sorting stock in HMV to his afternoon show and then, well, my post-education career slumming as he landed his dream job.  But that isn’t very significant.  I can equally measure my biography against Red Dwarf, Eastenders and even non-BBC brands, but it’s certainly more than I can do with Eamonn Holmes.

Having read the first of Moyles’ biographies, I’ve always liked his rather healthy career ethic: if you’re good the money will just follow.  I also liked the way he built and rebuilt teams at different points like Nick Fury.  I oddly liked his non-fussy, and not very specific music knowledge.  I liked his constant attempts to translate onto the small screen, his most successful being a pub quiz.  But most of all I liked him because occasionally, not everyday but occasionally, he made me burst into uncontrollable hysterical laughter.  Especially over the last eight years, that is no mean feat in the morning.  I’ve even seen him make sworn Moyles-haters laugh.  His conversion rate was quite impressive when given the chance.  His is a cleverly sculpted mix of hard preparation, everyman and baiter.  A powerful bit of broadcasting that the BBC couldn’t ignore.

I also like arrogance as a rule.  It may be rather un-British, but particularly when it’s proved right.  He was the self-proclaimed saviour of Radio 1.  And he delivered:  He came in amid superhero posters and supposedly a few sharp words to the departing Sara Cox and…  Increased and stabilised listener figures.

…That extraordinary mid-90s period when the radio was all
Kula Shaker, Space and Divine Comedy with ne’er a hip, a hop nor an R nor a B in sight…

I’d been through a few of Radio 1’s morning roster since the 90s.  The underrated Kevin Greening, Zoe Ball…  Before them, Steve Wright when I’d gained my first FM radio.  I stuck with him through to Chris Evans in that extraordinary mid-90s period when the radio was all Kula Shaker, Space and Divine Comedy with ne’er a hip, a hop nor an R nor a B in sight.  That was reserved for the lunchtime, when Lisa I’Anson provided my pre-GCSEs soundtrack.  Thanks Manumission.

During the growing hip-hop revolution, I’d been forced to take prolonged breaks. Following Mark and Lard’s sublime but ill-thought through tenure, Sara Cox’s rather torrid breakfast reign had coincided with a slight political twinge and the Today Show had been dutifully programmed in.  Until my hi-fi was nicked as I recall.  That’ll teach me.  During most of this time, I had listened to various Moyles’ shows as he toured the day schedules.  I’d chatted amiably with friends about him and not really grasped the strangely impassioned arguments of the Moyles-haters.  Late teen Moyles haters were and are as random as university Telegraph sales figures.  But despite being an enthusiastic listener, Moyles’ wasn’t really my favourite show.

In February 2001, Simon Mayo departed Radio 1 and I dutifully I wrote a glowing requiem for a student rag (read: an incredibly brilliant and successful paper I’m immensely proud of).  Mayo represented the real passing of the old guard on the station and it showed in his consummate broadcasting. Really, it hit me like a bolt.  I’d spent many mornings hung-over, draped close to a radio, while his mid-morning show was on.  I knew it emphatically, each feature and every nuance of his rather dry delivery.  In hindsight, his show may have been elevated by Jo Whiley’s show following his.  Thanks again Manumission.

Radio shows are perhaps the easiest of things to review.  Repeated features and quirks that evolve over time or ‘definitely work’ or ‘definitely don’t work’.  Add them all together and you have a biography for any show, reflecting its whole tenure or just a specific day, while analysing the presenter in a large wireless spotlight.  That’s what I did with Mayo then, and yesterday the media paid no small attention to Moyles’ last show themselves.  Articles ranged from celebratory to the mildly career-obituarial via run-downs of Moyles’ top controversies and even weight-loss.  The Telegraph were particularly unimpressed.  It was a rather subdued show, but after weeks of build-up, what did they expect but a few hours of ‘goodbye’.

In some ways 2006 looks like a career peak!

A quick glance at these articles ‘see also’ lists told its own story.  January 2006: ‘Mighty Mouth’; May 2006: ‘No Show Leaves listeners Guessing’; June 2006: ‘Watchdog warns Radio 1 DJ over four letter words’.  In some ways, 2006 looks like a career peak!  Certainly Moyles was at the top of his game in the mornings, but he had been in the afternoons and weekends before that.  Despite those headlines, the show had mellowed considerably since he arrived on the station.  For one, I fully  believe as a consummate professional radio presenter he was horrified when swear words fell through the system.  There would always be the odd anti-BBC rant, the abuse of a BBC colleague – marginally incorrect, but compared to the late 90s when he had a reputation to bring to the public broadcaster, his outbursts were lighter and in-team arguments far shorter and softer.  Of course yesterday, critics of the Moyles ‘cult’ were addressed briefly, but overall it was a gentle farewell.  More gentle than most of those critcs would have expected I imagine, listening for the first time in years.

Arrogant, bigot, talentless, gob-shite… All words easy to level at a broadcaster.  Certainly there was controversy, some of it easy to understand.  But that’s not something that should necessarily have raised eyebrows when Moyles was appointed to Breakfast.  It’s certainly no bad thing for the target demographic to hear something challenging or controversial.  In many ways, they are the least impressionable listeners – and since the 1960s, I can think of a fair few pop or rock songs that have done worse.  While I may have been a good age to follow the innuendo and dark humour into career, I doubt there were sixth-form classes filled with Moyles copy-cats.

I can’t think what those teenagers – or perhaps their younger siblings, recently weaned from Radio 2 in the car – thought of Chris Moyles on Radio 1 in recent times.  It’s probably a fair distance from what an early teens me thought of Steve Wright, but not that far… Change is important, and in a station like Radio 1, with one of the most stringent demographic targets in the BBC, even more so.  It can’t be doubted that a tremendous amount of work went into Moyles’ shows.  Richard Curtis mentioned the ‘silences’ in that last show.  Add to that the ever-late news, the poor timing, the half hours without music.  These things are no less difficult to consistently ‘perform’ than Les Dawson’s piano technique (a target reference there, less removed from Moyles as he is from his lowest target demographic).  I never heard a ‘bad’ show.

Still he lead a flagship BBC show while others fell around him…

While Moyles is Radio 1’s longest-running breakfast DJ by some distance, and its most controversial, it’s notable that his final years coincided with one of the Corporation’s most tumultuous periods.   Budget cuts, competition downgrading, demise (refitting) of the Roadshows, text message restrictions, salary cuts, the rise of 1Xtra or resurrection of 6music – all these no doubt shaped the Radio 1 breakfast show from what it may have been.  But still he lead a flagship BBC show while others fell around him.  A ‘desperation for popularity’ is, you might think, a prerequisite for someone helming the most important radio show in the country.

Moyle’s off air Radio 1 career has been dwelt on as much as his thousands of hours on-air.  A turbulent arrival, the unfortunate spat with John Peel…  With his obvious peer friendships, but some deliberate perverseness for good measure, there was never a sense that Moyles ever sat with any particular generation in the classic Radio 1 sense.  In fact, his persona required it.  He was hardly the successor to DLT, wasn’t party to the bland Colin and Edith intake, nor bundled in with extraordinary, and short-lived, Wes or JK and Joel periods.  But notwithstanding, he was certainly part of a team – from his ‘posse’ to the Radio 1 family.  Often, even in an increasingly commercialised world, BBC values can still shine through.  Perhaps that’s part of Moyles’ self-declared ‘institutionalisation’, part of this broadcaster 15 times longer than any other.  When Kevin Greening died, Moyles’ tribute to a former colleague was heartfelt, and yesterday the next generation were effusive of Moyles.  Of Greg James and his successor Nick Grimshaw, Moyles appears as universally scornful and generous as he was to many of his predecessors.  While he may be divisive, his achievements, the ‘tough act to follow’, are not in doubt.  That ‘victory’ he mentioned yesterday works on many levels.  Of his many enemies over the years, they generally fall into two camps: now friends or long fallen from the dial.

There is a neat bookending to the end of Moyles’ career.  Aside from the ironic Cox after-show, I recall a random monster night on BBC 2, almost certainly late last century.  This not only marked a crucial development in my appreciation of Godzilla, Japanese analogy and smashing up towns, but also the first time I’d seen Moyles on TV.  It can’t have been long after the infamous Sky magazine splashes.  Also present were Paul Ross, Bill Bailey and Phil Jupitus: it was a heavyweight panel for a heavyweight subject.  Those present were certainly guarded at the new Radio 1 upstart’s presence and I can’t remember that he said much.  Jupitus would soon be launching the inaugural 6music breakfast show and in course, 15 or so years later Moyles recommended listeners to Shaun Keaveny show, Jupitus’ successor.  6music listeners, often with a choice music snobbishness I quite appreciate, flew to Twitter to point out that Moyles had clearly never listened to Keaveny’s show.  Moyles had admitted as much – not unexpectedly considering his working day – but you can’t think that he didn’t know what he was doing.  Moyles’ listeners will likely split between 1, 2, 6 and some commercial stations.  Things come around.

The final show had to end with a musical number, of course.  Moyles is as defined by his colourful jingles as the royalties he legendarily earned from them.  Stepping from Broadcasting House and crossing the road was profound.  It’s also a rather emphatic gesture.  Any past-tense here  is because the BBC door appears shut.  That said, I came to praise Moyles, certainly not to bury him.  Next stop of course is an arena tour and musically sentencing the Messiah to crucifixion.

Judging by BBC’s approach to Grimshaw, Moyles may be the last classic Radio 1 DJ.  It’s a loose club, but his subversion and homage has been format-changingly  successful.  Grimshaw seems an astute choice, but I’ve no time here to talk about him any more than the other significant contributors to the Chris Moyles Show – and that’s not in anyway to their detriment; there’s just one name above the bar.

Re-reading that Mayo piece after a decade, its clear time has changed and so have I.  Thank Manumission! I’ve drifted in and out of Moyles’ tenure, through Woof Woof Beards and Car Park Catchphrases and am unable to point fingers specifically in the way I could with Mayo.  Time and life have caught up I guess.  But to the end, his show still made me laugh.  What the hell is going to do that now?

Read my review of Simon Mayo’s final show here

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