The British have a problem with confident, successful people. We’re quick to label them “cocky”, “arrogant” and accuse them of losing touch with the real world. We love nothing more than to see them toppled from their perch, when quite often it is us who has championed their rise. Was Chris Moyles just another recipient of this fickle treatment? Was I really the only person over 30 that actually liked the man and his radio shows?
He went from being ‘the bloke most UK men would want to have a pint with’ to being chastised for 'not playing a record before 7am' and a self indulgent, narcissistic and elongated farewell following 15 years at the BBC and a record eight-and-a-half hosting the flagship radio show that every aspiring DJ wants.
My admission to friends and work colleagues that I listened to his show was ridiculed as much as my love of Coldplay. But as is equally true of my passion for Chris Martin and co, I couldn’t pretend to hate Moyles and be ‘right on’ and tune into Radio 6 Music like all the rest of the sheep. It was, after all, only a radio show. Something to fill that agonising dead air of early morning, the school run or the commute to work.
That said, it was much more to me. Moyles talked about being ‘institutionalised’ in his 15 year stint at the beeb after flitting from one radio station to another for various reasons. He was either sacked, headhunted by a slightly higher profile commercial radio station, or through his own fierce determination to reach the top, left of his own volition in search of his ultimate dream: The Radio One Breakfast Show.
Was I really the only person over 30 that actually liked the man and his radio shows?
I too was institutionalised by the BBC, as a viewer and listener, but of course a listener first.
My day as a pre-school child began with the sound of my dad getting ready for work. He sat in the kitchen with his cup of tea listening to Radio Two. As soon as the door closed behind him at 7am, I grabbed the radio and fiddled with the little plastic dial until the sound of some croaky old duffer playing some country and western-sounding dirge was replaced by the fresh sparkling sound of Noel Edmonds or DLT playing Slade, Squeeze, The Boomtown Rats or Boney M.
This don’t forget was a time when not only did the television have just three channels, but none of them would be showing any programmes until at least nine thirty. The BBC ruled the airwaves and the little box in the corner of every sitting room. This was an age when commercial television was sometimes seen as the poor relation, in fact it was an unspeakable crime to even mention ITV on the Beeb – the rare occasions that BBC presenters even acknowledged its existence it had to be referred to as ‘the other side’. The modern day trend of spending hours of prime BBC Radio airtime talking about the latest episode of X Factor was a world away.
So I lived for the radio and the Radio One breakfast show was the only thing worth listening too. Noel Edmonds was the second presenter of the show, taking over from Tony Blackburn (slightly before my time) so Edmonds was my first experience of this precious piece of broadcasting that began weekday mornings. Noel could also be seen on Saturday when I rose, hosting Swap Shop, but the radio show was my passion and, without realising it, I became a ‘fan’, which in itself is slightly bizarre, but as the reputation of the show grew, it became worthy of having not just listeners, but actual followers. It became a friend in the morning getting ready for school, chuckling at Noel’s phone wind ups, then mimicking DLT’s ‘whack whack oopses’; yearning for Mike Read to send me a Tee Hee mug, wondering what adventures Smithy had got up to in his helicopter, or laughing along to the banter between Mayo and his weather and news sidekicks Sybil and Rod.
The BBC ruled the airwaves and the little box in the corner of every sitting room
Then, as with all good things, it came to an end. I left school, started work and observed from afar how the programme that lit up the mornings of my youth foundered under one bad new presenter after another.
For me now radio had only two reasons to be on: football and Danny Baker.
One man made me give Radio One another chance. When I moved to Manchester from London in 1992, a DJ from Warrington was making the opposite journey and got his first break on Radio One with a Sunday afternoon show he dubbed “Too Much Gravy”. Chris Evans provided the irreverent background as I and my new wife spent weekends decorating our new house, but he disappeared as quickly as he’d arrived and found his fame on Channel 4 television with a breakfast show of his own.
Evans did return to Radio One three years later, and it was on the breakfast show. I was intrigued enough to listen and found myself hooked again. By now, morning radio wasn’t the gentle brushing of the sleep from your eyes by a softly spoken disc jockey spinning the latest chart hits. It was the aptly named ‘zoo radio’ imported from America. A screaming hysterical mob dragged you from your bed by the ankles and bellowed at you tales of what they’d got up to last night and how little sleep they’d had.
But it was funny, for all different reasons and that’s what you want in the morning isn’t it?
Chris Evans provided the irreverent background as I and my new wife spent weekends decorating our new house
Radio One had tried the format before and failed. Attempting to slide Steve Wright in the afternoon to an earlier slot and reproduce his award-winning show to revive the flagging station, but the glee of chuckling along to his silly characters as you arrived home from school just didn’t work as well when you were brushing your teeth dreading another day in the classroom or office.
By 1995, instead of tales of DLT’s farm animals or Mike Smith’s helicopter to accompany your cornflakes, you had Evans demanding to know why Brussell Sprouts were like pubic hairs, and before you could ask yourself “did someone actually say ‘pubic hairs’ on the BBC at 7:45am?” he informed you that it was because you push them to one side before carrying on eating.
Unpeturbed, Evans responded to complaints by saying he’d spent the weekend at a country fair where he met a lady selling pies, remarking that her rabbit pie was the best he’d tasted and “her hare pie certainly took some licking too”.
If the Daily Mail didn’t like Moyles ranting about not being paid I’d love to know what they thought of that.
He got away with it because it was good. But it couldn’t last.
You had Evans demanding to know why Brussell Sprouts were like pubic hairs
Meanwhile, as is the BBC Radio circle of life, a new DJ had been given a chance to show what he could do by being given the ‘graveyard shift’ between 4am and 7. Chris Moyles had arrived and immediately proclaimed himself (with chubby tongue ever so slightly in his chubby cheek) to be the saviour of Radio One and the new presenter of the real breakfast show. And it certainly needed both.
Mark and Lard gave way to girl power as Zoe Ball and Sara Cox tried to revive the breakfast show’s fortunes to no avail. I decided that, approaching my thirtieth year, it wasn’t really befitting for me to listen to giggling girls and opted for Five Live to accompany me on the train journey to work.
Moyles made no secret of his lifelong desire to host the Radio One Breakfast Show and when he was finally given the keys to the door in 2004 he, to use that nauseating but essential X Factor maxim, ‘made it his own’.
No, he literally made it his own. It wasn’t the world famous Radio One Breakfast Show any more. It was the Chris Moyles show. When Moyles was away on holiday, his stand-in was advertised (using the jingles that he wrote and produced himself) as hosting ‘The Chris Moyles show with (insert stand-in DJs name here) cos Chris is on holiday’. You have to say it was a stroke of marketing genius on Moyles part, like the true perfectionist, he was leaving no detail untended.
Chris Moyles had arrived and immediately proclaimed himself (with chubby tongue ever so slightly in his chubby cheek) to be the saviour of Radio One
I found myself tuning in again. Here I was, in my thirties unashamedly listening to prime time morning radio. I found myself enjoying his laddish banter, the way he got away with saying ‘crap’ on the wireless, professing his love for the Daily Sport (where I worked at the time) and ‘not giving a crap’ – there he goes again – about being overweight because he loved beer and pizza.
The success was virtually instant. Listeners, like me, flocked back in their millions. He added to his collection of Sony awards and anyone who was anyone wanted to be on the show.
Some might say that the cracks began to show when he ‘banned’ Katie Price (Jordan) from the show for being late. Others would say it was simply him continuing to make his mark and it only served to boost the show’s reputation. However this was when the press began to turn on him and you got the feeling that he was thinking a lot more what he should be doing, saying and liking for the good of the furtherance of his career. He started doing work for ‘charidee’, went on a diet and appearing on TV.
The BBC has a fearsome reputation for age discrimination at Radio One. When it comes to a cull they’re as ruthless as the scriptwriters of Hollyoaks, wiping an entire raft of faces from the cast list almost overnight.
Moyles almost certainly wasn’t going to appear to be pushed, but as he approached 40, he’d already dodged the bullet admirably.
Some might say that the cracks began to show when he ‘banned’ Katie Price (Jordan) from the show for being late
After more than eight years, he said goodbye for the last time and he did it in typical Moyles style, with a cheesy sing-along that underlined, in his mind at least, just how important his existence had been for his millions of listeners and the BBC.
There were times when you felt that maybe he was playing up to the arrogant tag and subversively mocking himself, and there were times when you felt like screaming at the radio “Oh get over yourself you prick”. But I still tuned in. He surrounded himself with an often sychophantic crew to read the news, sport or produce the show along with his long-standing sidekick ‘Comedy’ Dave Vitty.
They knew what a good gig they were on and daren’t upset him, and yet there were some delicious moments when you felt sure you could hear their teeth grinding with frustration as he constantly interrupted their two minute news, sport and weather updates, unable to keep his fat face out of their tiny little piece of the attention like a spoilt child craving yet more of the limelight.
And yet I still listened. In fact the things that were apparently turning people off of him were actually making me like him more, it was good radio.
Not good in the ‘DLT Hairy Cornflake whack whack oops’, or ‘Mike Read, Mike Read 275 and 285’ way, but then what in modern life is the same ‘good’ as it was in 1978 or 1981 anyway?
There were times when you felt like screaming at the radio “Oh get over yourself you prick”
If 40 years of being on this earth has taught me one thing it is that it’s just not possible to like something in its entirety, but to celebrate imperfection. Yes, I had got rather bored of him telling us he’d had a text from Robbie Williams over the weekend or that he’s almost got a million followers on Twitter, but I also enjoyed the anticipation of not knowing what was going to come next.
Chris Moyles’ life at Radio One could almost be a self-lampooning sketch of a scruffy fat DJ who walked through the doors of the BBC in 1997 and emerged again 15 years later, transformed, slimmed down in a slick outfit and waved goodbye in a ‘my work here is done’ kind of way as he headed off into the sunset and a career on Broadway.
If you’ve ever seen the opening credits to Alexei Sayle’s Stuff then you’ll know what I mean, only in reverse.
So why do so many people either hate him or love him? Does he care? That ‘Marmite’ effect may well be yet another well-engineered part of the Moyles secret of success. A success that, whatever your opinion on the man, is impossible to ignore.
Chris Moyles’ life at Radio One could almost be a self-lampooning sketch of a scruffy fat DJ who walked through the doors of the BBC in 1997
I liked Chris Moyles and I liked his show. There, I’ve said it, after all this dancing around the issue, it’s out there. But more than that I am still a helplessly romantic fan of the Radio One Breakfast Show of which he was a worthy custodian.
So what will I do now? I wanted them to give the job to Scott Mills, whose childish sense of humour such as getting his own hapless sidekick to give silly names for the foreign lady in Starbucks to call out when his coffee is ready and laughing at double entendres is surprisingly endearing. But instead they gave it to Nick Grimshaw, and on that note I think I really do have to bow out, accept my age and tune in to Radio Two because there’s only so many times I could endure hearing “soz”, “random” or whatever else it is the ‘kids’ say nowadays. I’m sure Grimshaw is an excellent DJ but I fear the show is heading back into the wilderness years.
Bowing out and accepting my age is exactly what the powers that be at the BBC wanted to achieve and I’m happy to give them what they want.
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