Hey Hello Whats up by Annie Nightingale evaluate – 5 a long time of pop gusto | Books
Irvine Welsh once wrote that Annie Nightingale was less of a DJ than a “replacement cool big sister” for disaffected teenagers. “When the puffing sounds of loud, boring, fat, selfish men tightened the air waves, Annie’s cool, funky tones always stood out.” It’s true. Back when Radio 1 was striving to reach the end of the pier, Nightingale never became one of them. She campaigned for easily approachable actors like Ian Dury and Jonathan Richman who neither hooted nor neighed. She paved the way for many others to follow.
Hey Hi Hello, published to mark the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast on Radio 1, is a pleasant, if sometimes ragged, mix of an autobiography, transcripts of interviews with musicians from Bob Marley to Billie Eilish, and testimonials from friends like Karl Hyde of Underworld. It’s less of a mere memory than Nightingale’s Wicked Speed (1999), which featured vivid stories of traveling the world with the police and endless bacchanals in their Grade II listed Brighton home.
The new book, sprinkled with the occasional yoof text (“FFS”, “LOL”) and references to life during the lockdown, has a fair share of entertaining anecdotes. There’s a story about Radio 1’s annual “school photo” where celebrity guests join the DJs for a painful grin. For one year it was the magician Paul Daniels. In 2002 it was Tony Blair. Nightingale, fearing she might be fired if she told him what she thought of his plans to lead the country to war on Iraq, managed to get out: “Can I tell you that the NHS junior doctors are very unhappy are.”
With Paul McCartney, 1975. Photo: Fremantle Media / REX / Shutterstock
Nightingale is honestly an incredible 80 now, and most poignant when it comes to how she turned her back on her convent school education in the 1950s. At heart she was always a modernist, who was turned on by Modern Jazz and Frank Sinatra in Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm. She wandered alone to bohemian Soho, where she encountered new rhythms and chemicals. She went to Paris where she lost 10 pounds in a week and “almost got a sexually transmitted disease”. She was so excited about the inflammatory satire of David Frost and the satirical TV show That Was the Week That Was that she sent in sample sketches. “We had never known it before the war, so we had no feeling of missing anything, of not feeling anything that we had missed,” she says. “I always wanted to be in the vortex of moving forward and always believe that things would change for the better.”
Nightingale was a panelist on the Juke Box Jury as early as 1963, was present at the first British Song Festival (when a mix-up resulted in Lulu having to return her award to Kenny Lynch), met with the Beatles and introduced post-punk bands The Old Gray Whistle Test was an early cheerleader for acid house and techno (and Daft Punk’s “Da Funk”). She never lost her faith. She is a pleasure to read about how when she first heard Grace’s 2015 version of “You Don’t Own Me” she immediately remembered hearing Lesley Gore’s 1963 original, a song that “Has since become an international feminist anthem. And my personal too ”.
Nightingale doesn’t talk long about her family or matters of the heart. She doesn’t complain about former colleagues or pay old bills. But there are moments when she has to judge the absurdity of the modern electronic entertainment complex. On a work trip to Ibiza, she once met an “aspiring French DJ who was wearing a t-shirt that had big, bold, shiny letters on the front and said,” FUCK ME, I’m FAMOUS! It turned out to be David Guetta, who just a few years later was making nearly $ 40 million a year. Is he (or, another example she cites, Calvin Harris) more than the “modern day equivalent of the mobile DJ “Which, as traditionally played with sheen at” Young Farmers’ boozy gatherings or questionable clubs in Birmingham? Tiled walls “?
Gone are the days when Radio 1 stations were checked by an M15 branch. Few listeners believe that the ideal DJs are “husband substitutes,” funny guys who would entertain the little wife at home. Nightingale herself has lost none of her enthusiasm. She’s still an evangelist for nightly radio: in the ghost hours, DJs tend to be detached from daily playlists and have a free hand. You can create greater intimacy. “People may not know how much fun you can have if the bosses don’t listen,” she writes. She could “read out messages like, ‘Call Gaz – hurry up and come to us, mate, we have run out of Rizlas.'”
• • Hey Hi Hello: Five decades of pop culture from Britain’s first female DJ is released by White Rabbit (£ 20). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping costs may apply.