Serpent’s Tail £18.99

No Off Switch, By Andy Kershaw

Many faces, but no time to look in the mirror

There are several Andy Kershaws in Andy Kershaw's autobiography.

There's the globe-trotting journalist and documentary maker, assimilating sounds and cultures and fearlessly reporting on some of the world's most volatile trouble spots; the ground-breaking radio DJ steeped in his own sense of superiority and waging a one-man battle against mediocrity; the ladies' man, keen to capitalise on his elevated status and indulge in, as he cringingly puts it, a "bit of leg-over". In the final chapters, there is also the lonely and broken Kershaw, fresh out of prison, on his uppers, and estranged from his family.

Kershaw has had one hell of a life, although reading his account of it, it's hard to know which of these characters is the real him. I know which one I prefer, and that's the music enthusiast dedicated to unearthing obscure treasures, a man who thinks nothing of hopping on a plane to Los Angeles to look up an old country-soul legend in order to invite him on to his radio show, or to Harare to acquaint himself with the sound of Zimbabwean jit dance music. Less appealing is the Kershaw that regards chavs as an "invasive species" and repeatedly rubbishes his Radio 1 colleagues. (John Peel, despite being described as a friend, gets a particularly rough ride.)

From his childhood in Rochdale as the offspring of deeply conservative parents, there was always a bonfire burning in Kershaw's belly. He claims to have bounced by accident from job to job, whether that be working as Billy Bragg's driver and roadie, or presenting The Old Grey Whistle Test, or setting up shop on Radio 1, but there's no disguising the ambition behind the trademark checked shirt.

The book stitches together some strange and comic escapades, such as Kershaw's painting and re-painting of a fence around a Rolling Stones concert, to fit with their site co-ordinator's definition of "grass-green", or his interview with John Hurt during Live Aid, in front of an audience of billions, executed without the slightest clue as to who he was.

While the book is heavy on anecdote it is, alas, light on reflection and self-awareness. When discussing his troubles with the BBC – considered too esoteric by his narrow-minded superiors, his Radio 1 show was axed in 2000 – Kershaw portrays himself as the only conscientious broadcaster on the planet. More alarmingly, he offers little sign of the trouble brewing with his partner Juliette Banner – with whom he had a 17-year relationship, but who merits little more than a paragraph – culminating in a series of restraining orders which, having been repeatedly broken, resulted in a spell in prison.

Self-analysis is not Kershaw's style, though you imagine it would go some way in helping a man who was deserted by his parents at the age of 16, who has seen unimaginable atrocities in Rwanda and who has struggled with alcoholism. As it is, No Off Switch leaves you wondering if he deserves a Nobel Prize for services to music or just a hefty boot up the backside.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas