OUTSIDE EDGE

Jon Ronson penetrates the twilight world of the HMV DJ
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The Independent Culture
Radio HMV DJ Andy McClusky shivers at the memory of the one who slipped through the net.

"He fell apart," he says. "Hundreds of people in the store, and he was supposed to announce: `It's time for the HMV Powerplay', but instead he said: `It's time for the P-P-P-P-Powerplay!' It wasn't a stutter. He thought it was cool. He wasn't being RadioHMV. He was being Radio Him. Unacceptable. Hang on . . . " Andy swings his chair towards his desk and presses a button. "You're listening to R-R-R-Radio HMV," announces a tape, lustily. "Yes you are," enthuses Andy into his microphone. "Here's Thunder! Powerplay!"

There is, it seems, a very fine semantic tightrope to be walked between the acceptable and the unacceptable in the strange world of the in-store DJ.

For some, of course, their very existence is an affront: a visit tc Oxford Street is traumatic enough without being blasted against your will into the Land of the Babbled Inanity. But for others, it can be an alluring stepping-stone: in-store DJs occupy the twilight hinterland between hospital and local radio: still one rung short of being broadcast into people's homes, but at least your audience aren't lying catatonic on drips. HMV and Top Shop pioneered the concept in the mid-Eighties, and now Radio HMV receives over 500 demo tapes each year.

"We have had our successes," says Andy. "Let me think now. Steve Collins went on to Radio Chiltern. Not the main Chiltern, mind you. One of the off-shoots. And Simon Ross does the drive time on Ocean Sound."

As training grounds go, being in-store is rigorous. DJs are required to broadcast for up to six hours each day. And, while local radio is relatively anonymous, you are stuck in a glass booth on the shop floor, where customers are prone to glare ferociously at you at any time. "It's a fishbowl," says fellow DJ Steve. "Two years in a fishbowl."

The high-spots, however, are the celebrity PAs. A few years ago, you'd be lucky to get Mad Lizzy from TV-am, but nowadays everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Spike Milligan turn up to sign their products.

"You ask me if I like my job," Andy says. "Well, when I'm standing in a room near Elle McPherson, as close to Elle McPherson as - um - I am to that man over there, I say to you: `How can I not enjoy my job?' Anyway. It's better than building houses."

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