John Walsh: Like the music they played, life after radio for the ex-DJs is a tale of hits and misses...


John Walsh
Friday 06 January 2012 01:00

It's no joke being a Radio 1 DJ. After storming the airwaves in your 20s as a silver-tongued cavalier, astounding the kids with your edgy repartee, thrilling the laydeez with your saucy banter, making a fortune talking motor-mouth piffle for three hours a day and hosting "roadshows" for listless radio fans in muddy Berkshire fields on Saturday afternoons, the only way is down.

For every DJ who found a second career in business, like Bruno Brookes (who's now a muzak supplier to companies like Spar and Ikea) and his old colleague Peter Powell (who co-owns a management company for showbiz performers,) there are two casualties. Like Andy Kershaw, the world music impresario, who had a nervous breakdown in 2007, and his sister Liz Kershaw whose BBC6 Music show was fined £118,000 in 2008 as one of a number of BBC shows accused of "deceiving its audience by faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly."

For every Dave Lee Travis, whose DJ career proceeds happily on Magic FM and whose Jolly Good Show on the BBC World Service was described this year by no less than Aung San Suu Kyi as having been "a lifeline" when she was under house arrest in Rangoon, there are others whose late career choices are frankly naff. Like Adrian Juste, one of the DJs sacked from Radio 1 in the 1990s purge, who now provides the voice-over for an online bingo-site Tombola.

Years of inane chitchat and being required to play the same records repeatedly has left many disc jockeys in a state of derangement, in which they agree to almost anything, provided it's not connected to radio. Mike Read is the prima donna assoluta in this field. He launched a succession of stage musicals, despite their invariable critical drubbing and their lack of shelf-life (Cliff the Musical, the life of Cliff Richard, lasted three months; Oscar, the life of Oscar Wilde, just one night,) then went on I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here! and was first to be booted off, then started making chocolate artworks of album covers and the Tube map, then he claimed in The Guardian that he'd been asked to run for the Conservative party in the London Mayoral elections. A thousand disparaging comments followed this bombshell.

Heaven knows what inducement persuaded Simon Bates, a stalwart on Radio 1 from 1977 to 1993, to become the voice of the Video Standards Council in the 1990s, advising parents that the video their child was about to watch "may contain sexual swear words".

Perhaps the best a DJ can hope for is to wind up in a warm, soft and unthreatening environment – like Smooth Radio, where Simon Bates and Andy Peebles are grooving still.

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