Hey Mr DJ: The Rise And Rise Of The Disc Jockey, BBC4

by | Sep 6, 2008 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

The history of one of the most important cogs in the machinery of popular culture was neatly packaged into an informative and enjoyable chronicle.

What to say if you didn’t like it

How all the nuclear wasteland of popular culture, ruled over by barely civilised savages like Simon Cowell, began with the 60s public’s lazy, criminal endorsement of DJs’ egos over musicians’ talent.

What was good about it?

• The still very funny Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Smashey and Nicey sketches that were sparingly used to illustrate the rise of the pirate radio stations and the decline of oafish anachronisms like Dave Lee Travis. (Smashey: “Who was the lead singer of Genesis before Phil Collins? Please send your answers on a postcard to Peter Gabriel Competition…”)

• A look at how civil and staid British radio was from its inception in the 20s until the mid-60s when the American-inspired pirate radio DJs were hired to front Radio 1.

• It was good to hear the late John Peel repeating the admirable dogma that defined his career: “What was important to me was to play what I damn well liked on the radio.”

• Seeing the revered Tony Benn on the side of conservatism when he asserted that “the pirates are a menace”.

• Jimmy Savile looking about 60 when presenting Top Of The Pops 40 years ago.

• The reassurance that Tony Blackburn was brimming over with banality even on his first Radio 1 show and that it’s not an affliction he picked up in the jungle.

• The surprisingly insightful exploration into the birth of club DJs, that began in late 70s Chicago where DJs added their own basslines to make conventional songs more danceable.

• The scene when Emperor Rosko was doing his show topless and pouring water over himself surrounded by fawning lackeys clearly exhibited destructive DJ egomania didn’t begin with Chris Evans.

What was bad about it?

• Forty minutes wasn’t long enough to adequately cover the impact of DJs on the modern music scene; the 70s, for example, was skated over with barely a mention.

• Perhaps it’s our sentimentality after his untimely death, but the wisdom of John Peel wasn’t heard as much as he deserved.

• The reverence with which Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook is supposedly held was demonstrated with him fighting off adoring Japanese fans. In the mid-90s, the shambolic Shampoo were the tops in Japan; so it’s not very difficult to become gods there.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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