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This is News Talk in 1970. My next guest was the first woman to become a deejay on BBC Radio One.
She has seen the music industry evolve from the Ground Zero moment of punk and the epiphanies that arrived in the late 80s with the acid house movement and the second summer of love. She's now BBC Radio One's longest serving deejay, still host her own late night show. And to celebrate her career, she's penned a new book called Hey, Hi, Hello.
And all of this while celebrating her 80th birthday this year.
Annie Nightingale, good morning and welcome to our program.
Good morning to you. Hello, how are you doing?
I'm doing great. Now we're going back a long way to when you became the first female DJ ever to get a job on BBC Radio One. Yeah.
Were you seen as simply a token at the time?
Well, that's a very interesting question. They had made a really definite decision with no women. They which I was quite shocked about because I've worked in TV presenting Life magazine, this paper. I haven't experienced anything like that. And I was just perplexed. And so when I went, no, no, you can't join because you're a woman. So I say, what's that got to do with it? And they went because the artist says, a husband substitute.
And that was a phrase I think they saw that I had to conceal it from the late 1950s attitude, the management, the first management team who took over radio land, who were quite technical guys, I think they saw it as a very technical job. And that's exactly why would a woman wants sweetie, I say because it's the best job in the world. So it took me three years to persuade them. And then I think there was a lot of public pressure by then, actually.
I mean, there a growing sense of a movement. And so I think they said, oh, well, last cycle was. So if you ask your question, yeah, it's obviously there was an element of tokenism. I thought there was another female deejay available for about 12 years. So maybe you're right.
And could you describe that the BBC of the time? Because I have this vision of, you know, post-war corridors and green bays and, you know, elderly machinery and all of that, you know, almost relics of World War Two.
I've grown up listening to the BBC as a child always I my life and I actually went to college on the same where I says so and I think hulking building. But I never, ever imagined I worked there and they always seemed very remote. They process all of it. And what that produces very several thousand thoughts that I never imagined it would be for me. It was I felt very austere. I never imagined the announcers who were in the businesses going crazy.
Everything is very formal. I didn't feel like knocking on me at all until obviously it happened. And then when I got close to the radio, what had to happen and the BBC had to take it on. Yeah, I don't know whether they even want to at the beginning, actually, that first one of these shows they had to my Schindler's List, these figures. Twenty eight million impossibles, they think of that no TV program gets done now that so they had they built a massive audience there on the TSA lines and they became household names in the right and the other country.
Yeah, right. Terry Wogan, who are upset. So yeah, he was only there when I visited. He helped to build that.
I suppose another Irishman was involved as well. And you met him, Ronan O'Reilly, who died.
So he has this idea of who it was promoting. I think it is the largest. So as you say and I mean, was it more of a set decided to start this partnership, rather? Caroline and I met him through his publicist and another and it seemed as crazy idea, but it worked. And us a great film executive. Right. And at the time, on the safe side, they listened to my camera and they go and they were moving that base.
And they were going on the English Channel, they were going past my window on the sofa and they were going to see right. I thought there was much of it. So I thought, this is what I want to do, something to say, find out, enjoy the other one. So I realized what I really wanted to do is say it on the radio. And so they would playing, which is not being played by the BBC. It was a very rich period.
This is mid 60s, you know, most of the basis of Rolling Stone. I mean, in the book I quote one top 10 from year 66, you known as The Artist. They say I mean, I that now I always say new music, but the importance of that era, I think the original Roger Hughes job, because then there were regulations and all the other parts that changed music.
Even when you did joined the BBC, it turned out that there were still some rules. I mean, for example, of this I find astonishing. They couldn't play back to back hits.
No. Well, that was because agree that with various sets of the agreement was they couldn't just play because, well, you know, commercial music was around. So they had to have the time, had to come in and try and play as well as they had on their records and then and then perform them live. And they had to go to auditions to do that. I think the Rolling Stones failed once or even twice that they failed as well.
It was a difficult loophole. So it was like the pirates were illegal so they could do what they like. The BBC could not do that. So to be fair to them, it wasn't their fault that they were not allowed to play the actual what they want to hear the problem. Exactly.
Now, you suggest in your book that the deejays employed by the BBC might have been vetted by MI5.
Well, I still remember I was told that there was a little room somewhere in Broadcasting House and I could go down the corridor. I think I wonder where they are, you know, and I Siza and we never did discover that they we were all vetted. But it's quite intriguing to think that that was happening.
You know, I suppose if you think of of the Cold War and the fact that someone on radio could be broadcasting state secrets in code for the radio.
I certainly didn't I didn't know anything.
When you joined the BBC, you were already well got with the Beatles.
Yeah, they were. They were great to me. And I could say this, that they said that my generation owes to that they open the doors. They gave us inspiration. They made us believe that follow through and it can tell the truth. And that I think that was important. I mean, it's also fantastic music, but that was inspiration. I go to young people. I still feel we owe them so much to that.
Now, do you do you have a view as to what broke up the Beatles, Alan Klein, or was it Yoko Ono or was it fragmenting in any event?
I think it was everything, and I think George Harrison really puts it best. He said it was basically Steve. He wanted to spread his wings. He wanted to do different things. He couldn't do it in that format. There was a different way. I think they've been together. We forget how long they've been together. Plus but at some time was, I think, until they went for them. And then the uninclined. This is what happened.
Yes, I got the blame for it. I mean, she used to sit in the studio ways in which they were not used to having anybody else doing that. It was a combination of all those things. I often wonder if there were no Beatles. And Paul was pointed out that they were the first year that didn't get a national service. I said if we had to do a national service, we would have all these separate you. Yeah, the UK I, we would never have met.
So I wouldn't have been any Basils often wonder how they were the gospel individually if they never met. I think Paul would have been a very successful songwriter because he just got that ability to write a lot of fantastic songs I think would have been successful, but there wouldn't have been a lot of very, very talented musicians. He been in the band. He wasn't really a stuntman, Ringo. Nothing, but it is the four of them together. That was the magic.
Do you remember? Where you were when you heard that John Lennon had been killed, had been murdered. Yeah. So we decided to go to you two days after that to interview him for the album Double Fantasy, what was my daughter and quite similar. Kind of woke me up in the morning and said the Skinner family was on the phone, said, have you got Paul McCartney? So, no, I'm not jealous. Was out. And that night we I was doing a show called The Old Graveness Song.
So we leave the song as I arrived with it. And we got together because I was so shocked and horrified. They couldn't even come to Syria to take part in this discussion in the middle of it. While we were running a video tape of this interview, the producer, Mike Appleton, came in to me and said, Paul, what's at stake? You. I it sounds ridiculous. I have no idea. It's all about his life. Program is pretty stressful.
I know one of the people who, you know, on the phone and it I and it was for the court and he said I went to the phone and he said, just say thank you on behalf of myself and Ringo, George and Yoko Salahi. So that's me. That's very sweet of that. It was a very moving moment. And, you know, I don't go back to cover and hold this together because everyone is doing the same at my.
So we thought, why why would anyone want to do that thing? And what would happen? I they knew about it at that point, you know, the very next day that we did this for them. But it's funny because a lot of people seem to remember that moment a while ago.
You referenced that chart that you reproduced in the book from May of 1966. And it's very interesting. Painted Black, The Rolling Stones while saying The Troggs, Yeah, Strangers in the Night, Frank Sinatra, Pretty Flamingo, Manfred Mann Sorrow, The Merseybeat Sloop John B The Beach Boys Shotgun Wedding by Roissy Monday, Monday, The Mamas and the Papas Rainy Day Women. I was 12 and 35 from Bob Dylan and Hey Girl, The Small Faces.
I think a lot of credit for that goes to the part hits. Who will play well is that music and there was a producer who became my producer Vansickle by the artists who produce Unexcelled on the BBC Light programme. Before that it was my radio operator. He was the only one who really was committed to playing the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and he is a double sessions so that they could get it right. And he was huge. Help these no longer with us.
But yeah, he helped me incredibly as well. He was still failed to do so to the people behind the scenes.
Your book is a catalogue of big names, people that you met and sometimes in passing like Tony Blair, but others like Dusty Springfield. You knew. Well, yeah, David Bowie. I mean, you predicted that he would be the next big thing after the Beatles, even when he was skinny, oddly dressed fellow who had visions of ripping up the pavement in his street where he had his art centre and putting down pink paving stones.
And he said, yeah, how's houses doing that? But the thing was that when that sort of obviously kind of I thought we could see it coming, there were all people in the cracks that weren't on the apple, but it was clear that all these directors that we've all been talking about, you know, going to situation and we're always looking for, well, it should be the new band, the new group to take over. And then I watch I had Space Oddity and I've been there with David Bowie.
I thought it him it's not that this one guy, because he had that vision, WASC was about space. It wasn't a love song. And yeah, I could see the vision and the way it was because it was a musician and I single star. So it was using electronic experimental and so it was experimental song and that I thought, yeah, that's the way forward.
Now your book spans so many artists, Marc Bolan, so many more, all the people you met. But right up to date, at the end of the book, there's a chapter. Meet the O'Connell's Maggie Phineas and Billy Eilish.
Yeah, she's fantastic. Once in a generation talent. They've got always and always. And I'm not saying it's OK, although I believe that all of this is a Gaelic version of Elizabeth. Have you ever heard.
That's right. Yes, indeed it is. Oh, good Lord. In the book. Yeah, that. I can't wait to see where they go next. And, you know, they've done the movie scenes at the Oscars, they've won the they've won everything. They could win what I think she should have been on show here through the summer, but obviously that's canceled like everything else. So I'm fascinated to know where they will take that talent.
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