Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Nick Grimshaw "not a morning person"

I'm not allowed to listen to Radio 1 any more out of duty to the BBC. They're trying to get rid of elderly gentlemen like me as it distorts the average age of their listeners.

Mrs Wallis, though, works there, trendy young mother of three that she is. This week she has been sharing an office with Nick Grimshaw.

I've never met Grimmy, but I listened to a couple of shows he did ages ago on Radio 1 on a Sunday evening (? I think) and remember being struck by how natural, relaxed and genuinely funny he was.

This morning Grimmy told Mrs Wallis the story of how he was offered the Radio 1 breakfast show. It was yesterday, and Big Boss Ben had called him in for a 9.30am meeting. Grimmy thought he was in trouble, and to compound it, he was running late. He rushed in to Ben's office all of a flutter, sat down, apologised, and the first sentence he managed was: "Sorry. I'm not a morning person..."


Just a note about Chris Moyles. I think he is one of the greatest talents to work in radio. Frank Skinner is extraordinary (download the podcast now), Jonathan Ross was a class act, Adam and Joe, Sara Cox, Danny Baker and all the rest are people who all do what they do with some verve, but Moyles has something extra. Not everyone feels the same way, so I'll try to explain it.

He isn't just a very funny man, a clever anecdotalist and an accomplished technician (watching him work a desk, record and replay sound clips, manage the other voices in his team and use the effects is like watching a conductor work an orchestra), Moyles also has a wonderful gift for using sound itself.

There were many times, especially early on in his Radio 1 career when you would hear long pauses, or links that you thought had gone on too long, but that was where his genius and belief in his own talent came in. He was working desperately hard to make every link special, every link memorable and if the link didn't have it, he would pause, re-group, and try to steer the link in the right direction before he pushed the button on it.

Moyles didn't mind if he was giving us dead air, because he had the confidence in himself to make sure the next thing he said, the next thing we all leaned in to hear (because we thought something was going wrong, or were keen to hear how on earth he would get out of it) would be funny enough to justify us doing so. In the early days not everything went right, but you could almost feel his brain ticking over, working, absorbing, learning and constantly going for brilliance, rather than settling for humdrum.

As the years went by, he became more skilled and grew his talent to make the pauses less frequent, as the right phrase or direction to go came to him quicker, but the reason he got better is because he staked out his on-air space his own way in the early days, by following instinct.

Moyles did all this whilst remaining acutely aware of the tolerance of his own audience - a football crowd who can spot a phoney, or pounce on a weakness instantly. Any sign he was getting carried away with his own celebrity would be quickly anchored by his audience and own self-awareness. There aren't many people who can stay at the epicentre of popular culture for 8 years and still sound like a bloke you know down the pub. His gift was giving you a window into that showbiz world, articulating its ridiculousness and making you laugh at it with him.

Grimmy will obviously be different. But he has a way about him - that sense of having something to say and an entertaining way of saying it, which I'm sure will see him through.

Right, I'd better go. I have a breakfast show to do myself.

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