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Radio Stars - When Musicians Become DJs

By Luke Lewis

Posted on 11 Aug 09

 
 

Great news: according to their Head Of Programming, XFM have hired a "creative genius and a great storyteller" as their new DJ.

Who could it be? Leonard Cohen? Bruce Springsteen? Philip Roth?

No, it's Razorlight's Johnny Borrell - the man who taught Ray Gun everything he knows about charm, humility and likeability.

Borrell's show will be called 'The Sunday Service: Songs They Don't Play On The Radio' – so presumably you can expect to hear Terrance and Phillip's 'Uncle Fucka', Eazy-E's 'Nutz On Ya Chin', and the entirety of 'Slipway Fires'.





Borrell has a lot to live up to, since musicians have traditionally made pretty good DJs. Between 2006 and 2008, Bob Dylan broadcast his acclaimed Theme Time Radio Hour on XM Satellite Radio.

These shows consisted of Dylan spinning his favourite records on a given theme. As you'd expect, these were usually broad and inoffensive topics: weather, cars, dance. He never rocked the boat with a show on, say, haemorrhoids.

Even so, it was a remarkable programme – passionate, accessible, knowledgeable – provided you could get past Dylan's dessicated growl, which made him sound like a sad turtle with emphysema. Happily, you can still hear the repeats, on 6 Music, on Sunday nights.

Indeed, 6 Music are fond of recruiting musicians as DJs. The sleeper success of Guy Garvey's Finest Hour show prefigured – and you could argue, laid the foundations for – Elbow's commercial renaissance post-'The Seldom Seen Kid'.

It's not hard to see the appeal: it's as intimate and avuncular as a radio show can get, short of the DJ actually coming round and popping a Werther's Original in your mouth.



More recently, 6 Music have signed up Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin' Criminals. Since launching in October 2008, the New Yorker's winningly laid-back (yet startlingly well-informed) show has picked up a Sony Bronze award. There's an environmental benefit too, since while he's on air the studio is powered entirely by Morgan's smouldering sex appeal.

Not even Morgan, however, could match the tsunami of goodwill generated by Jonesy's Jukebox, the LA show hosted by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones until its parent station Indie 103.1 folded earlier this year.

A much-loved figure on LA's music scene, Jones' reputation was built on quirky song choices ('Ernie' by Benny Hill was a favourite), bluff cockney charm, and assiduously avoiding calling any of his guests a "dirty fucking rotter".

Notice a trend emerging? The quality linking all these successful musicians-turned-DJs is their down-to-earth affability. And with the best will in the world, Johnny "Firstly, I'm a genius" Borrell is never going to able to pull that off. On past form, he's likely to be the only DJ in history more arrogant and objectionable than Chris Moyles.

 
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