The last ever radio DJ

There are no more radio disc-jockeys in the United Kingdom. Except one. The final ever radio DJ on the air in the country is the legendary Tony Blackburn.

It’s so extremely sad that Tony is the very last one. Years ago there were loads. But, they’ve all gone. All gone.

So, what I’m talking about is a friendly person actually ‘presenting’ the songs that are being played on the radio, enthusing about them on a song by song basis, unobtrusively interacting with them, and telling listeners what they are playing, whilst keeping everything moving at an infectious pace.

Sounds really alien doesn’t it? But that’s how music radio used to sound. It’s why millions would listen. Listeners would make decisions on what records to go and buy, based on what the radio DJ was playing and saying.

Today’s music radio consists of the songs just playing out one after the other, with no radio DJ. Every three or four songs an ‘announcer’ will appear to say something, usually not bother to explain what songs were played or even acknowledge that any were actually played. This leaves the listener feeling remote and abandoned. It also reminds them that putting their iPod on shuffle is exactly the same as today’s version of music radio but without the adverts.

Why has music radio become like this?

Yeah, morning presenters and some drive presenters will play loads of songs back to back then stop everything for a wild and wacky side splittingly funny (NOT) feature, then return to more songs back to back. So there’s ‘something’ to listen for beyond the unannounced songs, I suppose. But tune in at any other time of day and it’s an extremely lonely experience just sitting there listening to disconnected song follow disconnected song.

radioI wondered if the radio DJ method of broadcasting didn’t fit with today’s song, and maybe only worked with songs from the last millennium. But, turning to Mr Blackburn, his Sunday show on KMFM plays a large amount of modern music, and he ‘radio DJs’ it all. So, there’s really no excuse.

Indeed, many years ago playing songs consisted of taking a physical record out of its sleeve, putting it on a turntable (record player), putting the stylus on it, finding the start of the song by listening to it before putting it on the air, then pressing a button to start it, when it had finished, taking the stylus off it, and putting the record back in its sleeve and filing it away. Whilst the first record was playing, a second record had to be given the same process on a second turntable. And so on.

Heck, back in the 1960s when the average record only lasted two-and-a-half minutes, this meant the radio DJ was doing a lot of physical work throughout an entire show. And at the same time he’d be speaking to his listeners, and even would have learned by heart when to stop speaking so as to not talk at the same time as the artist on the record was singing.

These days everything is on a playout computer. None of that having to physically cue the actual records. The playout computer even counts down to when the vocals start on the songs, so there’s no danger of actually ‘crashing’, plus there’s a whole set of information about the song on the screen, so there’s no need to have to know it off by heart.

Indeed, the radio DJ in the modern radio environment has all the time in the world to think about making the things he’s saying as brilliant as possible. No distractions from having to do all that physical ‘work’. But, nope, he just sits there saying absolutely nothing. Then it’s a monotone announcement after a load of songs have played.

When all that music radio has become these days is this sad lonely computer playing one song after another, it is absolutely refreshing to find and listen to the last ever radio DJ, Tony Blackburn.