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The favorite of the British has been on the air for over half a century.  It is thanks to club music that it was born again

The favorite of the British has been on the air for over half a century. It is thanks to club music that it was born again

Annie Nightingale has worked for the BBC Radio 1 youth radio station for 53 years and is the country’s longest-serving journalist. In the eyes of the elderly, it is the “favourite of the nation” from the 70s and 80s, while the younger ones know it from completely different sounds. She is one of the few over 40s still working at the station and has not switched to BBC Radio 2 or BBC Radio 6 Music, which are aimed at older listeners. What makes the 83-year-old still shape the tastes of young people?

The journalist was born on April 1, 1940 and grew up in south-west London. In her youth, she was in love with the blues, which was often played at the legendary Eel Pie Club. She took her first steps in journalism in local newspapers in the first half of the 1960s. She constantly applied for jobs in television. She finally managed to get her way. After an interview with British star Dusty Springfield, she met her manager Vicki Wickham, who also worked on the music TV show “Ready, Steady, Go!”.

The latter offered her the opportunity to host a new program on Associated-Rediffusion TV. Nightingale became the hostess of “That’s For Me”, which hosted musicians who had never had a chance to appear on television before, such as The Yardbirds. She also showed the first promotional video of The Who. She also covered major music events, festivals on television, and continued to write for various magazines as a freelancer. In addition to the musical topics she dealt with in the British “Cosmopolitan”, she wrote texts for other titles about the problems of teenagers, in which she included emerging feminist perspectives and social issues.

“I haven’t experienced any sexism in newspapers or magazines”

In 1967, BBC Radio 1 was established as a public broadcaster’s answer to the needs of young people who until then had been more willing to listen to pirate radio stations. Annie Nightingale was already a thriving journalist who had interviews with the biggest stars of music, such as The Beatles. But it didn’t matter to the station authorities. For the first three years of the station’s existence, no woman was heard on its air. The bosses had the sexist view that Radio 1’s main audience when young people were at school was housewives, for whom the male voice was a “husband substitute” when he was at work. In their opinion, a woman’s voice could spoil it.

And it wasn’t until the intervention of Beatles spokesman Derek Taylor that convinced the station to give Nightingale a chance to audition. Quoted by the portal, she recalls years later that the wife of the head of the station was also present at the first meeting with the management of BBC Radio 1, who told her that she “must use her femininity” on the air. She admitted that during the first broadcast she was stressed and there was a moment when there was dead silence on the air for a few seconds. “I kept my job, but technically everything was male. I felt like I was a female driver and they were waiting for me to make mistakes,” she admits.

In the initial period of her work at BBC Radio 1, she hosted programs during the day, when popular music dominated the air (this is still the case today). The exception was the program “Sounds of the 70s”, which she co-hosted with other station journalists, including the legendary John Peel. This broadcast featured mainly progressive rock. Over the next years, Nightingale tried to get airtime in the evenings, which would allow her to present the independent and experimental music that she was very keen to promote. This happened only in the early 1980s, when after twelve years a second woman, Janice Long, joined the Radio 1 team. At that time, Nightingale also worked in television and wrote articles for various magazines.

However, Annie Nightingale’s most popular show was The Sunday Request Show, which initially aired on Sunday afternoons from 1975 to 1979. The journalist in the program fulfilled the musical requests of the listeners, sometimes playing entire albums of artists. The broadcast was very innovative for its time, as it introduced elements of interactivity to radio. Fans of the program were sometimes very inventive. Apparently, Annie once received a music request in the form of a hand-painted brick in the mail! When the show was cancelled, listeners were begging for it to come back, and The Sunday Request Show returned to the air in 1982 and stayed on until 1994.

“It was all about the music, not the image”

This was due to the transformation that Annie underwent at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. Nightingale, approaching fifty, experienced another youth revolution at that time. The punk era was giving way to the nascent acid house club scene, which the journalist got carried away with. Therefore, in 1994, it was decided to place a new program “The Chill Out Zone” with dance music, hosted by Nightingale, in the schedule of the station. Quoted by recalls:

Acid house was brilliant! In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I noticed that something special was happening – another youth revolution. The punks were very nihilistic – they didn’t want anyone to come to their parties – while the acid house scene was more of a ‘come and join!’ thing.

One of the producers of Annie Nightingale told in an interview that this music allowed her to be reborn professionally. “She got into this music and it breathed new life into her career,” says David Morley. She also points out that the acid house environment was very open and welcomed anyone who loved music. “She was older than a lot of people who made music, but bands from that culture were very accepting of people outside their generation. It was all about the music, not the image,” emphasizes Morley.

Nightingale quickly became one of the greatest popularizers of this genre of music in the UK and in the world. She took part in many events where she met a lot of young artists whom she helped to gain publicity. As she recalls, she was the first person to play songs by the legendary house duo Basement Jaxx on BBC Radio 1. These connections also resulted in Nightingale herself becoming a DJ and performing at music festivals and various clubs around the world, in including in Warsaw. One of the first such adventures was a trip around Europe with members of the acclaimed group Underworld, whose members performed in the 80s as Freur. The journalist went on tour with them as a traveling DJ.

Everything she did for the club scene did not go unnoticed. In 2001, at the age of 61, of which she had worked for BBC Radio 1 for over 40 years, she was awarded the “Caner of the Year” award by the British dance music magazine “Muzik” for popularizing this genre of music before it went mainstream. When she asked what she did to deserve this, she was told: “Everywhere we partied, you were there. Miami, Ibiza – for your dedication.” This award is special for her, because since the late 1980s she has devoted herself almost entirely to this type of music, but it is not the only distinction she has received. In 2002, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to broadcasting. In 2004, she became the first BBC Radio 1 journalist to be inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame. And in 2012, she received an honorary doctorate in journalism from the University of Westminster, where she was a student years ago. And these are just a few of the awards she has received.

Since the 2000s, he has been running a radio program at night, in which he plays various types of club music, with particular emphasis on bass parts. In his program he also presents guest mixes of recognized and debuting DJs. In Great Britain, her broadcast continued to contribute greatly to the popularization of this music, until a variety of trap music entered the scene. Then came other shows that played more trap, but Nightingale also took an interest in it and occasionally plays it on her show:

I really like trap music, although people in the UK are a bit suspicious of it. It comes from hip hop and metal, which may put some people off, but that’s what makes it interesting to me. She is very happy – she said in 2015.

“What’s the point of music if it doesn’t move forward?”

Annie says that despite the passage of years, she is driven by the constant excitement of new music. She turned 82 this year and is still on BBC Radio 1’s youth line-up. Her show “Annie Nightingale presents…” airs every Tuesday from 11pm UK time for two hours and each entry begins with “Hey “Hi, Hello”, which resound over the background of Gwen Stefani’s song “Hollaback Girl”. In addition to presenting sets from various DJs, Annie also plays music that has delighted her recently, as well as revisiting older tracks that lie in her heart.

I remember listening to one of hers when Annie was getting excited about Lil Nas X’s new album and his character. She was delighted that a black gay man has entered the mainstream and is free to sing about his feelings. For me as a listener it was incredibly refreshing and fascinating that a person with such achievements speaks enthusiastically about his music. This is unthinkable in Polish radio stations! I am thinking here about some journalists as well as listeners (I call you: “Brought up on Trójka”), who hate everything that is new, especially mainstream. And in the evening band of BBC Radio 1 it is not like that. It includes author’s broadcasts in which journalists have a free hand in the selection of music, but if they like something popular, they will play it and recommend it without embarrassment. I have the impression that in our country, even more original stations do not feature good popular songs, because they are “known” and “not appropriate”.

Nightingale has paved the way for many other journalists like few others. She certainly went down in history as a fearless woman who changed the way many editorial offices function and encouraged other women who always wanted to work in this industry.

“None of us female DJs would be here without her because she opened the door,” states Lauren Laverne of BBC Radio 6 Music.

The broadcast “Annie Nightingale presents…” can be listened to every night from Tuesday to Wednesday at 0:00 Polish time in , for four weeks from the date of its premiere as a podcast in the application, and playlists with music from the program are also arranged by a fan of the broadcast on the website Spotify. In the last episode, Annie presented two guest mixes of producers known in Poland – the duo Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike and Oliver Heldens. The latter will perform in August in Poland during the FEST Festival.

Source: Gazeta

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