Sunday, May 24, 2009

Alan Freeman definitive UK Disc Jockey

In 1989, Alan Freeman was 62 and celebrating 30 years in the UK radio business. To celebrate, on Tuesday 31st January 1989, the Daily Mirror featured a centre page spread and photos.

It was archived and now, we bring you the story, lovingly reproduced, here on AIRCHECK, as originally written by Noreen Taylor.

Alan in 1962

'He comes skidding across the BBC carpet, arms waving, smile beaming, kisses: "Hello, darling. Alan. Alan Freeman. Call me Fluff, Uncle Fluff. All the young disc jockeys do." A warm bundle of a man, very cosy and wanting to be liked, is Uncle Fluff. He pulls up a chair and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. "Sixty a day, and I love every one of them. My homeopathic doctor says if I don't stop I'll die by the time I'm 65. Hey, hey, I'm an asthmatic as well, but I've no intention of stopping."

He is 62, three years away from his old age pension, and he is still the definitive disc jockey. Without any strain or pretension, he manages to convey excitement, urgency - the qualities pop music used to have before the mostly bland electronics of the Eighties. And for the past three Sunday lunchtimes, Uncle Fluff has been doing what he does best: reminding us of that excitement.

Radio 1 has been amazed by the reaction to his comeback. Fans from 15 to 50 have packed mail bags and jammed switchboards congratulating it on bringing back 'Pick Of The Pops' - the show Alan Freeman created 27 years ago. Same Alan Freeman, same lines, same jingles, always a punctuation beat between the singles.

"Hello, pop pickers. All right? Stay bright." Naturally old Fluff is enjoying every minute of this comeback to national radio after ten years at London's Capital Radio. "Isn't it incredible?" says he, puffing away, ash cascading down his trousers. "I thought when Radio 1 announced my return, everyone would be moaning 'Oh Christ, not him again.' Instead, I've got all these kids writing in about how they and their mates feel cheated. They wish they'd been born earlier. 'The Sixties were so exciting...Why isn't it like that now?...Had I really met John Lennon? You see, they are discovering a whole new world. Dusty Springfield, The Who, the Motown sound. What can I say? Today's pop is too electronic, too repetitive."

He did say that the sound of Kylie Minogue left him brain-dead. But he loves Whitney Houston and The Pet Shop Boys. There are certain records he won't play, namely those of Des O'Connor & Ken Dodd. "Doesn't mean I'm right, though." he adds, always the diplomat. "Three million people bought Ken Dodd's 'Tears'. But right now, pop music is in a trough. We are waiting for the next buzz, the next craze. Pop always comes up with surprises. That's why I love it as much today as I did when I arrived from Australia in 1957." He had trained to be an opera singer. And the worst moment of his life was when he first heard himself in a recording studio.

Alan says "I knew I hadn't got it. I just wanted to slit my wrists. Instead I did the right thing. I stayed close to music by working as a radio presenter. Then I got the Australian itch to travel to London." He remembers one night in the Fifties, switching on BBC Radio and hearing an announcer tell listeners..."That was Frank Sinatra singing on a gramophone record, and here is another rather nice song." The world of pop radio was wide open for men like Alan Freeman who understood the importance of such new names as Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Teenagers, rebellion, rock...a whole new revolution had begun and Alan was in there, at the turntable, close to the heartbeat. First on Radio Luxembourg, then on the Light Programme, the forerunner of Radio 1.

He met, interviewed and became pals with names that have since become legends. The 'Mr. Nice Guy' tag has been earned because he has never gone in for bad-mouthing of selling the sort of secrets that could have made him a fortune. Instead he tells you they were all great people. John Lennon was 'funny', Paul was 'an ordinary man who wanted an ordinary life', Dusty Springfield 'a great talent and a lovely lady.'

Fluff meets .... Lulu Fluff meets.... The Beverley Sisisters

His one great regret was turning down an interview with Elvis. "I couldn't make it to America because of commitments." Then, three years later, Elvis was dead. "I've had a wonderful life. Wonderful. Only thing is, my passion has been spent on my career. I've shirked the responsibility of marriage and children. It would be nice now to have kids to sit around and talk to." He claims that there IS a lady in his life. "I have someone" he says carefully. "Someone who I know will spend the last years with me. She has always remained in the background, but she has always been there for me. So that's all right. Isn't it?"

The moment's seriousness passes as he sticks his head down and invites me to feel his hair. "Papers are always having a go at me, saying Fluff wears a wig. Go on. Feel if you like. That's no wig." No, those carefully teased strands are all his own. "You don't think I'm too old to be doing this do you?" he asks, without wanting an answer. "I wouldn't do it if I wasn't getting a buzz out of it. People are amazed that I'm still jumping up and down asking 'Hey have you heard the latest Def Leppard?' And obviously they want me."

Indeed they do. The controller of Radio 1 said "We want him because quite simply, he is the best." Alan says, "I haven't changed. I'm still running around clubs at night, listening to new bands, waiting for the next sound. I do the Radio 1 rock show from midnight till two on Saturdays, go back to the flat for five hours sleep, wake up, cups of coffee, couple of fags, then I'm back in the studio for ten, preparing for Sunday's show."

His little legs keep tapping up and down, while his arms weave around like windmills. There is something childlike about him. Maybe it's because he is dressed like a 14-year old boy - plimsolls, Adidas sweatshirt over a shirt that's hanging out of his trousers. Alan says: "I suppose I'm a bit like the long lost friend you think has died, and then comes back surprising everyone...or p***ing them off." Not in Uncle Fluff's case. ALL RIGHT? RIGHT. STAY BRIGHT.

Fluff celebrating his return to Radio 1 in 1989 after 10 years at Capital Radio.

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