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  • Writer's pictureLesley-Ann Jones

SLEEP TIGHT, DJ SILLY BOY




It has been lovely reading the many tributes to Steve Wright. Obviously, we can't bring him back. We can only celebrate him.

 

I held him in the same little corner of my heart as Her Late Majesty the Queen. Think about it. He was always there; part of the fabric, structure and eccentricity of British life. He reflected us in our panto-esque diversity and at times lunacy. He invariably saw the funny side, instinctively aware of humour's necessity, its power to heal, at times of collapse and devastation. Dependable and reliable, he was someone who lightened the load.

The 'Steve Wright in the Afternoon' programme was pure escapism. He nicked the madcap 'zoo' format from American radio, but he both made it his own and transformed British radio with it. His man-of-the-people stance endeared him to millions. But he wasn't up himself. He never blinded with science nor highbrowed it for the kudos. He reacted to the big things just as the rest of us did. He reflected both our misery and our joy. His respect for music and musicians ran through everything he did. 'Where do they get it from?' he'd say. 'How do they do that? It's just astonishing. Innit? Innit?'

 

Our paths crossed from time to time during my Fleet Street days. Functions, launches, gatherings. When my first book about Freddie Mercury was published, his office got in touch to say that they'd like to have me on to talk about it. It was 1997, and I was vastly pregnant with my son. I hadn't yet done much work on radio. I rocked up quivering. The interview, a pre-record, took place at what used to be called Weston House - later Wogan House, also RIP.

 

Two of the posse were present along with Steve. They were reassuring and nice. And they would do the usual, chiming in with their own questions as we went along. Steve pressed Record, and away we went. He posed his first question, and I started to respond. Within the first 30 seconds, he held up his hand. 'No, no, NO,' he said. 'You can do much better than that. We don't want your waters breaking in the studio or anything, I'm averse to mess and Tim's gone off with the mop. But can you crank it up a bit? For me? There's a bigger voice in there, I reckon. We need to get it out. Our listener is belting round the M25 with a lorry either side. How are they gonna hear you if you whisper? It's an amazing book, what you have written here (he did say 'what you ...') Let's sock 'em in the earballs with it, shall we?'

First lesson in broadcasting. There would be many more. Steve generously had me on every time I published a new book. 'You're getting better at this,' he told me one day. 'You wanna stick at it, you do.'

 

I owe him - not only for the hours and hours of airtime, the lavish promotion, the generosity and warm friendliness that was like a furry blanket on a grim wet day; but for taking the time and trouble to help me get it right. He didn't have to. He welcomed many world-class celebrities onto the show by which millions got through their working day, the school run, whatever else they were up to. I was no one in the scheme. But he bigged me up, treated me just as he treated them, and I found my voice.

 

Life surprises us all the time. It smacks us in the face with a wet fish when we are only trying to get from here to tomorrow. It gives, it takes. It's not money. It's not possessions. It's all about emotions, and love, and taking care of people. Steve took more care than most.

 

We rarely know what we've got until it's gone, but we knew we had him. Save a seat at the bar, old chum. X

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