Sunday, October 30, 2011

Radiobit: Jimmy Savile

I think we've all, always, taken it on trust that Jimmy Savile - who died yesterday - really did invent twin-turntable DJing. It was certainly a story we heard often enough, normally from him, and like the yarns spun by favourite uncles, we were all happy to believe it might be true.

Mind you, Jimmy Savile could convince us of anything - that he actually had some sort of Old Record Club running in the corner of Radio One; that on days when he was noticeably elsewhere his show was live and in the hands of a hologram version of himself. He even managed to make trundling through the UK countryside on beige seats sipping undrinkable coffee sound exciting:



I think we all knew that Savile's actual technical talents weren't vast, and he benefited a great deal from being in the right place at the right time; his charm and enthusiasm helped carry his career long past the point where those with greater technical proficiency had spluttered to a halt. And his involvement in charitable endeavours never felt like cynical careerism - even during that period back at the start of the 1980s where it was almost impossible to buy a yoghurt without coming across a drawing of Sir Jimmy reminding us about spinal injuries seem motivated by a genuine desire to help.

That's not to say that he had a strong dose of creepy uncle alongside the favourite one: the Sunday Telegraph this morning claims he spent eleven straight New Years Eves with Maggie Thatcher and you'll all have heard the nastier rumours which clung to him. But it says much about how great the affection for Savile was that people could simultaneously believe some profoundly alarming "facts" about him, and be relaxed about him making kiddies' dreams come true on Saturday night TV, without feeling the slightest contradiction.

Even the Louis Theroux documentary, which Theroux seemed convinced showed Sir Jim to be a strange old stick, actually just looked like a man being bothered by a twit who was desperate to know why he didn't conform, dammit.

Jimmy Savile was rather odd, but also something rather wonderful. In another twenty years, we'll have a TV world full of Vernon Kayes and something called A Jeff Brazier who was in Milton Keynes yesterday. Aren't we better off with someone who sleeps in a caravan and spins yarns than an empty suit and an empty grin?


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