Honestly if you’d asked me a couple of years ago if I was a fan of Annie Nightingale I’d have said no. I still don’t describe myself as such, but I was surprised by how saddened I was to hear of her death. Then I got a bit of a shock, because honestly I was not expecting her to be eighty four. I thought probably sixties, maybe just about pushing into her seventies but I hadn’t thought eighty four.
See, I drive around at weird times and usually I’m listening to podcasts but there are points that I slide radio one on. And Annie Nightingale’s distinctive voice was, to my surprise, a constant. For thirty years I’ve turned Radio One on and heard her distinctive tones. So I assumed that although she was frequently described as being older, that she couldn’t possibly be that much older, ten years or so, maybe twenty at the outside. There was a big media thing when I was in my tweens of how radio one had kicked out all its older DJs and replaced them… but not a late night DJ who was in it for the music apparently. (Just the pedophiles and guys who thought they were replacement husbands for housewives…)
If you’d asked me at uni if there was a DJ who’d introduced me to new music I’d have said John Peel, not the random woman I sometimes heard because I’d tuned in early for the charts. I absolutely knew her name though and her voice.
I’m writing this whilst listening to her last show, some of the embedded YouTube will be from that, some of it is stuff I remember her saying she liked or that she introduced me to. The fact that that’s apparently embedded enough in me whereas if you ask me about John Peel I can tell you The Orb but realistically very little else says a lot really. But then if you ask me what music I like then I’ll talk about metal, rock, pop, indie… and whilst I’ll talk about EBM I almost certainly won’t mention dance music. After all I was heading to the rock clubs and goth nights in my twenties, right?
Sure… except that goth and rock and metal were obscure nights and clubs every so often and I went out dancing most weeks between 1999 and 2004. (It gets a bit weird in my early twenties in Asia and doesn’t relate to Annie Nightingale at all.)
I couldn’t tell you the names of the tracks I was dancing to but my body knows the beats in much the same way that I can feel the memories of people in my fingers.
If I’d heard her recently I think I’d have known she was eighty four. She sounds old as I’m listening to her now. I think the last time I caught her she was covering someone else’s show perhaps? It either predates the pandemic or it was in 2020 when I was doing weird keyworker driving.
She reminds me of my Mum in some ways, the passion for music really does transcend time, it’s not about being stuck listening to the music you did when you were a teenager, it’s about recognising good music, which seems, I say with my ill educated views on the subject, to be something almost objective. Art keeps going and if you know it then I guess you keep going too, it just seems particularly obvious when it’s music. That might be because I don’t know how you approach music so much.
The thing is Annie Nightingale had goth sensibilities in her hip hop and dance appreciation. It was music with rhythm, that really grabbed your body and made you move, or lyrics that twisted your soul around them as long as they were right in the music. I had no idea about the feminism, the amount she fought to be that cool DJ until reading her obituaries and the memories of her colleagues. It’s the passion for music that she had, the honest speaking of her soul, that I suspect is why I remember her in strange ways, or not so much remember her I suppose more recognise these marks she’s left upon my self without me realising.
I just didn’t notice the integral woman doing invisible labour on my radio station. For sixty years. Thankyou.