This post may not fly well outside the UK, so for any international readers, you might just have to bear with me on this one.
I was thinking of Terry Wogan on Sunday, we were driving down to our nephew’s birthday party. The radio was on, a Queen song was playing, until it was abruptly cut off when the news pips started – I got the giggles thinking about Terry Wogan crashing the pips for the 8am news on the radio.
This morning, Monday, I woke up to the news that he’d passed away. Leaving a lot of people bereft, as Simon Mayo put it, “The staple of all great radio is the friend behind the microphone and he was the ultimate friend behind the microphone.” For those of you who don’t know him; or do know him and didn’t listen to his breakfast show on Radio 2, Wake up to Wogan; or those who do know him, didn’t listen and he didn’t touch your life other than him popping up on your telly-box every so often: you really did miss a treat.
His breakfast show was hilarious, full of in-jokes and vernacular:
- I loved the rev up to the 8am pips every morning. He’d aim to stop the song the second before the time pips started to announce the hour. Sometime gloriously, he’d cheer with success, other times he’d crash them so badly, he’d just go ‘whoops’ and carry on.
- I loved when he’d play James Blunt, You’re Beautiful, and say ‘Phew! every time it was the radio edit from the album, not the one with the eff-bomb in it.
- I loved producer Paulie, very sadly missed. Mostly remembered for leaning forward in his chair and farting on air, much to everyone’s hilarity.
- I loved Deadly, Boggy and Fran, all news readers, respected news readers but allowed and given room to interact and get the giggles in the program. Boggy, John Marsh who is married to Janet, inspired a whole spin off of Janet and John books, which were as much as innuendo laden as Round the Horne.
- I loved Chuffer Dandridge, the retired Shakespearean actor. His exploits and adventures trying to get a decent working job, had everyone in the studio in fits of laughter. Not least for the obscure village names that pepper the UK countryside, Chuffer would riff of travel reports, complaining about working in Middle Wallop, waiting to be good enough to get to Upper Wallop. This little clip gives you a hint of the silliness. Yes, this was live radio.
- I loved the silent fireworks they ‘set off’ each year so children and animals didn’t get scared.
- I loved that he referred to his wife as the Present Mrs Wogan, then when he was knighted, the Present Lady Wogan.
- I loved that while on the BBC, he was never ‘of’ the BBC. He was freelance, working when he wanted, easing down to one weekly show a week, where the silliness continued. Supported by his TOGs and TYGs, Terry’s Old Geezers and Terry’s Young Geezers. The most regular of contributors gathered together for TOGs conventions, raising money for charity and having a riotous time with Pinot Grigio.
- I love that he commented on the Eurovision Song Contest, reading what had been written by the PR for the countries, but with an arch and a giggle in his voice. Helped along by sips of sherry in the booth, the longer the evening, the more raucous he was.
- I love that he played a song for my mum, she slept through it, but people told her about it. He told her off, played it again, she missed it again and he played it again for her. She still missed it.
His voice was the voice of long drives and train rides to work. The chat show on in the early evenings was what we watched after dinner and before swimming training.
He also set a world record with this golf putt, the longest televised live.
To achieve the mammoth listening figures, year in, year out, having fun and brightening every morning for those starting their day is difficult. Breakfast radio gets fiddled with a lot over here in Australia, which is a big reason about why I can’t listen to it, (the standard format here of two men, one sycophantic woman laughing at the two men is unbearable), no matter who you put into the slot. Terry Wogan’s show was simple, music was played, he chatted, read letters, linked to things that had happened before and we were all one big family.
I chose to link to Simon Mayo’s quote, because the closest I can get to Wake up to Wogan’s ‘family’ is Wittertainment, of which Simon is one half. The other is Mark Kermode, movie critic. I listen to lots of podcasts, where they ask for audience participation, but don’t follow it up by including any!
Genius is often bandied around, but coming into a studio, opening the microphone, playing music and entertaining people for two hours, while not having a script is bloody hard work. Terry Wogan used a script to bid everyone farewell at the end of 2009, his voice broke audibly as he said goodbye to us.
Thank you BBC Radio 2 for cutting the best bits of his shows together in a podcast so I could continue to listen from Australia. Thank you to Lady Helen Wogan, your children and grandchildren for sharing Sir Terry with us for so long.