Everyone has people in their line of work that they admire, look up to and continue to be inspired by. Most radio presenters and broadcasters will willingly reel off a list of their broadcasting idols whose style, success and delivery are a source of admiration. Two of mine have been making headlines more than ever of late – and through all the sound and fury they have continued to be the most brilliant of broadcasters.
My young love for commercial radio would often fight the natural teenage desire to seem cool – and that’s where Radio One played its part. This is where I would find two people on the radio who I continue to admire from afar and can only dream of being as good as. They sit on a radio pedestal next to my commercial faves.
Simon Mayo and Sara Cox could not be further apart in their style, but something about the pair of these broadcasters has always stood them apart from their peers. I don’t hesitate to say, for me, they are both genius.
Mayo’s just short of sarcastic patter and wink-of-the-eye delivery demonstrates his remarkable humour; a humour that brings the audience in on the joke despite no obvious joke or punch line being made. Listen to any of his ‘Confessions’ series and you’ll hear this style in action. How many broadcasters have been able to take a concept like ‘Confessions’ on such a journey through so many iterations?
He is often the calm in the radio storm. Seemingly laid back in his approach, his programmes are never loud, over the top or unnecessarily frenetic. This calm was proven quickly after a transfer from music radio to BBC 5 Live and having to provide a devastating commentary on the 9/11 attacks. I can still remember his description of the towers coming down – a feat that proved his incredible radio prowess.
And Coxy? She was the voice of every morning at university (I like to think she was just as hungover as I often was) and an actual break from all radio norms. She seemed messy, the content appeared ad hoc and it was all quite brilliant. Her charm and realness have never changed. Coxy is simply the only presenter who can reduce me to fits of laughter when describing the most normal and mundane parts of life – whether these are her own stories or when she is regaling the life of the listener.
She is the mistress of storytelling, a whizz with language and every programmer’s dream: she is the presenter you absolutely want to go to the pub with, although in the late 90s she may drink you under the table. Her innuendo is never played for cheap laughs - that tongue is consistently wedged firmly in cheek.
I remember during my university summer break in 2000, whilst working at my local commercial station, I would look forward to the daily handover from Coxy on breakfast to Mayo on mids. Their daily interaction was effortless comedy – both coming at the world from different angles but their individual styles integrating to create a brief moment of magic every morning. Mostly it was classic Coxy innuendo forcing Mayo into a deliberate dry and eyebrow raising response. I was obviously overjoyed when they were brought back together to present as part of last year’s Radio 1 Vintage – the ultimate indulgence for any radio geek, the chemistry between the two of them still sparky and unique.
I will be sad to see Mayo depart full time radio (the film show saves us from permanent grief) but am delighted for the new era of Cox.