Fluff on the Side: Louis Baref on the Inimitable Style of Aussie Expat DJ Alan Freeman. (Radio)

New Statesman (1996), January 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Fluff on the Side: Louis Baref on the Inimitable Style of Aussie Expat DJ Alan Freeman. (Radio)


What does it take to get ahead in radio these days? Given that Radio 1 employs DJs called Emma B and Sarah HB, being named after a pencil must help. Stand by for the Top 40 with Caran d'Ache. More conventionally, a distinctive voice is the main thing, and a memorable catchphrase or two wouldn't do any harm. Since arriving in Britain 45 years ago, Alan "Fluff" Freeman has offered both, presenting the charts, championing progressive rock and, most recently, popularising opera and the classics on Radio 2. The Complete Fluff Not 'Arf.' (Radio 2) -- mounted ostensibly to celebrate 40 years since he took over the original pre-Dale Winton Pick of the Pops from the perennially suave David Jacobs -- explained the origins of the voice and the phrases.

Freeman had once wanted to be an operatic baritone, but realised he couldn't cut it at the level his youthful perfectionism desired, so he chose to find alternative employment for the pipes. "I cannot place my singing voice like I can place the voice when I'm talking, that's the difference." To illustrate this, listeners heard him crooning the jingle for the Oxford Floor Polish beautiful baby competition on 3KZ in Melbourne, as well as his recording of "You Make Me Feel So Young". It certainly wasn't Sinatra, but it was far from unpleasant.

As for the catchphrases, "All right? Right" is an Australianism; another old favourite was a reaction to the staid BBC presentation that Freeman heard upon landing in Britain in 1957. This he described in two withering phrases: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen" and "That was a lovely record". He decided that record-buyers were not ladies and gentlemen, but "pop pickers". It may sound hackneyed now, but in 1957 it was radical stuff. "This is rock'n'roll, man, it ain't Sing Something Simple," he said.

Noel Edmonds was nominally the presenter of this Fluff-fest, but he limited himself to topping and tailing affectionately. Even this proved that Edmonds, now an elder statesman of radio himself, should have stayed away from television, which diminished his considerable broadcasting talent -- a mistake that Fluff never made. …

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