Rod McPhee: Chris Moyles - Love or hate him, you have to rate him

TRUE PRO: Chris Moyles is the Radio 1 breakfast show's most successful host.
TRUE PRO: Chris Moyles is the Radio 1 breakfast show's most successful host.
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Almost four years ago I endured one of the worst interviews of my career with the host of Radio 1’s revered breakfast show.

Moyles had returned to his home city on a flying visit to BBC Radio Leeds as part of a mini UK roadshow. But despite being back in the place which helped make him what he is, he wasn’t playing ball.

It wasn’t that he was particularly grumpy, rude or sarcastic, it was just that during the interview – in which we tried to draw him on his formative Leeds experiences – he remained evasive by joking throughout. By the end of our allotted 15 minutes we were left with little or nothing to write about.

It was confirmation, in my mind at least, of what I’d always suspected to be true of Moyles: he’s a triumph of bravado over emotion. Even when he was back in the city which made him the man he is, and even when he was talking to the evening paper he no doubt grew up reading, he was determined not to give us even a chink of his true self. Instead he blustered his way through, styling it out like a true pro.

But you can hardly blame him. It’s an approach which has got him a long way.

As he announced his departure from the breakfast show yesterday, he did so knowing that after almost nine years in the top job, he is the longest-running and most successful host in this sought-after Radio 1 slot.

His longevity is curious given that he is often crude, bombastic, arrogant and, sometimes, just not funny. But Moyles has excelled through sheer gusto. He’s pursued his career with complete conviction but never bared his soul.

Underneath I suspect he’s a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. Not just the usual anxieties which accompany a high profile. He is characterised, I believe, by a unique angst. Moyles has always given the impression of being a sensitive soul, a reactive personality who takes things personally. Of course, he only gives a hint of this through occasional outbursts, but it’s there all the same.

Which is why he’s not only one of the most successful DJs of the last decade but also one of the most interesting. He certainly seems to have more layers than his replacement, Primmie Hill It-kid Nick Grimshaw. Complete with standard issue bouffant and skinny jeans, he’s just a generic clone of modern youth. A Bruno Brookes for a new generation, surely?

And that was what was great about Moyles, when he first arrived at Radio 1 in 1997 it marked a definitive end of an era of radio where Smashy and Nicey DJs still lingered. He almost sounded like a bloke who’d wandered in off the street and found himself thrust in front of a microphone. That was his gift though. It took a lot of skill and experience to sound that natural. You only have to listen to some presenters on some local radio shows (and some presenters on other Radio 1 shows) to realise just how smooth Moyles really is.

Which is why we should celebrate him in Leeds. Sure he’s never allowed his Loiner heart to bleed across the pages of newspapers and magazines, but that’s preferable to other stars who love to use their gritty, northern roots to cynically promote themselves.

Truth is, Leeds is a little better off for boasting Moyles in its alumni, and, laud or loathe him, Radio 1’s certainly a lot worse off for losing him from the breakfast show.

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