on 19 March 2013
I was a regular listener to the A K programmes since he started on Radio 1 so as I keen to read his autobiography. As soon as I received it I became immersed and hardly spoke a word to the family until I had finished reading it. The reviews are all true. It is a most interesting and entertaining book.
In 1985 our TV gave up the ghost and we took 14 years before we replaced it. Radio was therefore a big part of our life. I was not a great lover of mainstream music but it was quite difficult to find programmes that appealed to my tastes. I enjoyed the Alexis Korner programmes, a local blues programme and tuned in most evenings to John Peel. (I admit that I often found the Peel programmes to be heavy going and tended switch off unless there was a chance to hear an extract of Rawlinson End) When Andy started on Radio 1 I was like a pig in muck and became an avid listener. Unfortunately the BBC mandarins constantly shuffled the timeslots and the shows were often past the bedtime of this working man and it became necessary to record the programmes on cassette and listen at a convenient time. I purchased a music centre that enabled me to set a timer but missed countless shows for a variety of reasons; power cuts causing the timer to reset, cassettes installed the wrong way around, GMT altering for daylight saving etc etc. Consequently for ten years or so there was always a note marked “AK” floating around the kitchen as a reminder to check and record the programmes.
Any car journey became a time to listen and my two sons (now 27 and 30) spent their formative years listening to virtually wall to wall Kershaw. This has had a huge influence on their current listening habits and their ability to enjoy anything from Ivor Cutler to Diblo. I have a camper van with a cassette player and I must have at least 50 AK programmes (all unmarked) which still get aired on a lucky dip basis whenever I travel. (It was replaying the tape of Andy’s trip to Mali that prompted me to check out the current whereabouts of Andy which resulted in me discovering the book)
The thing that has amazed me most about the book is that I although I have listened to countless hours of Andy’s programmes and was very familiar with his personality I found that I had in fact known very little about his involvement with the BBC 4 programmes.
The only disappointing thing about the book is that I have finished reading it. Hopefully it’s success will encourage those at 6Music to realise that although they have a fantastic station they are missing one ingredient.
on 1 July 2011
As a teenager growing up in rural America, I often dreamed of places like London and Leeds, of The Clash and sell-out rock 'n' roll gigs. I wanted to move to England and marry a rock star. It never happened (the rock star part).
And so when I picked up Andy Kershaw's No Off Switch, I was drawn in at once to his fascinating, first-hand account of this world. The book is humorous and full of energy and cheek. Kershaw's lived a life most of us can only dream of, and still, the book is accessible, relatable.
I was touched by Kershaw's honesty and self-deprecating candour about his shyness throughout his youth. About the time he worked up enough courage to approach the cool, assured Entertainment Secretary in the student union at Leeds University; a guy with `bog-brush hair'--a much older, mature student--and ask him for his job when he left. It was Kershaw's first day at uni. He was scrawny and `looked about twelve,' in comparison. And even though he was terrified and the guys hanging around nearby laughed him off, the Secretary, Steve, immediately signed Kershaw up as an Entertainment steward. `I was in. I was signed up. Me. I belonged,' Kershaw writes.
This is just the beginning. Kershaw has a way of inviting the reader in--of hauling us into the moment, right beside him. While he's travelled to 97 of the world's 193 countries, reported from the frontlines during the Rwanda genocide, worked alongside Billy Bragg and the Rolling Stones, his fears and insecurities, his enthusiasm, are what makes this book come alive. Which of us doesn't want to belong? Which of us still remembers the day we stood, with nervous energy, in a crowd at our first concert, our ears blasted by stereo noise, cherishing our ticket stubs?
I highly recommend this book; it captures the essence of youth and is an all-around entertaining read.
A good friend of mine recommended this book to me and I devoured all 408 pages in a matter of three days. Despite not being much of a fan I really enjoyed reading this biography. Essentially the book covers:
- Andy's childhood
- His time at Leeds University which was devoted to working in Ents, failing his degree and finally booking all the bands
- Being a roadie and driver for Billy Bragg
- Presenting the Old Grey Whistle Test (and Live Aid)
- Being a Radio 1 DJ
- Fearlessly working as an occasional travel and war correspondent in some of the most dangerous places on earth
- Breaking up with his wife and children
- Suffering a breakdown, alcohol abuse and being on the run from the police
- Recovery and re-establishing himself
It's a great read and Andy's passion and uncompromising opinions fill every page. For all his strong views, he comes across as one of the good guys with an incredible array of entertaining and interesting stories to recount. If you have any interest in music, the media, social history, travel, relationships, politics and foreign affairs then I'm confident you'll enjoy this book.
on 14 January 2012
I have just finished reading `No Off Switch' and it has left me with the weird disorientated feeling that I most associate with the end of long Rock `N' Roll tours - when you realise that you will no longer be seeing your temporary tour family every day.
Few books have ever evoked that feeling and none so powerfully.
It took me four attempts to read the chapter on Rwanda. Its simple eloquence brought the reality of horrors to life far more effectively than any TV footage, no matter how graphic, ever could. It is very hard to read through tears.
I would need at least 600 pages of my own to put into words every thought and memory that this book has provoked, from 1980's Rock `N' Roll to a new perspective on the reality of `bonkers regimes'.
Andy Kershaw may have `No Off Switch' but reading the last chapters makes me think he might, in Sonny and Dolly, have found his pause button. I would like to think so.
This is not just a review - I hope it is also a big thank you to Andy for putting it all into words.
on 30 May 2013
I started reading this not really sure if I liked Andy Kershaw or not. Half-way through, and I was still none the wiser. This multi-faceted personality has got lots of different sides, and quite a few of them are quite annoying (particularly if you're his girlfriend, apparently). But as Kershaw's charmed life starts to unravel, something odd started happening. First of all I found myself warming to him as he trails the globe unearthing undiscovered musical gems. Then I was rooting for him in his seemingly one-man battle against radio ga-ga, and by the time he'd become a foreign correspondent, I found myself crying with him at some of the world's recent horror stories. And then, when things really went into a tail-spin from Day One of his new life on The Isle of Man, I was metaphorically rolling up my sleeves ready to scrap for him. I realise now how much the real Andy Kershaw had passed me by. Saddled with a perception of him anchored by his in-yer-face brusque, bluff mid-eighties persona, I completely missed his late night radio show years, his rogue-state journalism era and his Radio 3 rehab. Instead, he only popped back on my radar as a tabloid villain in 2007. Well, my perceptions were all wrong. Here's someone who's been harshly treated by life, but is thankfully bouncing back and good luck to him - he's done some amazing things, and his story is compelling, as he pings from trouble-spot to trouble-spot, lashing-out at plenty of sacred cows as he goes (Elvis, Sir Bob Geldof, The Beatles and even John Peel). So, no punches are pulled, and plenty are thrown. Hold my coat someone, Kersh needs a hand.
on 10 January 2012
As someone who grew up listening to late night Radio 1, this is a book I have long been looking forward to. Andy carved out a niche in playing the best music that you had never heard before. Andy's contribution to popular culture and broadcasting cannot be overstated - From booking the bands at one of the country's preimier music venues, organizing the huge Rolling Stones open air gig at Roundhey Park, to becoming Billy Bragg's Roadie/Driver/Tour Manager, presenting Whistle Test.
Then we get the seat-of-your-pants presenting of Live Aid,, aged just 25, and his time starting out at Radio 1 under the guidance of mentor and all round top bloke John Walters. We then get Andy's foreign reporting in Rawanda and his landmark travels and shows for channel 4 and Radio 3. It's a thrilling ride, Andy acting on impulse gets him through the doors and he writes in a real engaging way. He pulls no punches speaking about the breakdown of his relationship and the heartbreaking tale of regret, anger and frustration of a loving Dad refused access to his children.
I recommend this book to anyone who has picked up a record, played it and found themselves lost in it's wonder. From rushing his Economics exam aged 15 to rush to see Bob Dylan play live to confronting a very arrogant Bob Geldof, caught ripping posters down, advertising The Clash - Andy tells a great story of his life followed by the age old rule of "Make em laugh, make em cry...make wait"
Fully deserved 5 star rating and one book really worth reading - Top job, Andy
on 18 February 2012
`No Off Switch' shakes a bit of a stick at, `accepting the accepted'. It rattles between intimate, seemingly insignificant, tales of childhood to the world stage. It rolls through amusing observations that make you laugh out loud, to the harrowing times Andy Kershaw spent coming to terms with the consequences of his rift between Juliette and their children.
The fact that Andy Kershaw has been in the public eye has undoubtedly given this book what the media (often spuriously) refer to as 'Public Interest' but it goes beyond that. His interview with Bob Dylan is as candid and as self deprecating as it gets. The blunt remarks about certain `iconic' musicians lend more weight to Kershaw's overall sincerity.
This is more than the record of one man's life, it represents the last 50 years for anyone with an ear, a brain, a sense of the joie de vivre that makes us want to travel, experience culture - our culture, the culture of the world... In a sense we've all been there.
For the young it is a big slice of modern history. To his contemporaries it is our tale. To the old it's a scolding - This is how most of us had to make our own sense of the world you handed down to us: through music, through a refusal to accept things without questioning them, through picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and getting back on the bike!
on 18 February 2013
Andy Kershaw is a thrill seeker with a kid in a sweet shop attitude to, well, the world really, and all that is exciting there in it. Marvel at the audacity of this gobby gentleman as he boldy goes to various un-glamourous and frightening places around the world seeking out the horrror, humanity and good (and bad) music to be found there. Applaud with glee as that gentlemanly gobbiness is put to good use and shakes them up in the potty republic that is Radio 1. Refresh your playlist using Andy as a 'good music' barometer. Oh and get teary eyed, a lot.
You may, reading this book feel, like me, that you've been whisked from heaven to hell and back again feeling exhausted and exhilarated. This book may also, like me, make you demand of your children, "Can you point to Mali on a map?" (they can) or "Do you know who The Beach Boys are?" (they do now).
This book deserves to be taken out of cult status and bought for anybody over 16 that can read.
on 15 August 2013
To be honest, one of the main reasons for buying this was seeing review after review of how good it is on Andy's Facebook page - nothing can be that good right? I wanted to give it 4 stars!
I was wrong, a compelling story of his exploits over the years with a number of my musical favourites (as well as many I've never heard of..), i cant decide whether he's lead a charmed life, been ridiculously lucky to do so much, or is a product of relentless enthusiasm & curiosity (probably the latter).
I rarely leave any reviews because not much deserves it, but this does.
Refreshingly honest about a number of subjects & unafraid to speak his mind - & after some of the stuff he's seen & experienced you can understand why trivial doesn't concern him - it's a compelling read.
2 complaints: could have done with another 200 pages to get to the end of my holiday......& he really should have lamped Michael Stipe.
on 31 August 2013
For twenty odd years Andy Kershaw has been shaping my musical life and I've only just realised it. Because of him I spent a couple of magical evenings listening to and chatting with with Ted Hawkins, own a copy of "Palm Wine Songs" by SE Rogie and have fond memories of The Bhundus, Tinariwen and a hundred other bands who would never made it to Britain, never mind the out reaches of Scotland where I lived then. I've never really met Andy - once, backstage in Aberdeen at a Billy Bragg gig, we chatted for five minutes about Ted Hawkins - but I feel after reading this book I know him well. It's a rip snorter of a tale of excess, downright idiocy on some occasions and of an Excitable Boy who is too passionate for his own good.
I hope it also goes some way to rebalancing the scales on his fall from grace and subsequent "rehabilitation". It's too much to hope that a single tabloid editor would seek to set the record slightly straighter, and there will always be several sides to the story. Kershaw is no saint and is honest enough to admit he brought some of his travails upon himself, but read this book if you want an insight into what being knocked off a pedestal by people who make more money the greater your misery is really like.
Funny, heartwarming, informative and humbling by turns, the story of AK needs to be read. It has everything a boy (well, this boy, anyway) would want in a bio: Bruce, Bob, Warren, Willie, bikes, girls, Rock and Roll and travel to places you can't spell, never mind find on a map.