No Off Switch by Andy Kershaw

No Off Switch

A body language expert would have a field day with the photo that Andy Kershaw chose for his book cover. Smiling, but coyly hiding behind his hand as if he he had said too much. Well, there’s not much to smile about in this book and he doesn’t say enough about his troubled breakdown, leaving it crammed into the last two chapters, which is why we all probably want to read the book in the first place. Andy Kershaw started off presenting at Radio Aire but soon outgrew this and progressed to working as Billy Bragg’s roadie. When that finished he wound up as a presenter on The Old Grey Whistle Test and then went onto Radio One. Then came his main stint hosting Live Aid on TV to 400 million people.

His passion for music also extended to an obsessive curiosity about the world. In his twenty–five year career, he has worked for the Rolling Stones, and one of his best anecdotes comes from this experience. When asked to provide a Japanese water garden, complete with babbling brook and koi carp after one of their concerts, he put the whole thing together with a handwritten message in Japanese which said “F**k You Rolling Stones”. Sharing an office with John Peel proved problematic as he was always being compared to him and Andy resented this. In fact, in 2004, when Peel died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru, Kershaw’s main feeling seems to be ‘I told you so’. As he felt that Peel was too fat for the high altitudes.

And so to his breakdown. Moving to the Isle of Man, supposedly to start a new life, his partner Juliette Banner discovered a text message from a previous lover who had a one night stand with him and called the whole thing off. She took the children and left, found herself a new lover and made a new life for herself but Kershaw could not let go. Having several restraining orders set against him he drank heavily and was arrested many times. A warrant was issued for a final arrest and he fled to Ludlow where he lived a destitute life for 9 months. He was given a suspended sentence and ordered to see a psychiatrist and now lives a sober existence with his son Sonny. So what to make of the book? With 25 years in the business there must have been a lot of ground to cover but with some of the best stories you were left feeling that more details were needed. And the whole book takes on a rather self-pitying air that only a self obsessed former alcoholic could write. No thoughts towards to pain and suffering he must have caused his partner by cheating or the frequent violations of the restraining orders. It’s all about Kershaw and what he was going through. Which I suppose an autobiography is all about.

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