‘I sound like Lee Marvin when I sing’: Jo Whiley’s honest playlist

The radio DJ secretly hates Jimi Hendrix, and loves disco and music from old westerns. But how did Ned’s Atomic Dustbin change her life?

The first song I remember hearing
I used to sit and watch westerns with my grandfather. He had a record player next to a little cocktail bar, with a seven-inch of Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin from Paint Your Wagon on one side and I Talk to the Trees by Clint Eastwood on the other. Neither could sing, but both are fantastic.

The first single I bought
Jack and Jill by Raydio, sung by Ray Parker Jr, who went on to sing Ghostbusters. There are funny lines about Jack wandering down the hill to get the love he couldn’t get from Jill because she was neglecting him, which is so not of this moment, but very 70s.

The song I do at karaoke
I can’t sing to save my life – I sound like Lee Marvin. But we have a lot of house parties, always fancy dress, full of different generations, and we once dressed as the Village People to do YMCA. I was the construction worker, but my huge fake moustache made me look more like Super Mario.

The best song to get the party started
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester is the ultimate party song. I play it on the radio as often as I can. I’m a big fan of disco. Can’t sing, can’t dance, but I’ll attempt both when this comes on.

The last song I streamed
I Do This All the Time by Self Esteem is incredible. The line “You’re a good, sturdy girl” takes me back to school. I always felt like I was the big, sturdy girl on the fringes of every friendship group, so it really struck home. Now I see it resonating with my daughters.

My unpopular musical opinion
I don’t like Jimi Hendrix. I was asked to present a programme about the best guitar licks in the world ever, and I thought: “You’ve totally got me wrong!” I don’t like axe-wielding or noodling guitars. When people talk about Hendrix, I just don’t get it.

The song I can no longer listen to
A great friend of ours, Simon Willis – Willy – a producer from Radio 1, died of a brain tumour last year. He was absolutely hilarious and obsessed with music from the 80s, but as his tumour worsened, he kept repeating things. The last time I saw him, he kept singing: “If you choose that we will always lose,” the first line from I’ll Sail This Ship Alone by the Beautiful South. Thinking about him makes me cry.

The song that changed my life
When I first heard Temptation by New Order on a mixtape at a sixth-form party, it was a revelation that guitar music could be dance as well. Years later, I was on the phone to the guy plugging New Order’s World in Motion and we got on incredibly well. I was finally introduced to him at a Ned’s Atomic Dustbin gig. And that’s who I married.

The song I’d like played at my funeral
I’ve got a reputation for liking melancholy, miserable music. Damien Rice or Bon Iver – I love all that kind of stuff. I remember watching the musical Show Boat when I was a kid, and being transfixed by Ol’ Man River by Paul Robeson. The lyric “I’m tired of living and I’m feared of dying” is going to sound pretty epic at a funeral.

Jo Whiley is on Radio 2 at 7.30pm, Mon to Thur. She is currently working with Vision Express. See visionexpress.com


As told to Rich Pelley

The GuardianTramp

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