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Compiling my greatest hits (and my Twitter trolls')

Compilation albums are a big deal these days – especially if you're negotiating over 50 years' worth of music, says Annie Nightingale

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

Compilation schompilation. Having been in music for as long as I have you would think I had a good idea how record companies work. I’ve made two compilations before. But it’s a whole new big thing now in the music world. Ministry of Sound have offices of people whose full-time jobs are about clearing tracks and licencing them for compilations. These are usually for dance music albums, very expertly mixed by specialist DJs. Mine was to be a bit different, spanning 50 years of music. We’d agreed on a three CD release. Ministry said just give us a wish list of around 100 or 150 tracks, and we’ll check on what can clear. They expected many tracks would be refused — permission declined. But actually a surprising number were yeses.

I wanted to include ‘Oh Well’ (part 1) by Fleetwood Mac, the first tune I ever played on Radio 1. I know Christine McVie’s manager. I used to know her. Christine and I once did an interview on a boat in the Serpentine, miked up and electronically tethered to a film crew in a different boat on the other side of the lake. They filled our boat with champagne. We drank it, forgot about the crew, committed mild indiscretions, as had been intended by the director. But that was then. Now each member of Fleetwood Mac has their own manager. It would have taken months, years, if ever, to clear that track.

One minute I seemed not to have enough cleared material, then far too much. Each of the three playlists was now pending and unpending on several spreadsheets. It was turning into an A level maths nightmare.

Somewhat to my surprise the Rolling Stones agreed to licence ‘Miss You’, the first time, to my knowledge, that they had ever allowed a track on a compilation that was not their own. I wanted Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, and that got a yes. I also got affirmatives from The Who, Joy Division, Scott Walker, London Grammar.


I had to write the sleeve notes in the hairdressers. I didn’t have any headphones with me so I couldn’t play the tracks off my laptop, out loud, while I typed away. The hairdresser likes The XX. On repeat. All hairdressers seem to like The XX on repeat. The XX have had 40 million hits on YouTube and won the Mercury Music Prize. I still find their music melancholy and depressing in the extreme. I wanted banging upbeat music to inspire me. But I was aware that other clients in the salon wouldn’t necessarily want Keys N Krates or Wiz Khalifa at 11 a.m. Even more concerning, Jane Garvey of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour told me that when she played an advance copy of the album at home, her teenage children actually shouted down the stairs at her: ‘Can you turn that noise down. Please!’ She felt it was a win. Anyway, now the triple CD is done and ready for release, it’s time to do ‘promo’.

I was booked on BBC’s Breakfast. I have noticed that the Twitter trolls come out in direct proportion to how mainstream the programme is you appear on. I didn’t come out of it too badly, being called a bellend for not being a rock chick any more, and for wearing sunglasses in the studio. This really really offends people. It looks annoyingly pretentious, I give you that. But offensive? Quite interesting as a woman being called a bellend. If a man calls another man a cunt, as an insult (or in Jeremy Clarke’s world, of course, a term of endearment), then a woman being called a bellend, I suppose, levels up the score. The comment section of the Observer was more restrained. It produced thus, from Nigel, beneath a Q and A: ‘I now find Annie Nightingale ever so slightly ridiculous.’

I wanted to add: most people have always found me ever so slightly ridiculous — I do myself.

‘You’re a disc jockey?’ (as in: a handbag?) It’s nothing new. But best to observe the Kate Moss rule: never complain, never explain, to which I would add — never get riled into a response. Anyway I didn’t have to. A second commenter (LuridGreenMist) chimed in: ‘I bet you’re fun at parties.’

To which Nigel replied: ‘Actually no, I’m not :)))))’

That primitive emoticon felt rather a small sad voice to me. Not that I’m getting involved. Let them slug it out between them, Nigel and LuridGreenMist.

But I do feel a bit for Nige now. Should I invite him to the launch bash? Even though I kind of know that LuridGreenMist might be somewhat more the life and soul.


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