At an age when other DJs have been put out to pasture, Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale is still discovering new talent and partying till dawn – all because she’s terrified of looking back. Nigel Farndale meets a reluctant ‘melancholic’ with low self-esteem but masses of stamina

Before I meet Annie Nightingale, or rather ‘the legendary Annie Nightingale’, as she is styled on the Radio 1 website, I look for her on a group photograph of current Radio 1 DJs and staff. It is hanging on the wall of the meeting room at the Radio 1 building in London.

She is not hard to spot with her bottle-blond hair and sunglasses (she is one of the few non-blind people in the world who can carry off wearing sunglasses indoors). Also she is the oldest in the group by, I would say, 25 years. Not that she looks old. In fact, she looks pretty much as she did when she first posed for a group photograph of Radio 1 presenters back in 1970, the year she became the station’s first female DJ.

I hear her before I see her, greeting staff, air-kissing the station’s controller, passing through the open-plan office, with its plastic cups and stained carpets, like a visiting dignitary to a third-world country. The door opens and she teeters in on stacked heels, shouldering a bag, wearing a plunging neckline, her words tumbling out. Sorry she’s late. Been at the dentist. Implants. Oh, the traffic.

In contrast with her laid-back, confidential, husky-voiced radio style she talks quickly. And there is an air of mild chaos about her. I have read that her record and CD collection is split between her office here and her home a ten-minute drive away – and she’s not organised enough to know what is where. Also we had planned to meet in Brighton the previous week for dinner before one of her DJ-ing gigs (she is doing a national tour of clubs, playing the breakbeat music she specialises in; that and presenting new DJs as part of the BBC Introducing talent search), but I had to cancel, and now she says that this was just as well because before she set off from London that day she lost her purse, and her credit cards, and had to ring the promoter to lend her some money and…

We are getting ahead of ourselves. She mentioned implants. Is that cosmetic dentistry? She waves the question away. ‘Oh, implants were just a good solution to something. Anyway – would you believe it? – my dentist asked me to put him on the guest list. I sometimes think I was put on this earth to put people on guest lists.’

I am meeting her the day before her birthday, but when I check that this means she will be 66 she waves this away, too. ‘I don’t ever confirm or deny my age. Not important.’ It is hard to disagree with her. She does, after all, do a show on Radio 1 that goes out at 5am on a Saturday morning – a graveyard slot you might suppose but, actually, club culture being what it is, the show is one of the station’s most listened-to worldwide, especially since the ‘listen again’ facility came in. ‘The audience is between 18 and 25,’ she says breathily. ‘It’s very strange but they couldn’t care less how old I am. I had an email from a listener the other day saying, “I don’t know how you stay up so late, Annie. I can’t manage it and I’m 17 years old.”‘

She does the show live? I had imagined it was pre-recorded. ‘Sometimes. But I stay up late anyway. I’m not a morning person. Never have been. I’m always on New York time. It’s difficult for me to get going until about five in the afternoon. I did the breakfast show once on millennium day and never again. Today I got up at 11, which was early for me.’ (It is 2pm now.) Presumably her listeners can stay up only with the help of drugs? ‘Yeah, but it wouldn’t make any difference. This music isn’t particularly about that. A lot of music has been associated with a particular stimulant. Punk and speed. Acid and E. With breakbeat I think it is more drink culture.’

The music she plays is not to everyone’s taste: it’s hard to hum any of the tracks once they are over as they all seem to merge into one pounding, electronic swirl. Do her friends – friends her own age, I mean – share her taste in music? She laughs. ‘One came round the other day and I was listening to some stuff and she said, “This is like root-canal work to me.” Trouble is, I don’t want to play more mainstream stuff at home because that could have been time spent listening to new stuff. I get sent it constantly, on CD, vinyl, MP3s, digital downloads. If I’ve been away for two days it will take a long time to catch up.’

Does she ever listen to mainstream music? ‘You do try and stay in touch with what is happening in the charts. Even if you are a specialist.’ Can she name the top five songs in the charts at the moment? She laughs again. ‘I can for the DJ download breaks chart.’ What about the music she used to listen to when she started out as a DJ? She must still enjoy some of that, surely? ‘Unless I’m in a taxi which has an oldies station on I never hear it. Anyway, it’s a bad thing. I’m scared of nostalgia. You can’t go back. It’s in its box. I get terribly affected by music and if it’s a tune that I associate with something bad happening in my life… Well, I was once diagnosed as melancholic, which is a posh name for depression, I think. As a matter of self-preservation I will only listen to up music. I don’t like to wallow in self-pity.’ Didn’t she used to play the Smiths? ‘Yeah, but they had great melodies and great lyrics as well.’

Presumably the ‘bad things’ she refers to include the break-up of her two marriages? ‘Yes, well… sure. It’s hard to say. I’ve never been particularly good at relationships.’ Her first marriage, to a Fleet Street reporter, was brief. He is the father of her two grown children, Alex and Lucy. Her second marriage lasted longer, ten years. But the rock ‘n’ roll life she was leading, the endless partying and accompanying bands such as the Police on tours, meant that relationship was doomed as well. ‘I just couldn’t do this housewife business, being locked at home.’ As soon as they were old enough she would take her children with her to festivals and to the studio.

Other bad times include her childhood. She was chronically insecure, she says, and utterly lacking in self-esteem, especially about her looks. She says she still lacked confidence even when she became a successful broadcaster on television as well as radio (she used to host The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2). Strangely, when she was mugged in Havana in 1996 her confidence improved. ‘He came up behind me. My automatic response, my mistake, was to try and hang on to my bag. I sustained multiple injuries, including a broken leg. Six months later I still didn’t know whether I would ever walk again. I was on crutches. I felt low. But then I decided it had to be a positive thing. I thought, “If I can get through this it will make me a stronger person and I will not take any nonsense from anybody.” I think until then I had been too easy-going.’ Even so, it was after that incident that the dark glasses became a permanent fixture.

The failed marriages, unhappy childhood and mugging apart, when you ask her to reminisce, most of her memories are fond. She was a trusted friend of the Beatles, for example, and spent many hours sitting around the Apple offices, often happily stoned. ‘Yeah, people like Lauren Bacall would drop in at Apple and one day a gang of hell’s angels came in and they ended up staying for three months. There was a thing of trust there. The Beatles knew I wasn’t going to drop them in it. I was very sad about Neil Aspinall [the Beatles’ road manager], who died the other week. He held it together. Very unimpressed by all the fame, he was.’

As for others of that era: Jimi Hendrix was ‘charming’, Jim Morrison ‘a bit of an arse’, Marc Bolan ‘hilarious’. Many of the big names came to the epic parties she held at her house in Brighton. Keith Moon and Pete Townshend were regulars, as were Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. In later years bands like the Happy Mondays would come along. In 1992 she hosted a rave there that lasted six days. All those stars, I say, all those drugs. Weren’t they nervous she would compromise them? ‘There has to be an element of trust,’ she says. ‘There were a lot of casualties in those early days. You feel sad when you think of the people who died young, but what can you do? I still think they’re around. That I’ll bump into them. We never thought Keith Moon was going to live to 70 anyway.’

Her best-known show – the Sunday-night request show, broadcast just after the top 40 – began its 12-year run in 1982. One gimmick was to allow the intro of the first song to play uninterrupted, then she would say ‘Hi’ at the very last second before the vocals started. ‘That was simply because I followed the chart show and we had to think of a way to keep people listening,’ she says. ‘People would hang around because they knew I did this thing and they would try and guess when I was going to say hi… I kept thinking they would take that show off because it was too weird, but people like Irvine Welsh and Thom Yorke [of Radiohead] have since said to me how much it meant to them. There’s something very intimate about the radio mike, I think. It feels one-to-one. It’s like phoning friends and saying, “I’ve heard this song. See what you think.”‘

It is strange to think that this is the woman I listened to as a teenager. Even stranger to think she has a son who is older than me. She had him when she was 19. He used to manage Primal Scream and is now the Chemical Brothers’ agent. She must, I suggest, have been a cool mother. ‘Actually, I think Alex found me an embarrassment. We have great arguments about music. I will say, “Have you heard of so and so?” It is sort of competitive. More like sibling rivalry.’

Nightingale’s name is often mentioned in the same breath as the late John Peel’s, partly because they worked at Radio 1 longer than anyone else, partly because they managed to retain their enthusiasm for new music. ‘You can’t fake it. John was the same. He would get passionate about something new and have to keep playing it. I miss him a lot because he was the only person here I could really relate to. I’m trying to fly the flag for him.’

From its start in 1967 Radio 1 always seems to have had an identity crisis. In the 1970s its stars were the likes of Dave Lee Travis and Simon Bates, Smashie and Nicey types. Yet all the while there were cooler DJs there as well, the Peels and the Nightingales. ‘Well,’ she says with an arch of her eyebrow, ‘we used to say of Radio 1 that it was figures by day, reputation by night.’

As we part I say I will try to see her at the White House in London, where she is introducing a DJ called J Mecca. Perhaps she could put me on the guest list. What time is she on? ‘Midnight.’ When she sees the look of horror on my face she laughs and says: ‘It’s all right, you don’t have to come. I’ll understand.’


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.