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Early life and career
Brookes attended Bradwell and Seabridge secondary schools. He became a disc jockey through youth club discos in his home town before he sent a successful audition tape created for him by George Wood (Judder) to his local station, BBC Radio Stoke. He used to wash cars to raise money for buying equipment. He spent three years there before being recruited by BBC Radio 1, the national pop network, where he worked as a stand-in presenter for Steve Wright before taking over the teatime show from Peter Powell in September 1984.
In addition to this show, Brookes presented a rundown of the UK Top 40 singles chart on Sunday evenings between 1986 and 1990 and between 1992 and 1995.
In 1989, Brookes moved to the weekend breakfast show, co-hosting with Liz Kershaw, and also regularly deputised for Simon Mayo on the weekday breakfast show. Three years later he moved to the weekday early breakfast slot, where he remained until he was sacked in 1995 by Trevor Dann, who said "...why is Bruno on? you know, he seems to have a charmed life, because if the view was 'we must get rid of the dinosaurs', you know we've got this behemoth striding the airwaves of dawn" in the BBC TV documentary Blood on the Carpet: Walking with Disc Jockeys in 2001.
Brookes, along with another former chart show presenter Mark Goodier, returned to the station for a one-off Top 40 countdown show on Sunday 30 September 2007, providing new pre-recorded inserts into the show, which was hosted by the then-current (but outgoing) presenters JK and Joel. This special show formed part of the station's celebrations of the 40th birthday of BBC Radio 1.
Brookes was also an early supporter of the fledgling acid house scene by championing Stakker Humanoid, a November 1988 hit for Humanoid (AKA Brian Dougans). In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Brookes explained that he was given a white label of the record and immediately fell under its spell. "It just got to me. I remember listening to it and thinking it was one step ahead of everything techno that was coming out. It wasn't copying anything else; it was just fabulous." As a result, he played the record twice in one show – a very unusual step for a prime-time radio DJ.
"Killing in the Name" controversy
While presenting the Top 40, Brookes accidentally played the full uncensored version of "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine on 21 February 1993. The song contains 17 instances of the word "Fuck". Brookes was not made aware of the language in the track and, as a new entry, included it in the broadcast. Brookes and his producer Simon Sadler were preparing a trail for the following week's show whilst the song played, so were unaware of what was going out on air. The station immediately received 138 phone calls of complaint. Brookes was later suspended for a few weeks.
During his period at Radio 1, Brookes was on the Top of the Pops host roster and also presented Beat the Teacher on BBC television, a children's quiz where pupils took on teachers in a general knowledge game based on noughts and crosses. He was the last of the show's three presenters, following Howard Stableford and ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones. He also hosted the dating show Love at First Sight and the angling show Tight Lines on Sky.
He also appeared in the Brass Eye series, in which he read an appeal against the fictitious drug cake.
In 2007 Brookes revealed in an interview with Nuts magazine that he had a tattoo of a pirate on his left thigh. He acquired it during the 1985 Radio 1 Roadshow tour as part of a bet with his producer, who in return drank a pint of vinegar.
In May 2006, Brookes suffered a heart attack and was treated at St Thomas' Hospital, London where he was interviewed by Nadia Sawalha as a patient on BBC One's City Hospital. In the interview he said he would try to give up smoking which he acknowledged as the main reason for his illness.
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