Robert Frederick Elms
12 June 1959
Hendon, London, England
|Education||London School of Economics|
Robert Frederick Elms (born 12 June 1959) is an English writer and broadcaster. Elms was a writer for The Face magazine in the 1980s and is currently known for his long-running radio show on BBC Radio London. His book, The Way We Wore, charts the changing fashions of his own youth, linking them with the social history of the times.
Early life and education
Elms was born in Hendon and educated at Orange Hill Grammar School for Boys, a state grammar school in the north-west London suburb of Burnt Oak, after passing the 11-plus examination for state school pupils. From there, Elms studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) in Central London.
Life and career
While still at the LSE, Elms became deeply involved in the "club scene" that was developing in London suburbs. He became a columnist for both The Face and NME, writing on both music and fashion. According to Elms, he was "almost a member" of the band Spandau Ballet. He championed them, having suggested their name, and introduced the group at early concerts by declaiming a brief verse. Band member Gary Kemp later commented that Elms was their "spin doctor", and said he "inspired" songs such as "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)", a number 3 UK Singles Chart hit for the band in 1981. Elms also worked as a DJ at clubs including the Palladium in New York.
Elms was a chronicler of the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s, which saw him become a popular interview choice for the broadcast media. Elms then developed a broadcasting career of his own, working in both radio and television. He was a contributor to Loose Ends (BBC Radio 4) and presented the Channel 4 travel series Travelog during the 1990s. In 1989, his first novel, In Search of the Crack was published by Penguin Books.
Since 1994, Elms has presented a long-running radio show on BBC Radio London, in 1999 being referred to as "its top presenter". The show features reports, discussions, and call-ins about Greater London, the history, architecture, geography, city planning and the language of London: in short, the minutiae of the city. Guests who are acknowledged experts in their fields of study appear on a regular basis, including architect Maxwell Hutchinson and film critic Jason Solomons. An extract of the shows is published as a podcast every week. Solomons often covers for Elms when he is on holiday.
Elms is a critic of The Beatles, and refuses to play the band on his BBC London daily radio show. He has been quoted as saying "I just think they are either childlike and simple or rather leaden and pompous – one or the other all the time. For me they turned something that was once sexy and raw and had roots, into something that was totally soulless, playground sing-along music. I think everything that is over-inflated deserves a pin-prick in it occasionally. How can they be above criticism? That's ludicrous."
His memoir, London Made Us, was published in 2019.
In the 1980s Elms squatted with singer Sade Adu in Tottenham. In around 1996, Elms moved to Camden, an area of London he promotes and where he has renovated a Georgian house. He lives there with his wife Christina Wilson and their children Alice, Alfie and Maude. Elms is a Queens Park Rangers F.C. fan.
- In Search of the Crack, Penguin Books Ltd, 1989, ISBN 0-14-011276-6
- Spain – A Portrait After The General, William Heinemann Ltd, 1992, ISBN 0-434-22824-9
- The Way We Wore: A Life in Threads, Picador, 2006, ISBN 0-330-42033-X
- London Made Us, Canongate Books, 2019, ISBN 9781786892119
- Pauli, Michelle. "Robert Elms: The Way We Bore", The Guardian, 2 June 2005.
- Taylor, Laurie. "The Way We Wore, by Robert Elms", The Independent, 15 April 2009.
- Meades, Jonathon (1984). "Carving a Career in Style: Robert Elms", CliveJames.com. Retrieved 28 April 2009, archived 28 April 2009.
- White, Jim. "Review", The Independent, 8 January 1996, p. 20.
- Harries, Rhiannon (23 October 2011). "How We Met: Gary Kemp & Robert Elms". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
- Todd, Bella. "Norman Jay on Robert Elms", Time Out, 20 August 2008. archived, 28 April 2009.
- "Robert Elms Biography" Channel 4. archived 28 April 2009.
- "Tom Bloxham MBE appointed as Architecture Week Patron", 11 May 2005, Arts Council press release. archived 28 April 2009.
- Robinson, Michael. "'Its a London thing', but sadly for GLR, Londoners are not listening", The Independent, 12 October 1999.
- Robb, Stephen (10 September 2009). "Help! I'm a Beatles hater". BBC News. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Sturges, Fiona (23 March 2019). "London Made Us by Robert Elms – a love letter to the capital". The Guardian.
- Mahoney, Elisabeth (22 November 2011). "Radio review: From Frestonia to Belgravia – the History of Squatting". The Guardian.
- Dowling, Stephen. "Camden – Britain's musical Mecca?", BBC, 11 February 2008. archived 28 April 2009.
- Canessa, Joey. "My Home: Robert Elms", The Independent, 1 March 2006. archived 28 April 2009.
- "Saturday Talks Tom Hunter in Conversation with Robert Elms 8 January". Archived from the original on 26 June 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.