Different Spectrum: A Journey in Radio (Audio)

From Voice Metro Blogs by Kieran Cassidy This article first appeared on our Voice Metro Blog, by Kieran Cassidy, and is edited in full by Maura. Over recent years, that “no jibes please” slogan…

Different Spectrum: A Journey in Radio (Audio)

From Voice Metro Blogs by Kieran Cassidy

This article first appeared on our Voice Metro Blog, by Kieran Cassidy, and is edited in full by Maura.

Over recent years, that “no jibes please” slogan has become more readily accepted as the official motto for every radio station here in Ireland.

It wasn’t always like that though. When I was a kid growing up in Dublin, there were times when we were excluded by the maddening amount of music we’d end up spending hours listening to.

There was a rule in place that one of us would be allowed to listen to the music that the other chose to tune out – so my mother had to have her nose pressed against the telly to make sure her two eldest boys weren’t hearing the programmes that came in over our wares.

There was just one problem: she couldn’t make up her mind if the music on BBC Ireland was really good or rubbish.

There were so many repeats and jokers with the numpty competitions that it was very difficult to tell if we were getting good quality programming.

One final song that I won’t forget was The Big One, with Luke Kelly doing his thing, and Ronnie Drew and Damon Runyon

We also liked sports outside of football and hurling: rugby was a big hit in our house and some decent boxing titles would get on our favourite CDs.

The only downside about those all-conquering sports was that they were about as accessible to me as a drunk room-mate, and the overnights that Dad was away at that time, by the sounds of it, were often eight in the morning, long before sound or television were commonplace.

On our days off from the house, the family would head to the cinema to catch the latest episode of Doctor Who.

But it was always something of a waste of time; the 3 or 4 people who stayed behind just stood around drinking whisky and smoking cigarettes and chatting about something other than the movie, and you eventually did get bored with it.

‘My mum had to have her nose pressed against the telly to make sure her two eldest boys weren’t hearing the programmes that came in over our wares’

It was around this time that the system of the radio switchboard in the house turned on.

There’d be a jumble of missives like this:

Dad has left for work. We are so sorry but Dad doesn’t like to see people and this week’s programme has been terrible. Please read the programme on Radio 1 and plug it into the corner of your mind. At the other end of the house you may even see it: Danny Boy by the Slane Brothers.

This was a Monday evening and it stayed on until late that night.

Let’s not forget the greatest family tradition of all – the annual marathon listening session of Radio 2.

And when my father started growing dementia, he started to lose his mind.

No longer able to tell the difference between news and entertainment, he’d search for the country’s highest reaches and guess the music, often without fail.

The rest of us used to enjoy this new addition to the family with open arms, and prattle away with our childish comments for days.

Two of my favourite skits from the early 1970s were called ‘Dunno What I’m Looking At’ and ‘F*** you, Disco’

For a long time, the morning presenters on Radio 2 would play some loud instrumental music, and let my father sit quietly listening, putting his head in his hands.

Then the old words would suddenly come to him:

What. Do. They. Know. That. Man. Is. He. Raving. Baffled.

Normally, nothing would be said about it either.

But it happened for a couple of years in a row that, when the music stopped, my father would suddenly turn to us.

We had no idea what the station was playing, and we had no idea what it might be about.

He’d listen to a few seconds of that weird shuffle jingle, do a double take, and move on to a story, a sport or – in the rarest of cases – a very good news item.

Over the years, my very limited knowledge of radio has helped me to turn a far deeper understanding of what we listen to into an appreciation for the myriad of formats and genres that comprise the national radio playlist.

It all adds up to a multi-sensory experience, and it makes the notion of being bored with anything all the more appealing.

We will always need to have our ears open, our minds wide, and our homes turned up loud.

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