In His Own Words

From “The Thing Is..” by Dave Fanning

I felt pleased and flattered to be in such august company and was even more delighted to realise that, in Ian Wilson I had a colossus in my corner. Wilson was just as committed as me to furthering the cause of new young bands and was hugely aware of the vast advantage of RTE over the pirates: we had proper studios, where groups could record sessions for the show.

Ian’s attitude was that, night after night, I had been pushing new Irish music on the pirates for the previous few years. In many ways it had always been the centrepiece of my shows. I’d been playing Irish music, the officially released stuff from established or semi-established acts, but the big emphasis for me had always been the demo tapes, the new bands that never got a chance to be heard anywhere else. It was time to shift it up a gear.

RTE had always used its state-of-the-art facilities and top-of-the-range sound engineers to record major classical works, with the RTE Concert Orchestra pretty much annexing the lavish and spacious Studio 1 for rehearsals and performances. However, the smaller, rough-and-ready Studio 8 was frequently empty, and Ian donned his public-service hat to demand that we be allowed to use it for sessions by up-and-coming groups.

The RTE bosses were not at all keen on this at first. It was easy to see why. The sessions would cost money to record but not make any. Why should they give up valuable studio time for no financial return? But Ian was on a mission and argued that the hip quotient and profile for the network would be invaluable. A few weeks after Radio 2 launched, the Fanning Sessions were up and running.

Ian Wilson deserves the utmost credit for his prescience and persistence because it soon became clear that Fanning Sessions were as crucial to the show as they were to the bands. The routine was that a group would usually come in on a Monday and record four numbers, adding vocals and doing the mixing the next day. Suddenly bands that nobody had heard of, who had never even had a sniff of a decent studio, could do their stuff and have four professionally recorded and mixed songs aired on national radio.

To be continued..

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