Legend has it that the first Fanning session was by a band from Dublin called U2 in 1980. Whilst that event would have predated our tenure we can vouch for the importance in subsequent years of the Dave Fanning show to Irish rock music both in terms of the sessions recorded but also the demos played. Thanks to the efforts of Dave and long-time producer Ian Wilson the show was to become a veritable institution (not forgetting the efforts of Jim Lockhart, Pete Holidai and Paddy Breen who toiled in front of the console).
Originally broadcast Thursday December 29th on RTÉ 2fm and produced by Yvonne Judge, this special radio documentary looks back at the sessions recorded in Studio 8 over the last 36 years. It features contributions from Dave Fanning, Ian Wilson, Billy McGuinness and Christy Dignam (Aslan), Paul Cleary (The Blades), Gavin Friday (The Virgin Prunes), Martin Cowan (The Outcasts), Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney) and Noel Hogan (The Cranberries).
This Sunday at 6pm TXFM will broadcast a documentary ‘Left Of The Dial‘, “looking at two periods of time in radio and music when alternative music programmes ruled the national night-time airwaves – 2FM in the 80s and TodayFM in the late 90s”. The show was produced by Cathal Funge and will feature interviews with Dave Fanning, Mark Cagney, Donal Dineen, Tom Dunne, John Kelly, Dan Hegarty, Paul McLoone, Ian Wilson, Dave Couse, Paul Cleary, Richie Egan, Peter Murphy, Olaf Tyaransen and Nadine O’Regan. Then at 7pm stay tuned for 2 hours of music featured in the documentary interspersed with listener requests and stories..
So for some reason when I was in 1st year in school, I decided it was time to join the workforce. At the time I was living a few miles outside Gorey in the Wexford countryside and got a weekend job at the petrol station just down the road. After a few weeks my obvious talent for pumping fuel and checking oil levels was spotted and I was soon working three evenings a week after school.
Now this place really was in the middle of nowhere and business wasn’t exactly booming despite my high profile promotion, so my daydreaming skills were honed as I sat on a rickety stool in a kiosk staring into space.
I did have a radio and Atlantic 252 was my station of choice, for the first few months anyway, but soon I got bored of hearing the same 30 songs on a loop so I decided to give this guy Dave Fanning a shot.
I pretty much hated the show at first, but my options were fairly limited so I stuck with it and within weeks it became something of an obsession. I had no time for daydreaming now as I sat there with a pen and paper scribbling down names of bands and songs I was hearing for the first time. You had to be fully alert due to Dave’s rapid fire delivery and the dreaded scenario was the sight of a car pulling in to refuel just before Dave was about to back announce what he had played.
By the time I was finished pumping £5 of diesel into a rusty old Ford Cortina, Dave would already be on to another string of songs and that was it, gone, no way of checking online or texting in to the station to find out who the artists was. The only lifeline I had in those days was to check with someone in school the next day; “Were you listening last night? What was that track he played around 8.30? You didn’t tape it did you…?”
Lots of tracks I fell in love with listening to the Fanning show pop up on TX Breakfast every now and again, particularly in Record Revival and Song Club, and I can almost smell the petrol fumes whenever I hear Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well, Part 1’.
By 1997, I was out of the petroleum business and on to another late night radio programme. Donal Dineen’s ‘Here Comes The Night’ was a little too out there for me when it first aired on Radio Ireland/TodayFM in March 1997, but in early ’98 I tuned back in and was rewarded big time.
I reckon about 90% of the records I bought over the next few years came on the back of hearing them on ‘Here Comes The Night’. The pen and paper were in use again as I jotted down names of bands, singers, labels, and compilations. Unlike Dave Fanning’s million word a minute approach to presenting, Donal’s was at the lower end of low key. There was many a night Donal would keep me awake by playing four or five amazing songs back-to-back and I would have to fight off the sleep until his whispering voice returned to name the tracks.
Late last year I was thinking about how essential certain late night radio music programmes were for anyone wanting to hear alternative music back in the days before the internet made music so accessible. You could of course read about new music but actually getting to hear these records was not so easy and you depended on a handful of presenters to play the music no one else would.
So I decided to go off and make a documentary telling the story of how important these programmes were in a pre-digital era. The documentary is called ‘Left of the Dial’ and it’s going to air this Sunday at 6pm followed by the official soundtrack to the documentary – basically two hours of great music from that era.
‘Guth‘ promises to be a new and revealing six-part documentary series that tells the story of modern pop music and how the sons and daughters of Irish emigrants have changed the face of popular music.
What impact, if any, did their Irish blood have on singers like Bing Crosby, John Lydon, Morrissey and Marr, Dusty Springfield, John Lennon, or the Gallagher Brothers? And what impact did their music have on Ireland?
It is often said that the emigrants that sailed from this country travelled with nothing but the clothes on their backs, but they also carried with them something more intangible: they carried stories and songs of home in their hearts. These emigrants made their way to London and Liverpool, Boston and New York where they established roots and communities.
The series examines the environments and influences that shaped the musical heritage and creativity of the emigrant Irish and their offspring. Through a combination of interviews with the musicians themselves and archive footage both of their work and emigrant life GUTH crafts a story that is part social history, part music documentary and breaks new ground in analysing the impact of the Irish diaspora.
The series is produced by Bríd Seoige and directed by Dathaí Keane.
The series was funded by BAI Sound and Vision and TG4.
Guth will be broadcast on TG4 Thursdays 9.30pm from 26th September, repeated on Mondays at midnight.
The episode on John Lydon features live footage from Paranoid Visions and a few words from Deklan Dachau.
Their hair was once shoulder-length and what’s left of it now is mostly grey. Two of them are still following the same path they started down in the late Seventies, in a country of soaring unemployment and inflation, where contraception was illegal and divorce was banned. Others of them are now household names, as writers, journalists and commentators. Back then, they were young, unknown and there was no obvious outlet for their talents. So they set about doing it for themselves: in 1977, Niall Stokes and Mairin Sheehy founded Hot Press.
It was a music magazine and it became more – a political and cultural rallying-point for alternative points of view of all kinds. Its writers, designers and production staff tapped phones, biked cheques from bank to bank and drove in relays to the Kerry train to catch the printers, after long nights of putting the magazine together fuelled by coffee so thick a Turk could trot on it. They became a family, a haven of mutual support and, like many families, a place too for dysfunction and, for some of them, excess.
Long before the internet, they created a community which stretched from Ballaghadareen to Bundoran, from Enniscorthy to Skibbereen, united by the music and by their writers’ and readers’ different visions of an Ireland in which they could feel at home, in which they could be free to be themselves. And their contribution to the success of that movement has also, in the way of things, made them part of a new establishment. But at the exceptionally advanced age – for an Irish magazine – of 34, Hot Press is still here, still looking out for new voices, fresh writing talents, music that needs to be listened to.
The documentary Hot Press: The Write Stuff tells the tumultous story of those early years, through the memories of its writers including Declan Lynch, Liam Mackey, Peter Murphy and John Waters, of its founders Niall Stokes and Mairin Sheehy, and of Harry Browne, Dave Fanning, Bob Geldof, Jackie Hayden and Michael D. Higgins. It’s a story about music and politics, about principles and ambitions, above all a story about being young and just going for it.
In the absence of an official RTE Fanning Session archive consider this blog a humble starting point. Any musical submissions would be gratefully accepted as are any corrections or recollections... click on the pic to send an email or even better comment on the post in question. We are interested in anything recorded from irish radio or TV in the 1980s.