Wednesday, 2 August 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #13: How To Get A Job In Radio Part 2

I was still in school when I wrote the letters and drew the comic strips that would eventually lead to my first job in radio. I corresponded with a number of the jocks on the station at the time, but the one who tended to read out my letters the most was the afternoon presenter, who I soon discovered was also the programme controller. Perhaps being the boss meant he had even less time for show prep than the rest of his team... or perhaps he saw something in those nascent ramblings that made him think I had potential.

Eventually, I got up the nerve to ask him the big question: how do I get a job in radio? His response was two-fold: first, the obvious tip about trying hospital radio as a way of practising / honing my presentational skills; second... volunteer. Local radio stations back then were mostly struggling enterprises (hell, a lot of them still are today) and beyond the skeleton staff that ran the place, they often brought in volunteers to help out. It was a good foot in the door and many people, including some of the DJs working there, had started out that way.

The next part of his response floored me though. Because, as luck would have it, one of the station's current volunteers was about to leave to go off to university. Did I want to come in for a chat?

At 16, this was my very first job interview. I'd managed to escape without even a paper round until then. Although I would have earned more money on a paper round...

I don't remember much about the interview. I guess my mum drove me there: she did the same every Saturday morning once I started the job, until I got my driver's license. Which was pretty good of her considering the station was a good 40 minutes from home and I had to be there for 8.30. I have a vague recollection of asking my dad to borrow a suit, since I didn't own one, and him suggesting his demob suit from when he finished National Service 30 years earlier. I didn't take him up on the offer.

I turned up. They showed me round the station. I met the boss and some of the others I'd been writing to for months. It wasn't anywhere near as glamorous as it had seemed in my head. Scruffy basement offices. Egg-box soundproofing. Wires and Heath Robinson contraptions everywhere I looked. Old typewriters in the news room. The most exotic-looking technology: reel to reel and 8 track cartridges! A library full of vinyl, with a few shelves of CDs. And the smell... mostly fusty. But we'll get back to the smell another time. In Bradford, it depends which way the wind is blowing.

There wasn't a big interview. There wasn't a line of candidates begging for the job. It was pretty much: are you free on a Saturday morning, can you answer the telephone and make coffee? Can you start this week...?

13. Hall & Oates - Portable Radio

I love this disco-flavoured Hall & Oates nugget from 1979, because it reminds me of what radio used to be like. What it was like when I first set foot in those dingy offices back in 1988: what it stopped being soon after. It's kinda cheesy and amateurish, especially compared to the slick, soulful sounds H&O would become famous for in the 80s. It's fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously. Even the lyrics reflect a bygone era: far simpler times. Imagine... a portable radio! Battery operated! So you don't even have to plug it in! Cutting edge or what...

Well, I don't want to hear no static
And I don't want to hear no jaw
Put them platters on automatic
I cannot get enough
You got to give me more and more
Play some soul for the congregation
Rock n' roll for the kids next door
Charge up your batteries across the nation
Viva la portable radio!


  1. I think turning your hobby into a job is what many strive for. Don't think I could handle a DJ job, would be worried about awkward pauses!

    Sounds like your first job in radio wasn't too demanding, and you weren't thrown in at the deep end. Your mum giving you those lifts was very kind.

    1. It got more demanding as time went on.

      Yes, my mum is an angel.

  2. I'd love to know if you would've still got the gig had you, a 16 year old, turned up for the interview in a 30 year old demob suit! What a priceless image.
    Another fine chapter in your autobiography Rol.

    1. Judging by the suit my boss wore, he wouldn't have noticed.

  3. Loving these radio stories.

  4. Like The Swede, I couldn't help thinking about that demob suit. Love your description of the station with its contraptions and old typewriters, etc. and, of course, the fusty smell. Thanks for another evocative instalment in your radio tales.

  5. Looking forward to see if Smashy and Nicey feature somewhere down the line

  6. Loving your radio memoirs. What a great mum you have as that was a demanding schedule and I'm guessing it lasted quite a while. Keep the story comin'.

  7. I had the same dreams as you when I was that age...I never followed up on them. Kinda pleased about it as I wouldn't be doing what I do today...and I get to combine having a job I mostly enjoy with a hobby I love.



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