Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Radio Songs #44: Reel To Reel

Radio Songs took a break for a few weeks. Those of you who read the last post will probably understand why. I haven't wanted to go trotting down that particularly memory lane for a while now. But time wounds all heels, and there's lots more of this story to tell...

Early 90s then, and I'm back at uni during the daytime, while working in the record library and answering phones for the phone in Sunday night and Wednesday thru Friday (Monday and Tuesday were my busy uni days so another guy did the phones then). There were a couple of other things I did to pile up my hours during this time, and one of them was driving shows on tape.

There was a variety of syndicated radio shows that did the rounds of local radio back in the day, but when I think back now, the only one I can really remember (though I know I drove more than just this) was Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40 Countdown. It was the American chart, a week late, interspersed with classic US oldies, and chat from Mr. Disco Duck himself, Rigdon Osmond Dees III. (Yep, that is apparently his real name.) A quick glance at iffypedia tells me that The Weekly Top 40 Countdown began in 1983 - so it'd been going a decade already by the time I started threading the tape on it - and apparently it's still going today.

The show would come in huge cardboard reel to reel boxes, each reel containing one hour of the show... or about 45 minutes of airtime in three or four chunks of audio. My job would be to start the tape rolling after the hourly news bulletin and a few local station jingles, play the first segment, then stop the tape and play an ad break. And so on. Dees would supply a couple of station specific IDs as part of the syndication deal which I'd play in from time to time so it actually sounded like he was broadcasting from West Yorkshire... and not the other side of the Atlantic. And all this had to be timed perfectly so I could hit the next hourly news bulletin without crashing it...

All of which leads me to a recurring anxiety dream I still have to this day... I might get to that in the next radio post, or possibly the one after. But it's weird how it still wakes me in the small hours with a pounding heart, probably 20 years or so since I last sat behind a live, on-air radio desk...

I thought about playing On Tape by The Pooh Sticks to accompany this post. Or maybe Real By Reel by XTC. Maybe even Reel Around The Fountain. But honestly, there was only one serious contender...


  1. Glad to see you return with this series as it was a real insight into the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes in radio - Who knew? Well I didn't anyway. Glad to hear that time is "healing the heels".

    As a bit of a perfectionist, the idea of having to get the timings on all those reels just right would have certainly caused me anxiety - Intrigued to hear the rest of this story.

    Great song by Steely Dan and the name of a great book by Mark Ratcliffe (who is sadly poorly it seems). That book was kind of the inspiration behind my blog!

    1. Of course that should have been Radcliffe. Argh...

    2. I was very sorry to hear about Mark Radcliffe. A radio hero of mine. I hope he makes a speedy recovery.

  2. Jimmy Page is supposed to have said Elliott Randall's solo on "Reelin' in the Years" is his favorite guitar solo of all-time.

    The man has taste.

  3. I can totally understand about having a recurring anxiety dream linked to this, sounds nerve-wracking - us radio listeners just wouldn't have had a clue!


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