- 12 Mar 01
2FM is 21! JACKIE HAYDEN and CHRIS DONOVAN provide an overview to the nation's longest running and most influential music station.
1979 was the year of Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello, U2's first ever recorded release, 'A Message To You Rudy' by The Specials, 'Cool For Cats' by Squeeze and Roxanne by The Police.
All told it was a more innocent time. Political sleaze, racism and abusive priests may have been subjects festering under Ireland's skin but they were not yet spoken of in polite company. Bros had not been invented. Nobody had yet assembled a Five Star or Take That. Jason and Kylie were but gleams in the eyes of their respective record companies. Riverdance and Richie Kavanagh were in the future, Dana was safely in the USA and Ding Dong Denny was an ad for sausages.
And that was the year 2FM was born, first named Radio 2 and marketed under the slightly threatening slogan Cominatcha. Twenty-one years later, they're still comin' at us. So as part of their birthday celebrations, Hot Press offers this 21-gun salute, 21 reasons for turning on and tuning in to the bigger, better, louder, brasher, faster, noisier, rockier, dancier, longer-lasting, fresher, fruitier, tastier 2FM.
1. 2FM - THE BIG PICTURE with John Clarke
Last year John Clarke, after many years as a DJ and producer with 2FM, took over as effective head of the station. He celebrates 2FM s 21st birthday with this overview.
Across the last two decades 2FM has established itself as the premier music station for Ireland. The personality driven station, with a wide variety of music styles, has now over 50% of the 15-25 age group opting for it as their number one choice every day.
Research confirms tremendous loyalty to 2FM, and the continued belief by listeners that 2FM is a substantially different type of radio station than its commercial rivals. 2FM will always support good new music, both Irish and international, and our library of interviews and recorded concerts in tandem with the Fanning show is an invaluable treasury of material.
Reflecting the daily mood of the country is something Gerry Ryan does with ease. The mix can move from pure entertainment to tapping into the concerns of the nation. Critics say his talent and professionalism make him the voice for today's generation. Others claim he fills a voyeuristic need, but love him or hate him, his uniqueness makes him the most listened to MALE broadcaster fronting his own show.
Mention names like Tony Fenton, Damien McCaul, Larry Gogan Gareth O'Callaghan or Dusty Rhodes and you automatically think of 2FM because its identity is firmly linked by simple association to its presenters. 2FM is ever-changing, lauded for its news and sports coverage, always seeking to be interesting and innovative. Finding fresh ways to present a wide array of music, from dance to rock through R&B, Irish, hip-hop, chart hits or album tracks, 2FM stands for quality.
2. MUSIC POLICY
Hot Press asked Liam Thompson to explain 2FM's s music policy and the process used to select the music the station plays.
We take music very seriously at 2FM, whether it's a demo from a new band in Tullamore, or a white label dance tune that we shouldn't have, or the latest single from Eminem. In fact, 2FM aims to play the broadest mix of current music of any radio station in Ireland.
Unlike most radio stations, no computer picks the music on 2FM. We don't schedule all the songs on the station and we don't force our presenters to play the same songs over and over again. Instead we compile a new music playlist and the presenters pick the music for their own shows using those lists.
The 2FM playlist is chosen every Monday. We pick the best 50 songs (mainly current releases, both on minor and major labels, plus pre-release tracks and the occasional album track as well).
So how do we decide which records go on that playlist? We start with about 40 new records every week, from which we look to pick between 8 and 10 tracks. As to how you get a song into that pile of 40, well, basically, anything that is released makes its way to our door, sooner or later, for consideration.
The major record companies employ people who phone us, e-mail us or even pop up at our desks with one mission in mind, to get that week's priority record onto our playlist. There are also numerous independent PR agencies or pluggers who work for smaller labels and on independent releases.
All the presenters and producers in 2FM are invited to recommend records they think should be on the list. We also read Tip Sheet, Music Week and Fono, all specifically music industry magazines which tell us what is happening outside Ireland.
Then, finally we listen to all the records and pick the best of the bunch, looking for a variety of styles (Pop, Rock, Dance, Garage, R&B etc), so that we get the right balance of music. So for every Britney Spears track we try to add an Eels, or a Moloko!
When the playlist is finalised, our presenters pick the music they want to play from that list. That takes care of the current music, and we have other lists which cover the 80s, 90s and so on.
We still rely on each presenter being familiar with the music, what's in the charts, what will be in the charts and what the next hot record is going to be.
3. DAVE FANNING
In recent years, Dave Fanning's boundless energy has seen him present music and film television shows, but his heart still beats loudest for his nightly radio show.
Fanning's encyclopaedic knowledge and his relentless commitment to new Irish rock talent has given the necessary kick-start to the careers of countless young Irish rockers. When U2 were readying their first single, Fanning's 2FM listeners were invited to choose the a-side. For years his rock show was the only means whereby a nation of rockers could hear the music of tomorrow rather than that of yesterday.
The live Fanning Sessions have consistently served as an invaluable means of Irish acts gaining recording experience in an environment enriched by the benign attitudes of Fanning himself and producers Ian Wilson and Jim Lockhart. More recently, Pete Holidai has twiddled the knobs to great effect with contemporary acts as varied as Definitely Blue and The Blew.
Many bands have remained generously appreciative of Fanning's early support, especially U2, who invariably give him first crack when they embark on a round of album or tour-related interviews.
4. UANEEN FITZSIMONS
Following Dave Fanning would be a daunting task even for a DJ of long-standing, but the comparatively-fledgling Fitzsimons took up the challenge when it came her way last year and made her nightly late-night show a must for all Irish connoisseurs of indie rock.
Gaining her initial experience at Radio Ulster and as Donal Dineen's replacement on Network 2's No Disco, Fitzsimons is a dedicated follower of all things alternative and a regular face at live Dublin gigs. To her credit, she's not afraid to confront violence and sexism in song lyrics, refusing to play anything that crosses the boundary.
5. ARTIST'S VIEW
David Gray interrupted his first headlining tour of the USA to give us his view on the importance of 2FM to a contemporary artist:
"I'd certainly like to congratulate 2FM on 21 years of broadcasting. The station, and a number of individual DJs in particular, have always been very supportive of me and my music, and that's been important to me through some of the harder times I have had musically, as well as being a big factor in my new found success."
Neil Hannon was equally forthcoming as he prepared to enter the studio with Radiohead knob-twiddler Nigel Godrich for the first full Divine Comedy studio album since Fin de Sihcle:
"The support 2FM has given to our music over the last few years has been much appreciated. If there's any chance of them keeping it up for the next 21 years, we ll all be looking forward to a very comfortable retirement!"
Kieran Goss has enjoyed substantial exposure from 2FM for his current album release Red Letter Day and he told Hot Press, "2FM have always been supportive of my recordings right from the very start. The station has played a very important role in helping me get my songs out there and I'm very much aware of the generous support they give to Irish artists."
6. GERRY RYAN
When 2FM switched Gerry Ryan to his morning spot nobody could have predicted that they were about to transform the face, and sound, of Irish radio forever. With a pioneering no-holds-barred approach, Ryan took Irish radio by the short and curlies and led it into previously forbidden areas.
Countless taboos were broken, not just in relation to the subjects covered but also by the language used and the graphic honesty employed in dealing with them.
Never stuck for a word or a few thousand, Ryan is a man who will call a spade two spades and then tell you again just in case you missed it the first time. He's never afraid to confront his subjects with the questions few others in radio would even formulate, and if he sometimes (often?) goes over the top, that's a small price to pay for the healthy frankness he's brought to discussions about the nation's key issues.
7. LARRY GOGAN
Larry Gogan, a collector's item? Yes indeedy! Not many people know this, but Larry's voice is featured on a seventies promotional disc for superstars Abba which is now a highly-priced collector's item on the British market. A genuine supporter of Irish music, his is one of the most in-demand voices for radio and television commercials. A man who brings the same commitment to his work today as when he started, he was the first DJ in Europe to play The Corrs, when few had even heard of them!
8. TONY FENTON
Always game for a laugh, no matter how bizarre the project, Tony Fenton recently completed a helicopter trip just to prove he could broadcast from every county in Ireland in 800 minutes. A pop DJ in the traditional style of Larry Gogan, his presentation of the Irish singles chart on Friday afternoons has made the charts relevant again, after years of being hidden away from the mainstream schedule.
After a decade piloting the Hotline, and making it the most frenetic hour in Irish music radio, Fenton was rewarded with his own daily pop programme, through which he has brought a fresh air of excitement to drive-time pop radio.
9. GARETH O'CALLAGHAN
Hard as it is to believe now, Gareth O'Callaghan was once a habitual lawbreaker with the Dublin pirates, and Radio Caroline. Having returned to terra firma, he landed a weekday slot on 2FM and remains a pivotal part of the schedule. A great man for extracurricular activity, he's penned two novels and toughed it out as a stand-up comedian.
10. THE VOICES OF TOMORROW
Many of the DJs now starring at other radio stations cut their teeth behind a mike at 2FM and the station is confident that the trend will continue. One of the most promising talents nurtured by the station more recently is Roscommoner Ruth Scott, rapidly making her mark in a predominantly male preserve.
Other notable names becoming as familiar to the nation as Simon Young are Michael Cahill, Dusty Rhodes and Aidan Leonard. Watch this space!
11. BREAKFAST SHOW
The Breakfast Show on any radio station is arguably the most crucial, given that if listeners tune in early they are more likely to remain in situ for the rest of the day. So it s not a gig for the faint-hearted.
Presenter Damien McCaul first came to the attention of RTE when he won the 2FM-Hot Press DJ For A Day competition. That quickly lead to some stand-in work on 2FM and to hosting The Den, and restraining the outrageous Dustin, on Network 2.
Now McCaul's been given the hot seat, handling the Breakfast Show with all the aplomb of a practised campaigner.
12. THE RECORD COMPANY'S VIEW
Freddie Middleton is MD with BMG, one of the largest record companies in the world, whose roster of acts ranges for Five to Whitney Houston, Prince, Westlife, Christine Aguilera, Eurythmics and Santana.
"I've always been impressed by the people at 2FM and their general approach to their work. Whether they're DJs or producers or researchers, there's a total lack of bullshit and while they often work under intense pressure they still manage to be courteous and friendly at all times. Where would the Irish record industry be without them? "
13. THE DAILY DIET
6 am - Ruth Scott
7 am - Damien McCaul
9 am - Gerry Ryan
noon - Larry Gogan
2 pm - Gareth O Callaghan
5 pm - Tony Fenton
14. THE PR VIEW
As one of Ireland's busiest music PR people, Chris Roche of Chris Roche Publicity is in touch with 2FM almost on a daily basis, offering competition prizes, chasing plugs for records and gigs, setting up interviews and so on.
According to Roche, "it's a pleasure to deal with the people at 2FM. I've been dealing with them from the first day they went on air. They always listen to what I have to say and you can feel happy that they take your suggestions seriously and evaluate them professionally. Ultimately, their professionalism makes it easier for me to do my job properly."
15. 2FM HONOURS GRADUATES
There's not enough space to cover all those graduates of 2FM who have moved on to other radio stations, both local and national. Many who came through the 2FM system are regulars now on national television, including Pat Kenny, Ronan Collins, Peter Collins, newscaster Anthony Murnane and Marty Whelan (on RTE), and Mark Cagney and Ian Dempsey on TV3.
And who could forget the saga of the Starship Roisin, pioneered by the Father Ted team and starring Paul Wonderful of Ding Dong Denny O'Reilly fame? The Starship Roisin was broadcast on the 2FM Breakfast Show long before Father Ted hit the screens and made former Hot Pressers Arthur Matthews and Graham Linehan household names.
16. THE LISTENER'S VIEW
Niamh O'Mahoney from Youghal shares a birthday with 2FM and has been a big fan for as long as she can remember. "I've always been loyal to 2FM because I've been listening so long that I feel I nearly know all the broadcasters personally. I also happen to have fairly broad tastes in music so I m just as keen to hear Damien in the morning with the pop stuff, as Dave and Uaneen on the rock front - and I ve even been known to shake a leg when John Power comes on!"
Declan McGrath, who hails from Westport, also shares a birthday with 2FM. He likes 2FM's shorthand snappy news broadcasts. "I like to keep in touch with what's happening in the world but I don't want to know every trivial detail. It's the same with the sports coverage. I also like Gerry Ryan. I'm a sales rep and I often try to plan my work so I can listen to Gerry in the car. I hope my boss doesn't read this!"
17. SPORTS SERVICE
From early morning to late at night, seven days a week, the 2FM sports team keeps listeners in touch with the latest news from Ireland and around the world. Including Des Cahill, John Kenny and Shane O'Donoghue, plus Andrew O'Connor at the weekend, the 2FM sports team have a job linked to their great passion.
Cahill, a regular on the 2FM Breakfast Show, has built a considerable following in the morning and his ABU (anyone but United) stance rarely fails to get the nation s collective temper boiling.
From 1pm, John Kenny takes over the sports desk, following the 2FM News with a more serious look at the main breaking sports stories of the day. He exclusively revealed Michelle Smith s failed drugs test, a story he covered all the way to the court verdict in Lausanne.
In the evenings, recent sports department recruit Shane O'Donoghue takes over. The weekends are in the hands of the very capable Andrew O'Connor who joined the sports unit as a copy-taker but quickly moved into the weekend slot.
18. NEWS SERVICE
In sharp contrast to certain other stations, where the newsreaders seem to have a merely passing interest in the English language, the 2FM news service is invariably brought to you by a bunch of literate, business-like newscasters.
Two of those currently keeping us up-to-speed with the latest despatches, every hour on the hour, from at home and abroad, are Avril Hoare and Mary Galvin.
2FM on the Web provides a 24-hour live audio stream heard by audiences right across the globe. The service also provides audio files of the Gerry Ryan Show, as well as up-to-date Irish and international news.
2FM's website was re-launched in April 2000 and now gives you the goods on all the shows on the new 2FM schedule, including reviews of shows and recent stories. There are singles, albums and dance charts, updated weekly.
You can access pop profiles, interviews and audio files of interviews with the biggest and best names in pop, rock and dance. Listings include forthcoming gigs, dance sessions and 2FM Roadcaster venues.
Web users can take part in exclusive online competitions, vote for your choice of music and give out to your favourite dj by e-mail.
And, according to the resident 2FM webmaster, "that's just for starters, so stay online with www.2fm.ie .
20. RADIO ONE WORLD
Based at RTE's Cork studies, Radio One World is a new initiative - a multicultural radio service which reflects the ethnic diversity of refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants.
The service is broadcast from 7pm to 9pm, every weekday evening, on 2FM's medium wavelength (1278 khz and 612 khz). It is fronted by Paulina Chiwangu, a Cork resident originally from Tanzania, and well-known producer and presenter Marcus Connaughton.
21. DANCE ZONE
With the powerhouse combination of the unstoppable John Power and Mark McCabe, plus guest appearances from DJs of the renown of Boy George, 2FM s commitment to dance is as never before.
McCabe's remarkable chart-topping singles success with 'Maniac 2000', on Abbey Discs proved that not only were Irish DJs capable of delivering the goods on the dance floor but they are also well up for transferring those skills into the charts.
It was Power who first persuaded the bigwigs that it was safe to let him take 2FM right out into the clubs of Ireland. He is also a committed supporter of homegrown dance talent and DJ mix sets. All this and he s still only just over 20!