How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain – Part 15.


Christmas came ten months early in the Riverina region of New South Wales Australia in 1993. It was my first show on commercial radio. After traveling 725 kilometers overnight by Greyhound bus from Sydney the night before and not getting any sleep, here I was presenting the afternoon/drive show on 2QN Deniliquin.

The show started at 2pm and the first hour of the five hour program was the busiest sixty minutes of my life. I had to play the music on the printed playlist in the correct order from vinyl records, CDs, and tape cartridges. Carts, as they were known were loops of tape enclosed in a plastic shell about the size and shape of those plastic cases double CDs come in. I had to play commercials on cart from a list at specific times, read live commercials, play the correct station ID carts between the songs, read the weather (over the jingle on the weather cart) twice an hour AND have interesting things to say in between. As well as all that, I had to call a random listener off air from a list of phone numbers and record a conversation on to reel-to-reel tape which consisted of me asking the person I’d called if they knew this hour’s ‘Cash Call’ amount. If they knew the exact amount of money I’d announced just after the news, they would win a hundred and twenty-seven dollars and sixty-two cents. I was warned by the program director that the listeners’s reply would start with, “..I don’t know, I wasn’t listening” and that before I played the call on the air, I would have to use a razor blade and splicing tape to literally cut out the bit when they said they weren’t listening, because we had to give the impression that EVERYBODY was listening. To do this, I had to switch the console to monitor the ‘cue’ channel, put my mike and the telephone channels into ‘cue’, dial the ‘Cash Call’ number, record the call, (they said they weren’t listening) cut, splice and cue up the tape ready to play, load the ‘Cash Call’ music cart to play under the recording, and switch the console back to monitor ‘on-air’. I had to do all of this within the time it takes to play one song, it was hectic.

With so much to do and think about, I’d completely forgotten about ‘back timing’. The news came down a line from Sydney at precisely the top of every hour. You had to get everything to finish exactly ten seconds before the end of the hour, then play the ten second news jingle and open the news fader, there was no margin for error.

With the minutes in the hour running out, I added up the times of the next few things I had to play before 3pm and discovered I was going to be exactly one minute fifty-two seconds short. I hadn’t learned how to talk to time yet and I didn’t have the confidence to ‘fill’ for what would be nearly two minutes, so I decided that I would start the last song on my playlist for that hour then run out of the studio, down the corridor to the record library, find a song that was exactly one minute fifty-two in duration, run back and get it on the air as the last song on my list finished. If I started the song I’d found as the other one finished, that would fill up the missing time. It was a completely insane plan. In the history of recorded music, there are hardly any songs with a duration of only one minute fifty-two seconds but in a mad panic, it made perfect sense to me.

When I got to the record library I didn’t have time to check the duration stickers on the vinyl records or CDs. To do that, I’d have to pull each one out from the shelf to look at it. My only hope was the music that was on cart. Music carts were stacked one on top of the other in racks on the wall. My finger ran down the racks past the bottom right hand corner of each cart where the duration was marked. I must have checked the duration of nearly a hundred carts, there was still no “1:52”. I could now hear the chorus of the song on the air repeating which meant it was about to end. My finger moved faster down the carts, it sounded like someone spinning the Wheel of Fortune. Then suddenly I saw it, “1:52”! I could not believe my luck! I pulled the cart from the rack, legged it down the corridor, burst into the studio, jammed the cart into the machine as the previous song faded and at precisely two minutes and two seconds to three (ten seconds added for the news jingle remember) I hit ‘start’ and collapsed into the chair.

For about three seconds I thought I’d got away with it. Then I heard the song I’d chosen. – It would have been fine if this was December but it was the month of March and 2QN Deniliquin was playing Neil Diamond’s version of “Jingle Bell Rock”.

Craic On!

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