next day, I was making bedroom demos on a flat hand-held tape
deck, a chintzy mike, with my head stuck between two matresses.
The tape finished, and with some foreboding, I began my first
getting it to Steve Jones, via the good nature
of my little brother Joseph, whom I would cajole into bringing
the tape around to the house of a mate of Jones, who lived around
the corner. Later, I would pass the demo through the doors of
Radio City on Capel Street, over and over again. Always a bunch
of fellows hanging around the entrance to City. "Will you
give this to Steve Jones?" "Eh
Fair dues to Steve Jones, for he did find time to encourage
me, if only once, and by way of a written note. But this handsome
chap was busy with the many girlies in his life, and beyond
nothing came, nor was achieved.
My failure, or so it seemed to me at the time, to impress him
with my demo, fortunately, for me, only added fuel to the flames.
For many's a talent is smitten by the sword of a critical word.
And my inability to draw a radio gig at first may well have
finished me off, had I not thought myself to be the host of
'some' inner talents.
went on to the next station, Big D. "Your crap!"
Then came Radio Dublin. When I visited it, I found the station
too ropy an atmosphere for me to get into it right away. People
hanging out everywhere, lots of noise
more like an 'event'.
I had listen to Radio Dublin, and loved and appreciated what
they were doing. The 'people's choice'. But I didn't hand
in my demo tape after all, hidden in my jacket pocket, because
I thought The Captain, Eamon Cooke, who chatted with me for
a few minutes, found me too nerdy, or perhaps too shy. I remember
huge piles of crap all over the floor in that house in Inchicore,
with Dee Jay Sylvie and the massively popular Kevin Barrett,
who went on to become the 'Mayor' of Clondalkin, signing autographs
from the windows of the famous white jaguar, with 'Radio Dublin'
in big black letters on the car. Nah
Radio Dublin just
wasn't the scene for me.
and something 'pivotal' occurred in my life.
My parents moved house
from the suburbs of Clondalkin
village to Elgin Road in Ballsbridge, and that was a turning
point. No more long rides into the city on the 51 bus with
my demos. Suddenly I was living 5 minute's walking distance
from the city. (I'm referring to Dublin City
was studying for a BA in English at UCD. But, sitting in lectures,
my head was spinning with thoughts of radio. I began thinking
of a name for myself, ahead of being just offered my very
first radio show at the rate of £ 5 a week at ABC, on
Parnell Street. I opened up a map of the U.S.A., and
my eyes, cast a finger over the page. The city of Gary, Indian
came up. That will do. Gary it is.
still did not have a pseudo sir-name. I approached with trepidation
the Ivy Rooms on Parnell Street on a Friday evening at about
25 minutes to six. On my way up O'Connell Street, a really
tall blonde-haired man sprung suddenly from the steps of a
coach outside the Gresham Hotel, colliding with me as I rushed
passed the bus. My case of LPs and singles opened, and most
of my records spewed out over the footpath. The man helped
me pick them up, and grinned when he saw so many of his 'own'
band's singles in his hands. He was Martin Fry of ABC
there I was, heading to ABC! How fucking weird, and memorable
a moment that was. What did it mean? Nothing. But at the time
I left Martin Fry outside the Gresham Hotel, 'Gary Fry' came
to mind...but sounded to eggy. Turning onto Parnell Street,
there in black and white to my right, was a clothier called
Hamill's Menswear. And that was it
I had just run out of time!
broke into a stride on entering the dark interior of The Ivy
Rooms, belted up a dim winding staircase, and into my first
radio gig on ABC, later ANNABEL, with my first words to be
tuned to ABC
I'm Gary Hamill
and this is ABC, for
Martin. Thanks for the help," into Poison Arrow. I know
my first link
'cause I still have the darn tape. (Scary
The Ivy Rooms. 'Twas a hairball trap, the entire building,
with lofty crooks and crannies, a filthy carpet, and plenty
going on in those tiny, flea-ridden rooms I dared not investigate.
The studio was very small
the experience, deadly. A milkman
by day operated ABC, a decent chap called Mick Doyle. We were
paid little, but we 'were' always paid. I had a brilliant
time on ABC, and later on the name-change to ANNABEL. It gave
me my groundwork, that station.
I remember well the little studio, with its red felt slip
mats, its yellow muffler, and always a crowd of New Romantics
pushed up against the studio window, watching us on air through
bone-straight fringes of partially bleached-blonde hair. Blessed
youth! Phil Oakey - drag me back, won't ya mate
for just one ludicrous night! And I, believing myself to be
some great star
so thick and genuine the adoration was,
upon all the jocks, showered. The Sound Of The Crowd was ripping
up the charts! The Mobiles were Drowning in Berlin! Siouxsie
Sioux was spawning her generation of Clara Bow look-alikes.
And the early Eighties powered on
. oblivious to the
economic depression on the streets outside The Apartment on
Fleet Street. As for radio? It was the Gold Rush of it all,
the Roaring Twenties of broadcasting in Ireland
the high point of my radio 'daze'.
think I was with ABC for over a year or so, before landing
a gig on Community Radio 257, in Dollymount Strand / Portmarnock,
operated by The Thewlis Brothers. Mrs. Thewlis, God bless
her, would have a mile-high plate of ham and cheese sandwiches
and lashings of scalding tea for us, just like an Enid Blyton
story, as we arrived in succession for our 4-hour gigs. RTE's
Sports Presenter Eamon Falvey (calling himself Barry Falvey
at the time), the well-known Mark Byrne, and I, were the morning-into-afternoon
jocks. My days with Community Radio 257 went on for some time,
and they were brilliant, and so were we. We all worked to
sound hot. But as far as I remember, the station was either
eventually raided, or the Thewlis Brothers decided to wrap
it up. I forget the details.
One day though, I recall
we were all out of a gig, Mrs.
Thewlis was hanging up the teapot, and we all walked our separate
ways. I never worked with Barry or Mark again. Barry eventually
went to Sunshine, as did Mark. Funny thing though
Human League, ABC, and Boy George all got together for an
RDS gig a couple of years ago. I went of course, wouldn't
miss it, especially for the League. During the gig
had a few words with this chap standing along side me. Something
about 'how ace it was to see these three mega-acts from the
80's together on one stage'. It was Mark
and I hadn't
seen him since the fall of Community Radio 257. That's radio.
Community Radio 257 folded, station owner David Baker offered
me a full-timer on 'his' KISS 105 FM, (D.C.R. Media Services)
operating from a studio at 17 Foley Street in Dublin
Connolly Station area of the north city centre. Working around
David was great. His gear was always good, he paid, and he
had an air of professionalism about him at all times. I am
not surprised to find David is still in broadcasting. Back
in the early 80's, I figured David to be an under-estimated
talent in Dublin. Perhaps it was his love of Tom Jones records!
Nevertheless, radio and media ran naturally through his veins,
and I took great pride in my work with the jolly maestro.
was 1980. Herbert Street was just over Baggot
Bridge, with Nova setting up shop! Within months
newspapers were a washout with the news of Chris Cary and
and, living in Dublin 4, I was a neighbour!
there I was, on the 'smaller' KISS. Jocks like myself on stations
like David's KISS
.'on the fringe' of Chris's NOVA, KISS
FM and Robbie's Sunshine
were beginning to send demos
into the new biggies. Strangely enough, I was not, at that
time. I wanted to give myself some time to develop, and I
knew I was not up to it yet. As it turns out, I never actually
sent a tape to NOVA, but did start to bug someone on the telephone
through this period. I considered that, if I was to learn
anything, I was best off learning whatever I could from someone
who impressed me to no end on-air. I was searching for a mentor
an Obi-wan Kenobi. I wanted to learn from 'the
pro', not 'the poser'. But mostly, I simply wanted to 'learn'.
was one voice in broadcasting I was astounded with, and I
had recorded about 20 tapes of his jingles, broadcasts, and
advertisements, which I was constantly listening to at home
in my bedroom. I began to focus on finding a way to somehow
get to meet this man, or, in the least, to hook into some
line of communication with him. He was, and is, the Alec Guinness
of radio, so Obi-wan Kenobi was not far off the mark. He was
the very 'balls' of NOVA, the very N.O.W.
of 'Playing all over Dublin'. The thought of making a direct
approach to Chris Cary was, at that time, beyond me. Chris
and Sybil were deity-like figures, rich, famous, and, to me,
unapproachable. Besides, I was far too shy.
Chris was a busy man, often flying by in a car, launching
a venture, or meeting with fellow shakers and movers, politicians,
the press etc. Once though, while eyeing the building on Herbert
Street I did meet Chris on the steps of NOVA, and was greeted
with that massive hand-shake, before he powered off somewhere
in a Rolls Royce. I didn't meet him again
for some years.
a call box outside Belfield
I began periodically calling
NOVA, asking for Tony Allan. Eventually the man himself picked
up the phone, probably out of curiosity. ("Who is this
bloke constantly calling?) I was pretty bowled over to find
Tony charming, and always giving of his time, as I asked for
'his advice'. I may have made about 6 or 7 calls in all
a three or four month stretch. Each time I came away from
the phone box, I felt high. After 20 years, I still feel that
were it not for Tony Allan affording me the time on
the phone, I'm pretty sure I would have given up radio just
I had been offered a job at the Bank of Ireland, a huge opportunity
in those days of rampant unemployment. As it turned out
words over the telephone catapulted me forward with confidence,
in leaps and bounds. It may not have meant much to Tony, to
give of his time to a lad on the phone, nor does he remember
me calling I am sure. But to me
. his words of encouragement
set fire to my belly
and I was off, on a mission.
Allan was the voice of CAPITAL. I knew this station could
have been described as a mini-super-pirate. And if only I
could get a gig there, I knew I would be playing Tony Allen
jingles, a move, in my mind, closer to the world of Chris
Cary. Capital sounded good, professional, if a bit easy listening.
And so I left David Baker's KISS, in late 1981, and moved
to Capital, broadcasting then from Robert Emmett House in
Dublin. Is that rambling ghost-house still there? I don't
But what I do remember is the 10.00 pm to 2.00 am shift I
did there, and other jocks leaving me with a large set of
keys, alone in that magnificent building with its sweeping
stair-cases, navy-blue thick pile carpets, and stories of
the headless Robert Emmet himself wandering about at night.
I never once used the loos
somewhere at the far end
of a corridor.
on Capital, NOVA was in its prime. The Boogie Bus
Park, the ratings sending shock waves through the walls of
Montrose, causing tooth-fillings to rattle and shatter. Chris's
legend was alive
and kicking ass. I never got into Sunshine,
not as a listener, nor as a jock. Too airy, compared to Nova.
it was Nova, and 102.7 Kiss FM
was it. Like everyone else, I was junkie-hooked.
be brief here
because the legend of Nova marches on in
the minds and memories of so many of us, that
to put words to it all might take something, rather than add
something to it. I'll say this though:
The 'sound' of NOVA has yet to re-visit the radio band here
in Ireland, since NOVA. The 'precision', both on a 'technical',
'quality and content' and 'presentation delivery' level was
akin to what Lucasfilm does to sound, whatever that may be.
Super dynamics. A mega-execution of sound. The quality of
everything that aired under Chris's roof is still so vivid
in my memory that, having knocked about the United States
since, I never once heard this 'sound' again. I have been
a broadcaster for 17 years 'since' my gigs on Nova
on each of my later employments, I found (and still do) myself
infuriated when I try to describe the microphone sound settings
of Nova, in an effort to have it replicated in an on-air studio
As a broadcaster, I have never heard it since.
Whatever equipment Chris Cary was using, he brought a technical
wizardry to it all, and in many ways, I believe people 'remember'
this 'sound'. Benny and Bjorn found a way to manipulate the
wondrous vocals of Agnetha and Anna-Frid, who already possessed
operatic voices. Chris Cary surely used a similar technique
Ireland's budding on-air talent, and inviting them onto the
Starship Enterprise of radio stations.
memories: I recall every car in Dublin (and beyond) had a
NOVA sticker. That included BMWs, Mercs et la. Ever shop in
Dublin was playing NOVA. I don't hear that power anymore.
Every shop in Dublin now flips through the band. And anyone
working for NOVA was literally living the life of a Hollywood
Star. On top of that, Chris and Sybil were not only the Bogie
and Bacall of celebrity Ireland, but they were also the top
remunerators of media-work. Pay in NOVA was phenomenal for
the time. Remember, this was unemployed Ireland.
People were leaving for the United States in their tens of
thousands. But at Nova
staff got paid top-dollar (or
punt). You could also make a packet on voice-overs, on top
of coming away with another 100 quid from a weekly disco gig.
Bogie and Bacall always paid, always. But you had
better be doing a brilliant job!
1981, I was working at Head Office, Bank of Ireland, on Baggot
Street, receiving a brilliant wage, and enjoying the welcomed
diversity of my Capital Radio gig, for the bank job was none
but a dull and numbing slog...and not at all suited to me.
So, hearing that Chris and Sybil paid so very well, an exit
from the Bank of Ireland, and an entry to Nova, began to play
on my mind as a solid transition. I had a game plan.
for a full-time News Presenter. This
'news' in itself was all over town. Off I went, to queue up
along Herbert Street with over one hundred or more other hopefuls.
The street looked more like an outdoor concert. The queue
tailed back onto Baggot Street. I hadn't a hope in hell
kept thinking. After hours of standing in line
my turn to place a foot inside the Nova building for the first
time, and the queue snailed forward. The larger-than-life
images of the 'Stars of Nova'
covering the walls. A tingling
in my fingers, the heart pounding, the immediate 'sense' that
this was 'IT'
this was radio as it 'could' be. Sybil,
giving directions to people, 'This way please!' to the poor
unfortunate soul who's turn it was next to audition in the
'real radio booth!' behind the doors. Wow
Thick carpets! Huge mixing desks! State of the art equipment
you looked! And all the while
the unmistakable sound
of NOVA coming from the nether land of upstairs. It was awe-inspiring,
the build-up to my first audition at Nova. Terrifying
as it turned out
a complete and utter disaster for me!
"Okay dear, just take this script, walk into the booth,
and begin reading it! Simple! Off you go now!"
" A British soldier has
was shot dead in
I start again? Okay
a British soldier has been shot dead
"Okay. That's it! Thank you
that was it. I completely lost it, and Sybil moved on to the
next wanna-be news presenter. I was devastated, and left for
passed. I continued with Capital. As fate would have it, just
under the Bank of Ireland on Baggot Street, was the Henry
Grattan, and below that, Shivers Disco Bar. Colleagues at
the Bank would go on the piss on Friday, and I would sometimes
join them. On one such night, I was there, it was late, and
I was standing at the bar in Shivers. A group was forming
in the bar
and they were all talking 'radio'. Turned
out to be the 'initial' staff of Pierre Doyle and John Conway's
(Joy's Nite Club) Shortheath Properties venture into radio.
man standing at Shivers Disco bar, ordering a thousand drinks
for the thirsty crew of new recruits behind him, was Lawrence
the new Station Manager of the to-be-soon Q102.
shall be continuing this retrospect, with pictures!
McCarthy - SPIN 1038 Dublin. A.K.A. Gary Hamill.
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