Tony Currie - my BBC Scotland colleague - has written a short memoir about the early days of Radio Clyde. It's lavishly illustrated with photographs of the station's first presenters, the backroom staff and even some of the technical equipment that was used. For us radio anoraks it's a must read, but in truth the early chapters are like an adventure story. You get a real insight into the birth-pangs of legitimate commercial radio in Scotland and you find yourself wondering if those pioneers are actually going to pull it off.
They do, of course, and the rest is history.
Leafing through the book first thing this morning brought back all sorts of memories for me ... mainly as a listener. I was a schoolboy in Glasgow when Clyde came on air, but I well remember listening to Tiger Tim Stevens, Dr Dick's Midnight Surgery with Richard Park and Brian Ford's punk and new wave programme Stick it in Your Ear - which has got to be one of the best ever names for a radio show.
Tony includes a chapter on the station's ill-fated listing newspaper Clyde Guide. I remember buying it on the way to school and showing it to my geography teacher who ridiculed the content before turning his attention to me. He was a BBC Radio 3 listener and he told me that local radio was a waste of time and that my time would be better spent listening to Beethoven and joining his chess club.
Well, he was right about Clyde Guide. It closed after a year.
I worked for Radio Clyde as a news reporter but didn't join the station until 1990. Many many of the legendary names were still there at that time. Tiger Tim once praised my "professionalism" because I always wrote my name -phonetically - on a piece of paper and handed it to him in the studio just before he had to introduce the news bulletin.
I wasn't expecting to be mentioned in the book, but there on page 114 is a photograph of me in a line-up of newsroom staff preparing to cover a General Election. I even get a mention in the index ... under 'Z' of course.
Jeff Zycinski, Radio Scotland blog, 24th October, 2009
» MORE at www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/jeffzycinski/2009/10/tonys_new_book_reads_like_a_ra.shtml
Not Quite Altogether Now! is the other ‘look back’ to 31 December 1973 when Radio Clyde became the UK’s first commercial radio station outside London to start broadcasting. Of the newly-assembled team of DJs and presenters, Tony Currie was the first on air. Within a few months, Radio Clyde established itself as the fastest-growing and most popular radio station in Scotland, led by Jimmy Gordon and his management team of Andy Park, Alex Dickson and John Lumsden. Tony’s memoir is an affectionate, and at times amusing, record of those early days of Clyde in the 1970s featuring personalities that became household names. Richard Park, ‘Tiger’ Tim Stevens, Alex Dickson, Viv Lumsden, Jackie Bird, Hazel Irvine, Paul Coia, Ross King, Bill Turnbull among them. And established stars — Elton John, Neil Sedaka, Lulu and Billy Connolly, Herb Alpert, Pink Floyd, The Bay City Rollers and The Three Degrees — join the cast of characters. It is illustrated with archive and previously unpublished photographs and tells the story of what actually happens in the day-to-day life of a commercial radio station.
Stewart Paterson, Greenock telegraph, 28 Nov 2009
These days Radio Clyde is part of an international media group and one of the major players in Scottish broadcasting. But there was a time when the BBC ruled the airwaves and pirate stations were rocking the status quo. The government shut down the pirates and opened the way for independent radio stations.
Radio Clyde was the first of the new breed outside London. Despite the station’s jingle announcing that we were, “Altogether now!” in reality it was anything but. The people who set Clyde in motion, including the author Tony Currie, were entering uncharted territory. Some were keen amateurs, some had experience of pirate ships (the radio kind.) All had bucket loads of enthusiasm, but none of them had done anything like this before.
Those first few years after 1973 were a chaotic muddle of well intentioned characters working together, in their own distinct and idiosyncratic ways, on a project they all loved. Staff members might be repeatedly fired, programmes might be fuelled by a bottle or two and on-air bloopers were far from rare.
There were in-house burglaries, deliberate sabotage and drunken rampages. The author once presented a show by cutting and splicing one word at a time onto a tape after losing his voice celebrating at two record label parties the night before.
Not Quite Altogether Now! isn’t a history. Tony Currie does devote space to where the station came from and offers an insightful view on what the future might hold for radio broadcasting, but the book is really a celebration of the colourful characters who made Clyde one of Britain’s premier stations.
Some of those characters met tragic ends but a disproportionate number of them went on to make a big impact in radio and television – for example, Bill Turnbull from BBC1's Breakfast Show, Jackie Bird and Dougie Donnelly.
Their experiences inspired a camaraderie that would last decades. They also inspired a book of stories likely to make the reader’s jaw drop in amazement at their ingenuity, audacity and sheer cheek!
The expression “Clyde-built” was a mark of pride amongst Glasgow’s ship building industries. Those early guys and girls at Radio Clyde who used to “set five precedents every morning before breakfast” can be just as proud of the structure they built.
Tony Currie certainly is, and it shows!
The Scots Magazine