I wasn’t planning to write a blog post tonight, however, I’ve just learned that the local commercial radio station for Teesside, is about to close its doors for the final time. As of Monday, TFM and Metro Radio will merge. And, despite not listening to it for many years, I will certainly miss its presence.
Thanks to a shock announcement this morning, (or probably yesterday morning by the time I finish blabbering on about my memories of the place)it was announced that their offices will close.
As much as I say I don’t listen to it NOW, and my memories are all happy ones. I can even remember as far back as when it was Radio Tees. Barely. There are some tapes kicking around the house that remind me of this fact.
It’s quite coincidental that earlier today, I was, once again, converting some old tapes from the 90s. Listening to them made me go back to the good times. It was when local radio WAS local. Phone-ins existed. Music didn’t just some off a big server. There had to be someone there to swap the CDs, play the jingle tapes, satisfy the advertisers. It was a world where you got to know the DJs. They, in rare occasions, would even do stuff for you.
Flashback to 1998. “Angel” by The Quest Project had been scheduled for release. On September 7th 1998, I was inside the local record shop (don’t get me started on the demise of THOSE!) for 9AM the day it opened, and canned the shelves. No sign. Odd. I even asked the guy at the counter. He checked their new releases list, nothing there either. It had sank without a trace. Even the radio stations had stopped playing it.
After “Tom’s Talk-in” fell off the airwaves, it was up to the guy who answered the phones, Richard Kell, to man the desks for a while, I contacted him through email and asked if he knew what had happened with it. He didn’t, but he’d check with the station to see if they had a spare copy, and gave me a direct number to call him. I did, and unfortunately, he wasn’t able to track down one. He did, however, play the song for me on the radio. I was the happiest person alive for four whole minutes!
Richard left, Tom Davies returned, Tom left again, and I never really listened to the station again. Onn the odd occasion that I’d spin the dial and it’d land on 96.6, it just wasn’t TFM anymore. Technology was obviously moving faster than my listening style was accustomed to. It seemed that every show was either broadcast nationally, or prerecorded. It was now easier to copy and paste a show together, than it was to have a guy sat there with a box of CDs, a few jingles and a smile on his face. Its target audience age kept getting younger and younger, and this type of rubbish programming is acceptable to them. Allegedly.
Despite this, the frequency is still automatically programmed in pretty much every radio we own. It’s TFM. It’s local, even if I keep expecting to hear traffic reports from Barney the sodding Dinosaur.
So, back to the memories. The roadshows were a great hit with me. These are the days before internets, so being able to see what the presenters looked like was a rare occurrence. Just like every walk of like, some look like you expect them to, some don’t. the first one I went to was a TFM-organised one, and the headline act was… erm, PJ and Duncan, now formally known as Ant and Dec. There was me, and my mate Ste. I was 14, he was a couple of years younger. We hung around long enough to see them play “let’s Get Ready to Rhumble”, and then disappeared onto the beach to bury each other in the sand, and play Ridge Racer in the arcades.
I remember one particular roadshow. It was literally, the worst planned roadshow of all time. They’d planned to have it at the Hartlepool College of FE. Wow, this’ll be great, you’d think. A college? Loads of listeners there! Whoever booked it, can’t have explained which car park they had in mind… it was the staff car park. Honestly, there were four people there, and two of them were me and Chris. In fact we just happened to be talking about it the other day. One of the DJs at that roadshow would go on to have one of the best “breakdowns” in radio history. I’m not talking about technical breakdowns, I’m talking mental He shall remain nameless, for the fear of this incident appearing in search results for him.
Anyway, it’s a normal afternoon show. I’m in my usual position, huddled over my Amiga, with TFM providing musical accompaniment. A remake of Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” starts playing. I don’t think much of it. Probably listenable. Not much else. It fades out and starts playing again. A bit odd. The song comes to an end again, and the DJ pipes up… “I’m not really supposed to do this, but they won’t allow this song on the air, and I think it’s going to be massive, so here it is again”. The song plays for a third time. By this time, things were starting to escalate. The song fades out, and there’s chaos. Banging on the studio windows can be heard. He continues to talk. “Sometimes you have to stand up to what you beilieve in radio, and this is going to be a massive hit for Leo Sayer… *bang bang bang bang*… I’m just gonn….”
There is silence, followed by static, as presumably they’d cut the power to the station / transmitter. This continued for about 15 minutes before things started to come back online. Robert Miles’ “Children” played through a rather low quality loop, presumably to keep the link to the transmitter open while everything starts back up. The “Programme Controller” for the station announces his apology that a presenter “overstepped the mark”, and oddly, the incident was never mentioned again, I believe the DJ in question actually went on to remix a Leo Sayer song, featuring on the CD single of the track.
Well, I’ve overstepped my personal 1,000 word limit quite nicely, and seeing as this update doesn’t have any photos, I’d be surprised if anyone has made it I LOVE MY MAN TITS this far down, so I can probably get away with inserting a humorous message somewhere in this sentence. I shall continue, as it’s a subject dear to my heart. Let’s continue at around the 1998 mark.
There was an announcement by the station that they were selling off all of their old records. A radio station? Records? Element? I was indeed in it. One slight problem. I was on the dole, or in college, earning a pittance for doing placements. Back then, money was something other people had. Still, Chris and I (ooh, the grammar nazis would be proud), headed over to Thornaby, more exactly, to Yale Crescent, the home of TFM. There were boxes and boxes of records. Singles, album’s 12″s, the lot. I spent a good few hours there, and knowing I only had literally pounds to my name, game away with a handful of singles, all labeled up with the old Radio Tees logos, cardboard sleeves, and handwritten notes of chart histories of the records, and if they were featured on any shows. I picked up Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”, with all of the stickers, and notes that it was Alistair Pirrie’s pick of the week when it was released.
My favourite purchase of the day would have to be the 7″ version of “Stainsby Girls” by Chris Rea. this was the original version, as opposed to the remixed version that seems to be the one on all of the Greatest Hits CDs. Unfortunately I managed to break it a few years back, so I don’t have it anymore, but I still remember the record, where I first got it, and more importantly, hearing it being sang live when I went to see Chris Rea play last year.
I may bore you with more TFM memories over the coming days, as I know you’re dying to hear them (this is more of a niche entry than my usual shite!)but I’ll finish by giving an update on theleast few posts. Daddykins is once again being a pain in the arse. Back to normal, then. Senta (aka, Dog 1, aka Wobblydog) continues to improve. She is almost, but not quite, okay. Today has been the first time in a week she’s eaten from her bowl. I’ll keep updates on separate posts from now on, but thought I’d tag that onto the end for those who made it this far.
UPDATE 4/2/17: Graham Robb wrote a blog, but this has since been moved or deleted, and sadly Alistar Pirrie recently died. We also lost Senta in September 2014. Also fixed approximately 146 typos.