The background story of that debut morning is described by Steve in his new book 'Unsound - Anything I Know About Radio I Learned By Screwing It Up' which will be released next year.
At 7am on Monday the 27th of November 2000, I spoke my first words as a presenter on Phantom FM, an occupation that was to last far, far longer than either I or they could ever have expected, taking me right through the decade that followed and up to the beginning of 2011, nearly 11 years later.
My very first words on the station, as part of the 7am news bulletin, was to confirm to its audience that according to the latest court ruling in the United States, the election results in Florida were valid, and therefore George W Bush would indeed be the next president of the USA.
After reading a bulletin of around 4 or 5 stories, which I had prepared earlier, I finished with a weather forecast and went into what would be the first of many thousands of records that I was to play on the station during my long association with them – the Greenday song “Minority” from their new album “Warning”. The track itself was currently on Phantom’s A-list, and I simply couldn’t think of a better track to kick off my new era as an alternative rock pirate than one about a person who decries authority and wants to be in the minority. And, lyrics aside, a cracking great tune.
As I started my show on that November morning in 2000, I thought back to the years spent with Radio Caroline, and some of the lessons that I had learned over the years, either through hard experience, bitter disappointment, or post-fact regret. I had had the most wonderful time of my life with Caroline, but there were many things I realised afterwards that either I or they could have done differently, better, or simply more of. I was determined to take every lesson, every setback and every regret I had encountered in my broadcast career so far and use the knowledge of them to make my time with Phantom even better still, and to make of the 2000s a decade the enjoyment of which would rival even the astoundingly brilliant time I had had in the 1980s.
During my time on board the Ross Revenge I had read close to ten thousand news bulletins, yet I didn’t have a single one of them recorded on tape for posterity. It was something I was always going to get around to, but I never did, as there was always tomorrow…
And so, sitting in the studio in Phantom FM in Dublin that very first morning, I knew what I had to do, and I did it.
I determined that no matter how long my stint with Phantom lasted, I would enjoy it to the hilt, I would squeeze every last possible iota of effort into it, and every drop of excitement and happiness out of it.
And so, as there was not a bus from Ballinteer to get me in early enough in the mornings to be able to prepare properly for the start of the show at 7am, I would come in the night before, and sleep on the studio floor, with a cushion as a pillow and my coat over me for warmth, so that I would be there early enough to give the programme and the news the attention it deserved. I came in each evening on the last inbound bus from Ballinteer, with a fresh set of clothes in a bag for the morning. I woke at 5am on the hard floor and prepared for my show, at the end of which I would travel across to eastpoint by bus for a full day’s work, getting home at around 8.30pm, with just time for dinner and an hour of rest before getting the late bus in again. I didn’t care.
There was no effort spared, and nothing held back, I gave Phantom my all, and it repaid me handsomely, giving me a decade-plus of rich and fulfilling times that I will remember to the end of my days.
For Radio Caroline, I am, and will always remain, profoundly grateful, for it showed me the value of the now, the need to seize and hold and enjoy life, and thus it gave me the keys to Phantom .
The greatest lesson I ever learned in radio was this:
do it now, and
do it like you will never get the opportunity to do it ever again.
The above extract from Steve Conway’s forthcoming book ‘Unsound – Anything I Know About Radio I Learned By Screwing It Up’ is with very kind courtesy of Steve.
The new book adds more background to the Radio Caroline material from Steve’s previous book ‘Shiprocked: Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline’, and has a few chapters on the Phantom saga.
Published in 2009, the excellent Shiprocked: Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline is still available to buy by clicking here.