Radiowaves Special Feature: The Radio 4U Story


Chapter Nine

Some more Want To Be DJs came, tried, and left. Some of them were Ciaron and Michael’s friends and some were just other keen listeners. The next one to stay, and to leave a lasting impression, was Joe, resident DJ at the “Venue” night club in the City.

His Radio 4U slot was scheduled one hour after the lunch time news magazine until the start of the Ciaron and Michael Show at 3pm. Joe, too, was a real professional. His mixes were perfect and the new releases he brought in blew a fresh breeze over the otherwise Old Gold, MOR oriented Radio 4U flavour. Joe’s presentation was entertaining, though he preferred to stick rather more to the music than talk. He was the typical Club DJ who had to stand behind the mixer to feel comfortable. Luckily the console was higher than usual studio desks.

The phone response to his programme was not bad, but was, by far, not comparable with the programme to follow. Also, he had some regular callers, one of them being the manager of the ‘Venue’. One day, however, he called up but refused to speak to Joe: “I don’t want to talk to you, Joe, I want to have a word with the crow.”
You see, Piepenbrink was quite a star. A few days later he even came up with Joe – not being interested in the station, he just wanted to spend two hours playing with the crow.

On the 16th of August Piepenbrink died after being poorly for a few days. I assumed that he must have eaten some poison in the fields. A Radio 4U legend died.

When I met Joe early this year (1991) he said: “We had a great time then, but once the crow died, that was it…”

I kept the studio decoration fairly plain with just a couple of stickers and badges from other, mainly foreign, radio stations, and some defect records. This changed when Ciaron and Michael stuck a note on the wall thanking Joe for warming up their audience, which was countered by some other silly note. Eventually, the afternoon possies left their autograph for Joe with the message: “Flog it for a million once we become famous stars”.

This sort of funny friction set off an avalanche of graffiti. Almost every programme team joined in, with more or less witty comments, notes and pictures and in time our wall decoration became a real graffiti art exhibition. Obviously, even though most locals in Bridgend and Muff could not pick up our signal (because it was directed, see above) the word about this ominous Radio 4U spread quickly, not at least because the van was flying through the village. Anyway, one of the nosy guys who dared to put his foot across the door, was Kieran. Before he could say no, he was recruited: same introduction like Ciaron and Michael and straight into the Hot Seat. He was ok, not really professional, but ok. Kieran introduced his friend Chris. He was ok too, actually he never made a bright impression on the air, but in his slightly ignorant way he was well funny. You could almost call him a natural Donegal Tommy Cooper. Chris and Kieran brought their pals around and sooner or later we forced everybody in front of the mic. Chris and Kieran had their fixed slots, mostly evenings and weekends, but the presence of their mates gave the radio station a second meaning: Radio 4U also became a sort of a local meeting point.

Sometime between late June and early July a lad called Simon came along. He was a CB enthusiast and also a bit of an Anorak. Like so many before he was keen to face radioland. As I said earlier on, I always gave everybody a chance.

Simon did not prove to be Radio 4U calibre but I have to thank him for introducing me to JP and Paul. Those two guys were invaluable and absolutely radio crazy. “Closedown” was the most hated word in their vocabulary. Once they even went for a 24 hour marathon just to go down the pub afterwards and to plan the next record breaking non-stop programme. Radio to them was fun and that is what Radio 4U was supposed to be anyway.

Paul and JP in the Radio 4U studio

By now we were quite a nice team and social get-togethers became a vital part of our doings. The station was run with a mixture of fun, enthusiasm, creativity and pure socialising, guarded by an extremely strict constitution, the Radio 4U Policy.

This constitution was a guide line for speech input (see above), general discipline (eg. library rules) and most of all music programming. As long as you stuck to those basic rules you were allowed everything you wanted. This sort of management kept staff happy, supported creativity, and produced a damn good output on the air.

Certainly there was a lot of discipline, besides a good deal of laissez faire and, like any other manager, I was often the most hated person on board. One day Paul and JP found the headline “Is Your Boss A Jerk?” in a newspaper. This clipping went straight onto the graffiti wall and was a substantial talking point for the next few days. You’ve got to see the funny side…

Whenever I think back to those times, I remember more of the parties, outings, the communal runarounds in the Radio 4U van, than the actually workings of the station. This obviously took up most of my day and was always on my mind, but the whole atmosphere around it was to become much more than dreaded work from which you go home after you finish your job. Radio 4U became a kind of lifestyle.

The little cottage was the place to be if you had nothing else to do. Here you met friends, did a programme, or you persuaded Pat to go for a spin in the van for a couple of pints.