I grew up far from any flavour of BBC. I was reared in two-channel land. Our television aerial was blown down during Hurricane Charlie in 1987. Exposure to the BBC, UTV, Channel 4 or their radio equivalents went the way of the aerial. For us it was RTE 1 and 2 – Glenroe, The Angelus and adverts for Ivomec-B : “kills immature fluke, early immature fluke, and stamps out scour”. (To this day I have no idea what any of that means.) As a result of this, I didn’t know Gerry Anderson until later.
When I heard that Know You Hate Me, the second single from my debut album, Wax & Seal, was being played regularly by the BBC, I was ecstatic. Technically, this was international exposure! After a month or two, some sterling PR work by Bernie Divilly, and a visit to Broadcasting House in Belfast, I was finally on my way to Stroke City (Derry/Londonderry) for a live session on a daily morning show presented by Gerry Anderson. As I’m coming over the Sperrins fumbling to find Radio Foyle on my crappy car radio, I hear the flügelhorn solo from Know You Hate Me. As the song closes, I hear a voice saying, “… that waaaas Tadhg Cooke. And with a name like that… he won’t be marchin’ on the twelfth!” And bang – straight into another song. He had epic delivery.
Most radio shows I’ve known featuring phone-ins and multiple guests were carried out with military precision. The producers/engineers did most of the organisation and logistics, making sure the guests are lined-up and cued and the presenter was being handed the right things at the right time. Meanwhile the presenters were cocooned in their soundproof fishbowl, understandably focussing on when the next ‘bit’ is coming up, where they need to be, what line they’re on, etc. Some shows would issue you with call times literally hours before the radio show even started. It’s not for the faint of heart. So, it was a surreal experience to be collected from reception by an almost suspiciously relaxed Gerry Anderson. He made tea for us both, and sank into the sofa opposite me. We chatted a little about music, influences, and god knows what else. It must have only been a minute before his show started when he sat up and said, ‘well, I have to go now… I’ll see you in a wee while!’ A moment later he was on air.
Some presenters (and admittedly, an awful lot of guests), are incredibly awkward with any kind of banter, off-the-cuff remarks, wordplay, or surreal threads of conversation. They just can’t handle it. But Gerry had a way of putting everyone at ease with his particular brand of banter – even the regulars who used to ring in especially to argue, complain and debate with him… and consequently, the listeners loved it too.
While playing one of my songs live in studio, out of the corner of my eye I see Gerry leaning back with his feet up, eyes closed, and a smile on his face. I’ll never forget that. That’s the image of Gerry Anderson that I’ll always have in my head. A man seeming to quite enjoy his job! It’s something to aspire to.
On 6th August 2005, I wrote to him from an internet café in Clifden, the next stop on my little tour, to thank him for the radio session and for promoting a lunchtime show at Café Nervosa in the Nerve Centre in Derry by the city walls. He replied, “Keep at it, kid. You’re on a winner.” Gerry was very kind and supportive to a very green young version of me, and I know he must have done the same for a thousand other local musicians and bands over the years. Sadly, that’s now a remarkable thing on this island. Ní fheicimid a leithéid arís.
Some absolute geniuses went and animated sections of his radio shows. Apparently they aired on BBC a few years back. I’ve some catching up to do! They’re well worth a watch/listen. This one’s called : Fainting Hen.
A tribute from The Thin Air : 30 years of serious mucking about Gerry Anderson 1944-2014.
BBC on Gerry Anderson