'In the 80s people had nothing but the radio and Tony got them through' - Dave Fanning pays tribute to former colleague Tony Fenton
RTE radio presenter Dave Fanning remembers his long-time colleague Tony Fenton from their domination of Irish radio in the 1980s to the present.
There are 26 stations serving Dublin now including Radio na Life and Lyric. Back in the 80s there was only 3 or 4 pirates and two RTE stations and basically no internet, no gadgets, people couldn’t do a lot of the things they can do now.
Basically all you could do was listen to 2FM and all we had to do was be half decent. We were half decent, or maybe we were good, but we’d a huge audience back in the 1980s because of the fact you had the parents in one room watching the telly and the kids in the other doing their homework and listening to the radio and the firs tthing they’d listen to was Tony from 7-8pm on the Hotline. And then Ryan and Cagney and that after.
But the Hotline was on for an hour and you never had any gaps or silence in it. Every time Tony spoke he was - boom - pumping music all the time and that’s what Tony was, he lived his whole life that way.
One of the weird things I remember was there was always news in Irish at 4.20pm on 2FM which was a bit of an anomaly and Tony would be going, ‘Yeah, you busted my chops!’ and you were like, ‘What the f*** is that about?’. It was fantastic.
This sounds stupid but Tony loved stories, even stories told against himself. For instance, Tony was at the Childline concert in the O2 and you know he’d be doing the 2FM roadcaster for an hour and there’d be 15 bands playing one or two numbers – the crap bands in other words – and they were brought in to Tony.
I’ll never forget, and this is a true story, at the time Louis Walsh was doing Boyzone and had a few other things on the go and one of them was the Carter Twins and they came in and Tony said, ‘Ok guys, tell us how you got together?’ and they were like, ‘Well Tony, we’re twins’. He just didn’t give a f***, he’d keep moving. That’s Tony for you.
Where I was supposed to be slower and all cool, Tony was busting out the music and really doing it. Tony was old school. Tony is like the old Caroline DJs I would have listened to, or Luxembourg, where they were really meant to sell the music and love it.
Tony is a Larry Gogan or a Vincent Hanley – like himself plus a free bit in the box. With Tony you buy two get another one free. He gave so much more 24 hours a day. He just sold it. He was always up. He was old school, an old style DJ that either aren’t in demand or nobody supplies them anymore and that’s a shame really.
He was old-fashioned and that was what I loved about him. He was the first man with a gadget, the best new gadgets, the first Blackberry, the first man to talk in a car not holding a phone. I didn’t know what he was doing – what was this bizarre thing with a voice coming at you without holding the phone? ‘Yeah Dave, it’s a hands free’.
Back in the 80s we had no internet, no distractions, not even much in the way of the GameBoy situation. Basically people had nothing but the radio and Tony got them through. Parents in watching TV, Tony was the man to get you thorugh the homework.