Wednesday 24 July 2019

Radio: It's only words, but that's good enough for Dave

Interstellar: Kanye West
Interstellar: Kanye West
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It's a funny thing about Dave Fanning, but I think I prefer this later incarnation of the veteran broadcaster. At the moment his Mornings with… (Mon-Fri, 9am) is filling the Radio 1 slot soon to be permanently filled by Ryan Tubridy's return to the mothership. And it's really rather good.

The funny thing I mentioned refers to the fact that Dave is, no exaggeration, a bit of a legend in Irish music radio.

Growing up in the 1980s, his was the voice you paid attention to, if you were interested in alternative, interesting music.

Surrounded on almost all sides by mechanised playlists and giddy, hyperactive DJs babbling in annoying mid-Atlantic accents, Dave was laid-back and cool.

He picked the tunes. He was passionate about new bands and obscure acts.

Listening to his show felt like being part of some exclusive club, not following the herds. The end-of-year Fanning's Fab 50 was genuinely required listening. Yet I prefer this later, more talk-based Fanning.

Over the last few years, he's carved out a nice little groove for himself at weekends on 2FM, where his show takes a wry, leisurely and entertaining look at (mostly) pop culture and the quirks and foibles of this thing we call modern life.

And these days, he's covering a broader range of topics on Radio 1, but somehow remaining the same old Dave with the same wry, leisurely and entertaining approach to it.

This week, for example, we've had an interview with celebrity sex-worker Kate McGrew (she was on a Reality TV show, the term applies); a "fitness sceptic" tackling the famous Camino walk; an 11-year-old champion uilleann piper; a bizarre historical oddity about a cycling ban in Northern Ireland; and warring pop groups, that to mark the 20th anniversary of the notorious, albeit very silly, Blur vs Oasis feud.

It didn't all work, but enough of it did to make you wonder: why not just give Dave the gig full-time? Obviously this question is rhetorical and/or hypothetical, because Tubridy's return is a done deal.

But it's interesting nonetheless: why not just keep on keeping on with Dave?

The show is just the right pitch of lightness and playfulness, to allow listeners draw breath after the intense, gloomy and heavy current affairs of Morning Ireland and Today with Sean O'Rourke.

Anyway. Hypothetical, as I say. But I'm enjoying Mornings with Dave Fanning while it lasts.

I'm also enjoying, and have been for a long while, the Cultural Toolbox bit on The Sunday Show (Newstalk, 11am).

I'm a big fan of Shane Coleman anyway - another presenter who passes easily between different registers, topics and levels of seriousness.

His weekend effort, while it's basically the same format as all the rest of them on rival stations - review of the Sunday papers, review of the week, a few interviews, etc - is at least as good as any other. And the Cultural Toolbox maybe even pushes it into the lead.

Each week John Fardy pops into studio for a bit of a natter about some iconic work.

He makes the case for its inclusion in the pop culture Hall of Fame. Shane may or may not demur and counter-argue.

The range is massive: we've had everything from Kanye West, Rocky, Scent of a Woman and Blackadder to The Muppet Show, Gran Torino, Rod Stewart - shudder - and The White Stripes' album Elephant. (That last one kicked off the most enjoyable row between Coleman and Fardy; the host was not for turning.)

Are the picks always good ones? Hell no: Gran Torino is B-division Clint Eastwood at best, and Kanye West is an obnoxious oik who should be fired into space. But that's part of the craic anyway - we listeners get to argue with Fardy's choices too.

This column has concentrated on the fluffier end of the radio spectrum, so we'll end with an overdue nod to one of the most sublimely ridiculous - and therefore great - regular features on Irish radio.

I refer, of course, to the Fact of the Day on The Moncrieff Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 1.30pm).

Every day, Seán reads out a bizarre piece of trivia, presumably culled from the dafter corners of the internet. That's it. And it's super.

There are more statues of lions in the world than there are real lions. Koala fingerprints and human fingerprints are so alike that crime scene experts can mistake them for each other. Roald Dahl had pogonophobia - an extreme hatred of beards. The word cereal comes from the Roman god Ceres and her association with edible grains.

Are any of these true? Couldn't tell you, and what's more, I couldn't care less. I just go ahead and repeat them to strangers I meet on the street. They're always very impressed.

Although it is a fact that you shouldn't trust what you read on the internet; Abraham Lincoln said that in 1256AD. Bet you didn't know that, now?

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