It seems from my point
of view, that Tony Currie is one of the important persons of British radio and
Kind of you to say so, but I’m just a cog in the wheels! Over the years I’ve been to many places and done all sorts of things – some at quite a senior level, others less so. But I’ve worked just about everywhere and know a lot of people so perhaps I’m not so much important as notorious?
Your biography i have read is very interesting so please
Tony let's start from the early beginning. Who is Tony Currie?
Born in 1951 (the year the radio jingle was invented) in the seaside town of Ardrossan on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast. From the age of 4 I was interested in radio and television, and learned to read using the pages of the RADIO TIMES, which is the BBC’s weekly programme guide.
One of my wishes was being radio deejay. You were only eleven
years old boy when you obviously knew what you want in your life. This is very
mature for 11-year old boy. Tell me how everything begins?
A schoolfriend had an old ex-army microphone which he gave me. We plugged it in to the back of the old (valve!) wireless and found we could speak through it into the radio. A few twisted wires and the addition of a clockwork (wind-up) gramophone and RADIO SIX was born.
My schoolfriends would come to the house and present programmes
after school ended for the day. We had programmes about stamp collecting, travel,
things like that. But I was happiest playing records and hosted shows with names
like “Disc-Jockey’s Roundup”.
As I got older the equipment got more sophisticated and by the time I left school, I had a semi-professional studio complete with its own (illegal) FM transmitter. We also broadcast a weekly programme to an old People’s Home next door, and then I got involved in the creation of the first Hospital radio service in the city of Glasgow.
How hard is to set up radio station and did you have lots
of problems in that process? Especially because you didn't have experience.
Your first radio was Radio Six International. Please could you give me more
details how you decided to “open” radio station.
Well, after the home-made studio in the attic of my parent’s home in Ardrossan, I started to record a weekly programme for radio station KPFK in Los Angeles. The “Captain Midnight” show aired on Saturday night. Then I got a job as the very first presenter on Scotland’s first landbased commercial radio station – Radio Clyde – and made the opening announcement and presented the very first show on December 31st 1973.
After a couple of years I moved in to television as a newsreader
and station host, and built a proper broadcast-standard radio studio in the
basement of my home in Glasgow. Then cable TV started in the UK, and we turned
Radio Six into Europe’s first commercial cable radio station. It was carried
on FM on cable systems in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
My wife and I ran that for a year, but lost rather a lot of money on it – it was the early days of cable and we didn’t have enough subscribers to make it viable.
I then got a job as Controller of Programmes at the brand-new Cable Authority, which was the government body regulating all cable TV and radio in the UK. I was responsible for 56 TV channels and 20 radio!
When I left that job six years later to run an Asian cable TV station, I set up a company (“Radio Six”) to apply for a commercial radio licence in Scotland. But we didn’t get the licence, sadly.
What is the secret of your success?
Enthusiasm. And optimism.
What was the feeling then?
Well I’ve always felt enthusiastic. When I was a kid, I believed anything was possible. By the time I was 40, I’d achieved all of the crazy ambitions I had as a teenager, so then I had to start discovering new things I wanted to do. But I’ve always been excited by what I did – whether in TV, radio or print. I’ve never worked in anything I didn’t find absorbing.
Tony was and still is moving force of many radio and TV
Well, perhaps. In the 70s I was certainly a pioneer of commercial radio, not only Radio Clyde but many other stations like Westsound. And I was instrumental in the 1980s in getting cable television launched in the UK, and I helped many stations to get started, including MTV Europe, Superchannel and others.
Since then I have been behind AsiaVision (the first Asian cable TV station in Europe); I was launch Programme Director for TARA TV (Ireland’s first satellite station), and I helped Perekhid Media launch its radio stations in the Ukraine.
What are the feelings when you do good job, when auditorium
and TV watchers are satisfied? Please, describe me your feelings.
Hmm. Makes me happy, I guess.
The hardest event in your professional life?
Closing down radio Six as a cable station when we knew it wasn’t a financial success. It was like killing one’s own child.
May i ask you something about your personal life?
Was it hard to make professional and private life to go
They’re inextricably linked. My wife is a well-known broadcaster and producer; my daughter is an actress, director and broadcaster; my elder son is running a student radio station….
I guess you had good co-operators around you? How important
is to have good co-operators around? Or is it maybe better if you can do all
work by yourself? Then you don't depend of any help from others.
One-man bands rarely work efficiently. Few people have ALL the skills necessary to go it alone. It’s crucial to develop an instinct for hiring the right people. When I set up TARA TV we had a fantastic team, who all worked together wonderfully. I hand-picked them. It took time but it was worth it.
Tony do you think you could done something better in your professional life and if you could have chance now would you change it? With this question, may i ask you do you regret about anything?
No, no regrets. No desire to change anything I did. Sure some things didn’t work, but that’s how you learn – from past mistakes.
Tony, do you consider your work only as work or you have
reached the state of mind when you consider your work as hobby? If so, when
is the moment when work stop become work and goes as hobby?
I’ve always considered work as a hobby. I’d hate to have to get a “real” job. As long as you are positively itching to get to work, then it’s probably a hobby!
What style of music you have preferred in your radio shows
and what kind of music do you listen today?
I’ve hosted shows featuring every possible kind of music. I’m particularly fond of big pop orchestras – like Herb Alpert, Horst Jankowski, Sounds Orchestral, Tony Hatch – and produced compilation albums by the latter two for Castle Communications here in the UK.
I listen to all sorts of things – right now the CDs scattered around the office include Petula Clark, Nirvana (the original 60s group), Cypher (described as ‘the new Moby’), Dido, Nancy Sinatra, Sounds Orchestral, and two new albums due out on my Recur label, one by Siegfried Merath and the other a single I recently produced by the Lucy Reeve Big Band.
Your favourite artists and songs?
Sounds Orchestral, Tony Hatch, Petula Clark, Herb Alpert, Percy Faith, Jackie Trent, Laurie Johnson.
Songs – too many to name just one. But if I had to, it would be Lee Hazelwood’s song “This Town” as sung by Nancy Sinatra.
On the Internet we all can here Radio Six broadcasting.
With the Internet some limits disappeared and what do you think about Internet
and chance for all of us to find out more, much more about various topics?
It’s a wonderful invention but like everything else open to all sorts of abuse. And I think the current copyright situation is a mess. But it will sort itself out eventually.
Since you are a public person i have to ask you what do
you think about positive and negative influences of Internet on people, especially
on young people?
I worry about the hideous quantity of cheap nasty pornography that seems to dominate the Net. And there are some seriously weird people ready to take advantage of youngsters with their crazy ideas.
But on the other hand nothing before has ever managed to get so many people from different cultures and countries talking to each other – like we’re doing now! And that surely must be a good thing for mankind.
What do you think about today's music and could you put some parallels between music when you were teenager and today?
I’m not wild about much of the current dance music and I really don’t like the aggressive, expletive-filled rap records. But then my Dad constantly complained that the Beatles couldn’t sing!
Do you think music has age? Maybe this is strange question
but i think music doesn’t have age, music is timeless!
Cheaply-made music that’s designed to make quick money for the record companies has age. Music that comes from the heart and from the soul is ageless.
This interview will be published on Koto's site. What do
you think abut his music and are you maybe familiar with Italian disco production
from mid 80's? If so or not, please more words about this :-)))
I like Koto’s music (otherwise I wouldn’t be here, would I?) and I find the Italian disco style (or Eurobeat) very engaging, happy music. It’s also well made and much more effort goes into it than some of the cheap stuff coming out of England. I loved Scatman John, by the way and was very sad when John Larkin died.
Tony, you are journalist as well. Could you tell me more
about this side of your work? Your work for magazines for example?
I used to write the radio column for BROADCAST magazine, and have had my own column in various trade papers. For a while I reviewed educational TV programmes for the TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT. I still write often for the RADIO Magazine. I enjoy writing, it comes easily to me.
I wonder is it hard to write good book? I’ve tryed
to write book under name “History of disco music” but it’s
not easy and also you need lots of time for writing, not to mention knowledge
Always best to write about something you know and are passionate about. Writing a good book, however, requires a good grasp of language and grammar as well. Spelling helps, too!
What do you think about critics?
I used to be one. So I think they’re very useful!
Will you tell me about any funny moment in your professional life, no metter is it from radio, TV or magazines?
Once I was painting the living room and ran out of paint. I hopped on a bus into town to get some more. I was wearing my old painting clothes – yellow cords, a yellow woolly jumper and a horrid red and blue woolly hat my mother had given me.
As I got on to the bus, a very big woman at the back beckoned to me to come over to her. “Hey, you” Come here!” The bus started up and with difficulty I lurched to the back of the bus.
When I got face-to-face with her she looked at me with disdain. “Are you the wee lad on the telly?” (translates to – Are you the small guy on TV?) I nodded. “Aye, I thought so. Away and sit down!”
That put me in my place!
Tony, are fans important for you? Do you answer all e-mails
you’ve got from various people?
Fans are important. Without them you’re nobody. And I always reply to emails and letters. Only if they become persistent and annoying do I stop.
Tell me more about your books?
First book is a short one – The Concise History of British TV. Originally commissioned by the Royal Television Society for their monthly magazine “Television” it was designed as a very quick and easily-digested romp through TV history for students and newcomers to the business.
The second book is much bigger (350 pages) and is the complete and hitherto untold story of the BBC’s programme magazine. The RADIO TIMES was the world’s first listings magazine and holds the record for the biggest circulation of a weekly paper. It’s a great story. I started collecting RADIO TIMES when I was four and I always wanted to write the book. It was a labour of love.
I’ve completed a history of the early days of Radio Clyde – that’s waiting to be published. I’m now writing a history of Alexandra Palace – the London building that housed the world’s first television station – and a short book about the early years of British commercial television.
OK Tony and for the end some thoughts about your future,
about your next “projects” and similar stuff? I wish to thank you
for this interview.
Oh, who knows what’s around the corner!! Thanks for the chat – I enjoyed it.
© Zeljko Vujkovic - 2004