“I remember there was a colour-coded pie chart on the wall, which told you what type of song you played next. I’m pretty sure the first track was a gold (meaning a familiar but older hit song), and then it was an album track, and before the ad break, you always played a current top forty hit song”, I said to Jenny Burgess working in the newsroom at 2LM, Lismore today. I told her I wasn’t really sure if that was exactly correct, but that was kinda how I remember it.
“I started doing mid-dawns at 2LM in 1984”, she told me, as we reflected on our connection with Lismore’s commercial radio station in the early 1980s. 1984 was the year I went to live in Brisbane to study at university, but for three years prior, I worked part-time at 2LM, my first paid job in radio.
While my classmates were working at supermarkets, I was an active volunteer at 2NCR-FM (now named River FM), Lismore’s community radio station. Both stations were located in “The Northern Star” building in Goonellabah, which was also home to Lismore’s newspaper and commercial TV station.
With cash in a yellow envelope that I picked up from someone’s top drawer, they paid me $10 for three hours of work. My job was to answer the phones for Saturday Night Requests, by finding the records from the sound library, and collating the information on a writing pad (carbon paper copy) which I then took to the announcer to read out on air.
In the three years or so I did the job, I worked with some memorable characters, including: Graeme Stuart (who I later worked with at the ABC), Linton Pratt (who had recently returned home to run a newsagency after working at Brisbane’s 4IP), and Richard Mercer (who went on to become “The Love God” on Sydney commercial radio).
As Jenny and I chatted, memories came flooding back of the on-air lineup at the time. Terry Woolmer on Breakfast, Nora Vidler on Mornings. We both remembered, with fondness, people like “the other female announcer” (in an industry dominated by men), Karen Gower on Afternoons, who came originally from Tasmania. I also remembered people like Rob McLean, the Drive presenter who, to be honest, as a teenager, I had a bit of a crush on back then. Hubba hubba!
A few months ago I met 2LM’s current Breakfast presenter, Ruth Woodhams at the “Australia All Over” outside broadcast at Coraki.
Earlier this week, on a whim, I asked if she would allow me to come in and take a look at the station. She’s been at 2LM for about twenty years.
There is a fair bit that has physically changed. In the first instance, there are now two radio stations, 2LM and 2ZZZ located next to each other. Both are owned by the same company, and it was fascinating to see two “rival” breakfast presenters in adjoining studios, often chatting to and helping each other. The “announcers room” is also much smaller, reflecting the reduced amount of local programming coming out of Lismore, as they are part of a broader “Super Radio” network.
But there were some wonderfully familiar things, including the vinyl record library. Though everything is computerised these days, they actually still have some turntables and a few tape machines in their studios.
Forty years later 2LM runs a “hits and memories” format, so I will often tune in and hear the songs that were “top forty” when I worked at the station.
My sincere thanks to Ruth for a wonderful walk down memory lane, and a wonderful insight into contemporary commercial radio.