Monday, February 06, 2006

Previous Broadcasts : Fugue FM, France


If there is one Broadcast, or 'series of Broadcasts' that some of the AZ crew have been involved in, in the past, that we miss most of all, it's got to be Fugue FM. Located just outside Paris in the 'royal' town of Compiegne, the first time I worked there was way back in 1993. In general, Radio Stations, (particularly here in the UK) are not really considered to be 'welcoming'. But I have never felt so much 'at home' as when I was at Fugue. The original idea for me to take part in some special Programmes at Fugue came after the Programme controller there, Pierre Desaint, heard some Satellite Shows I had done from the UK for Radio Caroline. Almost before I knew what was happening, a 5 week 'stint' had been arranged - stretching from late Sept. to Oct. in 1993. But here's the thing - I couldn't speak barely a word of French, and therefore expected to have a 'late night berth' (which I always prefer anyway). Imagine my shock on arriving there to find out I was on in the biggest audience-reaching time in the region - drivetime ! Firstly though, I arrived the day before, to meet up with Pierre, and also the Station Manager, Mattheu Quetel, and Advertising chief Pascal Loisel. There seemed to be just one 'English speaker' on the staff, a journalist called Manu (who, as I later found out, also presented a rather superb 'Album Show' - not a stones throw from what we at AZ do now.)I was due to start on the Monday at 5pm, with the Show itself running through till 8. The night before, I was invited out by some of the DJs and Journalists - with Manu acting as translator. It was a great night, too much Beer of course, but great fun. And - I had never met such a friendly bunch of people - I felt at home immediately - and hadn't even been 'on-air' yet. My first day, of course, I was terrified. There was so much to remember, and luckily for me, Pierre was there to guide me through (it was his Show I was covering for the duration). Local news - done 'Live' every 30 mins past the hour, traffic reports at the 40 min. mark, TV features, Cinema reviews and features, 'Live' National News on the hour - and of course all of my 'cues' for these - in French. So, I had to learn quickly. Fugue then had 2 separate FM frequencies, covering the towns of Compiegne and Beauvais, with the signal also stretching down into central Paris. I remember asking Pierre a question just before I went on-air on that very first day - and I wish I'd kept my mouth shut. "Is it a very big audience at this time of day" ?, I innocently asked. "Only about 2 million", he replied. Christ ! - and I couldn't even speak the language ! I was doing it in English, of course - well, Scottish, anyway. The features of the chaos known as drivetime were over by 7pm. From 7-8 every night I did that days 'Rock Date Diary' which went down very well with the 'musos' of the town - including a massive population of students (Compiegne has the biggest University in France). By the second day - I loved it. I had met up too with some of the students on the evening following my first Show - as they'd called up from the University to invite me over there. My Hotel was really nice too - in the centre of town, close to the river. I also had use of a very posh local restaurant in the evenings - where I could actually order what the hell I liked - then just sign the Bill - which then got sent to Fugue for payment. My God - no wonder I miss it ! I do admit - I did take advantage a bit (can you blame me ?) by occasionally having some recently-met-friends 'over for dinner' at that restaurant. Brilliant. I also met, and became mildly obsessed with, a girl from Kent who was spending 6 months working in the town. Debbie was her name. Or, should I say, 'Debbie the Angel' as I referred to her on-air, as she looked after local handicapped people. The number of times I played 'Angel' by Jimi Hendrix for her became legend. Pathetic eh ? Well, you know what I'm like. The most bizarre things started to happen in the second week of my stay, when I was asked to give 'a talk' on Radio Caroline at the local School. This was followed by some 'live' TV interviews. It was weird, and I guess to say I was rather taken aback by it all is a massive understatement. As the end of the 5 week spell grew nearer - I began to dread leaving, I was having such a great time. I was spending a fortune though - money I could ill afford - after all I had taken over a month off work to do this. I did get some 'expenses' though from Fugue - but the infamous 'free restaurant' was closed at weekends - when most of the Students decided to travel home for 2 days. The town was much, much quieter at weekends because of this. The last night was amazing - out and about after the final Show for a bit of a party night with all the Station staff - excellent. Obviously, we all kept in touch - and Pierre was aware of our monthly trips to Radio 6 - just 2 hours away. Almost a year to the day since my first visit to Fugue - and on the same weekend as one of our many Radio 6 visits - I was invited back to Fugue to do an 'overnight special' on the Friday night. Brooksy was travelling for the R6 trip - so we shared the Programme at Fugue, it was September 94 - and a precedent was set - an annual 'return' seemed to be the order of the day. In early 1996, we did the same thing again. Then, in early 1997, I was speaking to Pierre and told him of our upcoming 'extended' weekend at Radio 6, which was about to happen, where we were bringing along Johnny Zero and the London Angels for an 'unzipped' session (OK, I know 'unplugged' is the phrase - but that's what Zero wanted to call it). The reaction from Pierre was immediate - "come over a few days early and do it all here too" ! So we did ! Fugue had 'grown' somewhat in the meantime, adding a third FM frequency. Pierre really worked hard for us too on the run-up to the Shows that weekend - we heard the adverts for the Progs - with 'promos' for Mr. Zero and his crew - all down the motorway. The evening itself was great fun - but the magnitude of the publicity surrounding the whole thing - including some more TV and Radio interviews on the afternoon prior to it all - did get to me a bit, and I was so nervous that I couldn't eat beforehand for fear of being sick. That had never, ever happened to me before. A good friend of mine, a French girl called Barbara was there to calm me down - she was our official 'translator' ! Of course, the Champagne flowed - courtesy of the good people of Fugue FM. This was before the Show, which made the Programmes, and 'session' from Zero and the chaps 'interesting' to say the least. Pictured here are Pascal (who seemed to be able to speak perfect English in minutes !) and Pierre (standing), with Johnny Zero and Hunter, from the Band. The Fugue staff stuck around for a few hours, then went home about 1 a.m, and left us to it. Zero and the Band played around 6 numbers, fuelled of course by Champagne. The Shows themselves were hosted by myself and Brooksy. We did 2 Shows each - going right through until 7a.m. (We had begun at 9pm the night before) and then Pierre reappeared around 6.30 in the morning - bringing us breakfast, no less. Now you know what I mean when I say I miss these people. It reminds me of a brief chat I had with a couple of the Fugue staff on my last night there in 93', when they said if I learnt French - I could have a Show 5 nights a week, and would I think about it. Well, it was too much of a big move at the time for me to think seriously about, and besides I really wasn't confident enough at the time to seriously consider it. And that decision, is something I have honestly regretted since. All in all, we had 4 trips to Fugue - 3 of them for one-off 'specials', and the first being my stay through Sept. and Oct. 1993. About a year ago, I heard Fugue had got themselves a 4th FM frequency, the Station was big before - but now it was massive. When I called them - just to say Hi (although with another 'special' in mind, of course) I was surprised to hear that one of the 'conglomerates' had taken them over - and Mattheu, and Pascal, and Manu - had all moved on. Still, I look back on that initial visit in 1993, as one of my happiest Radio memories to date.