Friday, 25 May 2012

#Once upon a time - Don't Touch That Dial

Once upon a time .....


DJ Tantra's velvet tones were heard on the FM frequencies of West Yorkshire. I was a radio DJ. A pirate radio DJ which made it all the more cooler. I played on Dream FM from the early nineties until around '96.

It was the Summer of '92. My graduation Summer. A time of lounging, partying and occasional consideration of my career options. Dream FM was holding a club night. I got talking to one of the the DJ's who invited me along to his show. From there I blagged my own spot. It helped that I was an aspiring female DJ. A rare commodity back in the day. But I was good. Talented.

I grew up on Dream FM. It was my first residency. I discovered my niche experimenting with mixes that blended together contrasting genres of house music. I really indulged my tastes. It was the spring board to my true desire; to spin deep house and techno to clubbers all over Europe. Dream FM was the crooked fairy godmother that granted my wish.

Every week H, a heavy box of twelve inches, and I made the pilgrimage to the station. We parked the rusty maroon VW, braved the stench of the public lifts, before finally arriving at the summit of the tower block. Dream FM was situated in the foisty living room of a flat that I guessed belonged to someone associated with the darker shades of grey. An ex criminal probably. The radio equipment and record decks were set up on a sturdy trestle table in front of a large rectangular window. From this portal, the urban sprawl of Leeds stretched before me as I spun my show for two hours. H manned the phones while I played my records, coordinated adverts, and spouted shout outs, and mostly nonsensical nonsense over the microphone. I preferred to let the music do the talking.

Because Dream FM was a pirate station it periodically moved location but the police never really interfered turning a blind eye to the illegality. The station became so popular that it often featured in the local press. One year it applied for a legal license but lost out to competition over the Pennines. This outcome sadly meant the abrupt sinking of Dream Fm's ship. I moved onto another pirate station, Frequency FM, based in the South.

Dream FM was a blast. I made friends, propitious connections and even became the voice over for many of the station's adverts. My voice was thankfully dripping in reverb so I was rendered virtually unidentifiable. I even had a fan base. Most of the fan mail I received came courtesy of the inmates from Armley jail. These were not serious criminals but petty offenders, young adults who I presumed had started out on the disadvantaged side of life. Rereading some of the letters made me think about what set these characters on their paths. Poverty? Lack of opportunity? Exclusion? Who knows ... And now after all this time I like to imagine they got out and got on with their lives. I hope they became wiser, discovered insight, found new purpose, retrained, had families .....

"I mean when you put that top tune on and said "this ones for you" I couldn't stop myself jumping up and giving the door a good old bang. Thanks very much as it was. Totally appreciated." 

"Nice one for the Shouts and Toons. Keep me going and many alike. So once again keep it coming fast .... I used to go to the After Dark at Morley. I'm sure you know the place. Kicking ant it?.  That's how come I ended up in this predicament. Just a sound geezer trying to keep the smiling faces around."

"So just like to set one thing straight, if it wasn't for your set Armley jail just wouldn't be the same at the weekend. So keep doing what you do best and keep those kicking vibes coming our way. So from all the inmates and especially myself. Max respect."

"Dearest Tantra ... Well I'm listening and kicking and its down to you. You can imagine it would be a downer in jail but know there's always hope and mine is your set so do your best and put my shouts over the air." (female)

"The show is excellent as ever so keep them sounds coming. As long as you're playing them. I'm smiling."

I even dare to think that my radio show - the emotive power of the music I played - gave these inmates hope to start afresh, or at least to imagine new possibilities. Was it conceited of me to think that? I hope not.

Thanks for tuning in .....

So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. So do Link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.

Once Upon A Time
Grab the badge code ...

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14 comments:

  1. Dream FM...never heard of it before...

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    1. It was station based in Leeds and the surrounding area. Fun times.

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  2. You are so cool!!!
    Both the Greek God(zilla) and I talk about how our dream job would be on the radio.
    I love this meme, I will look out for the next one and join in :)

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    1. No, not that cool really. Would be great if you decided to join in.

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  3. I LOVE these posts. I used to listen to Dream FM - I was in fifth year (or Y11) as they call it now. My elder sister got me on to it. We would tape songs off it to make mix tapes (the quality was pretty crap) We would save our pocket money to go watch DJ's (underaged) - did you ever guest at The Empire (Sugar Shack?) It's all a bit hazy in my memory.

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    1. Ha! Really? Excellent .... No I didn't play there, but like you my memory is very hazy these days! Really pleased you are enjoying these posts - makes my day!

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  4. Great post. I love the fact that you had a strong fan base of crims from the local jail. How amazing that they wrote to you too. (I guess they couldn't text or email back then anyway?), but how lovely to receive those letters.

    I keep meaning to sign up to this, but I've always just posted a post, that would have been suitable, or am devoid of inspiration. I do have a post that's been lingering but it's not the right time. Maybe next month. I do love Once Upon a Time though. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you. They couldn't text back as there were very few mobiles about and email didn't even exist then. I didnt even have a mobile. I had a pager instead - the height of technology! How times have changed. Would be fab if you got the time to join in.

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  5. Another great OUAT post. I love delving into your DJ past - it is such a unique thing to have memories of. What a wonderful thing to be able to know that you got some of those guys (and girls) through some of their (what I would imagine) darkest moments. I think it is good to wonder what they are up to now and hope it is something positive. It certainly can happen. My first serious boyfriend went to prison for a short stint (not for anything bad - hence why I stayed with him. They said they wanted to make an example thus the custodial sentence, would probably only get a slap on the wrist nowadays) however, I think it made him wake up a bit. Now he is a very successful business magnet! I will be linking up again soon, got a post forming in my head :-)

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    1. Yey! Fantastic. Would be great if you decided to join in again. very interesting about your ex boyfriend ... goes to show though that you can turn your life around. Some of the mail I received was very colourful!

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  6. What a great post, I loved reading through this x

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    1. Thank you. Very glad that you enjoyed it. :o).

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  7. Great post - very interesting to hear how many fans you had from Armley jail!! I was in Leeds from 1993 to 1999 and remember hearing about Dream FM. Sounds like you were a bit of a trialblazer, being a talented aspiring female DJ. These posts always make me smile. Polly x

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    1. Ah thank you Polly! 1993 was a great year! So you were in Leeds for six years then? What were you doing? I wonder if we ever unknowingly walked past each other on the street or were sat in the same restaurant at the same time?

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