DJ Michael McNamara will revisit the glory days of disco for a one off night, celebrating the golden era Limerick nightclubs Fernando’s and Tropics at The (then) Royal George Hotel. Limerick Post spoke to the DJ legend perhaps better known to you as Micky Mac or Mike Rave.
RADIO in Ireland 50 years ago did not play pop music.
In 1967, The Beatles released ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, Marvin Gaye had a Motown smash with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and Scott McKenzie sang about wearing flowers in your hair. Yet little of this music would make the national airwaves.
Teenager Michael McNamara and his friends got their fix of pop music by turning the MW dial through all the silence and fuzz to Radio Luxemburg and the new BBC Radio 1 pop station.
Getting any kind of listenable signal from these temples of the new sound depended on luck and the weather, as the earth’s atmospheric layers did their dance. But being close to the River Shannon helped somehow!
“There was an incredible music buzz in the city,” remembers Michael.
“Radio stations were not playing this stuff but there was tremendous music knowledge flowing around. We read the NME and Melody Maker. We imported records from Motown, Stax and Atlantic, waiting in Clancy’s Electrical for the record to arrive,” he laughs.
As we sit in Clayton Hotel for a chat, McNamara’s love of music and radio continues. It is evident in the way he describes the highlights so far in a career that started when he was just 12 years old.
Captivated by the voice of Alan Freeman at Luxembourg and by James Alexander Gordon who read the football full-times on BBC Sports Report, Michael knew he wanted to be a DJ.
The first paying gig was jocking at Go Go on Post Office Lane. Phil Lynott and his band Orphanage were playing. Michael played Northern Soul and Motown. His favourite record to this day is Four Tops – ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’.
The seventies brought disco. Michael’s popular mobile gigs at local rugby clubs caught the attention of John Likely and the late Bobby Kennedy of The Royal George Hotel. Fernando’s Nightclub became Limerick’s city centre nightclub with Mike Rave on the decks.
“Both guys had great foresight. We had high quality bass bins so you were able to pump out ‘Saturday Night Fever’ by The BeeGees.”
Comin’ At Ya
STILL, for the national broadcaster the 1970s was silent with only a couple of hours pop and rock being broadcast. Michael pestered RTE Radio with tapes and ideas and finally a few stand-in gigs arrived playing to over a million listeners.
The big break came in 1979 when RTE Radio 2 was launched and Michael joined the schedule alongside Gerry Ryan, Dave Fanning, Mark Cagney and Vincent Hanley.
“I was 21 years at 2FM. It was an awesome time to be on national radio. We played 100 per cent vinyl until the CD was discovered and we were allowed pick all the music. We were king of the airwaves up to 1988. We were the only real station in those days.”
Larging It Up
BY 1993 Michael’s contract with 2FM was about to finish and he was resigned to leaving the station. His then producer Pat Morley invited Michael to ‘roadtest’ a dance show on Saturday nights.
“He knew I liked dance whether it was Motown or Italian house. The show was a huge success and gave me an extra seven years at the station. I had the most exciting part of my whole career at a time when I was supposed to be ‘heading away’.”
Micky Mac’s weekly Dance Show was THE sound of Saturday nights in the 1990s. Taking its cue from BBC Radio’s Pete Tong, The Dance Show played the most in-demand dance anthems and white-label pre-releases, exclusive first-plays and mixes from the world’s best club DJs to the Irish rave generation.
Micky Mac had the cheesy catchphrases (Larging It Up! As We Continue! Shake Your Bib and Bang Your Drums! .. are just a few). Micky Mac’s Dance Show was reminiscent of the glory days of Radio Luxembourg with a banging playlist. The DJ who was to retire had re-invented himself and the show was tremendous fun and Micky Mac was having the time of his life.
“In 1995 ‘Insomnia’ was released by Faithless, I heard it from Pete Tong on the Friday night.
“He sent me over the promos. I remember the night I played ‘Insomnia’ from Dublin for the first time ever on Irish radio, DJs arrived at the radio centre to buy the record from me.”
“This was a different era.”
Ministry of Sound
SUPERCLUB Ministry of Sound invited the show to London and Mickey Mac had a Top 30 Hit in ‘96 called ‘Dance Nation’ on Red Records which was produced by Mr Spring and Mark Kavanagh.
“I was saying to myself – I should be retired and I’m off to Ministry of Sound.”
Though Micky did not believe the show would last more than a few weeks, he knew something was happening when John Renyolds (Electric Picnic, POD founder) got in touch saying, “that’s special, mind that show. It’s brilliant.”
New generation DJs
MICK Mac’s Dance Show broadcast mixes from the new up and coming DJs in a piece called ‘Bedroom Bedlam DJs’. Micky laughs when I suggest that his Saturday night show, with its mixes from young Irish DJs was the dance music equivalent of what Dave Fanning and Ian Wilson were doing for rock music.
“Producer Ian Wilson did say to me, ‘You’re getting away with it, I don’t know how you have become that’.
“I felt I was getting away with murder as well. I’m not a brilliant mixer but I have a voice for radio.”
Micky Mac was the voice that introduced the nation to house and techno on the national airwaves. Whether you were making your way to Cork for a night dancing to Greg and Shane at Sir Henry’s or jumping into the shower with the music blaring from you stereo, getting ready for a night out that might end up in Tropics or Doc’s, Micky Mac’s Dance Show was the soundtrack that caught the energy and anticipation of Saturday night and living for the moment.
Micky Mac didn’t know how good he was at “getting away” with a weekly dance show until he visited the White Isle.
“The one time I went to Ibiza, I realised how massive the show was when people recognised me.”
For the upcoming show Micky Mac and his crew will revive soul and disco hits from the golden era of Fernando’s and he will definitely drop a few 90s’ club bangers for the Larging It Up crowd.
The glory Days of Disco with DJ Micky Mac and guests Nicky Woulfe and JP Dillon happens on Friday, May 26 at Dolan’s Warehouse
The Bedroom Bedlam DJs
Micky Mac’s Dance Show broadcast mixes from the new Irish up and coming DJ’s in a piece they called Bedroom Bedlam DJs. Limerick DJs Conor O’Dwyer and Fenton Moloney remember the thrill it was to have their sets broadcast on national radio while they were still in their teens
Code (Conor O’Dwyer) – “This was huge at the time – I had been practicing on the turntables I got at Xmas ‘95 for a good seven or eight months. Getting a phone call form Mickey Mac on a run-of-the-mill school night in the middle of winter telling me my mix would be featured was really exciting – my first big break! I was 17 at the time and really wanted to get involved in DJ’ing and the Drum & Bass scene, it seemed like a door had been opened for me. He was the first person to bring dance music and dance music culture to the masses in Ireland.”
Fenton – “These days there are so many great outlets for budding DJs to get their latest mix out there, back in 1996 for me it was making a cassette for friends and hoping they would spread it around. Getting a mix on the 2FM Dance Show meant your name was mentioned along with the track listing which was great for a 17 year old DJ. The time and effort spent curating that perfect vinyl mix meant even more thanks to the listenership and feedback from the show on a national level. Mickey Mac brought dance music to a wider audience than before and brought fresh sounds into the living room, car stereo or wherever you may be each weekend. Having a weekend show playing new dance music on Irish national radio was great.