Alex Dyke, the popular Island radio presenter, has finally come full circle, and reckons he could not be more pleased at the outcome.
Alex recently became the mid-morning presenter on BBC Radio Solent – the Southampton-based station where he actually began his broadcasting career back in the mid-1980s.
Born in Shanklin, and educated at Shanklin C of E, Ventnor Middle and Sandown High Schools, Alex built a reputation as a controversial and outspoken presenter during his time on the Island’s leading commercial radio station.
But now he says those days of the ‘shock jock’ are behind him for good. “The shock jock act was great fun to do, but it really has had its time,” he says. “A lot of presenters who did it have re-invented themselves, and I am among them.”
More recently Alex spent a year in the United States, but leaped at the opportunity to join Radio Solent, explaining: “I wanted to get back to doing something that was more like the real me. What I used to do was an amplified version of the real me when you had to appear cross or upset at certain things.”
Now, and not just because he works for the Corporation, Alex maintains: “Broadcasting has changed and you have to be a lot more responsible. It is a privilege to work for the BBC. Perhaps I could compare it with what I used to do by saying if you were a footballer playing for Newport FC you might not bother to turn up for training. But if you were playing for Portsmouth or Southampton you would make sure you trained extra hard to be in the team. It’s common sense really.
“Everyone here is really professional and very dedicated, and it is nice to be among such people. I am not saying that was not the case at commercial radio, but it seems to matter more at the BBC. I absolutely love my job.”
Alex now works with state of the art technology on a station held in high esteem by listeners. He continues to enjoy his music just as much as he did when he was just a kid taking his first career steps well before he left school. In those days he was an avid fan of TV cult show ‘Top of the Pops’, and when just 12 years old he became a DJ at Shanklin Youth Club, situated at the bottom of Victoria Avenue.
He described the youth club at that time as ‘the best anywhere in Hampshire’ with a disco that embraced such technology as strobe lighting and a sound system that was as good as in any of the Island’s night spots. He was a DJ at the youth club from 1975 to 1978, and even remembers the first record he ever spun – a Northern Soul track called ‘Seven Days Too Long’ by Chuck Wood.
“What I liked about it there was that you could go up and the music would be banging out loud – something you couldn’t do at home on a Dansette record player. I was also listening to all the top DJs on Radio One, and thought to myself ‘what a great job that is’. I particularly liked Stuart Henry, Emperor Roscoe, Noel Edmonds and Alan Freeman,” he said.
Alex graduated to DJ-ing at the Beachcomber Bar in Shanklin, and recalls: “That was a bit ironic because I was only 15 at the time, and shouldn’t even have been in there.” He then worked at a number of clubs and bars in Shanklin and Sandown, building his knowledge and experience at every opportunity.
Then in early 1984 he was given the break he was looking for, getting his first air time when appearing on Radio Solent who were running a youth show at that time. He was still only 22, but already had 10 years experience as a DJ under his belt.
Alex’s next significant step up the radio ladder was working for Radio Luxembourg in their Mayfair studio in London, while living in Twickenham. He stayed there a year before moving back to the south coast to join Ocean South in Fareham, which was later split into Ocean FM and Gold AM stations.
He spent nearly five years at the station, working on both networks, before returning to the Island to work for what was then a recently opened commercial station. But at the same time he was still spreading his talents far and wide, doing recorded shows for a variety of stations and rubbing shoulders with many top performing artists including Edwin Starr and Leo Sayer while appearing at such venues as Southampton and Portsmouth Guild Halls.
But it was during his lengthy stint on the Island’s radio station that Alex became renowned for his controversial and outspoken style, particularly in his daily phone-in programme which gained the best ever listening figures in the history of the station. He also hosted a late night talk show, as well as introducing the popular Soul Show and later the equally popular ‘Bubble Gum and Cheese’ show.
“The local radio station was networked with 27 other radio stations spreading from Falkirk in Scotland to Sunderland and Harrogate, and right down to the south coast. So many of the shows I was doing were being heard nationwide,” he recalls.
After switching briefly to the Island’s first internet radio station, Alex and his family finally fulfilled their lifelong dream in March last year when they moved to the United States, living in a town aptly named Celebration in Florida.
“The whole family moved over there, including the dog, and we rented a house out there for a year. I began work with ESPN Radio doing talk shows, and was still doing a bit of work for the digital station over here that I helped set up. I am sure that type of radio will happen big time one day, but perhaps it was just a bit too early,” he says.
After a year in the United States Alex and his family decided it was time to return to the Island. “It was for a combination of reasons. The economy over there was very bad, something you wouldn’t see in Disney World or Universal Studios, but something you were very much aware of if you were living around the edges. We were seeing people who had been millionaires coming out of the place with just two suit cases – that’s how bad it got.
“We were doing OK, and had rented out our house in the UK for three years. But after a year the people who rented it moved on. So the house here was empty, and it was going to take a lot of money just to come back and sort things out- and what would we do with the dog while we were away?”
At the same time Alex was aware that the BBC had shown a lot of interest in his ‘Bubble Gum and Cheese’ programme, and when he was offered the chance to present it on Radio Solent it proved too good an offer to turn down.
So a year after leaving for the States, he was back on the south coast radio station where he began his broadcasting career as a raw novice some 26 years earlier. Initially his show went out each Saturday, but when the mid-morning slot at Solent became available he successfully applied for it, and took up the position in September.
“The show is a combination of music and talk, and a lot of people do phone in. And the good thing is that because there are no commercials in between, we get more air time. As far as work is concerned I really couldn’t be happier, and I am so glad I am with Solent to celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.” he added.