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Lang time no hear Grounded pilot Barry Lang thrilled to be back on the airwaves with new Sunday show


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Barry Lang back is on Classic Hits radio from 8am to 11am.

Barry Lang back is on Classic Hits radio from 8am to 11am.

Barry in his early days at 2fm

Barry in his early days at 2fm

Barry working alongside colleague Ian Dempsey at the 2Fm studios

Barry working alongside colleague Ian Dempsey at the 2Fm studios

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Barry Lang back is on Classic Hits radio from 8am to 11am.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s before the birth of Boyzone, Ireland's unlikely pop idols were a bunch of disc jockeys from 2fm, aka RTE Radio 2.

Big gun broadcasters Gerry Ryan, Larry Gogan, Ian Dempsey, Dave Fanning, Tony Fenton and Barry Lang caused a sensation whenever they went on tour in those days.

Tens of thousands of Irish fans flocked to their 2fm Beat On The Street live shows in towns and cities across the nation.

"In Cork, we were getting up to 30,000 people at the Lee fields," Barry Lang tells the Sunday World today.

"It was amazing. I don't think a radio station would get that any more. We had the best of the radio days in Ireland.

"It was the days of celebrity radio. There wasn't as much competition as there is now, so it was easy to dominate the market.

"People do say we were treated like pop stars then. I'm only appreciating that now, to be honest. It really only dawned on me when I went back on the radio last Sunday and saw the reaction from the people coming in on the texts.

"People were talking about listening to me on 2fm, or watching me on The Beatbox TV show on a Sunday, and what they were doing in their lives back in those days. It was incredible. At the time you're not aware of it, but we were a part of people's experiences growing up."

Career

Last Sunday was Barry Lang's first time back on radio in 23 years when he hosted Classic Love Songs on the Classic Hits radio station.

In 1998, despite the fact that his 2fm career was flying, Lang disappeared from the airwaves and literally took to the air as a commercial pilot.

He worked with Gulf Air in Bahrain, and for the last 13 years he's been living in Dubai, from where he captained Emirates flights around the world and where he still owns a home with its own private swimming pool.

Now back in his native Dublin, Lang had planned to retire from flying in the next couple of years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has now grounded him.

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Barry in the cockpit.

Barry in the cockpit.

Barry in the cockpit.

"I wasn't expecting to have to do this for about another two years, but Covid, unfortunately, brought an end to the flying," Barry tells me.

"The whole industry is in shock right now. Most of the world's pilots are sitting on the ground doing nothing. And it doesn't look like there is any real solution to it in the very near future.

"It's going to take a long time before it recovers. So, I'm kind of resigned to doing something else now at this stage."

Although his current stint with Classic Hits is a fill in spot for a month, he hints that he could become a regular broadcaster with the Irish station.

"There might be some more at the end of it. It depends on whether we kind of like each other. I'm enjoying it and they like what I'm doing," he says.

"I didn't leave radio because I didn't like it or didn't enjoy it, it's just that an opportunity came up to do something else.

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Barry with Tony Fenton and Ian Dempsey

Barry with Tony Fenton and Ian Dempsey

Barry with Tony Fenton and Ian Dempsey

"I knew I would probably come back to it if it didn't work out, that I would fit back in somewhere."

Looking back on his 2fm days, Lang insists that he had no interest in the fame that came his way. "I never got into it because of the celebrity aspect of it," he says. "If anything, I kind of resisted it.

"Gerry Ryan was the star of the show and he brought a huge amount of listeners to the station.

"Everyone at the time owed him a great deal of respect for what he did. He was a trailblazer and it's such a tragedy that he's not around.

"Not only is he not around, but people like him are not around.

"People tried to emulate him, but nobody succeeded in doing it and I can't really see that happening again. I don't know in these days of formatted radio that there's room for people like that any more.

"He just found that sweet spot where he knew what he could get away with, but he did have boundaries. There were things that he would always be careful about, and when it got serious he knew exactly how to deal with it.

"But on a light hearted comedic level he was a class act who always knew what he was doing."

Lang and Ryan were friends, with Barry taking over Gerry's show whenever he was off.

"I would do five or six of his morning shows in the year. I enjoyed that. That pushed my boundaries as well," he says.

Barry started off in radio as a teenager with his best pal, Tony Fenton. "It was a hobby that got out of hand," he jokes. "We were school mates in Finglas and started off running a mobile disco."

They both cut their teeth on the pirate radio stations.

"I can remember sneaking out of one of my Leaving Cert exams to present a radio show on Capital Radio," he reveals.

Barry was devastated when Tony died from cancer in 2015. "It was heartbreaking," he adds.

"It's still quite emotional for me, but I know that he was definitely with me last Sunday when I went back on air. I could hear him talking to me."

  • Barry Lang is on Classic Hits radio from 8am to 11am today.

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