We’ve all heard it. Rock is dead. No one listens to rock anymore. And we’ve also all heard that radio is dead. With Spotify and instant downloads who needs radio? Recent happenings in Glasgow would suggest that both rock and radio are alive and kicking. A name, gone but not forgotten, is back in town and the anticipation is palpable.
On May 7th, after an almost five year hiatus, the Facebook page of Rock Radio suddenly updated its cover photo, and the hashtag #bringbackrockradio appeared, like a long awaited phoenix from the ashes. This is no small event to the rock fans of West and Central Scotland, who have been sadly lacking a local station dedicated to rock music for some time. In April 2014 Kevin McKenna, writing for the Guardian newspaper, exclaimed, “Scots, rise up against this great rock ‘n’ roll swindle.” The recent reply from Rock Radio? “Scottish rock fans – we answer your call!” It seems at last the time has come. Neither rock nor radio are dead, the people want them and the uprising is happening. But is it just a radio station or can it bring something more to the city?
An application has been lodged with Ofcom to once again grant the licence to broadcast on 96.3 to Rock Radio, now under new management. The application states, “Awarding this licence to Rock Radio Glasgow is a chance to realise a truly independent, distinctive radio station, built for, and run by, passionate Scottish rock fans.” Or as listener Robb Dunn remembers it, “the station by rockers purely for rockers.” So what do we stand to gain from the revival of a radio station? Well, looking deeper into the Ofcom application reveals that the people behind this move aren’t a bunch of cowboys messing around, these are people seriously involved in the music industry in the UK, with decades of experience and a wealth of knowledge. Their mission statements are exciting, and as someone who is involved in the industry as a passionate gig-goer the Rock Radio revival is threatening to keep me awake at night.
For those who never had the chance to hear it, let me explain a little about why this has so many people getting their knickers in a knot. Rock Radio was required listening among Scottish rock fans from the day it was launched. The rock was loud, the playlist was brilliant and the presenters had so many stories to tell. Some years ago I bought my father a digital radio for Christmas, and the very first station we discovered was 96.3 Rock Radio. From that day on the radio was never retuned. We listened to Father Ted, Tom ‘Godfather of Rock’ Russell, who has played rock music on the radio in Scotland for 36 years, Billy Rankin, formerly of
Nazareth, and Donald MacLeod, music promoter and owner of the legendary Cathouse nightclub as they entertained us daily with the best music, stories and general anarchy any radio station could offer. But it was more than that. Rock Radio began a regular event known as the Secret Sessions, when bands in town for gigs would play in front of a handful of competition winners. Listener and fan Scott Adair remembers, “It was like a family, we got to know a lot of the other listeners through the Secret Sessions the station organised, and the Birthday Bash each year. Through this we would meet up before or at gigs, we kept in touch with other listeners and the RR crew via social media, the music on the station was just a bonus. Billy Rankin, Ted Rock and Tom Russell became our friends, who we got to know personally. We got to meet some of the bands, like Black Stone Cherry, Blackberry Smoke, Taking Dawn, Airbourne, Funeral For A Friend, Michael Monroe, Dommin, Ginger Wildheart, Halestorm, Shinedown, Man Raze and The Virginmarys.”
For a long time it seemed the station could do no wrong. As with so many things though, once the suits got involved things started to go downhill. The DJ’s, with decades of experience between them, no longer had control and the whole ethos of Rock Radio was lost, as the station was merged into the generic Real Radio stable, becoming Real XS, then XFM, and then closed down altogether. The applicants for the new licence are very aware of where and how things went wrong in the past and have included this in the application. It states that they will avoid being “straight-jacketed by a bland, one-size-fits-all programming philosophy.”
So who are these applicants? Why do they deserve to run our beloved station? Well, the answer is part of what makes me convinced that this is not only a good thing for people who want to hear rock music on their radio, but for the rock music industry in Glasgow as a whole. The application names Donald MacLeod as Chairman of the Board of Directors. Donald has 35 years experience in the industry. As a promoter his business sells over 100,000 tickets annually. As a live venue owner he has brought rock music to more people in Glasgow than you could ever count. He says, “I want to create a radio station that plays music that makes people want to get out of the house and go and see the brilliant bands playing in their city.” The next director is Paul McManus. Paul is directly involved in music as drummer for Gun. He also manages the band, and through his management company looks after several bands signed to major record labels. He is also MD of the country’s largest independent mainland quarry company, a business which is worth circa £26 million. In his mission statement he says he wants to make sure the radio station “creates sustainable, local-only employment and opportunities.” Also on the board is Ciaran O’Toole. As well as presenting on Rock Radio Ciaran was also general manager of the station. After the demise of the station Ciaran co-founded Team Rock and works as a media and technology consultant. He is best known though, for his Father Ted/Ted Rock on air persona, which to this day is responsible for the funniest radio programming I have ever heard. His mission statement is simple. “I’m committed to bringing back Rock Radio in Glasgow.”
The final name rounding off the board is Brian Fulton. Brian is a chartered accountant who is involved in the music industry through interests in the Cathouse, the Garage and as Treasurer and Trustee of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland, a charity which worked closely with Rock Radio in the past. Brian says, “The rock scene in Glasgow is so important, there are many jobs created through it and when Rock Radio closed, the scene lost part of its voice.”
So it can clearly be seen that the team behind this application is serious about bringing back Rock Radio and once again making it a huge part of the already vibrant rock scene in Glasgow. It’s also pretty obvious that they have the necessary qualifications to make a roaring success of it. Their industry experience, their business interests and their success in their chosen fields are all hugely positive. That’s not enough though. The application is dependent on several things, not the least of which is whether Ofcom feels there is a demand for a rock radio station in the area. Which is where the #bringbackrockradio campaign comes in.
The people behind the campaign are urging everyone to email Ofcom and make their feelings known. Since the re-launch of the Facebook page the number of likes has shot up to over nine thousand, and it seems everyone is talking about it. If all those people emailed Ofcom they wouldn’t be able to deny there is a demand. And it’s not just ordinary listeners either. Dave Catching of Eagles of Death Metal was photographed holding a sign which proclaimed, “EODM want 96.3 Rock Radio back in Glasgow!” Days later Anthrax had their picture taken outside their tour bus holding a similar sign, “Anthrax want Rock Radio in Glasgow.” Since then the station has also received support from Black Stone Cherry, The Amorettes and members of Papa Roach, the Alice Cooper band, The LaFontaines and The Cult. This high profile support may not impress Ofcom but it’ll certainly get the word out to more fans, which can only be a good thing.
So, it seems that the possible return of Rock Radio is something the people of Glasgow can get excited about. With guaranteed quality programming, the chance to get up close and personal with your favourite acts, and the increased employment opportunities in the city, if you believe that rock is alive and kicking, and let’s face it if you’re reading PlanetMosh you probably do, then the message is clear. Share the Rock Radio facebook page, use #bringbackrockradio and email Ofcom at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll be glad you did, and when I’m once again rocking round the house, so will I!