A thought experiment: the alternative Triple M

Written by Nathan Jolly on 18th May, 2018
A thought experiment: the alternative Triple M

Since the ’80s I can remember the same classic songs being placed on iterations of the same stations: NEW FM, which was (is?) the Newcastle equivalent of Triple M, and KO-FM which was our WS-FM. Various “classics” have been added to the canon since, to the extent that I recently heard ‘Sex On Fire’ back-announced as a throwback track, or whatever the catchy slogan was, and immediately felt old and done (how Sinatra must have felt when he first heard ‘Sex On Fire’ back announced as a throwback track ) — but by and large, the song remains the same.

Now, it makes sense these stations play the same forty or so classic artists playing songs that are familiar to you: commercial radio’s entire remit is to shock you so little that you stay listening to the station as long as possible. But what if they started rolling out an alternative version of their playlist: a Sliding Doors type what-if list where they play the same artists, but different tracks from them?

Cold Chisel have benefitted greatly from the way FM radio is structured, with their diverse music falling into numerous categories: rock, reggae, pop, blues, AOR, Barnesy, Mossy, etc. That’s why they have a dozen songs in regular rotation on classics and rock radio. But how about playlisting the likes of ‘Four Walls’ or ‘My Turn To Cry’ from East, or ‘Houndog’ or the sparkling pop of ‘No Good For You’ from Circus Animals. These were key tracks on wildly popular albums, so it’s not going to be a shock to hear them on radio – but it may feel like a blast of icy cold air.

Up next, this.

The Living End’s debut album sold over 250,000 copies. ‘Second Solution’ and ‘Prisoner Of Society’ still both get spun to this day; not surprising considering as a double-A side it was the best-selling Aussie single of the entire ’90s. Track two on that debut album, sandwiched between these two songs is perhaps the record’s highlight: ‘Growing Up (Falling Down)’. Considering its placement, its likely this song is familiar to many. Yet, I guarantee it has never been played on commercial radio.

There are endless examples of where the playlists can be massaged without losing the essence. How about the chiming, upbeat ‘Hindley Street’, which opens Powderfinger’s brilliant Internationalist? Or ‘Hey Johnny Park’ – the Foo Fighters track directly after radio stable ‘Monkey Wrench’ on their second album. Jet are touring at the moment with a reform Vines circa-’04 lineup: why not add the immaculate ‘Eleanor’ from the second Jet alone, or ‘Ain’t No Room’ by the Vines – still a fierce-sounding rave up.

‘Tangerine’ by Led Zeppelin would be a wonderful addition, as would Barnesy’s version of Bowie’s ‘All The Young Dudes’. ‘Second Hand News’ opens Rumours – one of the most popular albums of all time, yet classic radio rarely — if ever — play this striking track. Even ‘Molly’s Chambers’ by the aforementioned Kings Of Leon would work a treat. ‘Worry Rock’ by Green Day. And so on.

It’s all still classic rock by the same classic rock bands, so it won’t turn off listeners. In fact, it could serve to help a classic-style rock station stand out among the many clones.

As long as they keep giving out icy cold cans of Coke, of course.

The article was originally published on The Industry Observer