|HELLO, HELLO WE'RE BACK AGAIN, AS A MATTER OF FACT WE'RE BACK!
(Did You Miss Us Yeah, While We Were Away?)*
For roughly twenty years, from the mid sixties to the mid eighties, Radio 2SM was an essential accompaniment to growing up in Sydney, a partner in the the coming-of-age of both pop/rock music and its listeners.
|It was the station of the Good Guys, the Beatles tour, Med Mel's Happenings, the hottest and toughest Top 40 in town, the Oz Rock explosion, mad MacRae and the Hon Nick, Frank Hyde's incomparable football calls, Father Jim, massive summer concerts on the roof of Victoria Park swimming pool, zippered denim, David White's exclusive superstar interviews, and a mood of non-stop, powerhouse energy. It also gave us pioneering talk-back radio in the 60s, comentaries from the late Brian White, and provocative documentaries on everything from prophesies and political conspiracy theories to the environment.
At its peak, around 1977, the station was an Australian radio phenomenon, rating in the 20s and reaching almost a million listeners a week. Some shifts - notably 'drive', achieved ratings unequalled before or after. Just to be on the floor of the station was an adrenalin charge. On any given day there could be a Skyhook walking out of one studio and a Sherbet into another, AC/DC screeching around the car park and Ol'55 singing something a cappella in the production room studio, John Paul Young waiting in the lobby and a few dozen screaming girls outside the front door hoping for a glimpse of any of them (or of the jocks, who were almost as popular). As one pop sensation of the time observed, "It didn't matter how many stations were playing you, if you weren't on 2SM you didn't have a hit."
It could be said that 2SM virtually trained and grounded the Sydney radio industry. A great many of the jocks/announcers/ newsreaders/ commentators/programmers who passed through are now part of the very fabric of the city's electronic (and even print) media.
Bob Rogers, Mike Walsh, Steve Liebmann and Tony Murphy (Murph The Suff) went to television; Mike Gibson went to newspapers, John Tingle to politics and Ron Casey to controversy; Rod Muir, a visionary pioneer, trailblazed rock FM radio; Ian Grace is now the manager of 2CH and 2GB; John Brennan is the manager of 2UE; Barry Chapman programmed both Triple J and Triple M, Charlie Fox was music director of Triple M; George Moore, David White, Holger Brockman, Paul Holmes, Ron E.Sparx and numerous others ended up as FM on-air stars.
Since its halcyon days, 2SM has been used as a means of disseminating a range of music styles, from Beautiful Music to Easy Listening Gold to Country. Some of the experiments have been noble and admirable but have not captured the imagination and loyalty of Sydney radio listeners. Perhaps it is because, having stood so proudly for one thing in people's lives, it could never represent another quite as effectively. That 'thing' was the pure, surging, effervescent energy of rock'n'roll, the fun of unbridled chart champions at their peak.
"What we are trying to do" explains chief executive Hamish Cameron, a veteran of rock radio and television, "is revive the heritage, the contemporary cultural significance of this station. It was once an important part of people's lives and it can be again. The poor old 2SM call sign has taken a bit of a battering. We're going to try to breath some life back into her."
Cameron, programming and management consultant Rod Muir, and long-time friend and associate Doug Mulray (who has "come along for a bit to lend a hand and help dust the old girl off"), are not unaware of 2SM's historical role in the affairs of the harbour city. The new format, of the greatest hits of our time, kicked off on Christmas Day 1996, for the very good reason that the station first went to air on Christmas Day 1931.
"Gold formats are not uncommon around Australia but ours will be easily the broadest" says Cameron. "We all grew up with such an incredible array of music but only a small percentage of it ever gets heard because of programming which seems to be done by computers. Stations have researched themselves into a tight, inflexible corner and strangled the music we love. Now we have the opportunity to bring back the music dropped by impersonal American-formula FM stations."
"I'm already sensing that there's a real relief and excitement out there that someone's bothering to retain all that great stuff. I suppose it's like putting a heritage order on music: 'not to be pulled down'. And it's about time too!"
While the New 2SM is reaching back to the past for its diverse array of vital music, it is reaching into the future for its on-air personalities. "We're not resurrecting old announcers" insists Cameron. "It may be the best musical memories we can put together but it's being done with the fun and excitement of contemporary radio. Young, modern broadcasters are there to take you on the trip.
The Christmas revolution on Blues Point Road has been described as "a bloodless coup". It was probably the only time in Australian radio that a station was turned completely upside down without a single on-air personality getting the sack. "It was a great team of young talented radio professionals" enthuses Cameron. "We could see no reason to change it."
No, all the changes at the New 2SM have been designed to deftly twitch the nostalgia nerve. Sydney has long been deprived of a significant portion of its audio history, its very culture and social fabric. Now it's coming back, with the reverberating power of a roaring rock riff. Life will never be the same.
* - with no apologies whatsoever to Gary Glitter!
© Glenn A Baker 1997
Written as a media release for the relaunch of 2SM
Reproduced with kind permission
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