The crucial role community radio has played in preserving punk music
21.08.2019

The crucial role community radio has played in preserving punk music

Words by Morgan Mangan

It’s been a wild ride.

Without community or campus radio stations, some of the bands we know of today could have otherwise gone largely unheard. Thanks to the numerous radio broadcasters and the stations who provide a platform for underground artists, we are able to build a better sense of belonging in our community and appreciation for all music – including punk.

Community and campus radio stations, on-air 24/7, provide a platform for members of the community to essentially play whatever they want and expose listeners to music they otherwise may not ever hear. What’s more punk than that?

Back in the 1980s, Steve Albini of Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac used to fill in for the summer presenters at his local college campus radio. As hardcore music was gaining popularity at the time, he spent a lot of time milking the community radio ethos of playing what you want. Though he may have taken this too far, because he was kicked off air numerous times due to complaints from the listeners. Not a radio presenter for long, but instead a major player in recording, producing and playing music, Albini did go on to write ‘The End of Radio’ with his band Shellac. A narrative as told from the perspective of the last radio presenter on earth “It’s the end of radio/The last announcer plays the last record/The last watt leaves the transmitter/Circles the globe in search of a listener.”

John Peel was an English record producer, journalist and radio presenter on BBC Radio 1. Peel began presenting radio in the late 1960s and was one of the first broadcasters to play punk, metal and psych-rock on British radio. After becoming well known for breaking unsigned musicians by playing rare or never before heard tracks on his regular radio show, musicians from all over would send him demos and music. Peel was known for taking the time to listen to everything he received, truly understanding the importance of community radio in the lives of musicians and listeners.

Nardwuar (the Human Serviette) is known to many by his wacky golf clothes, somewhat annoying Canadian accent, outright bizarre interviews with notables including Jay Reatard, Nirvana, Jello Biafra and Ty Segall or his fronting of the Canadian punk band The Evaporators. Nardwuar had his start at the University of British Columbia campus radio in 1987 where he first came up with his interview style which involves some serious research into interviewees as well presenting them with thoughtful gifts. Often remembered for his classic “Keep on rockin’ in the free world and doot doota loot doo..” end to every interview.

Although streaming services have become the norm and can work as a great way to have access to thousands of different musicians, there is nothing like community radio which gives a personal touch to the music we hear. In Melbourne alone we’re lucky to have PBS, 3RRR, SYN and so many other stations which can give our community a voice. The days of complaints from punk on the radio are long gone, with shows like Teenage Hate on 3RRR or Club it to Death on PBS dedicated to the genre.