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EDITIONS
Monday, 11 March, 2002, 11:13 GMT
6 Music: For boys
Darryl Chamberlain

The kids were in charge when 6 Music launched - the public chose the station's opening track, and given the choice including Led Zeppelin, Alanis Morrissette, the Manic Street Preachers and Coldplay, what did they pick?

Northern Irish rock pups Ash, naturally - probably not what the station's bosses had in mind, but a fine way to leap out of bed on a Monday morning.

Phill Jupitus
Phill Jupitus fronts the Breakfast Show
The vote result sums up 6 Music's only real dilemma - whether to concentrate on up-and-coming new talent for Radio 1 refugees, or classic rock and middle-of-the road stuff for those who are not really happy to wake up to Wogan on Radio 2.

At the moment it is doing both, as demonstrated on Monday morning's Phil Jupitus breakfast show.

The station's playlist also shows it - Angie Stone, White Stripes and Hundred Reasons sit alongside Alanis Morissette (three tracks on their A-list!), Joey Ramone and Mick Jagger.

Bands featured in Jupitus' first hour included James, Ben Folds Five, The Jam, Stereophonics - all very blokey stuff.

Indeed, anyone wanting to hear a female act had to wait just over an hour to hear Alanis Morissette. Music for boys, indeed - but then being obsessed with music has always been seen as a male trait.

Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette was the first female act on air
The breakfast show is not particularly ground-breaking in itself - half-hourly news, wacky headlines from the papers, and lots of chat from Jupitus, who waves to his audience on a webcam.

Some of the jokes wore a little flat - a spoof news slot called The World Outside Your Window sounded like Mark Radcliffe's Vague News send-up but without the gags.

The nerves wore off after the tricky first hour passed, and Jupitus soon hit his stride.

Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello was the first celebrity guest
But if things misfire in the early days, it is not as if millions are listening yet.

Only around 50,000 digital radio sets are in circulation, so the BBC is hoping to pick up listeners from the internet and Sky Digital, a strategy which has worked for other niche stations like London rock outfit Xfm.

Early e-mails came in from listeners in California, Tennessee and New South Wales as well as Nottingham and Whitley Bay - possibly proving that 6 Music's listeners are dedicated enough to their sounds to tune in on their computers at unearthly hours of the morning.

"I'll tell you who'll be upset - the World Service," Jupitus quipped as e-mails came in from worldwide listeners.

It also met the approval of Elvis Costello, who called in from Dublin to beat Paul Weller to be the first celebrity guest.

BBC digital radio receiver
A BBC prototype: Digital kit is still expensive
But anyone wanting to chat about the station in its message boards would have been in for a let-down - "CLOSED - messages queued for next day" read the message at the top of the screen.

6 Music has the attention to detail which is the hallmark of the true music freak - mini-biographies of artists scroll across the digital screen while tracks are played.

What also works in the station's favour is it is one of the few digital-only broadcasters with any personality.

Most of London's digital stations appear to be variations of the capital's existing music networks (Kiss, Heart, Magic, Xfm, Virgin, and, of course, Capital FM and Capital Gold) - computer-driven and generally soulless.

Debbie Harry
Virgin and 6 Music both played Blondie tracks
While Century London promises only "better music - more of it" (whatever that means), Planet Rock says it is the "rock specialist" and Life boasts of "refreshing sounds", 6 Music already has the personalities and BBC clout to sell itself - something which will help.

It also has the heritage of London's old BBC station GLR - a music and speech station which closed two years ago to howls of outrage from its small, but loyal band of listeners.

With Jupitus, and other ex-GLR DJs including Gideon Coe, Clare McDonnell, Sean Hughes, Tracey Macleod, Bob Harris and Chris Hawkins on board, some at the corporation obviously feel they had something good in the capital - although you know they would never admit it in public.

Gideon Coe on the 6 Music webcam
GLR memories: Gideon Coe was previously with the London station
If there is a station 6 Music most closely resembles, it is Virgin - and both stations played Blondie tracks within five minutes of each other just before nine. Even then though, the BBC station showed how different its aims are.

While Virgin's Daryl Denham followed Union City Blue with an off-colour gag about Camilla Parker-Bowles' face, Phill Jupitus made a much less obvious choice - Rip Her To Shreds - adding how much the track meant to him and an old friend.

There is no way 6 Music can become a friend to millions just yet - it is difficult to take a PC into the shower with you and bedside digital radios are as rare as hen's teeth.

But by picking a station which is going to appeal to men - the kind of men who are going to fork out 300 for a nifty bit of digital kit - the BBC might not just occupy "the slack ground between Radio 1 and Radio 2" as Jupitus put it, but kick-start the whole digital radio industry.


BBC News Online users review the BBC digital radio station for pop and rock fansSound station?
Your views on new digital service 6 Music
See also:

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