12 things you should know about Double J
Triple J’s new digital station Double J has officially been launched with presenter Myf Warhurst cuing up the first song from a broadcast in Melbourne. The original Double J was the precursor to our national youth broadcaster and broadcast fearless, innovative and forward-thinking radio from from 1975 – 1980. Here are 12 things you need to know to become an instant expert on the old Double J.
1. Listening to commercial radio in 1975 was worse than it is now
In the mid-1970s Australia was a cultural backwater with no boats that rocked or college radio stations to break up the monotony of ‘Season’s In The Sun’ and ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Pioneering broadcaster Gayle Austin – one of the foundation presenters – summed up the truly dire state of affairs. “You had the same 40 tracks going round and round and round, 24/7 – and they’d probably put one or two new predictions on once a fortnight,” she said in a special commemorating triple j’s 30th birthday in 2005. “There was very little Australian music. At that time Australian music didn’t have much production put into it because there wasn’t much money made out of it.” If you listen to commercial radio, clearly nothing has changed.
2. Thank Gough Whitlam for Medibank, equal pay for women and Double J
During his final few months of office, the iconic Labor PM set up Double J initially as a means of wooing young voters, but also with the view of setting up a National Youth Radio Network (he was controversially sacked before he could achieve that dream). “We also heard that the ABC was worried about its audience dying off and wanted a station for young people who would grow up to be ABC listeners,” recalled Gayle Austin in a piece published in The SMH
3. Marius Webb and Ron Moss were the two badasses selected by the ABC to head it up
(Source triple j archives)
4. They were the first Australian pop station to employ a female DJ
Gayle Austin (pictured below, second from left) was coordinator of the talkback callers for John Laws at 2UW, before she heard about a role going at Double J. She was the only female to apply for an on-air position. “Radio in those days was like secret men’s business,” she reflected in an opinion piece published in The SMH. “I was given one midnight-to-dawn shift a week, a move so radical that I was the cause of much negative comment after our first survey of listeners. ‘Why do you have a woman on air? What do women know about music?’”
5. They started broadcasting in an old WWII bomb shelter in Darlinghurst
From Gayle Austin’s The SMH article: “The location of the offices and production booths in William Street was ideal. We were down the road from the squatters, around the corner from the filmmakers’ co-op, within walking distance of the inner city’s alternative community. We were in a building that already housed some of the most radical people working for the ABC: the feminists in the Women’s Unit and the radio current affairs show Lateline, headed by former Four Corners renegade Allan Ashbolt. They were generous with their advice on how to stay on the right side of the broadcasting guidelines and still push the barriers.”
6. The first voice you heard was by a guy called Holger
He was a former 2SM presenter who had to change his name from Holger Brockman to Bill Drake at a time when xenophobia was rife and “exotic” names were perceived as threatening to Anglo Saxon Australian listeners. On January 19, 1975, the station was launched with a pre-recorded intro, an audio recording of Apollo 11’s launch and Holger’s brief message, “Wow! And we’re off!” Fun fact: Holger Brockman lent his golden tonsils to a 1980 spoken-word track called ‘I Am Australia. It told the story of a former Murray River captain looking back on his life. Listen here.
7. One of their first ever presenters was Mac Cocker, the father of Pulp lead singer Jarvis Cocker
8. Double J’s first ever song was banned on commercial radio for its explicit sexual content
9. Their second ever song had been banned on commercial radio for five years
10. They weren’t averse to the odd prank call
(Not much has changed…)
11. Of course old people found it repulsive
[Quotes via Milesago]
12. It was an instant hit
The reception may’ve been dodgy, but Double J was clearly making an impact on the youth of Australia, capturing 22 percent of the 18-25 demographic in its first year. Source: Milesago.)
Double J will be available via the ABC Radio App, online at www.doublej.net.au, or on digital radio/TV from April 30.