At around the age of 17, I migrated from the wasteland of commercial radio to the ABC's self-styled "youth network" Triple J--a journey which I have since discovered is common among late adolescents, though many of them subsequently move back. In those days, Triple J had only recently become a national network (having begun life as a Sydney station), and "alternative music" was (in Australia at least) only beginning to establish itself as a distinct genre on the shelves of chain music retailers--even if it rarely (and then belatedly) got a look-in on commercial radio playlists, a trend which largely continues today.
Let's put it this way: J Babies--a staple of the pub cover band in Perth for years now--could not have existed (as a lucrative venture) prior to 1993/94. Prior to then, "Australian music" meant Johnny Diesel, Jimmy Barnes and Johnny Farnham (Diesel and Wendy Matthews dominated the ARIAs in '93), as opposed to, say, You Am I (who picked up the inaugural "Best Alternative Release" gong in 1994), Regurgitator, Spiderbait, or even "King of Pop" Dave Graney. Triple J's role in dramatically boosting the profile of alternative music in the local music scene--at least until 1997, when bubblegum pop, locally in the guise of Savage Garden, internationally in the form of the Spice Girls, made a big comeback--has been far from insignificant. Neither has been the yearly release of its "Hottest 100" compilations, the first of which--which also happened to be one of the first CDs I ever purchased--was released in 1994.
For reasons best articulated by John Doyle in his 2005 "Andrew Olle Lecture," I have not since returned to commercial radio (the argument that the line between JJJ and commercial radio has faded somewhat of late notwithstanding):
I’ve always loved radio. Mornings was Gary O’Callaghan and Sammy Sparrow until pop meant the 2SM Good Guys introduced the songs that would become the diary of adolescence. Many years later, what’s changed? Talkback. That’s all. Commercial radio now: AM. Bandwagon talkback, water cooler drivel as talkback thought starters, competitions, finance and weather, quizzes, traffic, more talkback, then an inflammatory lunatic with talkback. FM. Whacky clubs or Crews, old music or a balance of old music with unthreatening new, competitions, requests, racy talkback with swearing and repetition. All programs are substantially written by the daily newspapers. Breakfast and Mornings used to have a deal – Breakfast got the stories on the odd pages and Mornings got the ones on the even pages. The quirky stories are good for the Crews – often they are survey - based stories. Four out of every ten Swedes prefer briefs to boxers. ‘Come on guys, what do you prefer? Give us a call.’ ‘G’day Brian, love your show. I wear briefs, mate.’ The Crew might ask blokes who freebag to phone in. One of the Crew will have an insight. ‘I always freebag in my trackies’. ‘You’re wearing your trackies now’. ‘Bloody hell!’ – much hilarity and that becomes a promo sound bite for the next month.Nevertheless, I have always been something of an indifferent participant in the Hottest 100 poll. This year, for a change, I've made the effort. Here are the songs I voted for, in no particular order of preference:
Dears: "Lost In The Plot"
Franz Ferdinand: "Do You Want To?"
Gorillaz: "Feel Good Inc."
Jose Gonzales: "Heartbeat"
Kanye West: "Gold Digger"
Ladytron: "Destroy Everything You Touch"
Maximo Park: "The Coast Is Always Changing"
Pendulum: "Fasten Your Seatbelts"
The Strokes: "Juice Box"
Sufjan Stevens: "Chicago"
Unlike in previous years when Adult Oriented Rock reigned supreme (cough*Powderfinger*cough*Alex Lloyd*cough), the winner for 2005 is much harder to pick. My money's on Gorillaz or Kanye West. Please don't let it be Missy Higgins.