[Live blog is now up and running after the cut.] If you’ve been hearing the teasers over the last month, then you probably already know a few things. One, Radio High 105.9 is saying goodbye. Two, it’s going to be replaced by what I’d guess is a classic hits format. “Metro Manila will soon become Retro Manila,” the familiar-sounding teasers went. Today, the station, Retro 105.9, will go live, promising a mix of songs radio hasn’t touched in a while, presented by DJs you’ve heard in many other places before – a bunch from Campus Radio’s many versions, a bunch from 99.5 RT’s many versions, and the Mole from RJ. Old school radio, in other words, although it’s interesting to hear how they’ll approach this. Will the station go squarely against RJ 100, which had the oldies (and then some) market locked up? Or will it go up against all the other stations’ “old music” days, like Magic 89.9’s Friday Madness? All day today we’ll do a live blog – live from an exhibit booth at the SMX Convention Center, of all places – and try to answer these questions. [NB]
05.08: Good morning and welcome to the live blog! Last night I was still hearing jazzy tracks in between those sinister-sounding teasers. Today I hear the Pretenders’ “I Go to Sleep”, which apparently is a Ray Davies original. Always thought it was Sia’s. The more you know.
05.13: A PAMS jingle going “BCG-FM”? Or something like that? Also, I have to say, this is just the warm-up set and it’s sounding good. Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” on right now. I fear this will be a “this song is called…” live blog. Well, provided I can hear the station clearly from an exhibit booth at the SMX Convention Center, where I’m spending most of the day today. This is going to be interesting.
05.30: Someone’s talking. And those three letters are part of the branding. Andy Tuna, could you repeat it? I clearly missed it.
05.42: First, a few words about what came before. DWLA-FM was previously home to rock station LA 105.9, and later, hip-hop station Blazin’. In 2007, it was broadcasting as RJ Underground Radio, RJ’s attempts to bring back a (modernized) format that’s similar to RJFM’s halcyon days as a rock station back in the 70s; while it was an interesting listen, a general sense of sloppiness and the low-powered signal turned me off, and the station signed off in 2011, after a last-ditch move to broadcasting on Facebook.
That same year, Radio High – run by Francis Lumen, who previously led CityLite 88.3, 923 Joey and U92 – went to air. It deliberately aimed very upmarket, with teasers going “for the discerning listener” (or something like that) and sponsors including luxury car brands Jaguar and Maserati, sitting alongside McDonald’s. The smooth jazz station definitely was Joey’s successor, as opposed to Crossover’s more mainstream appeal, but audiences didn’t tune in. Last year I listened and was surprised to hear the Glee cover of “Firework”, which I interpreted as an attempt to lure younger listeners in.
Also, apparently, Retro is already on air. Probably from midnight. I thought the launch was at six in the morning?
05.46: It’s DCG-FM, says Ella. I wonder what that stands for?
05.56: And is this station officially called “Retro 105.9 DCG-FM”? That’s how Andy puts it. I’ll wait for the launch to be official. For a while now…
06.00: Official first song: General Public’s “Tenderness”. If anything, that was a very low-key launch.
06.14: And true enough, it sounds very old school: fourteen minutes in, and four songs already. Well, it’s nice to have a radio station where the DJs don’t have the need to do features to sound very DJ-y. Also, little “this is a radio station launch!” hype in those fourteen minutes. Then again, we still have a whole day to go.
06.25: Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll suspend blogging for an hour or so, while I drive to work. On the upside: I’m listening in the car, while driving, which should make things feel considerably different.
06.55: I’m stuck in traffic, so I can post this: we have a newscast. With legit news stories. It’s a “shit just got real” moment.
07.31: JJ Sparx is the morning guy, and he’s the only guy who I have not heard of during my radio geek days. He played this 90s song that I remember very well – I heard it last night, on Wave 891, when Ron Poe told King DJ Logan about how that particular song (whose name escapes me at the moment) is famous in clubs again, in remixed form, as a twerking song.
08.15: I can’t believe I’m saying this, although, actually, I can: this station needs ads. This station needs ads if they want to survive. I haven’t heard a single one in the past three hours. I hope they get some in the coming weeks.
08.21: The DJs say “retro” but the stings and jingles say “DCG-FM”. I am confused, so right now I am going with both. And I shuffle my feet, in my seat, to the Blow Monkeys.
08.53: Turns out I don’t have to worry about my FM radio having a patchy signal here at SMX (and it is patchy) because they’re still streaming on the still-live Radio High website. Oh, if only more local stations did proper streaming online, as opposed to video streams (which isn’t always a problem) to, shudder, UStream…
09.01: Three hours in, the music mix is, well, decidedly retro, with a square focus on the 70s and 80s, and a bit of the 90s thrown in (I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alanis Morrisette earlier). It feels a little random, which is a given considering it’s launch day. It’s torn between being classic rock biased – which was my first impression of the project pre-launch, if you factor in the DJs who are in charge – and being pop-based. So far it’s not been jarring though, but I’m sure at some point I’ll scream “decide, ‘pre!”
09.12: Speaking of Francis Lumen, he’s tuned in right now. One of three shoutouts today.
09.40: Second time for the Doobie Brothers in two hours. Or three. Still. I’d expect this Retro to have longer rotations or something, since they have a bigger pool of music to dig into. But I’m being nitpicky.
10.00: “Ladies and gentlemen, Ace of Base. ‘The Sign’… of old age.” Rudolph Rivera, last heard on RJ, is now on board.
10.03: As it turns out, Rudolph only left RJ last month. He hints a bit at that (while crashing into “Eye in the Sky”) and then his phone rings on air. I find it funny.
Retro (or should I just call it DCG-FM?) may sound old school but I find it odd the DJs need to talk (short) after every song. Now, I’m not a fan of RJ’s “three songs in a row” branding, because they say it every single time, but Retro could do with some good song-to-song segues. I think it’d sound slicker than way. (But, again, I don’t work in radio, and this is why.) But hey, at least the DJs aren’t prattling on.
10.12: And we have an advertisement. For Globe. Wow. I’m surprised it’s not Smart. I’m honestly surprised it’s not Smart.
10.21: They played this Amii Stewart song earlier!
10.41: The playlist right now is sounding more RJ – a given, since this is an ex-RJ jock on board. Ben Taylor, James Ingram… will the sound go more rock when Jimmy Jam (he of Campus Radio fame) goes on board at two in the afternoon?
11.11: Another ad, this time for Lionel Richie’s upcoming concert in Manila. This makes a lot of sense. I’ve only heard one Lionel Richie song today though – and that’s from the Commodores.
11.16: Now, a song I didn’t expect to hear on the radio: “This Is Not America”, the collaboration between David Bowie and Pat Methany.
12.14: This live blog is a little lonely, because you get the feeling that they’re, at least for today, broadcasting to only a few people: those people who do know the station’s launching today. (The initial launch date was actually for this Tuesday, 1 April.)
Or maybe it’s because of the, well, old school presentation style. It works here, sure, but times have changed and, if you ask me, just playing the tunes won’t cut it. Or maybe it’s because I’m 25 – definitely not in the target audience, but I’m surprisingly familiar with some of the tunes played in the past six hours – and looking to be engaged just a little bit more. But, again, early days. An hour ago Rudolph fiddled his way through the console to play an ad (for PLDT – still no Smart, surprisingly) so, yes, safe to say everybody’s still feeling their way through things.
But compared to K-Lite’s launch day, this one is going smoother. Must be all the experience on board.
12.16: Song, jingle, song! Someone’s reading this blog. I kid.
13.42: I think I lost my stream, so back to the patchy radio signal for me. Carly Simon now. “You’re so vain…”
13.56: Maybe DCG stands for… diamond (and) carved gold? To describe the music they play? Kidding, kidding. In other news, I heard another ad – more likely than not a leftover from Radio High’s ad logs – for Himlayang Pilipino.
14.10: Jimmy Jam is now on board, and the sound got a little spike, even if he’s playing Hall and Oates’ “Method of Modern Love” as I type this sentence.
Jimmy’s one of three former Campus Radio DJs who have found a home here: Triggerman (yes, him) is doing late nights (and has teased his “Boreless Show”, so I guess things are staying the same for him), while Braggy is doing weekends. Nope, I don’t think John Hendrix will be here, but that would be awesome, wouldn’t it?
Come to think of it, the Campus Radio presentation style would work well with Retro/DCG/what-the-hell-do-I-call-this? The DJs on that station had a subtle geekiness towards music, and it showed, even during their six months on 99.5 FM. That quality would work well with this station, especially now that they have fifty years of music knowledge to trawl upon. Yes, I’m thinking of Infopop – because you need to know! – only without the word-for-word reliance on Wikipedia some of Campus’ student jocks had.
14.16: Now, on the Campus Radio corner of Retro’s library, Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”. Let’s wait twenty years for the David Cook version to make its way here.
14.30: This stop set has three ads in a row. No, four.
14.46: Now they’re playing a dinky cover of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party”, which was released in 1963. Now I ask: how retro will Retro go?
15.24: It just occurred to me that they’re not promising to have a text line set up soon: just the usual social media avenues, and a phone line, which Jimmy Jam described as an “old school” way of doing things.
15.41: It’s scary how many of these songs I already know on a regular basis, meaning I play them at least once every two months on my PC. From the beginning of my radio geek days, when I sought out the songs that 99.5 RT made famous – this was when they first said goodbye – to now, that I’m spending a lot of time with foreign radio, my laptop’s getting stacked with all of these songs from the 70s and 80s, and of course, the stuff that were around during my lifetime. Of course, I still have to learn, but I’m a bit weirded out by the fact that I know the lyrics to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, which is playing right now.
16.06: The Jimmy Jam influence is showing on this block: I heard Dishwalla and Collective Soul in the past hour.
16.20: You know, there’s a lot to be mined in the mountain of retro local music…
17.02: Eleven hours into Retro, I can now say that they’re really aiming at RJ 100. The bias is definitely on the 70s and 80s, although they’re likely to go further – little 60s though, as far as I can tell – and there’s no chance you’d suddenly hear Ellie Goulding, which RJ did a few months back, when they packaged “Lights” as a “future classic”. Can they win against RJ, though? It would depend on the music mix – on whether it becomes different enough to warrant a sample – and on the presentation bits in between.
These things take time, but I’ll say they’re off to a good start, since they’ve been pretty solid so far. I might not listen as often – I prefer my mix of past and present; this is why I’m not into “old music” days on pop stations, and why I badly want to hear Jam 88.3 to ditch Slide and mix all of those songs across the week – but as long as it’s done well, it’ll be on the arsenal.
And then they play Green Day.
17.22: We’re packing up here at SMX, so I’ll be out for an hour or so. Like this morning, I’ll be listening in the car, and I’ll be back with my thoughts in the evening, if any. At the very least, I wanna hear Triggerman again.
Also – maybe it’s all the time that has passed since Campus 99.5 went off-air – but I can’t seem to get used to a somber-sounding Jimmy Jam.
18.25: My apologies, gang. Got side-stepped a bit with the day job, so I’ll be back later than usual. Means I’ll really catch Triggerman now.
20.52: Stuck in traffic with Joey Pizza, formerly of 99.5 RT. Here we go.
21.18: I heard Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” twice today, and only realized now that they have the uncensored version. “Do you think of me when you fuck her?” No eyelashes were batted.
21.57: I’m finally home, and just in time for Triggerman. To be fair, I never got to listen to him a lot during his time on Campus’ Top 20 at 12, but I’ve heard of his reputation. So, in a way, it does make sense that he’s on late nights, being the provocateur. I wish he’d complain about the big mouthful that is the station’s official name. Either you just call it Retro or you just call it DCG-FM – although the latter name will still feel weird for me because it’s like the stapler at my home: you use it a lot, but you’re constantly reminded that someone owned it before you. In my case, it has my late grandfather’s initials, DGY.
22.03: “It’s been six years,” the Triggerman started. “I will bolt myself into this seat, in this radio station.” It amazed me that he still sound like a guy in his 30s. Also, I’ll be blogging for an hour more. I’m sleepy and I, apparently, still have some driving to do.
22.06: “I’m not gonna say Campus Radio because I am not on Campus Radio. I am not on 97.1.” The Triggerman speaks candidly of being “kicked out” of DWLS-FM, going as far as explaining how much the format was earning – P8-10 million a month, apparently – and yet they were yanked. You all know the story: Campus was flipped to a masa format, Barangay LS, and they – he, Jimmy, John Hendrix, Joe Spinner, the rest – gritted their teeth before being pushed out themselves. “Now they’re selling P2 million,” the Triggerman ends.
22.11: Can they do just that for Retro? (I’m sticking with Retro. It slides better on the tongue, even if it’s too on-point.) Can they sell that much in ads? Only time will tell.
22.18: You might know the Richard Steele guy who’s on air now (as a guest) as DJ Richard Enriquez on DZMM.
22.23: “This is so surreal,” the Triggerman says. “This is the station that was trying to bash us during our Campus Radio days.” I wasn’t around to listen to LA 105.9, of course…
22.40: It’s official: the biggest winner on Retro’s launch day is Alanis Morrisette, who’s been played at least four times today. The Doobie Brothers is right behind her.
It’s also official: they’re poising the Triggerman as a sort of shock jock in a zoo format. (He just interrupted Alanis Morrisette.) Or maybe it’s just tonight, airing all his dirty laundry about getting yanked off of Campus Radio (as opposed to Campus FM – that was erased from history, huh?) But you know what, I’d love to hear this sort of personality across the day – but, again, early days. I’m sure they’ll be tweaking things here and there. But, again, a good start, considering how (seemingly) quick this was put on air.
And that’s the end of the live blog. Up next, the Triggerman talks about why radio isn’t playing a lot of OPM anymore, the irony being I haven’t heard them play a local track all day. Also, he’s apparently bringing the Top 20 at 12 back. At midnight? A retro chart? Maybe on weekends? Why not?