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Pure Musical Sensations – Championing the Radical

Bands looking for a break and aspiring musicians take note! Our roving reporter John ‘Rez’ Mclaughlin met up with Roger Hill from BBC Radio Merseyside to talk about how Pure Musical Sensations promotes new acts.

In recent years, as prime time television has descended in to reality hell, radio has been enjoying a renaissance, particularly where music lovers are concerned. Radio Merseyside is home to one of the country’s longest running alternative music shows, Pure Musical Sensations (or Popular Music Show or Post Millennial Soundtracks. You decide) which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. We spoke to the show’s longest serving host, Roger Hill about the show, its music and its ethos.

REZ: How did you get started?

Roger Hill (RH): Well, just prior to my getting involved with the show, which had been running for four years, I was running the Everyman Youth Theatre when I got a call from the station to ask if I would take over running the rock show. I had been interviewed often on the station’s arts programme and the rock programme by the man who produced both, Phil Ross, so they knew my “form” as it were. I was, apparently second choice, but the other feller was on holiday at the time, so I was in luck.  I had no experience, no technical know-how whatsoever, so there was a lot of learning on the spot. It was also a much earlier slot than it is now.

REZ: What was the show’s ethos at that time, and how has it changed?

RH:  The show was then known as Rockaround and was presented by Phil Ross and, as the name suggests, it started out as a rock show. Not long after its launch punk happened so the show changed and became much more alternative to reflect the times. I took over in 1982 and at that time as well as punk there were great reggae tracks being made, world music was starting to come through, thrash metal happened, – the music scene was mutating rapidly and everything was new, – at one point we even played Culture Club. The music policy at Merseyside has changed over the years and when some genre of music fell out of the schedules we would pick up on it, for instance when the classical show ended we incorporated that in to what we did. It was how we developed one of our signature traits, playing opposing genres next to each other to create something wonderful sounding for the people listening and ourselves.

REZ: It’s a team effort isn’t it?

RH: Yes, it’s currently a team of four people, myself, Karen Timms, Chris Ward and Roy Ballantyne who engineers the sessions. For our 25th anniversary show we had a live concert from Half Man Half Biscuit which drew the largest audience so far for a live session on local radio. If a band is invited in for a session and they are reasonable established we will sometimes set them a challenge, such as last October when we asked several artists to submit tracks for the anniversary of “Love Me Do” for a programme which we called “Love Me Don’t”. They had to select a track and give us their take on it, which was great fun.

REZ: How would any aspiring act get a session on the show?

RH: Firstly, and most importantly, they have to understand what the show is about, and the best way to do that is by listening to it. If anyone in the team hears an artist or band they think will fit the bill then we will invite them in to play. The buck stops really with me, or Karen who takes over the show if I am away. What would get our attention? World music, jazz, experimentation, something with character that sounds fresh, we have to like it before it will get played. We get sent music all the time, via CD or email or music-files. We have been known to receive a track at midnight and we have played it by 12.30 that night. If people want to get involved then they can contact us via our facebook page where we love to receive information on forthcoming gigs, reviews of shows and links to music our listeners think we might love. People can email us tracks too at

REZ: That’s when the show goes out.

RH: Yes, every Sunday at midnight. Traditionally that should be a more laid back slot but thanks to IPlayer people can listen to it at any time of day. We can actually pretty much play what we like.

REZ: Last year you received a lifetime achievement award. How did that feel?

RH: If you stand by your principles, by taste and champion the more awkward edge of music you can sometimes feel isolated. To suddenly find that you are being given an award for not compromising it is immensely gratifying. It is also to do with longevity, of course.

REZ: Any final words for anyone reading this?

RH: I’ll leave you with a quote from Bill Drummond who once said something really wonderful about the show “If there were only ten people listening to the programme, you could bet your dole money that they would be the ten people making the most interesting music on Merseyside in the next five years. And they would also be the ones that the rest of the country would be wanting to know about.”

PMS broadcasts on Radio Merseyside every Sunday night from Midnight and is available on IPlayer throughout the week.


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Posted in bands, music, music business, Pure Musical Sensations, Radio Merseyside, Roger Hill

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