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  • Danny Harrington

Essential Radio Stations to Listen To (UK)

Updated: Jul 27

Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the radio.

This list started life as an essay piece on why the radio nowadays is sort of rubbish, but I’ve decided I’ll get much more qualified people to talk about that on a new podcast we’re doing.

With all the positivity and love I have for the radio industry and by trade I am some what of a radio presenter. But what are the stations I rate, this list isn’t based on anything scientific like listener metrics or social media pull but feeling and emotion how these stations make you feel, so here are my picks for 8 essential radio stations you should listen to.

Just to add a side note before we begin this is all about UK radio as that is where I’m from, in America the answer is Sirius XM and whatever channel Howard Stern is on because he is the G.O.A.T.

Jack FM

Those in North America may be very familiar with this brand as that is where it originates, whilst there has been many Jack radio stations across the UK that have all gone by the wayside bar the original Jack Radio in the UK in Oxford.



From the “playing what we want” tagline to the late great voice of Jack Radio in UK Doctor who and Blake’s 7 star Paul Darlow with his excellent delivery of sarcastic whit, when I was applying for a job at Jack they asked me to write some lines to send in (I’m not sure if they actually got used).


Any rock fan should check out this station as it has inspired plenty of imitators, I’m looking at you Sam FM. RIP Bob Herefordshire another Jack clone and what do they say about imitation, it’s the sincerest form of flattery.

Absolute Radio


Absolute Radio is a strange one of me because I loved this station with a passion back in the mid 2000s unfortunately it wasn’t called Absolute back then it was Virgin Radio.


For a long time one of the most successful independent radio stations, even owned by the current revived Virgin Radio breakfast the not Captain America Chris Evans.



Now owned by Bauer this station is another Rock N Roll station but also has excellent shows from the likes of Frank Skinner, the Rock N Roll football team and Dave Berry. Plus, it’s the home of the 9-5 no repeat guarantee which considering certain radio stations play the same songs every hour it’s actually a very refreshing approach. Also, it’s spin off decade stations will cater to whatever era you want to listen to.


Kisstory

Kiss radio would have been on this list if Bauer hadn’t created this gem, whilst Kiss is definitely worth a listen, it’s the old school that we’re after.


Playing a mix of R&B, dance, trance, acid house etc. this station is nostalgia for anyone that listened to the radio back in the day and remember car journeys listening to this kind of music.


Through Kisstory I have rediscovered many great dance tracks, this is a successful station, not to bad for a Saturday night show spin off.


BBC Radio 2


The first and only BBC Radio station on our list, I’ve become my father, when I was a kid all he wanted to do was listen to this blasted station and all I wanted was Radio 1 or GWR but he was driving so.


Now as am older and wiser I have found myself tuning into Britain’s most popular radio station according to Rajar figures.

It mixes new music with classic track and it’s specialist music shows and occasional documentaries are some of the best in the world!

SAM FM


I know I’ve already mentioned it on the list as a sort of Jack FM clone, which it totally is but this is the station on my patch that I listen to the most but unfortunately it’s not long destined for this world.


Following a takeover from Bauer it will be turned into the Greatest Hits Radio (Except in Bristol), this station grew out of the vacuum that was left by the five minutes Total Star Radio was around for, this station is great for classic rock with and no repeat guarantee (I wonder where they got that idea from) think Starship’s We Built This City and that gives you an idea of what this station sounds like.




Wave 105.2


I’m not sure how this station has survived without the higher ups at Bauer trying to change it’s format so it can put networked shows on the station. But this station is still largely independent with local programming and although apart of Bauer’s Hits network still has a locally curated playlist.


For me sunny days down in Bournemouth are days to enjoy Wave, plus they use to have a massive hot air balloon promoting the station which could be seen pretty much anywhere across the town.


An Adult Contemporary station playing a great variety of music new & old and it still has one of the largest listenership’s of over three hundred thousand which is about 18% of the population of it’s broadcast area.


Please leave Wave alone!


TalkSport


So this is the only non music station on this list, I love football that’s the soccer version not the Rugby with body pads and helmets version.


This station has given a voice to the fans of the beautiful game, there Drivetime show is the best sports talk show on UK radio, Adrian Durham is an utter genius of a broadcaster even if he is a Peterborough fan. With the addition of England cricket legend Darren Gough with his tells it as he sees it approach.

The opinionated and sometimes controversial breakfast show with Alan Brazil always prepared to cause a stir.


Originally TalkRadio (I wonder what happened to that) it’s evolved under Kelvin McKenzie to give BBC Radio 5Live a run for it’s money and yes Radio 5 is weighed down by it’s news, politics and consumer shows so it’s not truly an all sports station unlike TalkSport.




Magic

I’m going to level with you, If I told my younger self that use to listen to Capital and Radio 1 that Magic would be my favourite radio station aged 26 honestly I’d have probably called myself an old man.

Another AC station it’s London’s Magic also now available nationally on DAB the station mix’s great 80s pop and modern mellow tunes. The variety of their music is the best in the UK, plus if you’ve had a crappy day and you just want to de-stress then Mellow Magic will take you to a place where the world is no longer on your shoulders. Now wonder I had a show called Music Magic on student radio.


My only issue with Magic is why did you change your jingles? I know this is petty and nerdy but go here's for the Old Magic jingles and here for the New Magic Jingles listen to the old Magic Nationals with the three notes at the end replacing the London 105.4 bit, I promise you it will give you ASMR level tingles down your spine. Why did you have to change perfection Magic why?


That’s our list what’s your favourite radio stations? Let us know in the comments below.

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