"What a way to start," said Phill Jupitus as he launched the BBC's first music radio station in more than 30 years. "Music democracy in action."
Prospective listeners to Radio 6 Music, the new digital channel, had been invited to vote for the first single to be played and "Burn Baby Burn", by the Northern Ireland band Ash, had been duly elected. As an exercise in democracy this was necessarily a modest affair – not exactly Pop Idol in its electoral scope; there are only 50,000 digital sets out there after all, and if you don't own one then you have to get at Radio 6 through cable or satellite subscription or the internet.
But for those yearning to break free from the totalitarianism of teen pop, the station promises another kind of enfranchisement. This will be, as the in-house shorthand has it, Radio One and a Half – a place for those who are too old for Britney, too young-at-heart for Terry Wogan, for those who will one day be leading retirement home sing-songs of "Police and Thieves" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea".
Jupitus's presence as the station's breakfast DJ might suggest an ironic approach to the playlist – as does his promised interview with "20th- century icon Alan Titchmarsh". But on the evidence of the first few hours broadcast, this is less Never Mind the Buzzcocks, more "Remember the Buzzcocks? Wasn't 'Orgasm Addict' underrated?"
It's a station for the readers of Q and Mojo, in short, for passionate types addicted to the compiling of hierarchical lists and the tracing of musical genealogies (the station will draw heavily on the BBC's rich backlist of studio sessions and live recordings). Gideon Coe, a former GLR DJ who hosts the mid-morning show, offers a regular slot called "Great Lost Albums" and promises to uncover the records the public has overlooked. Liz Kershaw, who takes over from him at 1pm, kicked off her first session with a search for the definitive Neil Young track, which will eventually form part of a 6 Music "fantasy album" compilation. There's even an element of education for wannabe rock geeks, with a regular "Guide to the Genres" and a weekly masterclass on rock icons.
Listeners will be able to indulge their taste for rock disputation by means of the station's internet message boards – which yesterday offered a mix of cautious welcome ("I think so far it's better than Radio 2, sort of.") and purist disgruntlement ("No jazz. Boo."). Messages came from Jeddah, Skipton and Brisbane, testifying to the station's global reach, as well as on-air greetings from a steady queue of punk elder statesmen – including Elvis Costello, Paul Weller and Joe Strummer – all of whom seemed happy to welcome a station that would do its bit to boost their royalty earnings.
Halfway through the morning, to punctuate a Top Six Grunge tracks list, Gideon Coe had played Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". On its first day, 6 Music had a very different odour to it – it smelt like reluctant middle-age, and for anyone over 30 it was likely to prove curiously appealing.Reuse content