Another nostalgic look at the former radio station’s jingles

The 1990s was a seminal decade for Piccadilly’s two radio stations. It opened with an upsurge in Key 103’s fortunes and the transformation of its AM service as a golden oldies station. By the end of the decade, Key 103 was top dog among Greater Manchester’s radio listeners. Piccadilly Gold became Piccadilly Magic 1152 – later Magic 1152 and Key 2 in the 21st Century.

During the 1990s, the competition for listeners had hotted up. In 1990 we were a few years away from the arrival of INR stations (Independent National Stations). Also the arrival of small scale local stations, and regional independent stations. Those seeds were sown when Sunset Radio began broadcasting in 1989. This was also the same year when KFM went legit – after four years as a pirate station in South Manchester.

By the end of the decade, the FM band saw Key 103 up against Century 105 and Galaxy 102 at a regional level. At an more local level, Tower FM (Bolton), Wish FM (Wigan and St. Helens), and 96.2 The Revolution (Tameside, Oldham, and Rochdale) ate into their market share. Signal Cheshire, formerly KFM, became Imagine FM and steadily picked up listeners. With Piccadilly Magic 1152, Fortune 1458 (later Lite AM and today’s Gold station) appealed to the same demographic. In other words, the grey and not-so-grey pound.

Both Piccadilly Magic 1152 and Key 103 held their own against the new arrivals. Their roots as one of the first wave of ILR stations and familiar faces helped. With the stakes for advertising revenue and RAJAR figures higher than previous decades, no station could afford to skimp on its jingle packages. Greater Manchester’s two most popular ILR stations couldn’t afford to be complacent.

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Jingle package creator timeline

Please note: the jingles noted in blue refer to those covered in the previous 2015 article.

  • 1974: John Cameron/Mickie Most/CCS;
  • 1976: Steve England;
  • 1980: Alfasound Tapetrix;
  • 1981: David Riley;
  • 1984: Sue Manning Music;
  • 1986: Muff Murfin/Standard Sound;
  • 1986: Airforce;
  • 1988 (Key 103): Stowe, Bowdon and Wilson;
  • 1989 (Piccadilly 1152): Sound Ideas;
  • 1990 – 1996 (Key 103): JAM Creative Productions;
  • 1990 (Piccadilly Gold): TM Century;
  • 1992 – 1999 (Piccadilly Gold/Piccadilly 1152): JAM Creative Productions/Alfasound;
  • 1999 (Piccadilly Magic 1152): Steve England/JAM Creative Productions;
  • 1996 – 2000 (Key 103): Alfasound.

“…Live from the Heart of Manchester on 103 FM, this is the North West’s Number One radio station”

Two men more than anyone changed the course of Key 103’s history that year: Mark Storey and Keith Pringle. Hired from an Irish commercial radio station they set the station on its upward trajectory. Before Key 103 was created in September 1988, over a third of Greater Manchester’s radio listeners tuned into Piccadilly Radio on 1152 kHz and 103.0 MHz. After the FM/AM split, Key 103 had a 9% share – a disaster.

Thanks to a change of direction, 1990 not only saw a return to its roots. The station was buoyed by a seminal jingle package by JAM Creative Productions. Before 1988, Independent Local Radio stations could only source their jingles from British composers (Sue Manning Music, Cath Baxter, Standard Sound, etc). BBC Radio One and Radio Two had JAM jingles since 1976.

Our friends from Dallas gave them a memorable package which screamed “watch out Simon Mayo, a quarter of a million Mancs want to listen to Penky”. Me included, on my paper round with a pocket size AM/FM radio which took two AAA batteries. The top of the hour jingle sounded like a call for world domination – at a time when Manchester bid for The Olympic Games twice. At a time when trams returned to Piccadilly Gardens.

Yet, parts of that year’s jingle package were used by KBIG, New York City’s answer to Key 103. Another gem from JAM’s package was their traffic news bed, which you can hear in full.

https://soundcloud.com/robert-tucker-3/key-103-traffic-bed

There was also separate beds for The Top Ten at Ten, and a hummable breakfast show tune used by several other stations. Albeit with different lyrics of course. Craig Williams’ jingles website has some more Key 103 jingles alongside a number from its rival stations.

“One great song… follows another… Piccadilly Gold”

September 1990 saw the rebranding of Piccadilly 1152 as Piccadilly Gold. Pete Baker’s Sound Ideas package was quite a good one and had a more easy listening style to them. For the newly rebranded station they turned to TM Century (also known alternately as Century 21). In the main, TM Century’s jingles from 1988 to 1998 were similar to their illustrious rivals in the same city. (Which if you are a radio jingle anorak like yours truly needs little introduction). Here’s proof; please note the first Piccadilly Gold jingles are halfway through this clip:

https://soundcloud.com/aircheckdownloads/tm-century-in-the-uk-1988-1998

Piccadilly Gold’s package had the same smooth arrangements and soulful vocals. One other thing of note is the similarity to Gemini FM’s jingles. Not least the fact their package was the equal of anything that JAM Creative Productions would have done (the joys of urban agglomeration). There was no news jingle in the package: Piccadilly Gold used Piccadilly Radio’s 1980 stinger which. This gave listeners a link with the past whilst being “your music and your (slightly greying) friend”.

Of particular interest to pirate radio enthusiasts, Piccadilly’s 1980 news jingle – later Piccadilly Gold’s – was used by Radio Nordsee International. The ex-Radio Nordsee International DJ who returned to Piccadilly Plaza in the early 1990s? Roger Day. For your troubles, here’s the launch package demo from 1990:

“…Playing all your favourite songs”

The contract for Piccadilly Gold’s second set of jingles went to a rather obscure jingle makers in Dallas. Yes, The Mighty JAM Creative Productions – with a bit of help from Alfasound. At the time, Alfasound was the UK distributor JAM’s jingle packages, which reacquainted Piccadilly with Steve England. Plus it also made sense to hire JAM for Piccadilly Gold as well as Key 103.

As JAM jingles go, the 1992 package was a relaxed sibling to the lively Key 103 one. In the same way how JAM’s jingles for Radio 1 and Radio 2 complemented each other from 1976 to 1993. The 1992 package complemented the middle-of-the-road tunes that featured on Piccadilly Gold’s playlist.

Could it be [Piccadilly] Magic?

In 1998, EMAP wanted to keep the FM frequencies of its legacy ILR stations as local stations. For example, Key 103 would remain as Key 103 whereas Piccadilly Gold (on medium wave) would be a Magic station. Twenty-one years after the original Magic Music programme was aired on Piccadilly Radio, there would be 24 hours of it. Seven days a week instead of three hours on a Saturday night. The idea was ‘Magic Music’ as a quasi-local national brand. An Independent Devolved National Radio Station.

Just to complicate things, EMAP have two AM stations which broadcast on 1152 kHz: in Newcastle-upon-Tyne as well as Manchester. So Magic 1152 was on Metro’s AM band: in Manchester, Piccadilly Magic 1152 to avoid confusion.

Whereas the 1990s saw fewer bespoke jingle cuts for both Key 103 and Piccadilly 1152, the same jingles would be heard across EMAP’s network of Magic Music stations. Who did they turn to for the Piccadilly Magic 1152 package? Our friends in Dallas (Jonathan Wolfert and Co. no less) and Steve England. A pretty nifty package it was too, though with a hint of melancholy. You couldn’t hide away from the fact each part of the old Piccadilly was slowly being chipped away.

“…With today’s best music, this is the North West’s No.1”

By 1997, Key 103 turned to Alfasound. They gave them a package which best reflected the station’s lofty position in the ears of its listeners. It was also an accurate reflection of the music variety that could be heard at the time. That of Indie, dance, chart music, and rock music. Some of which could be heard in this montage below.

Back in 1997, Key 103 had just reached its imperial phase. Steve Penk moved over to Capital Radio, whereas Pete Mitchell and Geoff Lloyd would join Virgin Radio. Come the following year, its position as the North West’s Number One station would be challenged by Century 105. At the other end of the scale, Kiss 102 (later Galaxy 102) would provide some competition.

The Alfasound package was used up until the 21st century and it still sounds good today. In 2002, ReelWorld Productions took over the Key 103 account.

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Before I go…

Enjoy the jingles we have shared on this post. Remember, if there’s any gaps or errors, feel free to pull me up.

Towards Part Three

The third part will focus on Piccadilly Magic 1152’s and Key 103’s jingles from the 21st century. This part of our history will take us to the present day, where Magic 1152 becomes Key 2.

S.V., 24 February 2018.

2 thoughts on “A History of Piccadilly Radio Jingles (Part Two): The Nineties

  1. Love The PIccadilly Gold Jingles. Would love to play them to my ex pat Brits but Sound Cloud is too inconvenient for play back would it be possible to get a copy of the jingles? My email address is alan.car@bigpond.net.au If you can help that would be great thank you. My postal address is M Pop History Alan Carmichael, 8 Heather Drive Para Vista SA 5093.
    to set up. Apart from being a jingle collectorr;

    Like

    1. Hi Alan,

      The TM Century package of 1991 were pretty good, in that they sounded more unique than a set of adapted JAM or PAMS jingles.

      Being as you live in South Australia, have you tried playing them back through a VPN and setting it to the United Kingdom (supposing it might be a location issue)?

      If anybody could send a physical copy to Mr. Carmichael, please note his email address in his comment. Furthermore, if the whole audio file is more than 15MB, I recommend you should send the file(s) through WeTransfer.com.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

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