Double J is 10 years old. Here are 10 highlights from its first decade

Double J is 10 years old. Here are 10 highlights from its first decade
  • PublishedApril 28, 2024

Next Tuesday, Double J celebrates its 10th anniversary, with a star-studded array of guests set to drop by to be a part of the celebrations. If you’ve never listened, here’s how to get on board wherever you are.

What follows here is not an exhaustive list of the best things Double J has done: How could it be when it doesn’t include Tim Ross and Paul Kelly’s Christmas specials, our broadcast of Crowded House live from the Opera House, or our annual all-killer New Year’s Eve playlist?

That’s the beauty of radio: Everyone’s connection to it is different, and each of those connections is as special and important as each other.

So, in celebration of this momentous anniversary, here are just 10 of the many big things that have come from Double J’s first 10 years.

The launch of Double J

With performances from Paul Dempsey and Kate Miller-Heidke, a speech from then-ABC managing director Mark Scott, and then-Double J Lunch host Myf Warhurst smashing the shit out of a small guitar for some reason, we were off.

For those who don’t know, Double Jay was the original name of the ABC’s youth radio station, before it rebranded to triple j when it switched to the FM band in 1980.

But we wanted to make a radio station for music lovers who no longer felt completely at home with the youth-focused triple j.

It can be difficult reclaiming the name of a much-loved cultural institution, and it’s something we did not take lightly. So, of course, there was a lot of discussion about what the first song on the new Double J would be.

Let’s cut to the chase: We did not start with Skyhooks classic You Just Like Me ‘Cos I’m Good in Bed, the banned song that was the first thing played on the original Double Jay in 1975. We chose Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ 2004 song Get Ready for Love.

Cave has been one of the key artists for almost the entirety of Double/triple j history, and one we continue to support this day.

His music has never really sat comfortably on any other Australian radio network, and the energy and sentiment of the song just felt right.

Hottest 100 replays

Some people find their enjoyment of triple j’s Hottest 100 diminishes with every passing year. No Grampa Simpson memes here; nobody’s making you feel bad for not liking the music that’s exciting to those in their teens and early 20s.

In early 2017, we decided to wind the clock back 20 years and replay the Hottest 100 of 1996 for those of us who want to relive the countdowns that soundtracked some of the biggest parties of our younger days.

Countless incredible moments have stemmed from these revived countdowns. Alex Lloyd lamented the way he handled fame in the 00s, Australian musicians wrote a love letter to a Powderfinger classic, and Tim Shiel tracked down the listener who won triple j’s big Hottest 100 prize 20 years ago

By far the most controversial moment came when we decided to let the audience have another crack at voting in the Hottest 100 of 1999, which was initially won by The Offspring for their divisive earworm Pretty Fly (for a White Guy).

Despite our insistence that we were just having fun, and not at all trying to rewrite history, Offspring fans were not thrilled with the idea, even though the band themselves thought it was a great move.

“We totally get it,” the band’s guitarist Noodles posted on social media in February 2019. “Our song may have been played a time or two too many.

“So let’s fix this historical error by voting for The Living End’s Save The Day as the #1 song of 1998. They had 3 songs in the top 20 that year. They earned it!”

Much as we appreciated the sentiment, it didn’t work out the way Noodles had planned. When The Offspring posted the link to their millions of fans, those fans all went and voted for Pretty Fly anyway and it romped home in our re-counted Top 10.

Reliving the Hottest 100 of 20 years ago is still an annual tradition – be sure to join us when we relive the 2004 countdown early next year.

Musical Chairs

For a short while in 2015 and 2016, Double J hosted a YouTube series called Musical Chairs.

The premise was simple: Get an amazing artist, put them in an amazing space, let the magic happen.

Our live music and video teams really outdid themselves on these stunning videos, which could be one of the most underrated things Double J has ever produced. Check out this incredible performance from the late, great Sharon Jones at Sydney Town Hall.

Then watch these clips from Alabama ShakesLeon BridgesWaxahatcheeThe Milk Carton KidsShakey Graves and Aussies including Emma DonovanTim Rogers & the BamboosSteve Smyth, and more.

It’s not the only video series in Double J’s history. We also welcomed everyone from The National to Grinspoon to Missy Higgins for the Finish This Sentence series in 2018. Minutes of fun for the whole family.

Take 5 comes to Double J

We stole Zan Rowe from triple j in 2018, and we’re still not sorry about it. This also meant we got to take the excellent Take 5, which fills us with pride every week.

A few key live events brought Take 5 to the people, kicking off with an enthralling conversation between Rowe and the legendary Ice Cube at Sydney Opera House in 2018.

Then there was a deep chat with the great Warren Ellis amid a freezing Hobart winter, and an intimate evening with the mighty Briggs in his hometown of Shepparton as part of triple j’s Shepparton takeover in 2022.

And now it’s a whole bloody TV show!

As incredible as these achievements are, the best thing about Take 5 will always be exploring the depth of our connection to music.

Whether it’s Kylie Minogue gushing about Donna Summer, Wet Leg telling us why we need to hear new Irish singer-songwriter CMAT, or Hilltop Hoods giving us a history lesson in Australian hip hop, Take 5 is a fulfilling offering for anyone who’s ever felt glee, sadness or comfort from a piece of music.

A place to grieve and celebrate

The rumours started coming through late in the afternoon on Monday January 11, 2016. Within about half an hour, it was confirmed: David Bowie was dead.

Bowie’s music and legacy had been a key part of the Double J story over the preceding years.

He played a major role in our first-ever Artist in Residence, as Robert Forster vividly recounted the life-changing moment of hearing Bowie as a 15-year-old in suburban Brisbane.

We hosted our first-ever outside broadcast from the David Bowie Is… exhibition at ACMI, less than six months before his death. And Bowie’s final album Blackstar had been our Feature Album just the week prior.

The next big blow came three months later, when we woke to the confounding news that Prince had also died. The enigmatic genius had just been in Australia, where he’d blown our minds with a string of intimate solo shows. And now he was gone.

On both occasions, Double J scrapped every plan in the wake of the awful news and turned the radio over to the artists — we played nothing but their music for days while we came to terms with the loss of such legends.

We’ve had to say goodbye to far too many brilliant artists over the past 10 years to mention them all, but these two blows in such a short space of time were especially significant. These artists had never played by the rules and remained creative, compelling and brilliant to the very end. Their deaths were unexpected and deeply affecting.

It’s an honour to act as a space where music fans can both grieve and celebrate the incredible lives and careers of these stars who changed our lives.

Back to the Big Day Out

In October of 2019, we went all-in on a celebration of the now-defunct Big Day Out — one of the most iconic music events on the planet.

We spoke to plenty of people who were there. We celebrated the music of the artists who made it so special. We looked at the changes it inspired in our country’s music scene.

But the most vital thing to come from it was the brilliant Inside The Big Day Out podcast.

If you have even the remotest interest in a great music story, you must hear this show. It’s an immersive trip into the event that looks at it from all angles.

You hear about how it got started, how it got to be so popular, how it was rocked by the tragic death of Jessica Michalik, and how it ultimately crumbled after its 2014 event – all from the mouths of those who were right there amongst it.

The J Files

One of the biggest undertakings for the new Double J team way back in the mid-10s was to bring back The J Files, the music history program that had been responsible for teaching a lot of us about our favourite artists through the 90s and 00s.

The music history show launched with a deep dive into the great Something for Kate, and has covered literally hundreds of artists and musical movements in the decade since.

Where else are you getting a beginner’s guide to System of a Down one week, a deep-dive on the brilliant No Fixed Address the next, and then a look back at the impact of Camp Cope?

On the radio show, acts including Hot Chip and Groove Armada broke down their biggest hits for us. The Audreys’ Taasha Coates gave a beautiful tribute to her deceased co-founder Tristan Goodall. I got into arguments about The Cure, The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival with Gemma Pike and Richard Kingsmill.

We had lots of fun outside of the radio side of things, too. Teeth and Tongue performed perhaps the best cover of The Smiths’ There Is a Light That Never Goes Out you’ll ever hear. We played Aphex Twin songs to strangers to gauge their reactions. Somehow, someone convinced Kingsmill to dress up as a member of Daft Punk.

The J Files has been an amazing source of education, and also a great excuse for us to dig into the rich triple j and ABC archives and unearth some gold that may have otherwise been lost to history.

Special shout-out to recent host Caz Tran, whose long-running Classic Albums series has served much the same purpose.

Go Bang!

No one has enough time to read all the things, hear all the albums, watch all the shows and critique all the fashion in this world.

So, Myf Warhurst and Zan Rowe decided they’d take one for the team and unpack the biggest stories of the week in their podcast Bang On.

Hundreds of episodes later, we still cherish every recommendation and every explanation they offer us.

Listening to podcasts is generally a solo endeavour, but listening to Bang On feels more like checking in on a really good group chat.

When you’re listening and laughing along to an episode of Bang On, you know you’re in a safe space.

This podcast has become way more than a round-up of pop culture stuff we don’t have time to consume ourselves. After a while, listeners started referring to themselves as Bang Fam, and it really has come to feel like a family.

Need proof? Massive crowds have flocked to see Warhurst and Rowe on Bang On’s first-ever national tour and the feedback has been glowing.

The 50 best albums

Ever get to the end of the year and discover that you can’t recall any of the great music you discovered this year?

Or, even worse, that you have barely listened to any new music at all?

Every summer, Double J has tried to help by printing a cheat sheet of what we believe to be the 50 best albums of the year. It’s a pretty democratic process – we all pitch in our votes and sometimes have some heated discussions about what makes the cut and what misses out. You’d be surprised how quickly we get to 50 amazing albums.

Looking back on the 500 albums that moved us over the years is part-nostalgia trip/part-reminder of some great pieces of art. When’s the last time you spun Rosie Lowe’s beautiful Control album, or Charlie Collins’s excellent debut Snowpine?

We’ve expanded the “50 best” concept too, shining a light on everything from film soundtracks to the most under-appreciated songs and the very popular most influential women of the 90s.

Welcome to the house of fun

It was a couple of years into Double J before we convinced Richard Kingsmill to put together a show for us. It was, without question, very much worth the wait.

For years, The Funhouse was the destination for the best party soundtrack of the week.

Sometimes Richard would just let loose and play the songs he thought we’d want to hear, other times he’d pull together fun shows based on themes. His year-focused decade specials were legendary, and we’ll never forget his “backyard blues” episode during COVID.

Kingsmill was a key part of Double J’s inception, as was our former boss Meagan Loader. Both left the ABC late last year, but their impact on this place and Australian music culture will not be soon forgotten.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface, though. So many people have worked tirelessly to make Double J an exciting space for music lovers over the past decade.

Announcers including Karen Leng and Tim Shiel have been with us since day one, as has our brilliant music director Dot Markek. Our live music team have set up in muddy fields and beautiful theatres to help showcase some of the greatest live talent from Australia and beyond.

In the past decade, we’ve had a ton of incredible people in front of and behind the mic, all pulling together to create something geared towards people who love music (and who just happen to not be 18 anymore).

Double J isn’t stopping or slowing down any time soon. Whether you’ve been rusted on since day one or are still yet to listen, please give us a go.

We promise you’ll be joining a great community of people who care about music just as much as you do.


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