TV Cream

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Virgin 1215

Is anything bearing that logo still an ongoing concern?UTTERLY INSANE technologically regressive courting of the ‘moaner’ listenership launched amidst much ‘back to basics’ Classic Rock hoo-hah on 30th April 1993, promising some kind of revolutionary exploding of the way we listen to radio, which turned out to involve little more than ‘quallidy music’ by the likes of Eric Clapton and Simply Red, toted by the sort of presenters who’d recently been thrown out on their ear by Radio 1, and all of it in glorious Medium Wave Muffle-O-Sound. Drew spectacular fire from the likes of Danny Baker, Chris Morris and Terry Christian, and became something of a laughing stock until a BBC-fleeing Chris Evans bought out a hefty wedge of the company and installed himself on Breakfast, with loads of voluble ‘rising media star’ chums (Jonathan Ross, Gail Porter etc) in tow, when its stock rose a little. Now renamed Absolute Radio and seemingly solely concerned with capturing Razorlight in ever more advanced states of ‘live’.



  1. Matthew Rudd

    July 31, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I loved Virgin when it launched. “Classic album tracks and the best new music” – a tagline that was shunted off quietly after a year or so but stayed on billboards outside motorway service stations for literally ten years.

    Few people seem to recall that Evans was part of the launch team, doing a Saturday mid-morning show against DLT (“we have no-one here with beards!”) and a small boy used the racist ‘n’ word on his first day of broadcast. He lasted barely months before swanning off to do full-time telly and was replaced by Paul Ross and The Nescafe Big Red Mug Show.

    The medium wave nonsense added to its charm – especially as 1215 only applied to about 60{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96} of the audience and so they had to keep playing drop-ins to tell people in certain areas where to find them (“if you’re on Teesside, listen to Virgin on 1242AM”). Lest we forget also the sheer awesomeness of Nick Abbot’s late night phone-in featuring the Mad Baker Boy and a very proficient delay system which was expertly deployed due to someone saying something deeply abhorrent at least twice per night.

    Some of it was gloriously amateurish – the gig guide read in by Janey Lee Grace over a hastily-cobbled extended intro of International Bright Young Thing by Jesus Jones, and the levels being shot to bits by weekend American jock Tommy Rivers whose links were brilliant but couldn’t operate a fader to save his life. Unless he was pre-recorded…

    Branson was a hit with the tabloids over his new station, who backed his quest to get all the available FM frequencies in localities to make Virgin as keen a competitor for Radio 1 as it could. The Radio Authority opted to allow local community stations on air instead and so London remained the only area to get Virgin on the FM dial.

    The 11 O’Clock Tick Tock. Russ ‘n’ Jono. Paul Coyte overnight. Tommy Vance. It was also the station which made Kevin Greening into a national presenter, for which we should all be grateful.

  2. TV Cream

    July 31, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Course, when they got FM in London they had London opt-outs for a bit. Evans’ Saturday show was a straight continuation of his GLR show, right down to the fact it had a studio audience. I also remember in the first year or so, Jools Holland standing in for Russ’n’Jono but he couldn’t be bothered getting up early, so he was on 7-9 and Gary King had to do 6-7 and 9-10. And there was Encore, the Official Virgin Radio Magazine, which was supposed to be a rival to Q (slogan – “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll… but we like it!!!!”) and folded after one issue.

    This isn’t my observation but the openeing weekend featured The Virgin 1215, the 1,215 best songs ever – played in alphabetical order! Don’t keep listening to find out what’s number one, listen in to find out what they’ve come up with X and Z!

  3. Matthew Rudd

    August 1, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Yes, the London opt-out meant the rest of us lost Paul Coyte on nights as he went on to the London drivetime opt-out and we got any number of jocks through the night. Howard Pearce, who doubled up as the voice of the Sky News and Sky Sports IDs, was an excellent nightshift presenter but only did weekends.

    It’s worth giving some kudos to Russ Williams, who is still on the station after 16 years. His breakfast show with Jonathan Coleman sounded both slick and utterly improvised at the same time, and for a couple of years I was hooked on it. I even won “Who Do You Do” once…

  4. Sleazy Martinez

    July 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I’m glad other people remember Chris Evans on Virgin before he bought the station. I had quite an acrimonious argument with someone about this, who didn’t believe me that Evans had a mid-morning show. We were in a pub, obviously.

  5. Ged Burke

    January 26, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Virgin 1215 was great. I started listening to it in May 1994 Richard Skinner, Graham Dene and Mitch Johson and Russ and Jono were all great and for 2 years I was hooked. After that Virgin radio seemd to go down hill.

  6. Richard16378

    January 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    The whole Bannister Axe at Radio 1 really played into Virgin’s hands at the time it was launched, winning a chuck of audience stuck between R1’s drive to appeal to under 25s & Radio 2 still being a 60+ station.

    I sitll have a Virgin Radio CD that was a free gift with Cheerios in about 2000.

  7. Blake

    November 7, 2015 at 5:07 am

    My main memory of Virgin 1215 was Nick Abbot calling up other radio phone-in shows that were on air at the time, most memorably Scottie McClue, where he was waiting on hold for ages while commenting on the elderly callers and the slurring host and arguing with the switchboard operator in a faux-“Don’t you know who I am?” way before being rumbled by one of the callers who had chanced across Nick’s show. Might sound silly now but at the time it was incredibly thrilling radio.

    After that he called up LBC, taunting them about the loss of their licence (“LBC-ing you!”) – ironically it returned and he presents there now. Pretty sure that was the call that saw him slapped with a massive fine and week’s suspension. Think it might have been Kevin Greening who took over for the week with an intentionally bland and inoffensive show.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    January 16, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Virgin 1215 did a really good interview with Ritchie Blackmore and had an hour of The Who in concert one afternoon when I was driving to Newcastle. Yes the reception on 1215, the one time home of Radio 1, was never good, but to hear one of my favourite bands in concert from the seventies sure beat Lisa I Anson or the chart crap on a loop on Metro FM.

  9. Richardpd

    January 14, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    It’s an end of an era as Absolute will be dropping the AM transmitters & going to digital only soon.

    1215KHz (247 Metres) WERE used by the BBC Light Programme, Radio 1 & Radio 3 before Virgin.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    January 15, 2023 at 1:48 pm

    @ Richardpd, DAB has largely done for music radio on AM and this will be the end of an era as some of us on here are old enough to remember Radio 1 on 247 metres and the poor reception after dark.

  11. Richardpd

    January 15, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    Even Five Live & Talksport are available on DAB, so unless you have a good local station there’s not much reason to use AM. My Dad used to moan about Virgin & Radio 5 not being on FM, though I’m not sure how they could have fitted in the spectrum unless a series of local licences weren’t awarded.

    Quite a few AM stations seemed to suffer from fading at night, Radio Luxembourg was notorious for it, but some fans reckoned it added to the charm!

  12. Glenn Aylett

    January 15, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    @ Richardpd, older cars mostly don’t have DAB, and I’d imagine sports fans wanting to listen to a football phone in on Talksport or live sport on Five Live would still require AM. I’d imagine when this audience moves over to DAB, AM will go as it only has 5 per cent of the audience.

  13. Richardpd

    January 15, 2023 at 10:22 pm

    Yes that’s true, I only got a car with DAB a few months ago, which also has FM & AM.

    I can remember a few times being driven in my Dad’s car while listening to Five Live & it being affected by geography & power lines.

  14. Adrian

    January 16, 2023 at 3:43 pm

    One of the problems with DAB is that it seems to drain the batteries of battery powered radios much more quickly than AM or FM does.

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