Illustration: Michael Cottage /

The longest running music show of its kind on UK radio celebrates its 40th birthday this year, with a host of activities planned to mark the occasion. The current presenter of the Popular Music Show, Roger Hill, guides us through the plans.

PMS @ 40 Image 2

On Friday 10th June 1977, BBC Radio Merseyside broadcast for the first time a programme which would become the longest running alternative music programme on UK radio. Then it was called Rockaround, and was presented by Station Assistant Phil Ross. Five years later, when Phil moved to work for the BBC in London, the programme was handed to myself, and is still going strong, 40 years after that first broadcast.

40 years in the ever-shifting and volatile world of alternative music is a long time and worth celebrating, so that’s what we’re doing. Starting back on 19th February, for 40 weeks we will be broadcasting commissions of music created by local musicians, and musicians and sound-artists associated with the programme. These will be specially-written for PMS, and often reference its 40 years, the year it began (1977), or one of the numbers between 0 and 40. The first commission was a piece – For 40 Pianos – by local composer and pianist Neil Campbell, composed specially for PMS’ anniversary year. Future commissions will be arriving courtesy of local band Rongorongo, sound artist Germanager, and composers Philip Jeck and Joseph Livingstone – all close friends of the show.

Also, each week, we’ll be delving into the Programme Archive from those 40 years to find outstanding music or interviews which capture the flavour of the times and which catch a moment for the 2017 present. The first dip into the programme’s 40 years of archives unearthed a wide-ranging and, sometimes, hilarious interview with Mark E. Smith of post-punk survivalists The Fall. Later in the year, there will be some special celebratory events out in the Merseyside music scene.

“If there were only ten people listening to Roger Hill’s programme, you could bet your dole money they would be making the most interesting music on Merseyside in the next five years” Bill Drummond

And the listeners have a part to play in all this. We’d like to hear about people’s memories of the programme, favourite moments and features and how alternative music has changed over four decades. They can do this on Facebook, via email ( or through our website, which is still the best place to go to for information about us and what we broadcast. We are welcoming people to share their favourite listening moments with our on-air audience.

The end of this series of activity will coincide with BBC Radio Merseyside’s 50th Birthday, which will create an even wider conversation around PMS’ place at the heart of a station serving the specific needs of a community – especially one as music-oriented at Liverpool’s. 40 years, and counting.

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