Even in the streaming era, radio airplay remains a vital tool for an artist aiming to break into the mainstream or maintain their place at the top of your charts. When Adele returned in 2015 with Hello, the lead single from her mega-selling 25 album, the track’s radio airplay was reported to have far exceeded even its incredibly impressive streaming figures.
Ahead of National Album Day on 12th October 2019, here are five times radio has played a pivotal role in the story of hugely popular and legendary albums.
Queen - A Night at the Opera
Released in 1975, A Night at the Opera became Queen's first UK number one album and the band's first to go platinum in the US. Its success was propelled by the phenomenal popularity of Bohemian Rhapsody, which the band's record label initially considered too long and too musically eclectic to become a single. Queen and the album's producer Roy Thomas Baker took matters into their own hands by arranging for Capital Radio DJ Kenny Everett to receive a pressing of the single with strict instructions – wink, wink – not to play it on air. Everett began by teasing listeners with snippets of the song, whetting their appetites to hear all 5 minutes and 55 seconds of the mysterious single. As audience demand snowballed, Everett eventually played Bohemian Rhapsody 14 times in two days. The rest is music history: to this day, Bohemian Rhapsody is the UK's third biggest-selling single of all time.
Barbra Streisand - Greatest Hits Volume 2
Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand's 1978 hit duet You Don't Bring Me Flowers only happened because of radio DJs. Both artists had recorded the song as a solo track, but when American radio DJs began splicing their versions together to make an "unofficial duet", fans clamoured to buy a record that didn't exist. So, Columbia Records asked Diamond and Streisand to cut an official duet version, which duly reached number one in the US and number five in the UK. It also served as the lead single for Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Volume 2, which became one of her most successful albums, going five-times platinum in the UK.
Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Earlier this year, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars was named the most-played song of the 21st Century on UK radio – ahead of Pharrell's Happy and Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling. Released in 2006, the song's enormous popularity helped parent album Eyes Open to go eight-times platinum and become the UK's 58th best-selling album of all time. Asked to explain the enduring appeal of Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody told the BBC this year: "It's an emotionally open song and it's a simple song. But it's also unabashedly a love song, and we don't really have any others."
The Undertones - The Undertones
The Undertones landed their record deal after Seymour Stein, president of Sire Records, and the man who would later sign Madonna, heard their song Teenage Kicks being played by John Peel on Radio 1. Peel's support helped to turn Teenage Kicks into a hit in late 1978 and the Northern Irish band capitalised on its momentum by dropping their eponymous debut album the following May. The Undertones was voted one of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever by Q readers in 2000, and Teenage Kicks remained Peel's favourite song until his death in 2004. He said in an interview three years earlier: "There's nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it."
Jess Glynne - I Cry When I Laugh
Though she launched her career in an era where streaming has exploded, radio airplay has been crucial to Jess Glynne's ongoing success. Her hit collaboration with Rudimental, These Days, was named the UK's second most-played song of 2018, and she's appeared in the UK's "most played" top ten in four of the last five years. During that period, the London singer-songwriter has scored two number one albums, 2015's I Cry When I Laugh and 2018's Always in Between, and racked up seven number one singles – more than any other British female solo artist in history.
Check out our album picks from the story in the Spotify playlist below! And remember to follow National Album Day 2019's theme, #DontSkip, which encourages listening to an album from start to finish.
Stream an album via Bluetooth to StreamR, a portable Bluetooth speaker with DAB+ radio and one-touch Alexa. You can enjoy non-stop listening effortlessly, anywhere with up to 15 hours of battery life. Heard a track you love on the radio and want to discover the rest of the album? No problem with the DiscovR smart speaker. Add the track to a Spotify playlist with a simple tap, so you can listen again later.