With Dean Blundell’s dismissal, new music station decided to experiment
This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 26
Corus Entertainment’s Toronto station 102.1 The Edge is harkening back to its days as a flag-bearer for the alternative music scene with a new weekly show.
The “Spirit of Radio Sunday” debuts March 9, and will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. According to Corus, the show will feature artists that defined the alternative rock format, including U2, the Police, Depeche Mode, New Order, Sex Pistols and Clash.
Dave Farough, general manager of Corus Radio Toronto, compared the new show with sister station Q107’s weekly show “Psychedelic Psunday,” a show dedicated to late 60s/early 70s psychedelic music that he said has emerged as one the station’s of the most popular shows.
“We’re going to watch it very closely and, if it’s a huge success, we may sprinkle some of those songs through the regular playlist as well,” said Farough. “I don’t know who it’s going to attract, but I bet it attracts a large audience and a very wide audience. I think anybody from 18 to 60 is going to be interested in this.”
The show’s name evokes memories of the early days of CFNY, which employed “the spirit of radio slogan” that inspired a 1980 song of the same name by Canadian rock icons Rush. The slogan has been trademarked since 1985, and is the basis of a website that celebrates the station’s legacy and its impact on the Canadian music scene.
Farough said that he’s mindful of the potential pitfalls of incorporating older songs into a younger-skewing station. “I want to be able to pay tribute to the heritage, but I also don’t want the radio station to sound old,” he said. “I don’t want it to sound like we’re going backwards. The Edge is a very forward-thinking brand, it’s for people who are optimistic, excited about the future and I don’t want it to suddenly feel like we’re an alternative classic rock station.”
Scot Turner, a DJ with The Edge’s forerunner CFNY between 1982 and 1984, will host the show. Turner, currently brand director for the Corus Entertainment radio stations 91.5 The Beat and 107.5 Dave FM in Kitchener, created and hosted or co-hosted various feature shows on CFNY during that time, including “Live in Toronto” and “The Thursday Thirty.”
Farough said that Corus decided to put The Edge “up on the hoist” after dismissing popular morning show host Dean Blundell for making questionable on-air comments in January.
“We took a step back and looked at the whole radio station and thought, ‘Now that we’ve got this opportunity to upgrade in the morning and try something new, why don’t the whole station up on the hoist and see what we can do to make it more exciting and more interesting?’” he said. “Not that it was a bad radio station before, but every once in a while you need to step back and take a look at what you’re doing.”
Farough said that management made some surprising discoveries, such as the fact the station was only playing 8-12 minutes of music per hour during “The Dean Blundell Show,” which had become largely personality driven.
“It seemed like we’d swung the pendulum too far in one direction, and I think we need to bring it back more to the middle,” he said. “Personality is still absolutely key because the personalities between the songs are the only thing that set us apart from Spotify and Rdio and Pandora and all those streaming services. We have to continue to have great personalities, continue to talk about things that the audience cares about… but we also need to understand what made this radio station great in the first place, and that was the music.”
Farough said that Corus continues to seek for a successor to Blundell, trying various hosts including afternoon host “Fearless Fred” Kennedy and Josie Dye, a 14-year veteran of the station, in the morning drive slot. “I just want to make sure that whoever we do put in is in it for the long term,” he said. “I want to build something for the next five to 10 years.”
He said that the station wouldn’t shy away from edgy personalities like Blundell. “We want to continue to do things on the radio that make people go ‘Wow’,” he said. “We want to continue to push people’s emotional hot buttons for sure, otherwise it’s boring. The Edge is for people who like the envelope pushed a little bit…so we need to reflect that on-air. It’s okay to rattle people’s chains once in a while – it wakes them up.”