Maintain the rage

If there’s one way to know you have made it in the music industry it’s when you get a call from the ABC to be a guest programmer on rage. It’s the television equivalent of being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Not only is it the ultimate “desert island discs” wishlist, but you are following in the footsteps of legendary musos before you.

“Often with Australian artists we get the ‘oh my god I’ve wanted to do that for so many years!’ We often get that little speech, which is great,” says producer Narelle Gee.

“I got a letter from a band the other day saying it was ‘an honour to appear on a show that we’ve watched since we were in nappies.’ Which was a cute line.”

Gee has seen a lot of changes at rage in her 12 years at the ABC.

“It used to be very, very low tech. We’d be pushing around enormous trolleys with one video on each tape.”

These days the show is the polar opposite to its early beginnings, afforded contemporary equipment and the respect of the music industry. In a game where pop is as disposable as a 3.30 minute song, rage has endure for 21 years. Admitting she is an “extremely late 30’s” Gee comes from a background in street press, and relies on many sources to stay in touch with tastes of a younger demographic.

“Community radio, the record companies, publicists, managers –we’re drowning in new music and information,” she says.

“We still take notice of what’s hitting the various kinds of charts too. There’s so many different kinds of charts now.

“We suck up music from all sorts of different sources. It’s great that everyone has a myspace page. Before we’d just be getting random videos with an address on them and that’s about it. If the music’s good and the video’s good we don’t really care if they don’t have a profile. It doesn’t hurt of course. If a new video’s good it gets on the show,” said Gee.

It was John Safran who once cheekily attached a video camera to his dog with looping music just to prove that “…even a dog can get a video on rage.”

These days rage is usually more structured, but with the appearance of being free-form.

“Every Friday night its new releases and new music so we’re always getting new audience in,” she said. “We’ve kept a lot of the previous audience as well. Our demographics are all over the place. Everything from the kids who love pop releases on Saturday mornings to an 80 year old who sent us a fan letter.”

Having such a diverse crowd means it is a challenge to satisfy the viewing audience, particularly one that can be so vocal about the content.

“There’s such a wide mix of genres that we try and give everybody a little bit of what they like. We’re not very locked into what genres we play, it just depends what part of the show you might find yourself landing.

“The metal fans are always saying ‘play more metal.’ We always have metal at a 3:30 morning timeslot. At 4:00 it’s a little bit of an indie zone, with completely unknown stuff that doesn’t really fit in anywhere. It can be kind of eye-popping, you don’t quite know what might happen. And then around 4:30 we tend to go into urban dance and then into more popular music for the morning.

“But we start Friday night with whatever we think is the best video of the week, which can be any genre. Whatever we think is the most ‘rage-worthy’ clip of the week.”

rage has also been recognised for its tribute nights to artists like Madonna, Kylie and Prince. But showing a degree of taste, the programme is also highly selective about which artists are ‘worthy’ of such status.

“Someone who has an amazing back catalogue of videos like Madonna is definitely worthy. As soon as we play one we always get harangued by Madonna fans saying, ‘when’s the next one?’

Each January rage gets retro replaying old Countdown and Rock Arena specials too. Lately the show has been enjoying ‘concept specials’ built around different themes, including a ‘weird science’ night (technology, robots and space) and a ‘rage gets sweaty’ special for the Olympics.

“A recent one we did was the Wildcard Special where we just shuffled the deck and pulled out all these random, weird stuff that hadn’t been played for a while.”

Last month it also showed how it responds to news in the music world, when it slotted in clips by Isaac Hayes following his sudden death.

“We like to acknowledge them, especially if they’ve been on the programme a lot. Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckey .. we like to do an obit or show our respect. Michael Hutchence’s death was actually a Saturday so I came rushing into work to make sure INXS was on the show that night.”

But rage has also come under fire for a decision to drop its Top Fifty, a move the network imposed to shift the show away from the Video Hits style shows on commercial television. It was a decision that, ironically, sparked rage amongst long-term viewers.

“That was massive” acknowledges Gee, “it was such a popular thing. We still do a kind of new hits section at 6-8 on a Saturday morning. It was a management decision that maybe (the Top 50) wasn’t right for the ABC. Certainly the audience weren’t too thrilled with it. We still get people lobbying…”

Gee said there were no plans to return the Top Fifty.

The show also posts its playlists on its website www.abc.net.au/rage where viewers can see what’s coming up.

“We like to finalise that as late as possible to make sure Friday night new releases are as new as we can possibly have them. We don’t completely finalise the show until Friday morning and then we put the playlist up on the afternoon. On Thursday afternoon we give a rundown of the main new releases.”

This weekend the show has another ‘Wildcard’ special with a Radiohead clip previously unaired in Australia (“Pop is Dead”), plus Urge Overkill, an old Sugar Cubes clip, Yellow, and a guy from the UK who sings his song by “baa-ing” along with a flock of sheep.

rage screens late nights Friday and Saturday on ABC1.

15 Comments:

  1. Awww c’mon Top 50 purists!!! The pop crap STILL gets more of an airing than the alternative stuff on TV as a whole. You’re just not getting your dream format which may be a bit disappointing but your favourite “artists” (and I use the term VERY generously with the Top 50) get plenty of exposure.

    Look at music TV shows of the world – we have a truly unique show in Rage with its format. They manage BRILLIANTLY to please all of the people at some point of their time.

    They still play plenty of Top 50 stuff – what difference does it make that it’s in numerical order from a superfluous chart?! Talk about spoilt brat whining!!! Were you guys always given what you wanted by stamping your feet?

  2. I’ve been an ARIA subscriber since the very early 90s (yes, I’m a chart geek!) and watching clips on the net just isn’t the same. If all of the people who complained on the Rage forum actually wrote to ABC management (rather than just posting on the forum, which isn’t read by management), they’d probably put the Top 50 back on! I wrote to them, but received no response. Oh well.

  3. Rage and I haven’t been on speaking terms since Natasha Schaade won MY competition in 1998 to guest programme Rage…it was my dream! And this girl won just by cutting and pasting some nonsense about Jeff Buckley!

    It’s just too painful…

  4. In this day and age of technology, if you really miss the top 50, subscribe to the ARIA website have them post you the charts every week and simply download the clips off the net 🙂

  5. I’ve barely watched Rage since they stopped playing the Top 50. Having recorded the entire Top 50 every week since 1988, I was devastated when they scrapped it. I know it wasn’t Rage’s fault – the ABC told them that they couldn’t show it any more – but still, it took away an integral part of the show and they’ve struggled to replace it. The rock/alternative crowd have always had their clips shown overnight on Rage, but now chart buffs have nowhere to turn for their music fix. I now watch pop videos on the Internet, but it’s just not the same as watching the entire Top 50 countdown uninterrupted and without annoying hosts or ads.

    Thanks for the great article, David!

  6. Mac: The Rage Top 50 was enough to let us watch the videos uninterrupted, and unpolluted by plugs for SMS ringtones, rowdy competitions, ditzy presenters, commercial breaks/product placements and network cross-promotions.

    And also the music video shows on the commercial networks are all on at the same time. ABC2 could run the Top 50 in an alternative timeslot that doesn’t clash with the commercial rivals, and it wouldn’t bother whatever they do with Rage on ABC1.

  7. I don’t understand the support for the Top 50 stuff. The three commercial stations are supplying that rubbish in bountiful supply with Video Hits, Music Jungle and whatever the heck identical show Channel 7 just brought in. There’s PLENTY of airing for the commercial dreck. Viva Rage’s commitment to giving real music a fair go where everyone else is too gutless to take chances!

    Oh and Axel Whitehead: Poor man’s Maroon 5 in one person.

  8. I agree with itsross, no reason I think why Rage couldn’t continue the Top 50 on ABC2 and perhaps in an alternative timeslot like one night a week, or on Saturday afternoons when they’re currently showing a cut-down version of Rage anyways.

    I seem to recall that the current intro to Rage is in fact the original although I read somewhere that it was changed at one point and there was such outcry over it they ended up re-instating it.

  9. I woke up to Rage Top Fifty every Saturday morning when I was a kid. When they took it off when I was older I was devastated. I felt like a part of my past was missing.

    I’m sick of this jtv stuff. I used to be so knowledgable about all the latest music video clips and at school I’d know what the cool clips were and what wasn’t. Now because Rage finishes at 8 in the morning, I hardly ever get to see it. Whenever someone at school mentions a video clip, I’ve never ever seen it.

    Saturday morning Rage used to be the best part of my weekend. I would be excited all week just to see the Top 50 and the new releases. Now I haven’t seen it in about a year.

    PLEASE BRING BACK RAGE TOP 50!

  10. PS Please don’t ever change the rage opening and closing vid. Is that the original? It sure looks like it. It’s great. I’ve even seen the stock video they use in some other shows, as recently as just a few months ago in Australia’s Next Top Model.

  11. *Mac puts on misty specs…*

    First time I saw Rage was when I arrived in Aus back in 1995. I was jetlagged from the UK and was up all night in Kalgoorlie with just the one station to watch late at night. They did a Kylie special playing every Kylie track which was bordering on the agonizing, but was fascinating to see her trajectory.

    The next week, they played a New Order special (my fave band ever) and TOTALLY redeemed themselves. I’ve been glued ever since.

    The Saturday specials are ALWAYS worth a look. They segue videos effortlessly and play plenty of stuff that simply would never get a look in on the desperate commercial pop-zine shows. Thankfully, by the time they get round to the top 40 garbage, I’ve totally dozed off.

    The ONLY thing I can fault is the fact that whilst Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” and “Come To Daddy” are incredible pieces of music (and I am a longtime fan), they’ve surely been played more than ANY other video in Rage history. But that’s testament to the guest programmers and the influence of Richard James’ music.

    In fact, Narelle how’s this for a Saturday night special : Rage’s Top 40 Most Played videos Of All Time?

  12. Yep, I’ll admit it, I still wish they had the Top 50. There is now no longer any tv show that plays video clip Top 50s or Top 20s without ads anymore 🙁

    Rage will always be cool though hehe.

    Dak.

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