Billy Joel’s apology to Perth for his Most Inconvenient Contest.
Gary Roberts had just hit the Perth city limits from a road trip across the Nullabor when he heard Lionel York on the radio.
“I was listening to 6PM with Yorkie on the air, giving away tea bags,” the Managing Director for 96FM deadpanned.
“And as I’m driving down Greenmount Hill, I thought ‘we can do a bit better than that’.”
One of which was simply called ’96 Albums Of Your Choice’. And it’s exactly what it sounds like.
“To win 96 albums was significant,” Roberts said, “It was a lot of money.”
“Those winners were delighted and the timing of it, in the 80s, was perfect, everyone wanted albums… and they weren’t exactly cheap.”
Albums again played a part in 96FMs competition history… case and point with this bloke:
“This guy won another promotion we did where you had 96 seconds to grab as many albums as you can possibly carry,” Roberts said.
“96 seconds is actually a long time when they’re sitting in front of you and all you gotta do is stack up the ones you want, pick ‘em up and carry them out. That’s what that guy did.”
96FM also kicked off a different kind of radio contesting.
Instead of just giving away things, they would give away experiences.
“The first major one we did was sent two people to see Bruce Springsteen in the US,” he said.
“It was the start of a lot of things that we did that fell into that category and we still do today.”
One experience from the ‘80s involved Billy Joel – a very apologetic Billy Joel.
“When we first opened the radio station he was staying at The Sheraton with the band,” Roberts said.
“It was the very first concert we were tied up with and we’d set up an interview with Billy.
“So, Billy and the band literally walked down from The Sheraton, turned left down to the station and walked in the front door.
“We had a great interview with them and the guys in the band were fabulous, they had nothing better to do in Perth than come and sit with us… so we took them to lunch.”
He added that they drank Grange “because it was cheap,” before hitting the stage that night.
The next time Billy Joel came back to Perth, Roberts said it was like they were all mates,
“We had this idea about his new CD that was coming out,” he said.
“So, we put together the concept of ‘ugggh, God, this is The Inconvenient Contest’.
“I got Billy to do all the promos for us on the air, apologising saying ‘look, we’ve only got one CD to give away, the bad news is that you have to fly to New York, you have to sit through one of my concerts and, don’t worry, I’ll give you the CD and I’ll sign it, I’m sorry about the inconvenience.’
“We ran this promotion on the air for a few weeks just saying it’s the most inconvenient contest, we apologise’ and that photo is of the winner and her friend.”
Roberts, however, had one regret over Billy Joel.
“He came into the station quite a few times and we got him to sign a mini grand [piano] and outline his hands on it, which we then gave away as a prize.
“I so regret that; I’d love to have that mini grand… it was a pretty fabulous prize and he was so cooperative.
“We sort of established a relationship, I guess it happened over a bottle of Grange, and he pretty much did everything we asked him to do.
“But those were the days when rock stars would come into the radio station by themselves without management, without security, without people saying, ‘you can’t do that’.
“We had Sting simply walk into the station, Phil Collins walked in, Chris Rea – I thought he was some bum off the street that had wandered in – we saw him in concert that night and he had exactly the same clothes on.”