Rock out: The biggest rock radio stations in the UK
Rock and roll is more than just a genre of music that started life during the 1940s.
This celebration of loud volumes, unique sounds, and compelling instrumental talent have captured the hearts and souls of listeners around the globe. Today, rock music is one of the most popular genres in the world. According to CBS News, rock and roll is perhaps the most compelling listening choice for men in the US.
It’s not just the Americans that have a deep-seated love for rock anthems and ballads, however. Here in the UK, we have our own love affair with rock and roll to consider too. Way back in the early days of radio, countless people flocked to pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline, just for a chance to listen to the latest tunes. Today, historical rock radio stations like Radio Caroline still give listeners their daily dose of Guns N’ Roses, The Police, and Pink Floyd.
To celebrate the persevering impact of rock and roll on the radio, we’re going to list some of the biggest UK rock radio stations available today – and where you can find them.
The biggest rock radio stations in the UK today
For some people, rock radio music is the perfect way to pump up some adrenaline in time for a trip to the gym. Other people simply love listening to discussions about the music genre, and how rock has evolved over the years.
Whether you’re looking for rock anthems to play on your morning commute, or you need a hardcore head-banging session to prepare for the weekend, here’s a list of UK rock radio stations with the biggest, most devoted listenerships.
1. Absolute (Classic Rock)
Absolute Radio is by far one of the best-known UK rock radio stations in the country today. Absolute stands out because it has a number of different stations and shows available depending on your preferences. For instance, there’s Absolute 70s, 60s, 80s, 90s, and 00s for people searching for rock and roll from a specific era. There’s also the simple “Absolute Classic Rock” channel for access to the greatest hits in rock history.
Absolute first debuted as one of the classic rock radio stations for the UK in 2000, under the name Virgin Radio. The station started as internet only offering, before gradually launching on DAB. Absolute Radio is particularly compelling among any list of UK rock radio stations because of its excellent selection of guest DJs, such as Richard Skinner and Alice Cooper.
Listen in at:
Sky channel 203
Virgin media channel 952
The Absolute Radio website
2. BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1 is one of the most listened-to stations in the country, and one of the best known UK rock radio stations ever to appear on the airwaves. Radio 1 has been broadcasting on FM radio since 1967. As part of the BBC ecosystem, Radio 1 is one of the first channels to introduce the UK to the wonders of radio. Every day, the daily music on radio 1 ranges from hip hop to pop and rock. The genre-specific shows for rock and roll often begin after 7pm.
For metal-heads and rock lovers, one of the most popular shows is hosted by Huw Stephens, playing from 11pm on Mondays to Fridays. Annie Mac is also well-known for playing rock tunes from 7pm through the week. The Rock Show with Daniel P Carter offers the most diverse range of rock, indie, and metal music.
If you’re looking for rock radio stations in the UK that play absolutely nothing but rock all day long – then you can’t go wrong with Kerrang. Kerrang belongs to the Bauer Radio company, and it’s available across the UK, as well as through various online platforms.
Originally, Kerrang was only broadcast across the Midlands on the FM wavelength. Kerrang also appeared on DAB for a while, but it stopped broadcasting on that wavelength in 2018. The station comes with a number of popular presenters like Alex Baker, Johnny Doom and more. It’s a great option for people who love heavier music, ranging from alt-rock and glam rock to punk and death metal.
Another possession of the Bauer Radio company, Planet Rock offers a fantastic playlist of songs from all of the sub-genres of rock and roll. You’ll find a number of great DJs on this show, including Alice Cooper, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, and even the Hairy Bikers. Planet Rock stands out with its ability to sign presenters from some of the best rock bands in history.
Radio X is very similar in style to the Absolute Classic Rock channel. The music available comes from a host of different rock sub-genres, but you’ll generally get more traditional rock instead of new releases. However, that’s not to say you don’t get any new tracks at all on Radio X.
This channel joined the list of UK rock radio stations in 1992 as XFM, before it was acquired by the Capital Group (owned by Global Radio). The Radio X branding didn’t emerge until 2015. Leading presenters of this show include Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais, and Russel Brand.
If you love listening to independent music, classic tunes, and rock and roll anthems, then you should definitely give Radio X a try.
Offering exactly what it says on the tin, the TotalRock radio station provides an incredible selection of rock and metal music every day. TotalRock isn’t as big as some of the other rock radio stations in the UK that we’ve mentioned so far. However, it’s definitely worth listening to this station if you’re searching for undiscovered artists and great songs.
Total Rock is one of the best UK rock radio stations because of its unique approach to broadcasting. This independent channel has no HQ, which means that it broadcasts from a range of different locations, with a wide variety of unique presenters, including Dom Lawson and Malcolm Dome.
TotalRock provides a mixture of old and new-age rock and metal. This unique channel also broadcasts around the world and has its own YouTube channel showcasing interviews and live music.
It’d be tough to write an article on the best UK rock radio stations without giving a shout out to one of the stations that started it all. Without the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, the music landscape in the UK might be a very different place. Radio Caroline was one of the first pirate radio stations in the UK to take its broadcasting equipment offshore in an attempt to deliver a more diverse selection of music to listeners nationwide.
Although Radio Caroline might not be the same pirate station that it was when it first emerged in the 60s, it still delivers an excellent selection of rock music anthems and other great songs to listeners across the UK from its new digital platform.
The rock and roll landscape has evolved significantly over the years, driven by a rising demand for new genres and sub-genres of rock. However, accessing this fast-paced and eclectic music hasn’t always been easy in the UK. Way back in the 60s, Britain was still stuck listening to the somewhat bland music and shows provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The 60s didn’t offer any opportunities for youngsters to listen to the rock and roll that we love today. Commercial radio hadn’t emerged yet, and the BBC seemed to consider rock and roll to be uncouth, immoral, and unfit for the world of public broadcasting.
Indeed, it was a demand for new genres of music like rock that led to the emergence of the pirate radio ships that changed broadcasting as we knew it. While pirate radio stations we common in locations all around the world during the early years of radio, the UK’s approach to pirate broadcasting seemed to be heavily linked to the growth of rock music.
Pirate stations gave listeners of the era a chance to explore something new. It meant that audiophiles around the UK could finally get a taste of the music that had previously been rejected and muted by leaders like the BBC. Even after the Marine Offences Act came into force and pirate radios were largely shut down, we saw huge communities returning to pirate broadcasting as a way of representing unheard artists. Black music stations like the Dread Broadcasting Corporation, Kiss FM, and LWR jumped back into pirate radio as a way of bringing hip hop, funk and other rejected music genres to the masses.
Now, there are still groups all around the UK that are committing to building their own radio stations from scratch, in an attempt to avoid the restrictions and guidelines of commercial broadcasting. For instance, one of the UK’s most popular stations, NTS Live, was born in 2011 in an attempt to bring more diverse music and shows to listeners nationwide.
The UK’s passion for rock radio stations and new styles of music helped to spark an enduring era of rebellion in the radio landscape.
What’s the best rock radio station in the UK now?
So, what is the best rock radio station that the UK has to offer today?
Ultimately, that all depends on who you ask. Over the years, every aspect of radio has evolved, from the way that we broadcast, to the strategies that stations use to make money. As radio moved beyond being a solution specifically designed for communication purposes, we’ve seen countless brands discovering the benefits of experimenting with different kinds of rock and roll.
The wide selection of stations available on the market today is likely one of the reasons why 89% of the British population currently listens to the radio for around 21 hours each week.
Some of the leading UK rock radio stations (besides the ones we’ve mentioned already) are:
Magic radio: A contemporary station offering a blend of rock hits and other music options, available on 105 FM in London, and at magic.co.uk.
Greatest Hits: A network of radio stations in the UK owned by Bauer radio. This station offers a combination of classic hits, rock music, and news. Available on 96.5 FM, dab, AND MW 828.
NME Radio 1:This digital station offers a wide selection of different music genres, including indie and alternative rock.
24-7 Rock N’ Roll: A digital radio station that delivers constant rock music, rhythm and blues, country and more. There are no adverts on this station at all.
While your definition of the best UK rock radio stations will depend on your preferences and ideal style of rock music, the most listened-to station in the UK has to be Radio 1. Since it began broadcasting in 1967, Radio 1 from the BBC has emerged as one of the leading sources of music and news in the UK. Today, you can tune into BBC1 for complete 24-hour broadcasts that cover everything from rock and roll, to news and talk shows. Currently, the station has around 9.3 million listeners every week.
Finding your ultimate rock radio station
The number of radio stations in the UK is growing every day, with countless local and niche providers emerging to serve a diverse selection of music lovers. Thanks to the wide selection of listening options available in everything from FM broadcasting to DAB and internet radio it’s easier than ever to find a channel that appeals to your style of music.
If you’re looking for the best UK rock radio stations, then there are plenty of great choices out there, from BBC Radio 1 with its diverse selection of unique music shows to choose from, to Kerrang! Which focuses exclusively on rock and roll.