Pioneering underground radio show fought the good fight
On Feb. 6, 1984, CBC Radio listeners across Canada heard something the vast majority of whom had never likely heard before, least of all on CBC: underground music. Specifically, kicking things off on this momentous eve, Simple Minds’ I Promised You a Miracle. And new radio show Brave New Waves, broadcasting out of Montreal at six minutes after midnight from Sunday to Thursday, really was nothing short of a miracle, not just for alternative culture-starved Canadians right across the country, but for the musicians and artists of all stripes to whom the program gave invaluable – and mostly unobtainable elsewhere – exposure.
"I think our formula is eclectic to the point of being absurd, and all the eclecticism just precludes the possibility of becoming incredibly popular," host Brent Bambury said in a 1994 interview with Hour. "That’s the sort of self-defeating formula that seems to have been the magic number for us." But popular it was, at least among its comparatively small yet extremely devoted fan base, which enjoyed international acts like Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys and Billy Bragg, as well as Montreal bands like Déjà Voodoo, The Gruesomes and Three O’Clock Train, all of whom were mostly unheard of at the time.
For 23 years, Brave New Waves – also helmed by original host Augusta LaPaix and the much-loved, long-serving Patti Schmidt – was the subculture standard-bearer in mainstream radio, until in a controversial move, the CBC pulled the plug in early 2007. It’s still missed.