Original Xfm – The Start

“Xfm – London’s First Alternative – and maybe the last…”

was one of the jingles/liners used by the station which should have ultimately taken up the gauntlet left by John Peel, and ran with it far into its musical future. Instead, it was sold out, bought up, and spat out by the then Capital Radio Group (now Global), and while it is now ‘edgier’ than its better known sister stations, there is no doubt that it lost ‘its “X” appeal. 🙁


The origins of the original Xfm begin in the bedroom of one Mr. Sammy Jacob (known as Sammy Jay) in Hackney, East London. He originally started the station as a pirate called “Q102”. He had first started as a presenter on Horizon and Solar Radio’s playing soul music, and then started helping out with behind-the-scenes duties on Solar, before going his own way, launching Q102 in 1989.

Launching on New Year’s Day 1989, Q102 featured light soul, soft rock, and jazz during the evening, similar to CD93, but playing rock during the day. Later, it axed the soul side, focussing on rock and indie music – so called as most of the bands featured were signed to INDEpendent record labels. Programmes were broadcast on Saturday only, from his flat in Leyton, and the transmitter in a nearby block of flats in Leytonstone. The equipment had been supplied by former Solar Radio engineer, Mr. Keith Renton. The studio was eventually moved to another flat in Clapton.

Q102 was originally largely pop and rock biased with presenters including Sammy Jay, Donald Johnson, and Bob Matthews (Bob Mower) who had recently moved from CD93/CD103, and previously to that Radio’s Jackie and Caroline. However, when other presenters such as NME’s Steve Lamacq and Adrian Gibson went “on-air”, the station developed more of an indie format, with jingles from many of the Q102 stations in America, and used more tongue-in-cheek than because they fitted with the new format. Similary to Horzion, presenters paid  £10 a week to be on Q102, although it is thought that more often than not, the money came out of Sammy Jay’s pocket for the upkeep of the station as there were no real commercials, although record companies supplied promos to support it, and it seemed to have run into little trouble from the authorities.

Q102 ran for not much longer than a year, then Sammy Jacob started campaigning for a licence for an indie station in London. He did this by running a number of Restricted Service Licence broadcasts in London, and at festivals, using the Xfm name. After much campaigning, including losing out to the likes of Heart and Virgin Radio’s, Sammy finally won the so-called ‘last ever licence in London’, and the station launched on 1st September, 1997.

Whilst the launch of the station was much applauded, especially by artists and bands who got precious little airtime elsewhere, except for limited slots on the then BBC GLR, evening strands on Radio One, The John Peel’s programme, and by those who enjoyed listening to music that wasn’t effectively the Top 40 on rotation, the circumstances against the station being a success were already in place, and almost all of which, were entirely out of its control.

Click here to find out about the end of Xfm.

Check out the Xfm Gallery.