Saturday, October 5, 2013
That Radio Never Played What I Wanted To Hear
There were times, when I was an adolescent, when I would tie up the phone for a long, long while trying to get through to a radio station. I wasn't trying to win concert tickets or $103.5 in cash, and I wasn't trying to win a trip to some exotic locale. I was simply trying to get through to the DJ in order to request a song.
Back then I had no idea that radio stations had playlists put together by Program Directors, and that the unpaid intern answering the phone who earnestly assured me that she would pass my request on to the DJ was simply following the station's protocols. Back then I honestly thought that my good taste in music would be rewarded with the playing of my request over the airwaves.
There was a summer when I was absolutely in love with The Clash's London Calling album, and I would call the local rock station (KGB FM in San Diego) and plead with them to play Clampdown, by far my favorite tune on the album. I was actually told numerous times that my request would be coming up soon, and countless times I stayed by the radio eager to hear it.
Never happened, not once. The first time I ever heard Clampdown by the Clash on the radio was 6 years later, on 91X, a radio station that had converted from an album orientated rock format to a rock of the '80's format while I was away from San Diego playing wingnut.
The station featured a DJ on their morning show (named "The Breakfast Club," as were hundreds of other radio station morning shows of that era) who seemed to have the clout to play a lot of what he himself actually liked to hear, which was startlingly close to what I liked to hear. Bryan Jones would spin a tune by the Jam and follow it up with a tune by the 'mats, which to my ears was pure heaven.
91X became my station of choice for the most part, until the rock of the '80's format morphed into a modern rock top forty station, which meant they went from playing unheard and unproven up and coming bands to only that which was proven to appeal to the 16 to 24 year-old market...and they repeated what that demographic wanted to hear over and over and over again.
I had learned by then that popular music was first and foremost a business, and I was as far from the core demographic for radio stations as one could get.
I ended up leaving San Diego right around the time the rock of the '80's format became the Modern Rock format. I imagine some PR guy decided the term Modern Rock sounded newer and wouldn't need updating on the letterheads and stationary every ten years.
Some years ago I read that Bryan Jones, the DJ that had first played music over the radio that I truly liked to hear, had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 49. I can remember feeling saddened when I read the news. He was a unique character, and the world is the worse for his passing.
These days I rarely listen to the radio, at least not to stations that play music. The radio stations in and around Denver are all very narrow in their formats, even those that purport not to be - those stations just play the "alternative" music that is readily digestible to their target market, and not much else.
Fortunately, technology has come to my rescue. The advent of first, satellite radio, and now Internet radio, has made it possible for me to hear the music I want to hear, whether it's an moldy oldie (Yep, Power Pop and Punk from the late '70's and early '80's is now moldy oldie music) or the latest oddly-named (Rock ran out of good names for bands about twenty years ago) noise makers, I can hear it over my computer. It is truly a wonderful thing.
It's also a bit ironic though - now I have grown to really like a lot of the late '70's and early '80's bands I absolutely despised back then. Hell, I caught myself singing along with Lynyrd Skynyrd this morning on the way into work.