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Thursday
Aug082019

Shine On You Crazy Diamond! 

This is a love letter to classic, terrestrial radio.

I turn 40 in 12 days so that means the only option I had for radio when I was a kid and teen was the regular old free stuff. I preferred FM thanks.

My drug of choice was always WEBN, “the lunatic fringe of American FM – broadcasting live from high atop Frog’s Mountain in Cincinnati.”

I listened to WEBN nonstop in my room and in the car (when I could control the dial of course).

During the course of my normal workday yesterday I decided to pop a classic rock mixed playlist. I wasn’t even particularly paying attention to what I was listening to until Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” came on. The Wall was released in 1979, the same year I was born.


 

I don’t know what it was but I was taken aback, nearly breathless at the flood of memories. WEBN played Pink Floyd constantly when I was a teenager. Remember, that was "classic rock" even back then! The Wall is a seminal rock album, so of course the station always had it on heavy rotation – the listeners demanded this.

I have so many found memories of WEBN – back then I don’t think the commercials even bothered me so much. I just remember thinking the station and the on-air talent were all so cool. I loved going to concerts at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati and WEBN would be there. When my parents took me to see Van Halen, WEBN was broadcasting about it all day to get people hyped. My mom was all freaked out and said “How big of a deal is this show anyway?” I think they were worried there was going to be riots or something (nothing happened of course).


Pink Floyd - The Wall

Like print newspapers and television stations, terrestrial radio has gone the way of consolidation. The media landscape in this country is the pits now. I would never advise anyone just starting out to study journalism or broadcasting anymore. Even long tenured, famous journalists are summarily being let go for “cost containment” issues.

When most people choose to listen to satellite radio and avoid commercials (and I’m one of them, I won’t lie) how can regular stations compete?

I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve listened to WEBN. In my car, I solely listen to WYSO to get local news as I refuse to watch the television stations here. I used to work at two of them so I know how the sausage is made, thank you very much. In Eric’s car, he only listens to the XM radio to avoid commercials. We typically hang out on the 80s, 90s and Hair Nation stations. I’ll do Classic Rewind once in a while too.

Thinking through all of this makes me feel a little guilty. When I hop in my car for my commute, I think I’ll pop WEBN on and have a listen. I know the classic rock I prefer has been pushed out for more modern stuff plus a ton of grunge, especially Nirvana. Heck maybe they will play “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (all of it!) – imagine if other radio stations did that these days. It’s unthinkable to hear such a long song on the radio now. But I remember hearing it as a teen, over and over again.

The vast love I have for classic rock today is straight from WEBN and for that I am so thankful.

 

Reader Comments (11)

Well Allyson, I'm not at all familiar with Ohio radio stations but they've GOT to be better than NY radio. Even going back to my days in the mid-80s DJing on my college radio station in NJ, William Paterson College (now University), NY radio had such a horrible reputation in the industry. Back then I switched from commercial FM radio to 89.5 WSOU - Seton Hall's Pirate Radio! What a fantastic format they had starting in '85 or '86! All hard rock and metal! Today's local classic rock station, with DECADES of music to choose from, still plays the same couple dozen songs every day. I've definitely become a convert to SiriusXM. While I still like to tune into the old faves on Ozzy's Boneyard or Hair Nation, my usual "go-to" now is Octane for all the new hard rock. It's really exposed me to a lot of newer bands that I never would have known of. Perfect example - I'm going to see Alice Cooper next Friday but I'm really looking forward to checking out Halestorm and Motionless In White at the show!
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEddieLongHair
Eddie Trunk was answering email (on Sirius lol) from a listener asking if he thought terrestrial radio will die. He didn’t think it will. I have recently thought about this since all i listen to in the car is Sirius.

I kinda miss the local flavor of radio. Going on a road trip and finding the “cool” station that always seemed better than the ones at home. Now just like the internet we funnel down to exactly what we think we wanna hear (same with politics). But honestly hair nation and Ozzy’s Boneyard kinda play the same songs over and over. Catering to the masses for the genre. I wanna hear Poison’s Back To The Rocking Horse on HN or Judas Priest’s Devils Child on Ozzy Boneyard. Sirius I am sure is receptive and takes requests. But alas I’m older and have responsibilities and am not holed up in my room listening to music four hours every day in the summer and I don’t now have time to email or FB or Tweet my requests. So I deal with the same old 100 songs.

I miss the cheesy commercials, the true radio personalities of terrestrial radio. But as I get in my car to go to work I’ll have Sirius on....
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKixchix
In the sticks you didn't have a choice back in the day. AM 89 WLS in Chicago you could pull in if you tweaked the analog dial just right from dusk til dawn. This was 1980/81 also could pull in Texas Best Rock Q102 on an early morning or late night. Other than that it was pop and C&W - fast forward to 1986 Long Beach California - greatest radio station ever KNAC. The Crue live on KNAC discussing DR Feelgood on its release day.

@Bob is the KGB still around in San Diego? They were a great station as well --will never forget Rick Nielson in the station discussing music with the DJ (I forget the name) like they were old friends and probably were.

Neils Lofgren playing Keith don't go in the studio in a San Fran radio station is a memory that sticks in my mind plus the conversation that went with it.

I check in with local radio from time to time but the playlist is very redundant and I feel eventually everything will go digital. I remember writing a paper about this subject in college. I have dropped XM and pretty much use spotify or USB for music.

But there was nothing like real radio in the grand old days, discovering new music for the first time, The Hype around concerts, and crazy personalities.
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterShawn
Radio may've been better than no music at all, granted, but there were always so many commercials(all at the same damn time too!), and they absolutely burned songs out by overplaying them to death. You'd never ever find stations playing deep cuts like "She Goes Down" or "Estranged". Not to mention the nerdy dj's that all thought they were too cool for school. I do not miss terrestrial radio whatsoever and am glad we have better, more enjoyable options now.
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBkallday
I recently dropped Sirius/XM for their minimalized playlist on the Boneyard and Hair Nation. The repetition on those channels is criminal and on the Boneyard at least half of the playlist is Ozzy/Sabbath related which makes it even more constricted. Yes, I know his name is on the station title but to dedicate that much airspace to one artist is ridiculous. Give Ozzy his own channel with the likes of Springsteen, Petty and the Dead. So many songs XM could play from our chosen genre but yet play the game like terrestrial radio does.
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJCD
Eddie! I used to listen to WSOU whenever I was in NYC and you’re right, it was fantastic!

And, Shawn! You’re right about KNAC! Had the radio glued to it in the black ‘86 Mustang convertible I rented for two months when I was shooting commercials in L.A.

Growing up and subsequently working in the Baltimore / Washington D.C. area I got to listen to some incredible radio stations ... In the late 70’s, there was WGTB, Georgetown University’s radio station.

It was totally free-form, playing a lot of Prog (Hello, Steve Hillage!) or Art Rock and Glam Rock (Bowie, Roxy Music, etc.) and then, overnight, from the moment their album was delivered to the studio and placed on the turntable and cranked up, The Sex Pistols changed Rock & Roll and how we listened to it, forever!

GTB was also known for interviewing bands when they came to play at the University. I’ll NEVER forget one of the DJ’s interviewing The Runaways back in 1976, taking questions before playing that night.

Totally hilarious clowning around going on between the Girls and the DJ, while cool as h*ll listening to “Cherry Bomb” and having Joan Jett and Cherie Currie still in their teens, discussing the song’s social implications.

Same with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, like Shawn experienced, talking about the lyrics of “Surrender”, “High Roller” and “Auf Weidersehen” before they played there, too.

Both Baltimore and D.C. had great commercial FM stations, 98 Rock and D.C. 101, respectively.

Both played great Hard Rock and Heavy Metal but it was D.C. 101 that had one of THE funniest DJ’s to ever roam the dial, The Grease Man, who’s drive-time shows would put you in tears from laughing so hard.
August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
I am going to chime in . . . since I don't think I can offend anyone.

I still recall KSJO (the rocket stickers) and KOME (those yellow stickers with the arrow) growing up in the Bay Area. Those were the days, when you could go to Tower and get your yearly calendar and check out the latest metal gear in their stores!!! I think I purchased more than one panama cap and at least one half-shirt (Union Jack) and one set of sunglasses with leather eye shields.

I even remember KEEN, and found their metallic cow stickers to be pretty cool . . . for a country station . . . and just found out that Red Skeleton was at the grand opening in 1947:

https://bayarearadio.org/photos/farr/keen_grand-opening_june-1947

I even recall biking to and from the KEEN offices, which were located very close to where my grandparents lived. Like I said, cool stickers. I also recall hearing Dr. Don on KFRC on AM when my parents listened to him (I think my dad found his jokes to his liking, as he did the intellectual humor of Benny Hill!!). And don't get me started on those horse-teeth stickers from KFAT. Still make me smile.

As a kid, did I mind the commercials? No. That was part of the ether that was radio back then. What was the alternative? Nothing. And that is just fine to me as I reflect on all of it.

When I moved (and I moved awaaaaaaaay from the Bay Area), I was assaulted by radio stations that were named after animals: The Bear, The Fox, etc. But that wasn't bad either. I got a taste for a more classic rock vibe (of that time . . . Foghat was a heavy rotation band).

And, in either place, if the radio wasn't to my tastes, I just put a cassette into the player and let 'er rip! In the Bay Area, that occasionally meant me and a friend sharing a set of headphones as we biked down the par course (listening to The Cars, Motley Crue, etc.). In my rural confines, my friends and I had a perfect solution: a boom box with detachable speakers (detached, of course, and spread to both ends of the cab), nestled against the back window of my dad's F-150 (blue, with white stripes). Sabbath almost sounded like it was in surround sound to those young ears (then again, what was surround sound?). Pops also had a tool box on the back. That was--and I don't condone this and count my stars that I was lucky--a convenient beer cooler when we were cruising the drag . . . in the big city twenty miles from where we actually lived. Coors Extra Gold was a nice drink when the lady at the local photo store (I kid you not) would buy it for us, with no money off the top.

I am not digressing, I assure you. Local radio stations are a part of my upbringing. They bring up too many memories (and, here again, I suspect I tested some of you; even if I was being brief, for me).

I like the ease of what we have now. The choices. But I also, as some of you did, bemoan how rote it gets listening to some of those choices. I guess you then just hop onto YouTube and do a deep dive and see where it takes you. Or play a CD, tape, or album (if you have the players for those sorts of things). Or, more likely, sample from your 4TB external hard drive (with a dual drive to avoid any loss should something happen).

For me, those memories and those stations . . . well, the kids today just don't understand. Waiting to hear something? Having to figure out something else to do? Talking to a person? Yup. I am old. I have a poking stick. And that is my lawn you are traipsing on!!!

Thanks for the mental jog, Allyson. I am pooped! Time for some Epsom Salts and Murder She Wrote.
August 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHim
Hahaha!!!, HIM! That last line is priceless!

Fantastic commentary, my Metal friend, as with all the comments here for this particularly brilliant post from our ever fearless Allyson!

p.s. The whole thing is making me realize to add another thing to my list of things to do when I win the lottery or the bigtime, whichever comes first. And that is to start a pirate “ALL METAL, ALL THE TIME!” radio station playing all the deep cuts from all our favorite bands!
August 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
What a fantastic topic this is. Starting with 2019, Shawn, yes, KGB is still kicking in San Diego, and it does pretty decent ratings to boot. KGB is just one of those legendary stations in this town so, even though I hardly ever listen to it, I am glad it's still around for the people who do listen.

I could probably write a book about the history of my love of radio, including my days on FM radio in the 80s, and the nearly 20 years that I have been doing Internet radio, but I am sure no one wants to read all about that. So, I will instead talk about the things I loved the most about the good ole days of terrestrial radio.

I started listening to FM rock radio in the early 70s when the tunes that make up today's classic rock radio were either brand new, or only a few years old. I was lucky enough to live smack between NYC and Philly so I had a huge variety of stations to pick from. EddieLongHair, you are correct; NYC rock radio was pretty lame back then. Philly rock radio blew NYC out of the water with WMMR and WYSP. These stations were all about bringing you new music first, and hyping the big concerts that were coming to town. the bands would stop by the station, and hang out forr at least an hour. One of the funniest things I've ever heard on radio is when Dee Snider stopped by WYSP and hung out with Pam Merly all afternoon. This must have been about '84 or '85. Dee was so hilarious that I through a cassette into the deck and recorded at least an hour of it. I wish I still had that tape...Classic stuff!

Let's also not forget that, until about the early 90s, rock stations would broadcast live concerts as they happened; yet another way to create excitement.

These days, my wife and I listen to SiriusXM in the car, or we just stream Apple Music. These days, the only broadcast radio I listen to is our local jazz station because on top of everything else, I am a jazz fanatic, and because San Diego's jazz station routinely wins the bestj jazz station in the country award for their excellence.

Do I miss terrestrial radio?...Not really. Do I have a deep love for the many happy times it brought me when it was still important?...Oh absolutely!
August 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Bob, I would love to hear more about your internet radio station. I have often wondered what it would take to get an internet station up and running and about artists royalties and other challenges related to the subject.
August 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJCD
JCD, what I will say right up front is that, unless you are a very large corperation with lots of money to do promotion and pay the licensing fees, you won't make any money by running an Internet radio station; and you'll more likely lose money. I haven't run my own Internet station in ten years. these days, I do a show on someone else's station. Doing your own show is tremendous amounts of fun, especially if you only play music about which you are deeply passionate. That's what I do now. I probably don't have more than 20 or 30 listeners every week, but I get to share the music I love with people who genuinely want to hear it so, for me, it is a fun hobby, and a great divergence from my day job.
August 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBob

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