re: MORE ON MICHAEL JACKSON:
A few more Michael Jackson memories ...
It was Michael Jackson who made me finally go out and buy a CD Player!!! Yes, it's true ... at first, I fought and resisted the new technology, REFUSING to go out and rebuy everything again just to have it on CD. (That lasted about three months ... pretty soon CDs were coming out with bonus tracks and alternate mixes and one by one nearly my entire vinyl collection was being replaced!!!)
The track was "Leave Me Alone" from the "Bad" album. You could ONLY get it on CD. The song was ALL over the video channels ... a VERY clever and intriguing video at that ... with an amazingly catchy melody to boot! It wasn't being released as a single ... and the vinyl LP did not include this song. Personally, I think it's one of the best tracks Michael ever recorded ... right on the money musically, lyrically and contains some of his best vocals ever. (Listen to all that's going on in the background on this track ... absolutely AMAZING!!! Michael NEVER sounded so good ... or so layered!!! lol)
I just HAD to have this track ... so I gave in ... bought the CD before I even had a machine to play it on ... and then, after picking up a couple of McCartney things, ran out and got my first CD player, too.
For the first few months, I think I had 6 CDs in my entire collection ... now it's probably closer to 12,000!!! (lol) But that's it ... if the technology changes again, count me out!!! I won't live long enough to rebuy everything a fourth or fifth time ... or even have the time to listen to what's already on the shelves!!! I'm through ... you WON'T sucker me again!!! This is it ... I mean it ... HONEST!!! (Yeah, right!!!) I'd rather buy three more CD players and stick them in the closet for later use (just in case they become obsolete) than buy ALL this stuff again for, in many cases, what would be the fourth or fifth time!!! (kk )
We watched Michael Jackson videos for a good chunk of the weekend ... saw some things I haven't seen in AGES ... and Paige discovered some Michael Jackson tracks she'd never heard before ... it really was quite enjoyable. Michael truly raised the bar and set the standard for what a music video was supposed to be ... and very few artists could touch him. I had to laugh out loud when I watched "Jam", the video featuring the OTHER MJ (Michael Jordan), as Michael Jackson tried to show the basketball great a few dance moves, while Michael Jordan helped Jackson with his under the rim shots, eventually grabbing him a ladder so Michael Jackson could see how it felt to stuff the ball!!! But the one that REALLY brought back a memory was "Scream", the video he did with his sister Janet. In my opinion, it's one of his weakest songs ... and the video, shot completely in black and white, isn't the LEAST bit flattering to EITHER of these dynamic artists ... but what I remembered the most was the big joke at the time about how they HAD to make that video together just to prove to the world that Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson were NOT, in fact, the same person!!!! (lol) Prior to this, you NEVER saw them together ... and the running joke at the time was that the reason for this was because they were, in fact, the same person!!! And, quite honestly, for a while there, it seemed that the more surgeries Michael went through, the more he started to look like his sister ... who, by this time, had had a few surgeries of her OWN!!! Too funny ... but it ALL came back while watching this clip. We will miss you, Michael Jackson ... we may OD on your music over the next week or two, but eventually things will die down and even out a little bit and get back to normal. The world will be the better for it as we have all been reminded just what a GREAT artist you really were. (kk)
I got copies of this next column from a couple of folks on the list ... ironically, the SECOND thing I thought of when I heard about Michael Jackson's death was how is this news item going to play out in Scott Shannon's world ... Scott's show is voicetracked in advance of its airing ... which means he can't even come on with a break-in report to report a MAJOR news story like this one. (I know, I know ... get a life!!! What a RIDICULOUS thing to think about!!! We just lost the biggest musical pop icon of the past thirty years and I'M worried about how it will affect Scott Shannon's broadcast!!! Once again, my love of GOOD radio shines through even the GREATEST of tragedies!!! And, you may remember that
the very FIRST thing I thought about was that this was all some sort of horrible hoax and that in no time at all we'd be hearing about Michael Jackson / King Of Pop / Burger King sightings!!!)
But think about that for a second ... the world's BIGGEST musical headline of the past thirty years ... second only to perhaps the deaths of Elvis and John Lennon ... and, thanks to syndicated and voicetracked radio, what was once our PRIME source of information can't even come on the air and tell us about it!
Here in Chicago, where the news broke around 4:30 our time, Greg Brown was on the air at the time ... (Shannon's syndicated show ends at 3 PM in Chicago and then the local jocks take over) ... and, naturally, Michael Jackson music soon saturated ALL over our radio airwaves ... as one would expect it would. But in this age of voice-tracking, breaking through with what HAD to be the biggest musical death story since Elvis and / or John Lennon was NOT a possibility in literally HUNDREDS of markets across the country. (Now in all fairness, I've had a couple of occassions in the past where I got something to Scott Shannon first thing in the morning, he was able to edit it in to that day's programming by around 10:00 AM and air the segment shortly after 2 PM the same day ... but this news was HUGE!!! I can't even imagine a time where every radio station in the nation wouldn't have stopped WHATEVER they were doing to air immediate reports ... yet, apparently, this is EXACTLY what happened!!!)
And don't think for a minute that I'm picking on Scott Shannon ... I'm not ... even satellite operations like XM / Sirius are often voice-tracked in advance of airing, especially on their oldies networks. And the article below singles out the likes of Ryan Seacrest and John Tesh and THEIR syndicated programs ... in fact, Scott Shannon, who represents The Oldies Nation on nearly a hundred radio stations across the USA isn't even mentioned!!!
Read on and you'll see that this article reiterates the downside of automated radio ... a result of which means, in many cases, radio is no longer able to service the public's need for immediacy. (You'll see that this article also ties in nicely with our upcoming piece on Bob Greene's new book regarding the end of the newspaper!!! You'll see a little blurb on that later this week.)The article comes from Jerry Del Colliano, whose "Inside Music Media" column we've quoted several times before in Forgotten Hits:
The music industry lost an icon Thursday. A very big one.
Apparently Clear Channel’s John Slogan Hogan, Citadel’s Farid “Fagreed” Suleman and Cumulus' CEO Lew Tricky Dickey forgot to plan ahead ... again.
1. We know they didn’t look beyond over-paying for their radio stations to see if it was possible to service the considerable debt in good times as well as recessions.
2. We see that they just assumed radio would continue to grow and that kids would always be available to listen to radio (not ever imagining the Internet, iPod, file sharing, social networking – anything—might be a competitor).
3. Their actions prove that firing employees has left their stations threadbare but they keep acting like local radio doesn't have to be done locally.
4. They neglected to factor in news and weather emergencies when conjuring up grand schemes to build various repeater radio platforms. That’s why during this Spring’s tornado season, a radio station would be your worst choice to remain safe and sound.
Now, Michael Jackson, one of the music industry’s biggest stars and a huge ingredient to many radio music genres, gave tribute to the Man in the Mirror by offering the most unfitting tribute of all.
That’s right, at the majority of stations, the hits just kept on coming – just the way Central Command demanded it. Some stations didn’t even break for news of Jack-o’s death. News? What’s news?
The local PD and jocks couldn’t respond fast enough, well -- because there aren’t many local PDs and jocks.
Hogan’s heroes were busy feeding tripe down the line so stations could repeat it.
Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jack son died Thursday. And radio died right along with him.
Most radio stations just kept John Tesh rolling, Ryan Seacrest babbling and voice tracking mindlessly ploughing through the playlist.
By comparison Elvis died way before consolidation and within ten minutes most stations were broadcasting on-air tributes, news accounts and playing wall-to-wall Elvis. Not so easy when your local program is coming from national headquarters.
People not only remembered where they were when The King died, but which station they were listening to. Not yesterday. For most of the day before it could respond, radio was at best forgettable. Hell, if it can’t jump on the death of one of its A-list music performers to an audience waiting to soothe their shock, what could it do?
One of my readers checked in and said: “Are there any radio tributes? Only one I could find is on a local CBS station that is usually Hip-Hop / Rap. I sat in my car and scanned from Miami to West Palm. Only heard one other distant MJ song”.
A major market talent (our very own Big Jay Sorensen, by the way!!! kk) told me: “I think THIS is the kind of thing that makes me MORE angry and saddened than EVER about radio. The real point of my message to you is this: I know of many local stations that are VT’d from 10AM – 5AM!!! So I wonder if their audience will have to wait until 5am local time to find out from their station they THINK is on the ball? I am furious. Those audiences were served REALLY well, huh? Local my ass”.
By late in the day and into early evening, many more stations were reacting to their original misjudgment and started to ramp up on Jackson programming. Better late than never, I guess.
Stations went from voice tracking to backtracking when they felt the backlash. Traditional media also missed the boat on reporting Jack son ’s death. TMZ, the Internet gossip and news site did all the heavy lifting. The LA Times was the first traditional media outfit to report Jackson ’s death with any certainty but the rest of us already heard it through TMZ, which continued to provide updates and even a live streaming camera at UCLA Hospital. CNN was clueless. It seems like they were more interested in Farrah Fawcett's death -- I'm just sayin'. Just an opinion. Anyway, long before yesterday's events, CNN lost its soul.
The New York Times was just as bad. The Times eventually reported Michael Jackson's demise – according to other sources. Brilliant. No wonder newspapers are dead.
Why television is so lame.
Why radio is just a free iPod programmed by John Hogan’s pals.
A disappointed Brock Whaley of Honolulu checked in:
“Clear Channel Hawaii was the first to break in with Michael Jackson music and live phone calls from distraught listeners. Across all of their music formats, including their alternative outlet. They did good. One station, owned by a national chain, announced the news, and then played music from a totally unrelated artist. Another local station group was very slow to respond with both news of the death, and the appropriate musical tributes even though it fit several of their formats. On the other hand, we have an NPR affiliate that clears "All Things Considered" in real time. Even NPR had the story, and played a Michael Jackson song, before the aforementioned local chain had broken any news or dumped their voice tracking”.
To be fair, a few stations did it right.
Tribune's WGN in Chicago.
My friend Bruce St. James was on-air at Bonneville's KTAR telling MJ stories. And, of course, CBS-FM in New York .
(Forgive me for not mentioning all of those who got it right).
Most, however, did not.
Until the pressure became immense. I'm sure by the time you read this, the stations caught with their pants down will be trying to convince many people that they're on it now.
Look, I’ve never liked the effects of consolidation. Somehow, the demise of radio has been documented on the pages of our trade publications and even then the writers didn’t make it seem that all that bad. Now, we’re beginning to see in real-time and in real ways the effects of running a radio station like an investment banker.
Tornadoes that don’t get broadcast.
Dangerous news events not aired.
Flood waters not warned (at a recent Clear Channel outdoor event with 60,000 people).
Loss of connection with our local communities.
Separation from the local personalities that once made radio great.
No wonder this day has finally come, where one of the most prolific artists in radio’s history became a footnote to voice tracking. This is the sort of day that made one of my readers say this about non-local radio, "we deserve whatever we get".
Michael Jackson sang about the “Man in the Mirror” and the message could easily apply to the consolidators who are ruining radio.
And No Message Could've Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place (If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place )
Take A Look At Yourself And Then Make That . . .(Take A Look At Yourself And Then Make That . . .)Change!
To quote my Hawaiian friend:
“North Korea has a missile aimed at us. Better keep your iPhone”.
To be fair, here in Chicago, Michael Jackson music was ALL over the radio dial by 5 PM on virtually EVERY radio station I checked. It continued throughout the following day, almost to the point of saturation. What was especially nice was the sharing of some of the memories of the disc jockeys about THEIR memories, experiences and / or impressions of Michael and his music ... reminding us again that the key to good radio has ALWAYS been the informed jock who shares part of himself with his audience ... that's the kind of thing that created the bond we developed with some of our all-time radio favorites. Listeners calls, too, dominated the airwaves. I believe Chicago radio got it right in every sense of the word ... but the truth is, we don't have a whole lot of radio here that is voice-tracked ... most of our radio is still "live". (At the very least, shouldn't the major networks have broken in with news reports? Heck, by 8:00 that night NBC and ABC already had two-hour television specials on the air about the passings of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett!)
Another good point made in this article is the power of TMZ ... for all I hate about these guys ... and I really DO hate them ... they really do seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the entertainment world ... too bad it's so often in such a SLEAZY and underhanded way. (It's almost like The National Enquirer gone bad ... as if it ever really needed to have gotten any worse!!! lol)
Back in the old days, we would have been flipping through the dial, trying to find out the latest news about this event, or more Michael Jackson music. Today, in far too many cases, when you flip on the radio, you're hearing what they decided to play and recorded YESTERDAY instead. (And honestly, how much thought process goes into THAT decision anyway, when it's the same 200-300 songs every single day?!?!? I mean, really, just what IS the role of the Program Director these days when the selection of material is so limited?!?!?) Michael Jackson was an icon ... in EVERY sense of the word ... the music he gave us will endure many lifetimes. (We just spent the majority of this past weekend watching his videos on TV ... absolutely AMAZING ... and ground-breaking.) I hope this lets Michael Jackson music remain on the radio ... it's been absent for far too long. We'll be hearing controversy and horror stories for months to come, I'm sure ... but NOBODY can take away the music. (kk)
Big Jay Sorensen spoke for a lot of us.
Here in LA, KIIS-FM, who owes most of its success to Michael Jackson (and vice versa), played nothing but MJ tracks during the entire time the news was coming out. That was it. Listeners had to go to (surprise!) AM to get the information that was pouring out of UCLA Med Center. All four news or talk stations (including KABC) had reporters all over the place with wall-to-wall coverage. KIIS had NOTHING. They were so much better than this.
For MORE radio ranting and raving, read on!!!
re: THROWING IN THE TOWEL:
We're still getting comments (and letters of support) after our latest oldies rave-out. Just to refresh your memory, a week or two ago I wrote this:
>>>I won't lie to you ... from time to time I get really discouraged wondering if we can REALLY make a difference with Forgotten Hits. Sure, every once in a while I can hear the results on the radio, giving me just some small spark of hope that things are slowly starting to improve ... but we've been pushing the jocks for almost TEN YEARS now to push the envelope just a LITTLE bit farther and play some of these tracks that were legitimate hits that have simply fallen off the radar after years of tunnel-vision radio programming ... and the truth is that only a few of these guys have it within their power to do so. Being equally as honest, I will admit that there is NO question in my mind that oldies radio TODAY is a WHOLE lot better than it was ten years ago when Forgotten Hits first started. Mega outlets like Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel are beaming nationwide these days, playing a better variety of music than we'd grown accustomed to and slipping in those "surprises" once in a while to keep things interesting ... and I have to believe that at least in SOME small way we've been a source of inspiration for this. Likewise the new Hit Parade Radio start-up, programming nearly 3500 songs from 1950-1980 ... it'd be nearly impossible NOT to come up with a surprise "Wow" song once in a while with THAT many titles to select from ... is programming exclusively to the "ignored demographic" that we preach about so often here in Forgotten Hits ... so this, too, is an encouraging sign. Whereas ten years ago it wasn't really much of a factor at all, Internet Radio now runs the full gamut of the obvious hits, the lesser known hits and B-Sides to the completely obscure ... stuff you're not even going to recognize it because you most likely never even knew it exists. With WI-FI Radio soon to be available in cars, along with satellite operations like XM / Sirius, radio HAS grown leaps and bounds over this past decade. All in all, I suppose I should be feeling pretty good about the progress we've made ... maybe even sharing in just a LITTLE bit of the credit along the way.
But then every once in a while a reality check comes along that makes me realize that maybe I'm wrong ... maybe the average oldies listener out there doesn't really WANT to be challenged or enticed. The other day I was listening to Jim Shea's morning show on Y103.9 when he reached his "I Buried Paul" feature. It's a contest that runs every morning at 7:20 (and has for a couple of years now) where Jim plays a snippet of a popular song BACKWARDS and listeners have to try to identify the song and the artist to win some sort of prize. Well, the other day, something got screwed up in the studio and the tape of "Chick-A-Boom", the Daddy Dewdrop hit from 1971 played FORWARDS instead of backwards ... meaning simply that it played the actual record. It was a screw up of massive proportions but Jim decided to let it slide and said that since THIS is the way it was played, he'd let somebody win by simply identifying the song. (A Good Sport is Jim!!! lol) So the very first caller gets through and then Jim asks him, "Are you feelin' it?" ... to which he responds ... "Oh yeah, I'm feelin' it ... (long pause) ... is it 'Alley Oop'?!?!?" ... thus proving ALL of these narrow-minded programmers right when they state that the AVERAGE oldies listener doesn't WANT to expand their musical horizons ... they want to hear the music that they're most COMFORTABLE with, even if it DOES mean the same two or three hundred songs over and over and over again. (It's not at all uncommon to hear listeners playing this game not know the title of the songs Jim plays ... or misidentify the artist ... it happens all the time ... and thus my faith in the average oldies listener has hit a new all-time low.) The tunnel-vision programming (or as I like to refer to it, the DE-Programming) of our radio audience is virtually complete. MOST listeners really don't CARE what songs are being played ... they just want them to make them feel "comfortable" when they come on the air. They've been fed the SAME songs for so long now that they can no longer think out side the box. Most truly don't remember that artists like The Turtles and The Association and Tommy James and the Shondells recorded more than one or two hits ... when quite the opposite would be true. Even Elvis, The King Of Rock And Roll, has been reduced to a One Hit Wonder ... when do you EVER hear anything OTHER than "Suspicious Minds" anymore ... and why do we have to hear THAT one three or four times a day?!?!? There are over a hundred legitimate Elvis hits to choose from ... if you played just three a day you wouldn't have to spin "Suspicious Minds" again for a whole month!!!
Now, in all fairness, Forgotten Hits was never designed to appeal to the AVERAGE oldies listener ... but I have ALWAYS believed that, if given the chance ... if presented the challenge and the variety ... the average oldies listener WOULD come around to appreciate a deeper selection of music coming out of his or her radio. Revitalize some of those memory brain cells that have been lying dormant for the past two decades and challenge yourself again. But I could be wrong. I could have just been blowing smoke for the past ten years trying to prove otherwise ... chasing my tail trying to convince OTHER music people to just "give it a shot" and see what happens. I dunno ... this has really humbled me today ... hopefully some of you out there will restore my faith in the oldies scene and get me out of this funk. Otherwise, I guess my work here is done!!! (kk)
I read your comments about the current state of oldies radio (and the whole music industry in general for that matter) with empathy. I think oldies radio could be much more creative and "interactive", like your column! My heart is still stirred by the songs of my high school days, but frankly I'm not knowledgeable enough about the oldies radio scene from a business standpoint to provide any brilliant insight. However, I can relate to you as an artist / songwriter who works hard to stay motivated when I sometimes wonder if anyone is listening. I guess what keeps me going is simply loving what I do. That and the responses by email, or through CD Baby, or included in your blog column, reminding me that my work is appreciated. I hope your readers will respond to you in the same supportive way.
Thanks, Alan. I think it's our love of this music that keeps ALL of us going and moving forward. I've certainly heard that from a number of the artists on the list ... and I think it's great that you guys are still making quality, relevant music, even if radio isn't playing and supporting it. I feel that in some way THIS has become a big part of our purpose here in Forgotten Hits ... to let the fans know that this great music is still out there and that most of their favorite artists from yesteryear are still recording and making personal appearances. (That's why I keep saying that I'd love to get a couple hundred MORE artists on the list!!!) We're all aware of the sad situation these tunnel-vision programmers have created ... thankfully, there are still services like Forgotten Hits ... and Internet Jocks out there ... who will take the time to PLAY this new music and introduce it to our followers. Believe me, a kind review from you does just as much to cheer ME up as all of the fan letters that YOU receive!!! It reassures me that we're on the right track! (kk)
Please keep up the great work with what you're doing. You've sounded frustrated lately, but don't despair. As always, you are doing good work. I can tell you myself that I have learnt so much through you and your readers. You've developed an important community which depends on you to keep it going.
Click here: Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict - A Quinn Martin Production
Thanks, Sam, I appreciate it! As one who shares our love and our passion for keeping these great memories alive, I'm glad to have you "on the team" so to speak. (kk)
Thought I'd weigh in since my point of view seems to be different than many of your members. I truly agree that FM oldies stations need to expand their playlist. Scott Shannon has certainly improved his list but it's still limited. Several of your contributors rag on Sirius but I now find I listen most of the time to Sirius / XM as their playlists for the 50's and 60's are at least double that of Shannon's. Additionally, the "expanding" of FM playlists has basically just meant stretching the time period to include the 70's. And unfortunately the songs of the 1956-62 period have been reduced to make room for them.
As for not playing doo wop on FM, I love doo wop but, like country music from the same time period, you had to hear nine bad ones for every good one. So unless you grew up in NYC in the 50's and heard every street corner song ever made as your rock and roll diet I think most people just don't want to hear mediocre doo wop. Again I say this as a comparison to growing up, say, in Chicago in the 50's where we also heard mediocre rock and roll except it was mainstream instead of doo wop. So if we hear occasionally a mediocre mainstream song, it may still have the "wow" factor since we haven't heard it for years. For example I can think of three songs I recently heard for the first time in years and now I can wait a while before wanting to hear them again. ("It's Summertime" by the Jamies, "Over the Rainbow" by the Demensions, "Oh Julie" by the Crescendoes). But hearing them once evoked fond memories. Kent, keep up the great work and keep the pressure on the programmers. You can't eat an elephant in one bite but there is some progress being made.
lol ... Frannie made me turn off "Summertime" by The Jamies just the other day!!! (lol) These songs are PERFECT examples of what we keep preaching ... no, NONE of these tracks belong in heavy rotation ... but they DO deserve to be played once or twice a year just to remind us that they exist. Actually, I think Scott Shannon is doing a GREAT job right now of slipping in more and more of the obscure stuff ... and, as we mentioned before, we're finding more and more of these are the results of listener requests, which simply reinforces my point that the REAL music fans out there want to hear some of this stuff again ... or at least from time to time. I've said before that a "Wow Factor" song doesn't even have to be a song I like ... it's just nice to hear something unexpected once in a while, even if it makes you feel like, "OK, that was cool, but I don't need to hear THAT one again for another 20 years!!!" lol ... Unfortunately, this constant repetitiveness now has me feeling that way about songs like "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Suspicious Minds" and "Long Train Runnin'" ... ALL songs that I used to LOVE but turn off EVERY single time they come on the radio now ... they've been RUINED for me ... hopefully not for life because they're all REALLY good songs. But instead of playing "Brown Eyed Girl" for the 12th time this week, put on "Wonderful Summer" by Robin Ward (which I heard Scott Shannon play the other day on Robin's birthday ... along with a very nice background tribute) ... or one of the OTHER great songs that just don't get any attention anymore. Come on, this was a Top 20 Song for God's sake ... and #1 here in Chicago!!! How on earth did it fall off the radar?!?!? I wish I could listen more often (we have a "no radios" policy at work so I really only get to listen to Scott Shannon at lunch these days) ... because I think he's REALLY found a nice mix of surprises to throw in each and every day. (I just wish they'd delegate some of these over-played button pushers to "reduced status" somehow and give a little more time to some of the "medium rotation" hits ... maybe if we didn't hear the same stuff so often ... ESPECIALLY when it's the same stuff that EVERY other radio station is playing ... we could learn to love and appreciate this music again.) kk
There is indeed a segment of the listening audience that doesn't have a clue. It is a challenge for me to keep coming up with tough questions for those that are really good at remembering stuff from the old days. Then there are those that lived through the era and did not retain a thing. A few years ago I asked this question ... The members of this band included: Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Randy Bachman, and Burton Cummings. Can you name this group? A gentleman that sounded to be about my age called and answered the Beatles. At first I thought he was kidding, but I soon realized he wasn't.
Now THAT'S pretty sad!!! (lol) kk
How ya' doin'? People ask me why don’t I listen to oldies stations anymore? Because I’ve heard it all before!
I’ll be honest with you ... I get bored with a current hit after hearing it played for three solid months. You can imagine how I feel hearing the same Top 100 oldies year after year … decade after decade! I believe, however, there are ways to satisfy regular listeners and attract new ones at the same time. I came up with some pretty innovative ideas to present to Oldies radio stations to help turn their fortunes around! Stay tuned for more details!
We should pool our efforts, Artie ... I've got a ton of ideas, too ... and with all of the talent on our list right now, I just KNOW that we can make this happen ... as long as somebody gets behind it financially!!! We need to talk!!! (kk)
More thoughts on oldies radio ... and the future of Forgotten Hits ... to come later this week. Stay Tuned!!!