Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The YAY's

If nothing else, our most recent radio rave-out spurred a few comments and reactions ... both "YAY's" and "NAY's" ... and we'll feature the best of them over the next couple of days.  (Scroll back to Sunday, October 21st, for a quick refresher course ... or simply click the link below):

First ... The YAY's:

Hi Kent,
Just a message to let you know I'm enjoying your entertaining and insightful "rants" about Chicago radio. Keep the "hits" comin'!
Bob Sirott
WLS "Class of '73 - '80"
As one of the guys who personified personality radio, thank you, thank you, thank you. We've got a few more rants left in us ... and have even come up with a fun way for others to play at home, too!  (Now you can learn to tolerate today's repetitive playlist and have fun doing it!!!  Perhaps this is the only way to get through today's current state of radio ... to turn it into a game!!!) kk

KK -
Turn this latest rave-out into a stand-up routine and hit the comedy club circuit ~ Start a national campaign ... You'll have a huge following!!

Good morning,
I'm still amazed on your blogging skills. You seem so quiet, but a man of many words.
Do I have your permission to post your link to facebook?
Absolutely! In fact we're hoping EVERYBODY out there will post links of our rave out to ALL of their various social media outlets. We NEED to spread the word if we ever want to make a change. (Several folks have already promised to do so ... and we're hoping many other readers will follow suit.  So PLEASE ... link to our site and let's get a radio revolution movement going! (kk)  

I know that effort can make a difference. At least it's worth a try. Also good to note that survey companies have an influence in every market ... so join them, and answer their questions. It is a pain sometimes but it IS one of those 'your vote counts' situations.
I, too, am dismayed by this sudden trend in broadcasting.  I have always considered the voice coming from my car radio to be comforting ... like a train whistle in the distance. They both remind me that I can be alone, travel, or connect with others if I wish. So, I enjoy listening to the radio. Or I did. Now I find myself storing more and more cds in my car and burning more from my computer ... to store in my car. Unless I am traveling with others, I am now alone in my car; unconnected to the world. I haven't lost the music, but I lost the comforting connection.
Shelley J. Sweet-Tufano  

Today, after I read your latest rant, I decided to do a quick experiment of my own. In the time it took to drive less than one mile to the gas station and back I heard, Cuts Like A Knife, More than A feeling and Love In An Elevator. The offending station was K-Hits 96.3 in St. Louis. To think I started listening to them because a more local classic rock station plays Bon Jovi every hour.
But maybe there is hope ... I was only in the car a short time this morning and only heard one song ... but it was Johnny B. Goode. Yeah, it's Chuck Berry's birthday and he's from St. Louis and it was a St. Louis station, but at least they played it.
Happy Birthday, Chuck!  But that reminds me of another thing wrong with programming today. It seems that in many cases, the only way some of these artists can get any airplay these days is to die! (And you thought their original deal with the Devil to get famous in the first place had some pretty steep odds!!!) It's true ... somebody passes on and then radio plays their songs again for a day or two. Heck, we even heard "Tiny Bubbles" by Don Ho half a dozen times after he left us. Hadn't heard that song on the radio in over 30 years ... and haven't heard it since ... and may never hear it again ... but once Don bid us aloha, it was suddenly acceptable to play his music again ... for 48 hours anyway. Same thing at Christmas time ... despite over thirty Top 40 national hits, you won't hear a Brenda Lee song all year long ... but come the holiday season, one of the first tracks they dig out of mothballs is "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree". In fact, you'll hear all kinds of artists at Christmastime that you don't hear the rest of the year ... Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, The Chipmunks, Jose Feliciano and dozens more ... all of a sudden their music "fits" into the format again ... but don't even CONSIDER playing one of their legitimate Top Ten Hits during the other eleven months of the year!!!
And another thing ... how is it that radio stations will regularly play tracks like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen or "Rock This Town" by The Stray Cats ... both EXCELLENT musical homages to the music of the '50's ... yet these same stations wouldn't DREAM of playing a song that was actually FROM the '50's?!?!?  Instead of the real thing, we're treated to watered-down, pseudo replications of the genre ... when the fact is there's absolutely nothing wrong with the original formula!  Slap on a Gene Vincent or a Carl Perkins or a Jerry Lee Lewis record once in a while and let today's listeners know where this music came from.  We fell in love with it then ... and this music still holds up extremely well today.  This music was new and exciting then ... and, quite honestly, after being off the air for so long now, it just may come across as "new" and exciting again ... to a whole new set of ears! (kk)

I read your latest piece about the crappy state of radio these days and I feel your pain. I've lived it; we all have. 
All I can offer are two little words: SATELLITE RADIO. 
Oh, and ... I'll never have a derogatory word to say about Carly Rae Jepsen after I caught her singing her ubiquitous tune with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots to open one of Fallon's broadcasts. Very cool.
Peace and love and good radio to you and your readers.
Fun clip, Pete! What musician amongst us hasn't dabbled with some of these toys trying to get a real musical sound out of them at one time or another! (lol) Hate to say it but "Call Me Maybe" is about as catchy a pop song as we've heard this year ... a real stick-in-the-head earworm, to be sure ... and #1 for eight straight weeks to boot!  RIght now I'll take that one every time over another playing of "Jack And Diane" or "Don't Stop Believin'"!!! (kk)

Radio in the AlbaNY area is basically the same as in Chicago. That's why I only hear it when I'm with other people. In my car and my home it's MP3 player all the time. Mark the Shark

>>>I still believe in radio ... but my patience is wearing thin. We've been campaigning for better radio for thirteen years now ... and every time I think we've made a turn for the better, we seem to slip back into the same old "tried and true" pattern again. I haven't forgotten ... and I'm trying not to give up hope. (kk)
Good luck! I feel for you!
Let's take a ride back to the past. Back in the '80's, WOGL-FM offered trivia questions. I'd win a bunch. BUT, then, they'd offer a t-shirt, signed documents by all their DJs, or a couple tickets to an bland event in Philly. THESE DAYS, forget that budget stuff ... now it's a fully paid trip to the Caribbean! So it tells me they are hurting ... and hurting bad. I even questioned a coworker why he was listening to the station ... and he told me that it was only for the vacation! But I also listen to ads that are common amongst radio stations ... this gives me a clue as to how desperate they are for ads. EVERYONE under the sun bows down to GEICO commercials! More and more of the FM band is being taken over by talk shows, sports, news, syndicated shows, etc. A waste of bandwidth, I feel. Anyway, the actual last entertaining radio show I caught was on the music of New Orleans. A well done show, it even included interviews with the artists. But, that was the last, and that was maybe five years ago. Anyway, what can be said on radio to keep it interesting, with the internet and its vast amount of information? L
eaves most DJs lost for words. Look at TV, it's the same boring world (staged reality shows). Man has run out of ideas.

Hey Kent -   
I have given up on all radio! I just dropped My Sirius subscription I had it for a year and a half. They are no different. When I start hearing the same songs over and over it's time to give up and turn the thing off. I miss the days of underground FM when the DJ had control, someone that knew a few things about music. They went up to $160.00 for a year of Sirius. When I called they offered me a year for $80.00.  
I told them you are a BIG satellite company, and I can't believe that my vault runs deeper than yours! Take the sixties channel for example ... there are enough songs from then I should not hear the same song again in a year! Tell your program director to fire his self he or she is doing a lousy job.

One more song that belongs on that list is Lola by The Kinks. I am one of the biggest Kinks fans in the world but it burns me up when they say we have some Kinks coming up and I hear Lola every time.  
I don't hear that one much here ... usually if it's The Kinks, it's "You Really Got Me". (And wouldn't you know that right after I posted this comment I heard "Lola" in the car!!! lol) kk

Hey Kent,
I think another way to help change the absurd programming of so-called classic radio stations is to go after the advertisers. We can call or e-mail them, to issue our complaints, or simply stop buying their products. In this area, there is a huge percentage of health-related commercials. They are very "scare driven". You can't listen to any station for five minutes without hearing spots for doctors, clinics, or hospitals. Well, no wonder! The radio stations they sponsor, are making us sicker by the minute! What goes around, comes around!
- John LaPuzza

Just a few short words about today's comments. You are right at the beginning in that the same artists and same songs are being heard in other cities. I can attest to that fact. There are some other artists and songs not on your list which are heard in OKC on the radio very often but maybe not as quite as the ones you have listed.
A few years ago I started changing my dial on my car when I ever heard one of these songs over and over again to our local 'sports talk' radio station. There's one problem with ours, however. Whomever programs these so called 'oldies' stations must program these sports stations, too. Here in OKC, the same persons call in all the time and are heard on the air giving their opinions. So instead of hearing the same songs over and over again, you hear the same people talking on the radio over and over again.

I say these EXACT words in my head on a daily basis.
Kristy White    
Kent ...
I truly want to compliment you PERSONALLY. I agree with what you wrote 100%.
It's like you eavesdropped every thought in my mind! I'm sharing your piece with loads of people!

I have read and I totally agree with everything you have said about the sad state of radio, and in particular, WLS-FM.
I told my wife years ago, when the station was using different call letters, here they have ownership of just about the most well known, if not THE most well known call letters in the nation, if not the world, and they weren't being used. I even said at the time, they should use the WLS calls and market it as "The station you grew up with". Well, they did take the call letters back. Step one. And they do say that they are "The station that grew up with you" (personally, I like my phrasing better.) But it is anything but the station any of us grew up with.
Before the latest "Classic Rock" format, it was already boring, and repetitive ... now it is unlistenable. First of all, WLS was never a rock station per se, it was a Top 40 station, That music included country songs, soul music, etc. Even during the late 1960s, when John Rook took over with the "More Music" format, the jocks managed to talk up nearly every song, and bring a level of excitement that is missing today, and they were really involved with the show. Rook had the station formated to within an inch of its life, yet the station was hitting on all cylinders! I believe it was even Station of the Year in 1968, '69, and '70 nationwide. Listen to an aircheck from that era, and it's unbelievable how much they could pack into an hour, even including two full newscasts!
Twice this year, as I listened, or tried to listen to WLS, I could only shake my head in disgust. Once was on Memorial Day weekend, often a time when stations would count down the top 500 greatest songs of all time, obviously a reference to the Indy 500. How a station would arrive at that list, either by polls or some other way, I don't know. But the songs would be counted down in order from 500 to 1. But not WLS. This year, they claimed that they were playing the top 500 songs of all time, but not in any order. They said they were playing the list on "shuffle", which is to say in no order, which is to say there was no way to keep track of it, and by the way, since it's on shuffle, don't be surprised if you hear the same song several times.
The truth was, they were NOT playing the top 500 songs, and had no intention of doing it. By saying the list was on shuffle, was to say there was no list, and they were going to play the same songs as always, yet expect you to believe otherwise. I thought great, it's bad enough your station is horrible to listen to, now I have to have them insult my intelligence.
The second time was when they had a "Chicago Groups Weekend". OK, good, let's hear some of the songs that were big hits in Chicago from local groups. But no, they only played songs from local groups that were huge hits nationally. So sure, they would play The Buckinghams, but not "I Call Your Name". Instead, it was "Kind Of A Drag". If they played The New Colony Six, it was "Things I'd Like To Say", not "Can't You See Me Cry". You get the idea. It was all just national hit records from groups that just happened to be from Chicago. Again, just trying to repackage songs that they were going to play anyway and make it sound as if they were doing something different. And now, The Buckinghams and The New Colony Six are gone from the station.
With this latest Classic Rock format, I am done with the station. And pretty much done with radio. I listen to satellite radio in the car, and internet radio on the computer. What a shame. But we'll always have our memories of the station, they can't take those.

Ken Durkel

You'll see in tomorrow's comments that noted radio programmer Ron Smith says that one of the BEST things a radio station can do (in order to be successful) is to "localize" a part of its sound in order to make it feel like it BELONGS here.  With such a strong and rich musical heritage as the City of Chicago has, you would think that would be a no-brainer ... ESPECIALLY since WLS was PART of that entire heritage and movement!  In fact, they were the LEADERS back then, orchestrating so many great, local hits for some of these artists.  To promise a "Local Hits Weekend" and then NOT feature some of the songs that topped their very own charts shows just how lost they've really become.  On the other hand, I heard K-Hits play Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah's "Lake Shore Drive" the other day ... and that's an absolute FIRST for that station.  If nothing else, it looks like K-Hits is at least TRYING to win the ratings battle against the revamped WLS-FM ... and they very well may be poised to do so.  At least half of the emails that we received from local, Chicagoland readers made mention of the fact that they have already turned off WLS-FM in favor of K-Hits which, if not the "golden oldies" answer we're looking for at least seems to have positioned themselves as the lesser of two evils ... which makes me wonder if some of MY comments have ALSO been taken to heart over there. Their new slogan is "So much variety you'll never even have to think about changing the station" ... man, what a GREAT concept!!! (kk)

Hi Kent,
I’ve been reading your postings on the WLS radio fiasco and I completely agree with you. Here in CT, radio sucks as well. Cookie cutter, unimaginative, corporate consultant radio is all we have. It’s really disheartening to remember how great it used to be. I grew up listening to WLS’ sister station, the powerhouse WABC (which switched to all-talk in ’82!!) and I miss it dearly. All of the great NYC stations are either gone or a pale shadow of their former greatness including WCBS-FM which I HAD been listening to since day one in ’72.
The legendary WNEW-FM, album rock, began dismantling in the late ‘90s when some brain surgeon decided to put Opie and Anthony on the air and slowly but surely the station started dumping DJs and narrowing playlists, from what was one of the most incredible music libraries ever, to less music and eventually becoming another talk-radio format. Most of those DJs are now on Sirius / XM and playing a fantastic variety of stuff like the old days, so I can still enjoy hearing them occasionally (my sister’s car has Sat. radio, mine does not, lol).
I’ve been listening to, for a few years now, an FM station on Long Island, about 15 miles across the sound as the crow flies, WEHM-FM 92.9 Progressive Rock (a bit different from the Progressive Stations of old) that plays an interesting mix of new and old rock, although nothing hard like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple, and they let the DJs TALK about the music, the bands, the concerts and just about anything, giving the listener an enjoyable listening experience. While they do have their “own” playlist, it is decidedly different and more varied than any other stations I’ve found in the area. Another alternative is, of course, Internet radio, with a wide variety of styles and formats. My good friend Ron Webb has been doing his own show from the CT School of Broadcasting in Stratford, CT (he’s a graduate, but not a pro. DJ) which he calls the Wingnut Psychedelic Bubblegum Shop, a mix of, as it says, Psychedelic and Bubblegum and Pop. Ron is a real nut, hence the name, for ‘60s and ‘70s era music of this type, including a lot of TV and cartoon music and much of the obscure album cuts, B-sides etc. that never get played anywhere. I’m including a link to the All Noise Radio site where his show can be found, it repeats a few times a week, so it can be tricky to find, but is well worth a listen.
Thanks as always -
Eddie Burke,
Orange, CT

I've solved your problem.
On the way to work, turn off the radio and play one of your favorite CD's. Otherwise, you might hear that one song off your list that will push you over the edge. I want you to be in the right frame of mind at work.
On the way home, turn off the CD's and play the radio. I don't care if you get home in a bad mood. I'm sure Frannie will know how to adjust your attitude.
Frank B.
The only problem with that idea is that SHE hears the same crappy songs on her way home from work as I do ... and lately she's been just as riled up about this nonsense as I've been ... which just shows you how COMPLETELY out of hand it really has become. And it only seems to be getting worse. Yesterday, I ran through my buttons three times in a half hour. First time, five out of seven stations were playing a song or artist on my list. Second time, three out of five were. (The other three stations were running commercials ... which, incredibly, have now become preferable to listening to than some of these songs on the list!  Hey, maybe this is all an advertising ploy to get listeners to pay closer attention to their commercials!) And the final time seven out of eight channels were playing a song or artist on the list. Think about that for a second ... that's 15 out of 20 ... 75%!!! 75% of the time they were playing the songs that I maintain they're playing too much ... makes me think my opinion (and complete disgust) are pretty justified, wouldn't you say??? (kk)

One of the most popular features on The Drive, our premium Classic Rock Station here in Chicago, is their A-Z Playlist ... and this Friday (November 2nd), it all kicks off again ... over 2000 songs, spread out over the next eight days, played alphabetically by song title ... which means absolutely NO REPEATS for over a week!!!  
Not only is it great to hear that much variety played back-to-back, but it's also a whole lotta fun trying to figure out what song might be coming up next.  
All I know is it'll keep you tuned in waiting to see what's coming up next ... now that's REALLY giving the listeners absolutely NO reason to even think about changing the channel!  (Radio people WANT to listen to?!?!?  Wow!  What a concept!!!)
They seem to be running these A-Z sweeps more often lately ... and ALWAYS to VERY positive response ... showing you what a little "creative programming" can do for a station.  What REALLY makes it special is that they revamp the song line-up a little bit each time, adding new album cuts and "Wow" surprises while still remaining true to the station's Classic Rock identity.  All that means is more variety, while still giving you what you tuned in to the station for in the first place ... now THAT'S the kind of programming I'm talking about.  (And it's paying off big for The Drive, consistently one of the top-ranked and most-listened to stations in Chicago.) 
You can listen live here: Click here: 97.1fm The Drive
Put it on for a few hours ... my guess is you'll come back to it for the entire "drive" through their A-Z Classic Rock  Library.  It all kicks off at 6 am Chicago Time on Friday!