I’ve not really been too much a singles guy, but I do like hearing songs presented that way. Back in my youth, and my young adult life, I spent an awful lot of time tuned into WLS music radio (89…WLS Chicago). As I got older, I split time with several FM stations. Between WLS and WXRT, I gained a lot of familiarity with bands and artists, many of whom I went and bought LPs from.
So, yeah, discovery played a huge part of that radio love back then. But I also loved the ability to catch a string of acceptably good tracks even if I might never purchase an LP from the band. And that is definitely what I miss most about it now. Recently, that was really driven home by a long drive that, for some strange smack alongside the head with nostalgia, left me feeling sad. I REALLY did miss that style of radio.
Top40 radio provided freshness that was always changing. A fast charting song, a quick insertion at a high spot, or a brief stay by an elusive song, could always perk my ears up. Noted songs always precipitated a visit to Art’s Record Shop, sometimes immediately. For sure, WLS played a heavy hand in my musical education, not to forget my love for musical diversity. WXRT-FM picked up the heavier lifting. Between the two, I was shaped and molded by some of the best radio stations I could have been introduced to.
Unfortunately, as the years progressed, Top40 (as we knew it then) gave way to talk shows, then back to a highly structured Top40 that remained heavily Pop-oriented. In a word, unlistenable. Gone were the cross-over hits in one place. Wanted a splash of country in your drive time? Better zero in on a country station with their own Top40. Jazz? Find a Jazz station. A bluesy cut forces your tuning to a Blues-oriented station. Even Rock music is incredibly sub-divided these days. Leave the hard stuff for the metal-heads, the Pop-Rock to the fan of that, and the alternative stuff is sequestered on uniquely specialized stations for the teen, the young adult, or the older crowd still trying to keep a foothold in the whole thing. Nostalgic? Of course you can have that. But be prepared to be inundated with the same Who song, the same Pink Floyd tracks, the same cherry-picked Led Zeppelin heavy cuts for days on end. You begin to wonder how many songs those bands made. According to LA’s very boring The Sound-FM, you could collect the world’s treasure trove of music on a 50-CD Time-Life set. And they’re not the only tight play list in LA.
Yes, I miss the incredible diversity of WLS and other AM Top40 stations like it. I miss the exploration of the early days of Rock FM stations.
I don’t know where to look anymore without being disgusted, simply choosing to keeping the radio off.
Some bullshit study so far off the mark…