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Classic Rock Peaked (By Song Plays) in 1973
July 7, 2014 7:47 AM   Subscribe


 
None dare call it Oldies.
posted by gimonca at 7:57 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


I just want to point out that Cincinnati OH classic rock stations play a disproportionate amount of Bryan Adams. Draw your own conclusions.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:58 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Based on being in Maine with only access to top 40 radio I can tell you classic rock stations are under a direct order to play Brass In Pocket at least once an hour.
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Wherever you go, John Cougar Mellancamp will follow.
posted by priested at 8:00 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Classic rock, McDonald said, has a much wider range of tempo and rarely is powered by a drum machine. The Echo Nest can detect whether an actual person is behind a drum set based on minor imperfections in tempo, or beats that a drum machine can’t mimic. “The timing will be very human and unmechanical,” a dead giveaway, he said.

The ZZ Top on that playlist is from Eliminator, which for sure uses drum machines.

What I hate about the classic rock format is how shallow it is....you'll not hear "Manic Mechanic", you know? To "classic rock", ZZ Top is two songs, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones are about 5 songs, and the rest of their stuff is invisible.

Also, Kansas? Really? I can think of exactly one good thing to say about Kansas: they gave Steve Morse a job.
posted by thelonius at 8:01 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Boston pairs with Allman Brothers would have never guessed.
posted by stbalbach at 8:04 AM on July 7


Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time 1) playing with data and 2) listening to classic rock on the radio, this post is quite relevant to my interests. Thanks!

Also I wish to register the complaint that there's way too much Aerosmith, Doors, and Kansas on my station, and way too little from The Who, Heart or Pink Floyd. Harrumph. Now that (per the FA) changing playlists is a firing offense for DJs, what's a local listener to do?

(PS: Agreed, Kansas is totally overrated.)
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:11 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


1974 was 40 years ago.

Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:11 AM on July 7 [56 favorites]



What I hate about the classic rock format is

There's great potential for an amazing radio station operating out of the "classic rock" zone, simply because there was so much amazing music produced between say 1965 and 1992.

So why do they all suck? (certainly all the ones I've ever heard)

But do radio stations rely at all on the institutional knowledge of their DJs to decide what to play?

Nope. The role of the song-picking DJ is dead. “I know there are some stations and some companies where if you change a song it’s a fireable offense,” Wellman said, cavalierly ruining the magic.

posted by philip-random at 8:12 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


To "classic rock", ZZ Top is two songs

If those two songs are Sharp Dressed Man and Legs, I'd like to point people to the ZZ Top Greatest Hits album that came out before Eliminator: The Best of ZZ Top. I'm guessing La Grange does actually hit some Classic Rock playlists, but there are a lot of gems on this album that are largely forgotten. Blue Jean Blues is a big favorite of mine.

You can also listen to it on Grooveshark, but as usual they have the album track list screwed up. The first 10 tracks are the album, then it goes off the rails.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:13 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Motley Crue are not classic rock. Neither is Poison/Ratt/Dokken/Etc.

But, if you can call the Outlaws* classic rock or The Travelling Wilburys then you can certainly count Freddy Jones and Big Head Todd.

Green Day ? Rubbish anyway you cut it. You play Green day and I will cut you.

* best played loudly while driving through mountains.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:13 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


No matter what genre my fictitious radio station plays, I will find some airtime for Tom Petty.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:15 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


When I was a little girl, I used to listen to the local rock station. I'm in my mid-40s and the classic rock station is playing the same music most of the time.

Also my classic rock station was in Houston, so I knew ZZ Top long before Eliminator. I never bought the pick-six box set of their first six albums, but I've been slowly picking them up over time because I like them a lot more than Eliminator, which was honestly sort of the end of them as a good studio band (they're still fun live, though).
posted by immlass at 8:16 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Nope. The role of the song-picking DJ is dead. “I know there are some stations and some companies where if you change a song it’s a fireable offense,” Wellman said, cavalierly ruining the magic.

Listening to UPenn's excellent public radio station WXPN on the way home from work the other day, they chose side 1 of the Cars' debut as their "Five at 5:00" feature, wherein they play 5 songs that fit a (generally very loose) theme. After it was over the DJ started talking about the album & said something along the lines of "Man, it's so great to hear that, but it also feels weird not to flip the album over and hear side two because that's just how it should be." He went on to give the weather & traffic & all that stuff & then said something along the lines of "You know what, screw it, I'm the DJ, I'm going to play side 2" and he did. And it was great but definitely made me sad because it reminded me of how little control DJs have over what they play and how it just takes all the personality out of radio.
posted by zempf at 8:19 AM on July 7 [25 favorites]


The piece talks about the possibility of "classic rock skewing younger" as though that's a magical unicorn. But I've heard many a station play "Black Hole Sun," "Disarm," "When I Come Around," "Walking on the Sun," etc., etc., as classic rock, in the same way as all the dinosaurs on the 25 most-played list on fivethirtyeight, and it doesn't take much of a leap of imagination to think of "Use Somebody," "Do You Realize??," "How You Remind Me," etc., etc., filling that same niche.
posted by blucevalo at 8:21 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The worst part of working at construction sites for many years before I went back to school was having to listen to classic rock cranked to 11 for eight hours a day five days a week. Looking at the playlist for that station now, it doesn't l look like they've changed a bit since I hung up my paint brushes and got a desk job in 1996.

I'd poke my ear drums out before I'd voluntarily listen to "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew" or "Ah! Leah!" again.
posted by octothorpe at 8:21 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I grew up on "classic rock" - for me it's still the default soundtrack for workshop puttering. As I try to think back, though, the line between what was playing on the classic station and what was playing on the hip contemporary rock station in the 1980s gets blurry. I mean, I clearly remember hearing Def Leppard, Rush, Boston and the J Geils band on WAAF all the time, but they have all since slipped into strictly classic territory.

More often than not I'll still tune my terrestrial car radio to the local-ish classic rock station... they're pretty consistently 60's-70's-80's. I think they must have a grandfather clause for 90s stuff by some bands like U2 and Van Halen, but I've heard no Nirvana or Greenday yet that I can recall.

I did have a "Congratulations! You Are Now An Old Person" moment when I heard Soundgarden playing on some other classic rock station, though.
posted by usonian at 8:21 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I can't even remember the last time I heard a song on my local classic rock station that I'm not sick of, let alone an unfamiliar one that I was excited to hear when it came on. No-one needs to hear "More Than A Feeling" again, ever.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:24 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


thelonius: To "classic rock", ZZ Top is two songs, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones are about 5 songs, and the rest of their stuff is invisible.

Many of the "second tier" artists become one-hit wonders: Alice in Chains is only "Man in the Box" for example.

Here in the Bay Area, it seems the rock stations really really like AC/DC. A lot. Like they're doodling little hearts in their notebooks with "107.7 The Bone" and "AC/DC" inside. Can't get enough of it.

Also I have to smile whenever I hear a pop station proclaiming how much variety it plays.
posted by kurumi at 8:24 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


In addition to the web-crawlers and listening histories, The Echo Nest uses sophisticated music-analysis software to figure out the qualities of different songs. McDonald looks at 13 dimensions when evaluating genre: tempo, energy, loudness, danceability, whether a song is more acoustic or electric, dense or spare, atmospheric or bouncy, and so on. Some genres are defined by one of these dimensions in particular — electronic music with a very finite range of beats per minute, say — and some are painted in broader strokes, like classic rock.

Further proof that the future belongs to flesh eating robots and we're all just being fattened up for eventual slaughter. Every Bryan Adams song they feed you in Cincinnati is another small piece of your death.
posted by philip-random at 8:25 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I was driving by the drag the other week, and there was a surly, skinny, spotty kid with greasy hair wearing a Doors shirt. PRECISELY like the kids I knew who wore Doors shirts when I was 16, 20+ years ago. 20+ years after the Doors inflicted their particular brand of suck onto the world.

Is that kid, or one like him, going to be scowling from underneath his Doors shirt in another 20+ years? In a hundred? A thousand? God.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:25 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


dirtdirt, yeah, pretty much.

Doors fans aren't made, they're born. I think right now in Africa there's some guy madly beating on a drum. He's a Doors fan. Or an old lady sitting on the bus sucking humbugs. She's a Rider On The Storm, but she ain't never heard the sounds.
posted by adipocere at 8:26 AM on July 7 [26 favorites]


I grew up in New Hampshire where Classic Rock is like the water to fish. You barely even notice it because you're swimming in it at all times. I did everything I could to get away from that in my 20's

But the current trend of faux bluegrass and girls who sing like they're about to lapse into baby talk at any moment has really made me appreciate some Heart and Steve Miller Band.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:27 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember when Classic Rock wasn't quite a Thing yet, and my parents would have to surf the radio and listen to Top 40 pop on road trips on the off chance of catching some of their favorite music from 10-15 years before.

This has to be true, since I can think of no other way my parents would have listened to George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" on a trip to the beach with eight-year-old me and sixty-five year old Grandma and Grandpa.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:28 AM on July 7


Thank FSM for Sirius. I now don't care if the car even has an FM radio.
posted by spitbull at 8:28 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


All this data rumination would be unnecessary if we started defining Classic Rock/Oldies in absolute, instead of relative, terms.

Proposed schema:
-"Golden Oldies:" 1954-1962
-"Silver Oldies:" 1963-1966
-"Carborundum Oldies:" 1966-1969
(The first side of Sergeant Pepper is Silver, the second Carborundum)
-"Classical Rock:" 1970-1976
-"Hellenistic Rock:" 1977-1985
-"Imperial Rock:" 1986-1990
-"Autumnal Rock:" 1991-1997
-"Twilight Rock:" 1998-2004
(A period ushered in by Train's debut album and closed with Hoobastank's massive crossover success. Surtr smites the World Tree with his sword of fire, and the universe ends.)
posted by Iridic at 8:30 AM on July 7 [47 favorites]


Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.

...if 90% of the music made since 1945 had been of lesser quality than 1940s music
posted by goethean at 8:34 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


This has to be true, since I can think of no other way my parents would have listened to George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" on a trip to the beach with eight-year-old me and sixty-five year old Grandma and Grandpa.

Hehe. Reminds me of this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:34 AM on July 7


Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.

You say that...
posted by MartinWisse at 8:37 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


That was really interesting. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:38 AM on July 7


A period ushered in by Train's debut album and closed with Hoobastank's massive crossover success

If you'd thrown in Sugar Ray and Smashmouth references I think you would have made my brain explode.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:40 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Is that kid, or one like him, going to be scowling from underneath his Doors shirt in another 20+ years? In a hundred? A thousand? God.

Well how else is going to convince himself that he's ever so slightly cooler than the kid who just discovered Led Zeppelin?

You know what I miss? Oldies stations. I like classic rock fine, but I'd really like some 60s pop on my radio.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:41 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Every Bryan Adams song they feed you in Cincinnati is another small piece of your death.

I must not listen to Bryan Adams.
Bryan Adams is the mind-killer.
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:42 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


No-one needs to hear "More Than A Feeling" again, ever.

It's like, how much more wrong could this be? And the answer is none. None more wrong.
posted by asterix at 8:44 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "You know what I miss? Oldies stations. I like classic rock fine, but I'd really like some 60s pop on my radio."

I've noticed our "oldies" station, which was your typical 50s/early 60's soda fountain mix has been throwing in occasional "classic rock" per this article. Really striking when it happens. I'll miss it too - I spent some time working in a Fosters Freeze in high school in the 90s and the dial of the radio had been glued to the local oldies station.
posted by Big_B at 8:44 AM on July 7


I'm old enough to remember when Classic Rock wasn't quite a Thing yet

I thought your profile was going to say you were in your 70s. You're 35. What in the world are you talking about?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:47 AM on July 7 [23 favorites]


Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.

Although what's also interesting about that is that playing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in 1985 would have been quirky and cool and offbeat--not flogging a tired classic for the umpteenth time.
posted by yoink at 8:50 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat and asterix have moved me to dig out my Boston LP and put it on the turntable. Quintessential summer music.
posted by usonian at 8:51 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: We're in a post-neoclassical-rock era, and nobody is willing to admit it.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:52 AM on July 7


If not for Classic Rock stations, how will I ever get the "Led" out? Or my blocks, will they have rock? And would October just be another month?
posted by stltony at 8:52 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


You know what I miss? Oldies stations. I like classic rock fine, but I'd really like some 60s pop on my radio.

This. When the big Oldies station here in Boston switched to Top 40 suddenly a couple of years ago, I just wanted to smash something. The 50s-60s-70s mix will always be my favorite.
posted by briank at 8:53 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing fascinates me. Our classic rock station here, which is relatively macho, experimented with playing Real Life's "Send Me An Angel" just once, clearly flailing about, trying to find a sense of what they would be like going forward.

The Boomer Cultural Hegemony is a strange, strange thing. The music I hear in a pharmacy this year is roughly the music I heard in Woolworth's as a child. And yet, about once a decade, they seem to add a later year to what is acceptable. From the sounds in Walgreens, I gather we're up to 1983 now. I wonder if the Boomers remember it as "that time we all wore skinny ties and had crazy hair" or something.

It isn't that classic rock is bad, it's just becoming very obviously dated in a way that facile excuses like "new music sucks" won't quite cover for any longer. And the mystery of what is chosen, when, is vaguely irritating. It can't just be a time range. Both Van Halen and The Police "broke" around the same time, yet one is a staple of classic rock and the other is not. Even the clear descendants like, say, Blood Ceremony (who are like a mixture of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, with hints of Deep Purple, The Doors, and perhaps Pentegram) perform it as something of a parody.
posted by adipocere at 8:55 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Before Classic Rock was called "Classic Rock", it was called Album-Oriented Rock. It's the same thing, though. An AOR station in 1984 played most of the same songs from 1973 that a Classic Rock station plays in 2014.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:57 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


See also: W.K.R.P. ( In Cincinnati )
posted by mikelieman at 8:58 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


A new Alternative station opened up near me. It plays almost entirely warhorses from the '90s - I mean, not even the cool stuff, just threadbare overplayed junk. And maybe Cage the Elephant or Harlem once an hour.

It's identical to the other Alternative station nearby, which played REM when REM was touring colleges in the early '80s, but gave up and chased ad revenue somewhere around 2000. It plays around a quarter of it's 1999 playlist around 80% of the time, and national "alternative" acts from the past 3 years long after they've broken into the bigtime the rest of the 20%.

This is the modern-day answer to Classic Rock stations of my youth, only the playlist isn't as big or interesting. Modern Classic Rock stations are worse.

It's pretty depressing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:58 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


1974 was 40 years ago.

Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985
.

I have to disagree here.

I'm 40. As a kid/teen, I got really tired of oldies really quickly. I had some favorites (mostly Motown), but by and large it all felt stale and tinny and all too safe.

As I grew up, I fully expected the next generation(s) to have the same opinion about my generation's music (and that of the generation immediately preceding it, i.e. classic rock). Yet as a high school teacher, I constantly find students who really like music from the '70s and '80s. They like Zeppelin. They like Bowie. They like AC/DC.

I generally cannot stand the sound of children singing (yes, I realize that makes me a horrible, black-hearted person and I embrace that), but this past year I was forced to concede that my blanket rule against kids singing in my class has one exception: I'm fine with anything off of Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" album.

And yes, when I said that, half of the class immediately started belting out "You Give Love a Bad Name." Off-key, in keeping with tradition, but they knew all the freakin' words.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:59 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Every Bryan Adams song they feed you in Cincinnati is another small piece of your death.

I dunno, the stuff he did with Jim Vallance as co-writer is pretty classic pop. "Reckless" was the soundtrack to summer '85, the summer I turned 14. Cuts Like a Knife (from an earlier album by Bryan Adams) *is* early-80's Vancouver, a Vancouver that doesn't really exist anymore. Even Into the Fire was pretty good. But then Adams and Vallance broke up, and Adams descended into pure schmaltzy dreck.

Interestingly, in the mid-80's, Vallance and Adams wrote a bunch of hits for other artists.

I *do* get the utter bland repulsiveness of Classic Rock stations. It kind of sucks, because, in small doses, Zep is pretty awesome.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on July 7


As a caveat to my post above: one could easily draw ethnic lines on those musical tastes in the high schools, of course. I imagine the same could be said 40 years ago, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:00 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah I grew up listening to classic rock but basically don't anymore because it's the same 20 songs I already know by heart. Sure, play Floyd, but maybe something besides Another Brick in the Wall Part II?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:00 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Classic R&B is where it's at now. I can't spend more than 2-3 songs on a contemporary R&B station and couldn't back in the 90's when contemporary R&B was huge, but the classic R&B station in Los Angeles 92.3 is constantly playing amazing music, reaching back to the 60's, with a sprinkling of great 90's stuff. So like Marvin Gaye followed by Bel Biv Devoe followed by Prince followed by Smokey Robinson followed by Montell Jordan, back to Marvin Gaye, then Digital Underground, Chaka Khan, Dazz Band, George Clinton, Teddy Pendergrass, Prince again... you get the idea.
posted by cell divide at 9:00 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Sure, play Floyd, but maybe something besides Another Brick in the Wall Part II?
posted by Ghostride The Whip


The good news: Minneapolis classic rock stations fulfill your request.

The bad news: they do so by playing nothing but "Young Lust," the song so bad that someone ought to call the police.
posted by COBRA! at 9:03 AM on July 7


In further support of my pro-Oldies stance, it occurs to me that the 50s and 60s canon also contains a lot more songs by women and people of color than the Classic Rock canon which is basically just white dudes and Heart.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:05 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.

Not really; that's not something you can really do based purely on elapsed time. "Classic Rock" still seems to be a pretty big influence and style of music people play in and listen to. It hasn't gone away. By 1985 no one listened to big band music because it had gone completely out of fashion, whereas today people now still play stuff that distinctly has "classic rock" roots. Bands like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, the White Stripes etc.
posted by Hoopo at 9:11 AM on July 7


Q95 in Indianapolis is playing the exact same songs today that I heard on the school bus in 1978. What happened to oldies stations, they seem to have disappeared?
posted by Hoosier Prospector at 9:15 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


-"Twilight Rock:" 1998-2004
(A period ushered in by Train's debut album and closed with Hoobastank's massive crossover success. Surtr smites the World Tree with his sword of fire, and the universe ends.)


- Hey man...is that Twilight Rock?
- Yeah, man.
- Oh...bummer.

*universe ends*
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:16 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


I'm amazed that radio is still a thing, personally.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:17 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


When it comes to the state of FM radio today, I am seriously "get off my lawn".

Unless, and until, FM gets back to deep cuts, album sides, and 55 minutes of DJ-chosen music/hour (truly, it used to be that way), music radio is dead to me. Sorry, but market-tested lowest-common-denominator ad-driven drivel is a waste of time.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:20 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


Til the day I die, I will never understand why Tom Sawyer gets so much repeat airplay on Classic Rock stations. Ugh. It was unlistenable when it was new, and remains so.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:22 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I just want to point out that Cincinnati OH classic rock stations play a disproportionate amount of Bryan Adams. Draw your own conclusions.

Look into my eyes;
You will see;
What [that] means to me.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:24 AM on July 7


The Boomer Cultural Hegemony is a strange, strange thing.

it is - i thought it was awfully stale that so much of my parents' generation's radio station listening was dedicated to old stuff from the 40s and 50s (NOT rock and roll) - and then the godawful "beautiful music " format - think mantovani or 101 strings only duller

but things moved on and by the early 70s, those stations had become a real niche market, replaced by contemporary pop and rock stations

40 years later, the rock stations have barely evolved from what they were in the 70s - more accurately, they evolved through the 80s and 90s and then stopped, and moved backwards

here in w michigan, we have WRKR, which is pretty much basic classic rock with a limited amount of new songs that will be played for a couple of months and then dropped

we have WZUU, which had been 80s and 90s "classic rock" - think hair metal and grunge - and has recently moved back to a heavier mix of 70s classic rock, with a few relative obscurities i haven't heard for ages

there's WGRD, which plays contemporary mallcore metal and stuff from the 90s

i'm awfully tired of the boomer cultural hegemony on radio
posted by pyramid termite at 9:25 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Unless, and until, FM gets back to deep cuts, album sides, and 55 minutes of DJ-chosen music/hour (truly, it used to be that way), music radio is dead to me. Sorry, but market-tested lowest-common-denominator ad-driven drivel is a waste of time.

The few people that can remember such a radio format are in nursing homes and in those days they called it "wireless".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:28 AM on July 7


I was a DJ, music director, and worked radio stations around the country throughout the 70s and 80s. Back then (as noted above), "Classic Rock" didn't exist. There was Top 40, AOR (album-oriented radio), MOR (Middle of the Road), Country, & Soul.

It was extremely rare to see a song from one genre "cross over" to another. But sometimes, a Country song would cross over to Top 40, or a Soul ballad to MOR...etc.

The big industry lists (Billboard and others) of those "chart" songs determined, largely, what got on your playlist. When the big chains (Clear Channel, etc.) came in, they started centralizing playlists and doing a lot of research. Stations in their chain would get lists, tape copies of songs, anecdotes, and even day parts to play those songs. I recall many songs that were "day parted" to "before Noon" or "After Six" only.

As more and more stations appeared and tighter playlists started coming in, satellite streaming, weekly delivery of all content on tape, etc., markets started to fragment. The days of the big stations with half market shares were gone. I seem to recall major markets "winning" the market with 7 or 8% shares!

Stations were constantly tweaking their playlists to gain the most listeners...and sometime in the late 80s or 90s, the Top 500 type playlists started to appear. That is, 500 of the most appealing songs in a genre just played over and over and over.

I seem to recall that the satellite stations with their 200 genre names and super fragmented channels was where "Classic Rock" started to appear. So my take that this discussion about "what is classic rock" is a moving target. It keeps changing based on more research, changing market data, regional preferences, age, etc.

Indeed the old days of DJs selecting the music to play and what to say are gone. When I left the business, "live-assist" had just come in. All music was on a big tape, scripted by time throughout the day, and all you did was push a button and say what was pre-printed on a sheet as the songs rolled.

If a listener called in to request a song (rare in the later days), I could just look it up on the day playlist and tell them, "listen at 3:52 this afternoon...the afternoon guy will play it then...."

Nowadays (in addition to live-assist), I think many shows are pre-recorded! "Live" radio still exists on some college and free-form stations, but it's rare.

I'm biased tho: there's an old saying from radio announcers: "When you are really tired of a song and you don't want to hear it anymore, everyone else is just starting to like it."

Yeah, I certainly don't listen to Classic Rock or heavily formatted stations anymore. Burn out....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:29 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


... What's wrong with 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy'?
posted by kyrademon at 9:30 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


the funny part is that bette midler had a hit with boogie woogie bugle boy in the 70s
posted by pyramid termite at 9:41 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


As recently as the mid-1990s, maybe even later, there was an AM station in the Twin Cities that still played big-band-era music. They're gone now, along with most of their demographic. It was odd to run into that station on the car radio, it was like you were caught in some sort of Fortean time shift.

The "nice" grocery store near where I live used to play 1950s doo-wop music over the speakers for their customers, many of whom are very elderly. Not long ago, they started playing 70s stuff, I noted a Fleetwood Mac track in the mix. I interpreted this as grim death sneaking up on me from behind, waiting, waiting.
posted by gimonca at 9:43 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Unless, and until, FM gets back to deep cuts, album sides, and 55 minutes of DJ-chosen music/hour (truly, it used to be that way), music radio is dead to me. Sorry, but market-tested lowest-common-denominator ad-driven drivel is a waste of time.
The few people that can remember such a radio format are in nursing homes and in those days they called it "wireless".
This makes no sense.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:43 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


What's wrong with 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy'?

Well, he can't blow a note if a bass and guitar isn't with him. Rather a shortcoming in a reveille bugler.
posted by Iridic at 9:43 AM on July 7 [16 favorites]


I graduated high school in 1981. I have a playlist on my mp3 player affectionately called "Bullshit." When I want the comfort food equivalent of music, turn off my brain, sing along, that's what I'll play sometimes. And minus the ZZ Top and Steve Miller, that list of most-played songs pretty much matches my "Bullshit" playlist. (Needs some ELO).
posted by marxchivist at 9:47 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Really, this is a story about music technology. Classic rock was where all the cutting edge recording studio techniques were happening in the late 60s and 70s, and by the 80s, it was moving to drum machines and synths-- disco, hip hop, house music, etc. Grunge was really the last dying gasp of guitar music as the sound of pop music.
posted by empath at 9:49 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


From TFA:

The 10-year period from 1973 to 1982 accounts for a whopping 57 percent of all song plays in the set.

That graph peaks right around 1977, when punk broke out as an alternative to the pretentious Prog Rock and and AOR that dominated popular music. I hated pop music, I sought out any alternative, from classical to Punk. And I have spent the rest of my life being chased by that crappy pop music. I will never escape it. I still hate it. Someone will probably try to play Classic Rock at my funeral. The hearse driver will have a Classic Rock station playing on the radio. Just play something that is classic to ME, I suggest Shot By Both Sides by Magazine.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:50 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


As recently as the mid-1990s, maybe even later, there was an AM station in the Twin Cities that still played big-band-era music.

Umm, that may have been an alternative station in disguise, especially if they concentrated on up-tempo dance numbers. Swing was huge in the mid-'90s, and you could get hot and cold running Thelonious Monk and Glen Miller on college and underground radio for a while.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:52 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


The Boston "Classic Rock" station once played Traffic and even Joni Mitchell, but in this century the format is worn down and dumbed down as more discerning listeners, tired of the likes of ZZ Top and Journey, have fled to online services. Only in the last year have the 90's bands been added, to somewhat relieve the inertia and ennui. The playlist cannot change much more than this, as there is precious little rock in the 21st century created with any passion and worth any attention, the spark has been doused.

You kids might as well just stay on my lawn, doesn't seem like you can do much damage.
posted by koebelin at 9:53 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


The few people that can remember such a radio format are in nursing homes and in those days they called it "wireless".

I'm almost fifty-five which, last I checked, is still two or three decades short of nursing home status. So assuming this comment isn't just a troll, allow me to respond with something I posted a while back to a different thread ...

>

FROM THE DEEP ARCHIVES:

The radio of 1972-73-74 was definitely helping. Because I was listening to FM now, with its longer, heavier, more important sounds, the DJs themselves programming the shows, playing the stuff that mattered to them, guiding the musical journey with their cooler than cool voices. Which would get you Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, King Crimson, Sly and the Family Stone, the Allman Brothers, the Doobie Brothers (before they went all lame), Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull ... An ever expanding universe of significance and cool. Just turn the radio on, maybe catch a whole side of Pink Floyd, into some old blues, some Tangerine Dream, then the latest David Bowie. Like the world's best buffet, always serving and I was always hungry

But this was about to change – fast.

Do your research and you'll discover that 1974 was pretty much the turning point – the year the consultants took over FM radio and ruined everything forever. I'll even name names, having bothered to do some research a while back.

Burkhart + Abrams.

Maybe it was inevitable. Maybe if it wasn't those two evil clowns, it would've been someone else, the FM airwaves being suddenly way too lucrative to be trusted to mere lovers of music. But Burkhart + Abrams are the ones that put their names to the crime, killed a beautiful thing and got filthy rich for their trouble.

Suddenly the DJs didn't have a say in what they played. Suddenly the DJs would get fired if they didn't follow the consultant's playlist. Suddenly that cool guy (or girl) with the alluring voice was the enemy … or working for them anyway. Suddenly, so much that was cool and dynamic and worth living for was just gone – or certainly driven well underground.

Curse them all.
posted by philip-random at 10:11 AM on July 7 [17 favorites]


There are a number of classic rock stations in my area that all seem to have the same general playlist. I flip through them and I can't tell one from another. But still, if I have to hear "Hotel California" one more time I might throw a brick at the radio.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:13 AM on July 7


try stabbing it with your steely knife instead
posted by thelonius at 10:27 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


Hey, hey. How about that weather out there?
Woah! *That* was the caller from hell.
Well, hot dog! We have a weiner.
Those clowns in congress did it again. What a bunch of clowns.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:29 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


One of the generational divides to mention:

Classic Boomer Rock is just a few years older than what my generation would view as its own. The earliest key influence my cohort would recognize is probably Patti Smith. (My generation now has its own collection of old warhorse rock stars that younger people may find insufferable, Morrissey, Bono, what have you, but they came later.)

I was drifting around on the car radio a couple of years ago and landed on the main Classic Rock station in Minneapolis, KQRS. I hadn't listened to them in years and years. As expected, much of their playlist was frozen in the past: Allman Brothers, Aerosmith, Zeppelin.

But then they played "Train in Vain" by the Clash. That stood out as a huge outlier. In 1980, that would never, ever, ever have been played on KQ. Absolutely not. How it got in there, I have no idea--I doubt it was bravery by a DJ, possibly a glitch in a computer algorithm, or a younger person making decisions who was unaware of the cultural and generational divides of that time.

It really stood out for me as an example of what was typically (formerly?) not allowed in Classic Rock playlists, because the demographic for that format wouldn't accept it.
posted by gimonca at 10:40 AM on July 7


There's a limited selection of Clash I hear on classic rock stations: "Train in Vain," "Rock the Casbah," "Should I Stay or Should I Go," maybe "London Calling." Obviously, they're not playing "Guns of Brixton" or anything, but it's there. It started showing up a little after Joshua Tree era U2 made its appearance on classic rock stations.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I wish I could find the Doonesbury cartoon where Mike is washing dishes and listening to "Satisfaction" on the radio. The DJ comes on and says, "Time for Station Identification. Turn it down if you can't handle it!"

Then in the next frame the radio says, "This is 96.5 WOED - Oldies All Day" and Mike whines, "Aww, I thought I was rockin'!"
posted by straight at 10:50 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


But still, if I have to hear "Hotel California" one more time I might throw a brick at the radio.

On December 7th, 1976 I heard "Hotel California" 4 times in the 2 hours it took to put my braces on. Things are better today.
posted by JanetLand at 10:51 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


The "classic rock" station near me plays this from 7pm to Midnight: Nights With Alice Cooper. He's a great DJ and isn't stuck with a playlist. :)
posted by luckynerd at 10:58 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


All I know is, my parents had their '50s, '60s, and '70s station that played all the songs of their youth. I want my '70s, '80s, and '90s station. Instead we get the execrable "The River" which not only is so predictable that you can damn near set your watch by when they'll play a song, but spends entirely too much time playing Styx for my taste.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:59 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


mikelieman: See also: W.K.R.P. ( In Cincinnati )

Remember the episode in which Venus Flytrap is courted by the salesman from the new radio station, who draws back the curtain to reveal their "DJ in charge": a big computer with spinning tapes and blinking lights, for whose decisions Venus will just be the smooth-talking front man?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:01 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


On December 7th, 1976 I heard "Hotel California" 4 times in the 2 hours it took to put my braces on.

Oh god. You remind me of a while ago when I had a minor surgery under local anesthesia. The doctor said she liked to play music during surgery to keep patients calm, it resulted in better surgical outcomes. She asked me what type of music I preferred, I said I prefer Punk Rock but it probably would not be appropriate for surgery, and she would probably find it distracting. She laughed. I said just pick something that you like. She said she'd play the Soft Rock channel. So I laid there while the doctor cut into my chest, trying to hold still, while the speakers played Hotel California, The Pina Colada Song, Margaritaville, Rosanna etc. It was torture, I felt like I wanted to die on the operating table (it wouldn't be the first time that happened).
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:09 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


As recently as the mid-1990s, maybe even later, there was an AM station in the Twin Cities that still played big-band-era music.


This was the wonderful KLBB 1400, which had a sort of resurgence of popularity in the 90's swing craze. I used to listen to it with my grandpa while restoring antiques in his workshop. The Cargill family fucking donated it to Minnesota Public Radio in the late 90's, who proceeded to sell it in the early 2000's while at the same time shitcanning the equally wonderful classical WCAL out of St. Olaf college.

And that's why I hate MPR.

yes I know KLBB came back on 1220 AM, but it's not the same- mostly a satellite feed
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:09 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Are there "classic" formats of other genres? Latin, jazz, country, etc.? The only other one I know of is WDAS in Philly that plays classic R&B and soul, which seems to be from about '65 to '75, and I freaking love that station.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:16 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


A year or so ago, I got curious, and figured out how I could pull the list of the 8000-or-so most recent played songs off the local classic rock radio station. As I recall, that worked out to just under a month's worth of data. As you might expect, there were a lot of repeats.

I did some analysis of it, and 299 songs accounted for 66.7% of their playlist. Here is the list. Put those 299 songs on your mp3 player on shuffle, and you never have to listen to another commercial on classic rock radio again.

Personally, I think classic rock radio would be a lot more interesting if we banned all these songs for the next year.
posted by fings at 11:29 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


-"Twilight Rock:" 1998-2004

Eh, "elephant" by the white stripes came out in 2003, so I'll accept this.

I'm reminded of that post explaining that all the "old school rock revival" bands after that didn't know how to mic drums right...
posted by emptythought at 11:33 AM on July 7


Are there "classic" formats of other genres? Latin, jazz, country, etc.?

Oh sure. You don't so much have whole radio stations devoted solely to "classic" X--because there are fewer total stations devoted to X, but you definitely have your Jazz station which relegates anything too free-Jazz-y or experimental to a special late-night slot and your Classical station that knows it's going to get a whole heap of nasty letters if it plays anything too dissonant or too contemporary during high-listener hours etc.
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It's funny how SiriusXM is largely excluded from these conversations, even though they have 20m subscribers and are one of the largest paid subscription services on any medium! I guess the size of the FM radio audience is vastly larger, but still a ton of people listen.

On XM they also seem to have playlists, but they also have real DJs who play what they want, including a bunch of the more famous classic rock DJs like Jim Ladd, who is no longer on KLOS in L.A. There are three Classic Rock stations, one playing more 70's, one more 80's and one which is I think called Deep Cuts which I guess spans all Classic Rock eras.
posted by cell divide at 11:35 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


> I'm amazed that radio is still a thing, personally.

I think the only reason it does is because if you work somewhere where music is played you can avoid fights over who gets to play what and when by just throwing the radio on.

A while back there was a First Nations-run radio station that you could pick up in Toronto and the playlists were just bananas; the first time I stumbled across it they played an amazing late '80s-era hip-hop song I'd never heard, then Aerosmith, then Aerosmith again, then some techno, then another amazing classic hip-hop track I didn't know, and then "Funky President" by James Brown. I don't know if they're still on the air, but even with the duds (and they were frequent) the randomness of their playlists were still greatly preferable to the deadening predictability of pretty much everything else on the FM dial.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:58 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


charlie don't surf: So I laid there while the doctor cut into my chest, trying to hold still, while the speakers played Hotel California, The Pina Colada Song, Margaritaville, Rosanna etc.

That's what I call literally adding insult to injury!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:12 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


you definitely have your Jazz station which relegates anything too free-Jazz-y or experimental to a special late-night slot

they would typically call themselves "mainstream" jazz

1965 is over WHEN I SAY it is over
posted by thelonius at 12:20 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


On December 7th, 1976 I heard "Hotel California" 4 times in the 2 hours it took to put my braces on.

Fast-forward to today, replace Hotel California with Happy, and you have the state of radio today.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:23 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


they would typically call themselves "mainstream" jazz

But would you not hear anything newer than thirty years old?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:24 PM on July 7


But would you not hear anything newer than thirty years old?

No, that is a big difference. You'd hear new artists who play in that style.
posted by thelonius at 12:31 PM on July 7


There's a classic-country station in Little Rock--they seen to play a little new stuff (though nothing with, like, a Pitbull guest verse), but mostly older stuff.
posted by box at 12:32 PM on July 7


> On December 7th, 1976 I heard "Hotel California" 4 times in the 2 hours it took to put my braces on.

Yup. 1970's, pre-braces wisdom tooth X-rays. All alone in a dark room lying on a metal bed. "Rock 'n' Roll Heaven" by The Righteous Brothers. Oh God. Made me believe in forever, that's for sure.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:45 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


So I laid there while the doctor cut into my chest, trying to hold still, while the speakers played Hotel California, The Pina Colada Song, Margaritaville, Rosanna etc.

That's what I call literally adding insult to injsurgury!


Fixed that for me.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:50 PM on July 7


Another interesting thing about the classic rock format is how decades after a song's release, it can "graduate" to being classic rock. Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" was not classic rock in the 80s, but Almost Famous made it retroactively classic. I would be shocked if Badfinger's "Baby Blue" didn't see the same fate after the Breaking Bad finale.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:56 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


"OK, like, the way I feel about the Rolling Stones
is the way my kids are going to feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I really
shouldn't torment my Mom anymore, huh?"
- Travis Birkenstock, 1995
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:02 PM on July 7


I beg to differ!
posted by Mister_A at 1:05 PM on July 7


What I don't get is Heart. I thought we were getting it crammed down our throats up here in Canada because of the CanCon laws. (the first record was made in Vancouver) Nice to know you guys down there have to hear them so much, too.

But you can take joy in that you don't have to hear the rest of the CanCon dinosaurs. These geezers were barely more than bar bands even back then. I don't think it was wrong to give them a leg up back in the day, but for them to still be getting cheques now, based on the same laws? How about the up and comers now, for crissake.

Trooper QED.
posted by Trochanter at 1:07 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


If 299 songs are enough to cover a month, I have about 600 lifetimes' worth of music on my iPod alone. Radio thinks waaaay too small.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:21 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


WCSX in Detroit was the first station I had ever heard call itself by the name "Classic Rock". This was in the late '80s when I was living across the river in Windsor, Ontario.

I listened to that station literally 24 hours a day. I left it on at night when I slept. It was the perfect mix of classic rock "hits", deep-cut album tracks, and of course Motown.

Sadly, it's gone downhill since then and is now just another generic CR station pumping out the same four or five Zeppelin, Heart, Journey, and Floyd tracks.
posted by rocket88 at 1:25 PM on July 7


Are there "classic" formats of other genres? Latin, jazz, country, etc.?

You wouldn't believe how old the playlist is on my local "Classic Al" station.
posted by straight at 1:32 PM on July 7


I do wish I had money for running a radio station because I think a Gen-X oldies station would probably be a big hit, at least in a very urban area. Use the playlists of 120 Minutes, or something similar, from 1984 till the early 90s. Hearing things like the Smiths, Husker Du, the Feelies, the Replacements, Black Flag, etc. in rotation would probably cause many 40 somethings to go into a catatonic nostalgic shock.

I think XM already has this as a format but I think it would be a huge hit on OTA radio.

There needs to be more classic hip-hop stations too. I can't stand classic rock but could listen to 80's and 90's rap all day.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:44 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


"Rock 'n' Roll Heaven" by The Righteous Brothers

That was a hit in 1974. A mere four years later, singing about the same dead Classic Rock stars:

"Rock 'n Roll Resurrection" by Wayne County & the Electric Chairs

I should hope I don't have to explain the monumental mockery of Jayne County, but it is probably not obvious 35+ years later. Suffice to say, we were already tired of Classic Rock 35 years ago. And they're still playing that crap today.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:04 PM on July 7


tl;dr but the thing I hated most about the gym I went to in the mid-90s was their insistence on playing the local Classic Rock radio station. I always wantet to change it to NPR but apparently everybody else wants to hear commercials.

Anyway, as someone who lived through the 70s I've come to the conclusion that Classic Rock means 70s oldies with all the disco and soul removed, so in my world,
Classic Rock = Racist Rock (aka Redneck Rock)
posted by Rash at 2:14 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It's like, how much more wrong could this be? And the answer is none. None more wrong.

I really don't know where the line is drawn, in terms of time, much less genre really, given that the Clash, as mentioned above, is played on Classic rock stations, but I have a feeling one day, Nickelback, repeatedly, will be played on such stations and therein is much more wrong. Just as the answer to the question, "How much more wrong could this be?" in relation to science fiction television is the new Doctor Who, Nickelback is the definitive answer to, "How much more wrong could this be?" in music.

I love music. I love new music and old music. There are a ton of great bands now and there were a ton of great bands in the past. I have trouble understanding what the hell classic rock is, and I have trouble understanding how people seemingly freeze their musical lives and listen to the same thing over and over again for the rest of their lives (it's like goths who are in their mid 40s). I understand not taking to music and not liking bands, but not giving a new band (or an old band you haven't heard of) a chance is difficult to understand. Why not give the Strokes a try if you like "rock" music? How about Albarn if you love Bowie or the Kinks? You never know, you might enjoy it. You enjoyed listening to music you never heard before back when you first heard Zeppelin, the Stones, the Kinks, Aerosmith, etc. What's the issue now?

Is it some sort of identity thing? I remember getting in arguments with friends in high school who seemingly felt that after 1976, musical talent, compositional talent, somehow arbitrarily died in the human race. They'd say things like the only reason I knew who Jim Morrison was, was because I heard them talk about Jim Morrison. That was not the reason at all.

I find the whole concept of classic rock utterly confusing. But that list is exactly the same sort of list I remember be played when I was a teenager working in retail over 25 years ago. Except here in Canada they play Helix and "Wave Babies" by Honeymoon Suite for fuck's sake.

A classic take on classic rock in Canada.
posted by juiceCake at 2:27 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


SiriusXM is worth every penny for Channel 21, Little Steven's Underground Garage.
posted by JanetLand at 2:33 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Ctrl-F:

"Bad Company" 0 of 0
"Montrose" 0 of 0
"Little Feat" 0 of 0

who the hell are you people
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:35 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Wait wait wait I've realized the song that is the epitome of classic rock.

You just know you wanna crank this up in your t-top Camaro and let the hot breeze ruffle your mullet.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:40 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


1. When I am forced to listen to classic rock stations I try to remember whether I have that song on record, cassette, CD or all three. Rarely is there a song I don't own (except 80's hair metal. I hate that stuff.)

2. Schadenfreude is jumping between classic rock stations to find how many are playing the same song at the same time, or in the same hour.
posted by ITravelMontana at 2:47 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Here's MY history of Rock Radio formats (as a kindofa professional radio person 70s-80s):

Top 40 played the Hits into the '60s, then the current playlist shrunk to 30, then 20-25 with a "re-current" list that ensured you'd keep hearing the songs that got overplayed in the last year. Renamed by trade paper Radio & Records as Contemporary Hits Radio or CHR for their airplay chart. By the end of the '60s, some stations decided to play 'the songs Top 40 had left behind', often All-1950s, and the Oldies format was born, generally slipping in ''new" songs when they became about-10-years-old.

Free-Form Radio (like the first station that gave Dr. Demento a timeslot on Sunday Nights) rebranded as Progressive then Progressive Rock, giving DJs free reign to play anything on any album in a NOT-unlimited library. The first thing to go was the then-dreaded Disco music, but pretty much all Black artists were thrown out with that bathwater. Then the consultants moved in, made playlists and it was renamed Album-Oriented Rock (AOR) by R&R who was now able to do an airplay chart of most-played tracks.

In large markets, there came to be multiple AOR stations, one with a vestige of DJ choice (the jock got to pick X number of songs per hour) and one strictly formatted... fitting in additional stations in the late 70s required some variations. In L.A., KLSX was one of the first Classic Rock stations (it was in their call letters), with a cut-off point 3-5 years before current, and a loud declaration DON'T CALL US OLDIES. KROQ went the other direction with a New Rock format, so new it started calling itself "The Roq of the 80s" in 1978, but with a strong programming hand that gave DJs only 2 'free choices' per hour and ultimately dominated by New Wave ('King of Sunset Strip' Rodney Bingenheimer had a Sunday show which was pretty much All-Punk) until Nirvana messed things up.

Before there was AOR, there was MOR, abbreviation for Middle of the Road playing whatever wasn't TOO Rock or TOO Soul or TOO Country or TOO Elevator Music (that was left to the Beautiful Music stations). This evolved into Adult Contemporary (AC), while Beautiful Music stations got away from their mostly-instrumental roots to either play AC or pre-rock oldies, generally classified Big Band, although some evolved into the truly mutant Classic Pop.

And that was radio as of about 20 years ago when I quit listening. (I'm not going to even start to get into the evolution of Country or 'Urban' - R&R's euphemism for Black - formats)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:52 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


The local college station - WTMD - recently gave a weekly show to Weasel, one of the original DJ's from the late lamented WHFS progressive rock station. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the classic rock era, and plays obscure songs that don't normally dent the "classic rock" playlists. I don't always share his tastes, but it sure is great to hear DJ-driven programming covering the 70's that have otherwise been weeded out. I grew up listening to him at the tail end of the Trouser Press era ('77-'84 or so), so was used to him playing mostly new wave hits of the day (which was great!), but now that he has free range, he plumbs the depths of '70's progressive radio like no other.
posted by jetsetsc at 2:57 PM on July 7


Related to oneswellfoop's comment, that's also when Easy Listening got relabeled Smooth Jazz in an attempt to attract a "hipper" crowd. But I'm not bitter about it or anything. At all.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:59 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Weasel and Damien Einstein were the PERFECT DJs.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:00 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Weasel and Damien Einstein were the PERFECT DJs.
Don't forget Bob Here.
posted by jetsetsc at 3:13 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


A few weeks back I was standing outside a hospital when an alcoholic transient sort staggered out of the lobby and button-holed me for a conversation, I think because I had long hair. He told me a long, sad story about how he -- at about 55 or 60, hard to tell -- had wound up with terminal liver disease due to alcoholism, but wasn't a transplant candidate because he couldn't stop drinking for the requisite 6 months. I wasn't in a hurry and he seemed sort of sad and eager to talk, and after a while it came out that he was a musician -- a drummer -- who had played with a number of Boston-area bands and musicians known to me (I'm just a little younger than him and played on the scene in the 80s when he claims he was pro). I sort of believed him, other than discounting the usual exaggerations you might expect from alcoholic, 50-something former rock musicians now reduced to homelessness and facing death. We shot the shit a long time -- I bought him a pack of smokes because he was jonesing so bad. We definitely would have known a few people in common in the 80s, and had similar musical tastes and backgrounds. Chances were good I'd even heard him play -- he was subbing for bands quite a few levels higher than me in the hierarchy of the era. Anyway, he had a sort of challenging manner, where he'd ask me "what was the best club of the time?" and I'd have to come up with the right answer. Eventually we got to the heart of the matter, "Who was the greatest rock drummer of all time?"

I looked right at him and said, without hesitation, "Keith Moon when he was sober."

He rolled his eyes theatrically and then looked stricken, "NOOOOO! I knew you were gonna say that. You know who it really was, right?"

I knew, and I said "OK, John Bonham, since Keith Moon was never sober."

He gave me a high five and a huge toothless grin. "Keith Moon was a showman," he added, "but John Bonham could play the FUCKING drums."

I conceded the point, and left him smoking and smiling. He told me the doctors didn't know why he wasn't dead yet, but I knew why.
posted by spitbull at 3:14 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


You mean apart from Stewart Copeland.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:27 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


If 299 songs are enough to cover a month, I have about 600 lifetimes' worth of music on my iPod alone. Radio thinks waaaay too small.

Each of those 299 tracks were played at least 11 times out of 8382 plays. The top two, "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf and "Lola" by the Kinks, tied at 44 plays. Out of the 8382 songs plays, there were 1105 unique songs, meaning the average song got played over 7.5 times.

The top 20 artists, by # of plays:
352 "Beatles"
340 "Rolling Stones"
335 "Led Zeppelin"
292 "Who"
208 "Doors"
207 "Van Halen"
199 "Jimi Hendrix Experience"
190 "Creedence Clearwater Revival"
183 "Pink Floyd"
177 "Billy Joel"
153 "Police"
137 "Queen"
132 "U2"
130 "Cream"
128 "Rush"
122 "Eagles"
120 "Elton John"
117 "Aerosmith"
109 "Boston"
100 "AC/DC"
posted by fings at 3:27 PM on July 7


I'm willing to bet Stewart Copeland is the favorite drummer of approximately zero homeless alcoholic 60 year old ex-drummers. I imagine anyone whose favorite drummer is Copeland is driving a nice late model import.
posted by spitbull at 3:48 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


(Just to be clear, mad props to Copeland as a great drummer, of course. I don't actually have a dog in this fight. I'm happy with Clyde Stubblefield.)
posted by spitbull at 3:51 PM on July 7


Classic Rock stations are the musical equivalent of playing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985.

Anybody else remember Robert Plant's Honeydrippers project, which did pretty much straight covers of songs from that earlier era? That was right around the mid 80s, and I kind of loved it at the time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:03 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Re The Clash, they are the 71st band in the dataset 538 used (yay for making it available in GitHub); about 1 in 250 plays. They are tied with REM and ranked just after Neil Young and Alice Cooper; just ahead of Golden Earring and Bruce Springsteen. These artists have about as many entries in the dataset as the top songs; i.e. you would expect to hear "Dream On" as frequently as the entire Clash catalog.

Speaking of which, as far as classic rock radio is concerned, the entire Clash catalog per the data is basically 2 songs; "Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay", which are played roughly equally and comprise about 85% of Clash songplay. (The remainder of plays are almost entirely "Train In Vain" and London Calling", with "I Fought The Law" and "Clampdown" appearing a couple of times.)

But this is misleading; one thing I see that is interesting is that the playlist structure varies by radio station. Three of the 25 had no Clash, and a number of others barely played them, while on some stations like WZLX Boston and KLOS Los Angeles they were played pretty frequently; 1 in 150 plays or more. Even for those stations, the play structure varies - WZLX played the Clash for 1 in 86 spins, but played 5 of the 6 songs I mentioned, while KLOS played them 1 in 132 spins, but almost entirely "Rock The Casbah".
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:59 PM on July 7


SiriusXM is worth every penny for Channel 21, Little Steven's Underground Garage.

Which one can also catch on your top shelf classic rock stations. It's just a fantastic show.
posted by vverse23 at 5:29 PM on July 7


High school class of '75 here. By the 90s I was so bored out of my skull with most classic rock I damn near started getting rid of my vinyl. Instead I stopped listening to any radio except for NPR talk. By the mid 00s I could put on Dark Side of the Moon or Exile on Main Street and think "yeah, there's a reason this was a classic." I still can't listen to the classic rock I hate, like the Doors or the Beach Boys. I never listen to any classic rock radio. I never play the Beatles because that catalog is hard-wired in my brain. And poor "Stairway to Heaven" never gets played. But "Kashmir"...when I listen to that I make sure my neighbors do to.
posted by Ber at 5:41 PM on July 7


Excellent documentary I saw recently on BBC4 about AOR and the power of the LP in the evolution of popular music: When Albums Ruled The World. Highly recommended.

We have two gen x analogue radio stations I flick between when driving (cos my car stereo is old): Absolute and XFM. Good mix of current indie songs and classics, all of which I can sing along to. A great mixed digital station is Radio 6 music, which has Craig Charles playing all the old soul stuff to cook dinner to on a Saturday night, Huey from the Fun Loving Criminals playing hip hop/ r & b to cook breakfast to Sunday around noon, Iggy Pop playing whatever he likes on Sunday evening and guest DJs such as Chrissie Hynde (who said last week that Urge Overkill's Saturation is one of her top five records, ever. Yay!). These are all stations focussed on the gen x demographic, and they rule.

Otherwise, Radio Paradise is truly eclectic, and probably my favourite station in the world, but at the moment it's 6 music, Absolute and XFM that are getting my earspace and to which I'm singing along.
posted by goo at 5:42 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Burkhart + Abrams.
...
Curse them all.


Amen. Also, a sort of metaphor for Commodification, if you wanna be all marxistic about it. I don't mind listening to the selected songs on Classic Rock stations so much, but the radio adverts between the music sometimes tend to be pretty loud and frequent.


So, if you might be feeling like you need some kinda heavy 1973 rock right now, how about some Santana & McLaughlin.
posted by ovvl at 6:26 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


By the 90s I was so bored out of my skull with most classic rock

That's an important point to keep in mind. I'd gotten similarly over-saturated to the point where it felt like my brains were running out my ears whenever I tried to listen to the radio. I would have told you I hated most of the top music of that period.

But nowadays I'll hear some "classic" 70's radio staple at the grocery store or somewhere, and by virtue of having had a break from it for a number of years and not been inundated by the tune non-stop all day every day, I was able to listen to it with a fresh ear and realize that it was actually a great song and I really enjoy listening to it. Context, moderation, etc. etc.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:02 PM on July 7


I'd gotten similarly over-saturated to the point where it felt like my brains were running out my ears whenever I tried to listen to the radio.

a friend of mine refers to it as an allergic reaction. Even songs he once loved inspire loathing. Just too much exposure.
posted by philip-random at 8:47 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Sirius/XM is the real deal. The times I've heard that Deep Tracks channel they delivered in spades. Hell, they even played UFO. I never heard UFO once when I listened to classic rock radio.
posted by Ber at 9:38 PM on July 7


Oh man I actually saw UFO live in 1975, they were warming up for some prog rock band I can't remember.. I bet I can find the tour info on the internet.. oh yeah Jethro Tull. We were really desperate for music back then. And to this day, I have never seen a worse live performance than UFO.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:14 PM on July 7


I am required to be loyal to Sirius cause my Dad's continued financial existence depends on them.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 PM on July 7


UFO? They don't even play The Byrds on "classic rock" radio.
posted by thelonius at 1:05 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


If you haven't tried Sirius and you are a rock, R&B, or country fan, you don't know what you are missing. No ads! Great reception! Always something on you want to hear! Keep the Whelk's dad employed!

I listened to a 4 freaking hour long interview with Dan Penn over two days on Outlaw Country's Buddy & Jim Show last month. I don't think up he has said as much in all the interviews he has ever given. So far it hasn't showed up online yet either. That one interview was worth the annual price. I'm still processing it.

You will never go back to commercial music radio.
posted by spitbull at 4:36 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Robert Plant's Honeydrippers project

*Insanely* sexy cover of "Sea of Love." Honeydrippers, indeed.
posted by GrammarMoses at 7:53 AM on July 8


I have a theory that the only reason Chase Utley is a 2014 All-Star, following injuries that would have DFA'd any other 2nd baseman his age -- is his walkup music. By passing on Kashmir to a new generation of kids, he has been permitted to wield the Hammer of the Gods in red pinstripes for all eternity.

It could also be his work ethic. I guess that would also be good for the kids.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:03 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


spitbull, I had sirius for a while and the sound quality was shit. The signal was so compressed it was like listening underwater. Is this due to the quality of the receiver I had (sportscaster)?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:37 PM on July 8


I don't think it is. We've had it on two new cars and have never renewed after the free period expired. The sound is compressed all to hell.
posted by Big_B at 12:56 PM on July 8


My parents looooove Deep Tracks. They talk about what they hear on Deep Tracks like some of us talk about shows on pay cable.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:33 PM on July 8


spitbull, I had sirius for a while and the sound quality was shit.

It's pretty well compressed. Roughly 196bit MP3 quality.

Still - if you live or drive any sort of long distances it is invaluable. My last trip across Nebraska was without XM and I thought I was going to die. Terrestrial radio has some device that only plays commercials while I am in range and then starts up a good set as I'm headed over the horizon.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:27 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'd happily trade ideal sound quality for variety any day. I mean, I don't care how rich Dark Side of the Moon sounds, I'd already heard it too much by halfway through 1977.
posted by philip-random at 3:50 PM on July 8


Yeah it sounds compressed. But most of the music I care about was written, produced, and intended to be listened to on AM mono radio with crap speakers and static. You don't know Motown or honkytonk til you've heard it that way.

/purist
posted by spitbull at 6:52 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I was at the liquor store today, and the employees were playing a game where they'd guess the next artist on the XM classic rock station. While I was waiting for my growler to be filled, it was the Rolling Stones, and then it was U2.
posted by box at 7:24 PM on July 14


I was in the car for 12 Hours today and we mostly cycled through the same stations, mostly classic rock cause that's what everyone likes and I swore on five different stions I heard "Round My Back Door" at least Five Times.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 PM on July 14


octothorpe: "I'd poke my ear drums out before I'd voluntarily listen to "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew" or "Ah! Leah!" again."

Boy, are you in the wrong town. Pittsburgh is Donnie Iris country!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:46 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


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