Radio Waves: 11/2/18

KIQQ was ahead of it’s time … and could be something big today

My wife Jean and I were having an ‘80s flashback last weekend as we watched the movie Valley Girl. Some of the best elements of the movie are the songs chosen to represent the various parts of Los Angeles, particularly Hollywood and the Valley.

Of course the oddball radio guy in me came out halfway through the movie: it reminded me too much of KIQQ (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM).

Now keep in mind, I’m weird. Some people remember a song by he life event they associate with it. I remember music (sometimes artists) by which radio station I heard it or them on.

Bryan Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife?” KFRC/San Francisco. REO Speedwagon’s “Take it on the Run?” K-West (now KPWR, 105.9 FM). Almost every song in Valley Girl? KIQQ.

That KIQQ could be so represented by music in a movie where music is an essential element of the storyline is a testament to what the station once was: a new music force the likes of which have not been seen since.

KIQQ is what most people think KROQ (106.7 FM) was … even if it didn’t get the credit. While KROQ at its FM inception under then programmer Rick Carroll was intended to be a more open top-40 format with an emphasis on new music, the station quickly found its niche and tended to focus on alternative bands.

On the other hand, KIQQ focussed on top-40, with an emphasis on breaking new bands and new songs before anyone else, including that new thing on cable television, MTV. The new wave of British bands were heard first on KIQQ, often months before they were heard on stations elsewhere. Sometimes the songs were played so long on KIQQ that by the time they made the play list of KIIS-FM (102.7), they were already burnt.

Every song in Valley Girl was played on KIQQ, and that says a lot about the influence of the station. General Manager George Wilson (Crowell) wanted the station to take chances, and it did. And there was more: Most hits from Prince were heard first on KIQQ. Michael Jackson’s songs often hit KIQQ first. Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue” was a hit there long before anywhere else. Spandou Ballet. Culture Club. Rick Springfield. The list goes on.

I don’t even know if it was a hit or not, but “She Means Nothing to Me” by Phil Everly and Cliff Richard was so popular on the station that it must have made some mark … though I honestly cannot remember hearing it on any other station besides UCLA’s student station KLA. I know it was on KLA because I played it there, after hearing it first on KIQQ.

I bring this up not to be nostalgic. I save that for my ongoing discussions about buying KHJ (930 AM) and proving top-40 music could make it in AM radio even today. What I am thinking is that we desperately need a station like KIQQ, now. 

Don’t get me wrong – I do like KROQ and Alt 98.7. Both do a superb job of presenting new(er) music from some interesting bands. But it’s not the same thing as was done by KIQQ … KIQQ was truly mainstream, yet cutting edge. And even KROQ and Alt 98.7 suffer from nostalgia sickness … you can still hear songs in rotation that are many years old … on stations that have reputations — often deserved, sometimes not — of focussing on new music. Under Wilson, supported by his wife, Paula, no song older than a year or two was played on KIQQ … because they had so many new songs to play (even if a bit of “pay for play” or payola was involved).

I’d like to hear new music that isn’t the typical bland pop heard on KIIS-FM or My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM). That isn’t just typical alternative fare as on KROQ and Alt. I want a mixture of everything, from local bands to up and coming national talent to talent from other countries.

There is an amazing amount of good music that can’t get airplay in the overly formulated afraid-to-take-chances radio of today. Perhaps Payola was good. Regardless, bands such as my son’s own metal/progressive Divine Intervention and other talented local bands such as San Pedro’s Law (featuring lead singer Jakob Nowell, son of former Sublime lead singer Bradley Nowell) can’t get airplay. Not because they don’t have the talent but that radio simply shuns new music.

And that includes KROQ and Alt. If it doesn’t fit the niche, it’s not allowed.

Lack of new music is one reason kids shun radio. Even I get tired of the same songs I’ve heard forever. A KIQQ for today would be a breath of fresh air in a city stagnating in repetition and copycats. Of course this is the same format I would put on my AM station just to prove it would work, but until then, perhaps someone else can try.