Radio Waves: January 26, 2024

Let’s expose new music

I don’t remember exactly where I read it, though I know it was one of the social media sites. The post was lamenting the state of pop culture, referencing specifically how long popular music stays on the playlists of top-40 stations, and how many old songs are still played. 

Paraphrasing one line, in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, you’d never hear a song older than a year or two, and that was usually on a special weekend or program segment such as the “Eighties at 8.” To hear something older, you’d have to tune to an oldies or classic rock station.

I’ve often wondered the same thing. And I don’t think it is a good trend, if for no other reason than we are stagnating artistically, and preventing good musicians and artists from exposing their music. At worst, we are openly sabotaging the entire radio industry by sending young listeners away.

To give but one example, I happened to be listening to songs on my phone while driving recently … the song itself isn’t important, and it is definitely one I like. But it was from 1975.

1975. As in 49 years ago. To give perspective, when I graduated high school in 1981, that would be like listening to music from 1932 … even my dad didn’t do that when he was my age now.

We already know that there are no rock stations in town that play new music. KLOS (95.5 FM) hasn’t played it since the 1990s or so. But even Alt 98.7 FM and KROQ (106.7 FM) only run about 30% current, the rest oldies. And top-40 stations across the country, including KIIS-FM (102.7) right here, are relying more and more on “recurrents” — songs a few years old — and oldies going back at least ten years as a part of the normal playlist.

Is it any wonder young people are abandoning radio? And even people my age are getting bored?

There is not one reason, but I believe the primary fault is fear and lazyness. Under deregulation, after the corporate model became the norm and station groups found themselves under a mountain of debt, taking chances became something to avoid. The very element that drove stations to the top in the past, became something no longer allowed because it was just too risky. Programmers thus made decisions based on fear, and then laziness set in … why change something when it is working – for now?

Record companies of course didn’t help by looking only for formatted hits rather than new trends … that’s due to fear and laziness as well. 

The result is that outside of country stations (Go Country 105 being a great example) it is damn near impossible to find good new music. It exists, and I have heard some great songs from new and established bands … pop music from Bakar, Maneskin, Dirty Heads, Foster the People, and more. I’ve grown to like newer rock and progressive metal due to suggestions from (and  my son Sean who plays lead guitar in a band called Death of the Author. One of my students at San Pedro High suggests a British band called Sleep Token that weaves metal, pop, jazz, R&B, and more into their music.

The point being that the music is there, much of it quite good. Why can’t you easily find it? Had radio of the past been like today, we’d never have been exposed to the classic rock and oldies we still hear today.

I’d love to see a station — AM or FM — take some chances and play good new music, perhaps seasoned by an oldie or two each hour as KHJ used to do from the Boss Radio days through 1980. My wife won’t believe me, but I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to know every song. I want to hear something new, and it doesn’t matter the genre – pop, rock, country, whatever. Even rap.

One More Tribute

“With what would have been Jim Ladd’s 76th birthday recently, I finally decided to give my thoughts on the Lonesome Cowboy. Quite simply Ladd was, IMHO, the best DJ SoCal has ever had. 

“He spoke his mind as well as he spoke for us, the radio listeners. He had the ability to tell fascinating stories about so many rock musicians, most of them friends of his. If a famous artist passed away or something major happened in the world, we wanted to hear how Ladd would commemorate or memorialize it. It was the way he constructed a segment of songs, or even an entire show, on just a story …  his ability to slide from one song to another, each having meaning with one another in some way, was pure magic. Jim was a lighthouse to so many things, especially the night John Lennon was murdered. His emotions showed thru that night over the airwaves of KMET and you could tell he felt just like us, lost that night.

“I was lucky enough to have met him a few times over the years and he was so down to earth great. He always hated how corporate heads had ruined radio so I found it ironic (and happily) that not long after his passing, Audacy, made of of the kind of corporate suits Ladd detested, had to file for bankruptcy. Free-form radio is now officially dead and gone as Jim Ladd was our final beacon. 

“Thank you for being OUR friend for so many years Jim. You were the best of the best. There is a giant hole on the radio dial now.” — Chris Menke, Rancho Cucamonga

Why I Do This

I have always loved radio. Letter like this are why I write this column:

“I loved reading the tributes to the dj’s in your column this morning. Bringing back memories like you do is so great for us all. Without your column, I would not recall so many of the things i enjoyed over the years on the radio … radio was everything for us and is still important to me.

“Thank you again for keeping the stoke going” — Lynn Smith, Capistrano Beach

Thank you for caring as much as I do!