8.03.2005

RIP WZLX

An argument could be made that your entire adult personality is in large-part formed by the music you listened to as a teenager. Many of you know me as a classic rock nut and devotee and I have one radio station and a couple hundred albums bought as a consequence of listening to that station to thank.

My introduction to classic rock came sometime in middle school as I was riding back from a soccer game with my dad driving and old middle school pals Lino and Ralph turning the dial in the car to WZLX. From then on I was hooked on musical styling from the Who and Led Zeppelin to David Bowie and the Eagles -- and a lot in between. Controversial Charles Laquidara's Big Mattress (and later, Radio Hour) morning program was a pleasure to listen to while getting ready for school. Sports by Tank and a daily horoscope of moonsigns by the Cosmic Biscuit got me prepped for my day. The velvet-toned voice of George Taylor Morris in the afternoon led perfectly to the evening show with the young Chuck Nowlin. The extremely odd 'Reverend' Al Cole would take over for the 'overnight' and it would all start over again at 5am.

And it wasn't just the on-air talent that made the station so great. One night, ZLX broadcast the entire Quadrophenia album by the Who -- something probably not done since it originally came out. Other nights would be dedicated to live broadcasts of Rolling Stones or other bands. The station boasted one of the largest music libraries in New England once took its 'no-repeat-day' policy to the length of a 'no-repeat-week'. They even played the entire Beatles catalog alphabetically over a weekend. Besides just playing the hits, WZLX actually tried to challenge its listeners by playing all sorts of classic rock music including b-sides, rare live recordings and interesting cover versions. Listening to this diverse range of music caused me to buy some of the best albums I've ever heard like the Who's Quadrophenia, Bowie's Hunky Dory, the Stones' Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers -- all desert island discs. Unfortunately those days are long over.

Program managers have been replaced, corporations have merged, and the station that 'featured' classic rock is now just a shadow of its former self, reduced to simply 'playing' classic rock. If I have to listen to one more of the same five Lynyrd Skynryd songs one more time, I'll have to smash my radio. The same goes for the Allman Brothers, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, George Harrison, Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac, the Pretenders, Elton John... in fact, I've just about heard the same five songs from every artist in their 'largest music library in New England.' It's sad because some of you could look at the names I've listed and say 'those guys suck!' and be totally wrong because you've been fed the same song your entire lives.

Before Stevie Nicks was a household name, a Nicks-less Fleetwood Mac had released over a dozen albums with roots in both British blues and psychedelia! AC|DC has had two lead singers! Bands and artists like George Harrison, the Velvet Underground, the Clash, and Jackson Browne recorded more than just the one song that's constantly played! Elvis Costello, MC5, the Ramones, King Crimson, and Canned Heat are more than just names from the past -- they actually recorded music that could be played on a classic rock format station!

It only took 12 years to come to this conclusion.

I understand that there's an economic line that needs to be drawn between what people want to hear and what a radio station would like to play, but I find it hard to believe that Jimmy from Walpole wants to hear Brass in Pocket for a seventh day in a row. But it lately it's just been sucking so much.

There is a point to all this.

Don't let the corporations take over! Go out there and support the little guy! Promote diversity and choice! Listen to Little Steven and get angry! Drink some locally brewed beer that will make you fat! Go to a concert at one of the local stages and see four bands for less than 10 dollars! Just don't allow yourself to be force-fed the same thing day-after-day. That's what rock and roll from the 60s and 70s tried to preach to people -- seek out what's different; rebel; don't let THEM tell you what to do. I was lucky enough that WZLX got that message across before succumbing to modern times.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Janet complained...

And before ZLX was BCN, where I thought that I'd be listening to Charles and the Big Mattress forever. God, I miss him, and I miss radio as it was. I feel bad for kids today, they'll never know the joy of a DJ playing a song that he or she loves ... and along the way, shaping the musical tastes of his or her listeners.

And Daryl Martinie, the Cosmic Muffin! TOTALLY miss him!!!

8/04/2005 10:28 PM
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