Monday, February 24, 2014

What's so rockin about classic hits?

Whatever happened to Classic Rock Radio? Has anyone else noticed that it's disappeared from the radio dial? No longer can you tune in to find a station playing acid rock from the late 60's, progressive rock from the 70's, or the post-disco hard rock of the early 80's or the later hair metal. The powers that be at ClearChannel, Cumulus and Emmis have decided that those of us born in the last half of the 60's and early 70's can no longer feast our ears on the classics we cut our teeth on, like Jimi, Zeppelin and Deep Purple. If it's not the overplayed "Don't Stop Believin'," you'd never know that there was a Journey album before 1980. And forget classic Styx, Van Halen or Aerosmith. That Steven Tyler guy only started crooning after he appeared on Idol, right?

No, we have two choices now: Listen to the watered down "classic hits," which might include Abba and Elton John mixed in with a little Zeppelin or Hendrix; or Deal with the  overly distorted, headache-inducing screams of Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch while you're waiting to headbang to "Back in Black" or airdrum to "Tom Sawyer." But there is no more in-between. It's either "Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John or "A Warrior's Call" by Volbeat. And you might just get lucky enough to hear a couple of the all-time great rock-n-roll songs in any one music set.

When I lived in Tallahassee the first time, 1986-2006, I always had Gulf 104. I knew that I could tune to 104.1 and get a heavy helping of Ozzy, early Foreigner, Aerosmith, Rush and Led Zeppelin. Then came the bit heavier 106.1 in the 90's, playing more Ozzy, Guns'N'Roses, Motley Crue and Yes. We actually had TWO classic rock stations battling it out back then. It was great! But that was before the deregulation of FM Radio and the buyout of every mom-n-pop radio station from Maine to New Mexico. So long diversity. Say goodbye to Album Oriented Rock, where you might actually hear a B-side that was better than the big radio hit.

What the likes of ClearChannel did to radio was dumb it down. Find the lowest common denominator and cater to that. Then they sterilized every local market, giving us Bob FM from Miami to Minneapolis, and stripping Programming Directors of any personal discretion. They would now play the plain vanilla corporate playlist. I know, I worked for ClearChannel when they moved all of the Tallahassee-owned stations into the John Knox Road complex.

When the powers that be decided Classic Rock wasn't generic enough to suit the masses, they toned down the hard rock and replaced it with soft rock. You may have still wanted "Black Dog," but you were getting "Band on the Run" a million times in it's place. Which reminds me, remember the request line? For those of you under 30, we used to be able to actually dial up a radio station, talk to an actual on-air DJ and request our favorite songs...then wait umpteen hours until they got around to playing it.

Now that I'm back in Tally, I can still tune into Gulf 104, but it's not the same. They even call it Classic Hits now. That means, what once had some balls, is now metrosexual and lame. No offense to any gender ambiguous guys, just saying the music has been neutered. I don't like it.

Am I the only one who hates the new format?