Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #37

When Radio Was Fun
Years ago when radios station programmers actually programmed to win, you’d see stations do all sorts of wacky stuff. One of the fun things done was customized versions of songs.
I’m not talking about songs specifically written for and about stations, though I suppose they could be included here as well (“The New KHJ” written by Roger Christian for the launch of Boss Radio in 1965 sung by the jocks to the tune of “Little Deuce Coupe” and a tribute to KFRC/San Francisco performed by Scotty and the 610s being prime examples).
I’m talking of the songs that had either added words or lyric changes that made a popular song belong to one station  only. What brought this up, by the way, was a compact disc that came in the mail from my friend Douglas Brown -- former production director of stations as varied as KHJ (930 AM), KRTH (101.1 FM) and KMGG Magic 106 (now Power 106).
Included on the disc was a small sample of some of the songs that included the “hack,” for lack of a better word. Such as:
“From Central Park to Pasadena’s such a long way (and there’s no KRLA). I feel so out of it walkin’ down Broadway (I sure do miss KRLA)” -- New York’s a Lonely Town by The Tradewinds.
“I’m drivin’ in your car. You turn on the radio (to KHJ)” -- Fire by The Pointer Sisters. Sister station KRTH had a version as well; some stations actually removed the word “radio” and added the calls. A bit smoother, perhaps; I think KFI (640 AM) had one of those.
Totally changing the lyrics with a very localized semi-hit (though I have to admit I don’t remember hearing it at the time, Wikipedia says it was a minor hit and everyone knows that info on Wikipedia is always correct), is the title track from the soundtrack to the 1978 movie Almost Summer by the Beach Boys. Original lyrics include:
“Susie wants to be a lady director, and Eddie wants to drive a hearse; Johnny wants to be a doctor or lawyer, and Linda wants to be a nurse” changed to “Now’s the time of year for the Dodgers and Angels to go to bat and do their thing. Lyin’ by a pool or tannin’ at the beach is where it’s at around the LA scene.”
Of course the lyrics culminate with the line, “all around LA and Orange County way, they’re listinin’ to K-H-J, it’s almost Summer.” And yes, KRTH had their own version as well.
Life is a Rock from Reunion was customized like this, and I know there are others. Do you remember any? Did you have favorites? Hate them? Love them? I personally think they are a fun part of radio’s past, when stations were often bigger than life, and the personalities even bigger.
No static at all?
Also on the CD was a special version of FM by Steely Dan, from the movie of the same name in 1978. In that year, AM radio still dominated the ratings in most cities, and many programmers were loathe to play a song recognizing their competition. At least one station took the “A” from Steely Dan’s “Aja” and spliced it in place of the “F,” creating the song, “AM.”
The official release, according to Brown and apparently just for KHJ, was for Steely Dan to remix the song, removing the “FM” entirely and having just music during that part of the song. The new title: “No Static at All.” Sounds a little weird when you’re used to the original, but it shows the power and influence that AM music stations once had ... and still could today if any programmers were worth a damn.

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