Friday, November 17, 2006

The End of an Era

I'm in mourning today. I just learned of the passing of a very, very old friend.

WKLS FM, 96Rock in Atlanta, GA.

Yes, that's right, a radio station. But not just any radio station. 96Rock was the station for me and my friends during late elementary school, all of high school, and during college. That's a lot of years out of my life, so I suppose I'm also mourning my lost youth, and the memories of happier, simpler times.

96Rock was there for me when I first began to discover and explore my own awareness of music. Remember arguing with your parents over what station would be playing on the car radio? Well, 96Rock was always my choice.

As the name implied, 96Rock was Atlanta's home of rock n roll. In the early 80's, a lot of the heavier stuff got played - Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Nazareth, AC/DC, all in their album-oriented glory. Then, a TV commercial featuring Paul Schaeffer announcing that "our voices had been heard. Enough of the heavy stuff!" From then on, it was a steady mix of the Clash, Aerosmith, The Cars, The Police, plus all of the classic stuff (Led Zep, The Who, Stones, Beatles). I was exposed to everything that made rock great during those days - the best of the British Invasion, the supergroups of the 70's, Southern Fried rock, plus all of the newest mainstream goodness. Back then, you didn't just listen to the music, you lived it, you loved it. I think that's what made the AOR format so great - you didn't just hear what was popular, you heard what was good (at least in the DJ's opinion), and it was never the same. During those days, 96Rock provided the soundtrack to my life.

I can still remember hanging out in my room at night, the lights off, just laying there listening to Willard spin the "Perfect Album Side"...

Listening to Kaedy Kiely in the afternoons. Kaedy has forgotten more about rock music than most people will ever know. I had a huge crush on her...

The Friday 5:00 Whistle. The official end of the week for a lot of years. Once those songs started playing, you knew the weekend was officially here...

Christopher Rude in the mornings always made me laugh...

Honestly, Pink Floyd and Comfortably Numb would have meant nothing to me without 96Rock.

It's no secret that radio has seen better days. With competition from the Internet and IPods, radio stations have had to struggle to stay profitable. Unfortunately, the best business decisions are rarely the best programming decisions, which is why a great legacy station like 96Rock had to die its slow death. A regular poster on the Radio-Info site sums it up nicely:

Radio is no longer flesh and blood; it’s becoming a playlist on a media server connected to an antenna run by suits. Nothing lasts forever. RIP 96Rock.
I suppose I'm part of the problem myself. My intense hatred of what passes for today's "popular" music has kept me listening to a steady diet of talk radio and my IPod for years. It's not that I haven't wanted to listen to 96Rock, it's just that I've long since gotten out of the habit of relying on radio for my musical entertainment. It's okay, though. Today's 96Rock is certainly not the same glorious station I listened to in my youth. Those days are truly gone. However, I would liked to have been listening as the station breathed its last. I understand the last song played was Baba O'Riley by The Who.

Which, by the way, was the very first song ever played on 96Rock.

So we have come full circle, and it's nice that someone thought to end it on that note, rather than just playing the next song in the rotation. It's nice that someone remembered.

And of course, those of us in the teenage wasteland will never forget.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you recall the time and date that 96Rock came on the air in 1974 with "Baba O'Reilly?"