for June 8, 2005
Click here or scroll down
for today's rant...
[Inscrutable Links: John Peel Says "Hi". FM106.3 Staff List. FM106.3's 1988 playlist.]
Bawling The Jack
by Sean Carolan
It's a rare day indeed that someone tries something new in New York radio. New York's not where the tryout happens - it's where the finely tuned roadshow finally comes in for a shot at the "real" audience. Of course, when that does actually happen, New Yorkers never acknowledge that anything ever exists before it appears in New York. So goes life in the Big Apple.
And so it goes with Jack FM, the new format at 101.1 FM. The press in New York are focusing on two aspects of the story:
- It replaces venerable WCBS-FM, which has been New York's flagship oldies station since 1972 (following a brief rock format dating back to 1969, back when FM was still considered a money-losing radio band.)
- It's a format that "plays what it wants". (This is, of course, hooey, but more about that in a moment.)
Back on Memorial Day, I listened to a couple of hours of WABC Rewound, where
they played several hours of old WABC airchecks (thus giving WABC's usual
conservative talk blowhards a day off for the holiday.) It was actually fun to
listen to; they knew a thing or two (or two thousand) about making the
station sound energetic back in the days before digital production, mostly based on the hosts who, it's got to be said, really put a lot of themselves into the station's sound. This is ths sort of sound that caused British radio in the sixties to look at American radio and say "wow, American radio has such a free and open sound; why can't we have that?" The british public craved that sound so much that broadcasters actually put out to sea in rusty ships equipped with huge antennae and dodgy electrical systems, defining the era of pirate radio. A few minutes of the WABC aircheck confirmed the format's openness - they played Steppenwolf into Stevie Wonder into the BeeGees in 1971 - and of course, the Beatles were always lurking.
That format, given a post-modern veneer, is pretty much what makes up Jack. One thing Jack's missing is a new edge - WABC always played whatever was a hit right now, while the entry criteria for Jack seems to be that every song be very familiar - and if a song's popularity bleeds over into other formats' audiences, it's a shoo-in.
I'm not shedding any tears for WCBS-FM's Oldies format, though. It really wasn't playing 40 years of oldies anymore, and was pretty much as good an example of an oldies station as most alternative stations were examples of their formats when they got switched off. No matter; Oldies 101 still exists on the Internet, of course, and the station's web page strongly hints that it'll be available again when WCBS's HD Radio signal goes live.
I'm still not sure, however, whether Jack's a good thing. It uses the popularity of MP3 players' "shuffle" mode as a springboard - or an excuse - for its format. Its very existence is somewhat disingenuous, too - apparently, it wasn't okay for radio to mix genres until people could actually demonstrate that it was what they really wanted all along.
Which makes one wonder: if the best that radio's most fertile programming minds can come up with is an emulation of a random algorithm that most people can do themselves, isn't it more of a surrender than anything else?
©2005 Sean Carolan
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
Today's NY/NJ Shows That Matter
Sunday, June 16, 2019
The End of America and Cold Weather Company at City Winery Loft
Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers 25th Anniversary Celebration Tour at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk, Bklyn
John Doe & Chris Stein (Talking Punk Rock & Books) at City Winery Loft
Levy & The Oaks and Bottled Blonde at Asbury Park Yacht Club
More NY/NJ Shows That Matter
ALTROK recommends music once a week; here's our most recent choices. Most links will take you to a place where you can buy the music; if there's no link, and you own a record company, consider releasing it yourself...
A Place To Bury Strangers - It Is Nothing
The Boxer Rebellion - Semi-Automatic
The Cribs - Cheat On Me
Datarock - True Stories
Everything Everything - Photoshop Handsome
HEALTH - Die Slow
Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls - Catching More Than We Miss
Julian Plenti - Games For Days
Los Campesinos - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future (Free download!)
Miike Snow - Black & Blue
Viral Guerilla Marketing Tools
ALTROK talks about music, but that job isn't done 'til you make it your own...
ALTROK is a member of the Amazon.com Associates Program.
Click here to buy there, and help support ALTROK in the process.
You've read the rants, you've listened to the streams...
...now click on the t-shirt to pick up the swag!