In the mid 1990‘s I was lucky enough to work in Classic Rock radio. I say “lucky enough” and mean it. I grew up loving radio, loving rock and roll, and loving the culture that went along with it. The magic voices in the air, professors to a class of thousands, offering insight and playing the coolest, freshest, best tracks in the world.
It’s alright to think that when you FIRST discover classic rock radio. Alas, there is a dark underbelly that is putrid and vile. It is so abhorrent that the very mention of its existence causes most FORMER radio professionals I know to make a gagging motion.
That underbelly is called “The Program Director.” This “Program Director” is the guy who decides what gets played on the station. He’s the guy who decides what YOU like and it’s his job to keep people glued to the radio so they hear the commercials that the (another gag) sales team has been selling to keep the station on the air.
Now, the best way to get people to listen to radio, and in this case, Classic Rock radio, is to play songs with immediate and universal appeal. Commonly, people refer to these songs as “classics,” and therefore, “Classic Rock radio.” As much as I love the format and the bands played on those kinds of stations, there are a few songs I could do without hearing EVER... and I mean EVER again.
1. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.
Listen, I know it’s a great song. I know it’s everything a good rock song should be. It’s catchy, it’s breezy, it’s fun, your girlfriend likes it. All brown eyed girls think it’s about them. Whatever. The fact of the matter is that Van Morrison, at last count, has recorded 33 full-length albums of new material. Thirty-Three. Program Director, do you mean to tell me that in 33 albums, over a FULL DAY of music, there’s only ONE song you deem worthy of letting the public hear? Really?
Furthermore, Program Director person, Van the Man regularly tours to sell-out shows all over the world. I DOUBT that 5,000 people a night want to hear and old, fat Irish guy sing that godawful “Sha-lalalalalalalalalala” for two hours. Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they know that an artist with a repertoire as big as Morrison’s might have a few MORE gold nuggets in it.
2. “Imagine” by John Lennon.
This simplistic, rushed, love-letter to ideology is the only solo John Lennon song to get played outside the Christmas season when we’re allowed to hear his novelty Christmas song. One of the greatest songwriters who ever lived, who inspired everyone who came after him, who wrote more than his share of the greatest rock & roll ever recorded and the only song you deem “commercial” enough is this two-chord piano drone? I hate you, Program Director. Open a few new albums once in a while. From 1975.
3. “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers.
I firmly believe this is the song that made Phil Spector go batshit crazy. The Righteous Brothers were a rockin’ little Orange County blue-eyed soul duo and, I guess because their student loans came due, they recorded this steaming turd. I used to DJ weddings and whenever I wanted to get one of the lonely bridesmaids to come over and talk to me and ask me to dance, I’d play that song because it’s like having cash taped to your body: Chicks just dig it. To me, Bobby sounds like he’s yawning all the way through the vocals. PS: Ghost sucked, too.
4. ”For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.
That’s the song with the “Stop, Children, What’s That Sound?” break in it. You know it. And with Steve Stills and Neil Young on the track, how could it suck, right? Well, in 45 years this song’s been played more times than that awful Brady Bunch episode with Davy Jones and it’s the ONLY Buffalo Springfield song that gets airplay. Buffalo Springfield put out 3 amazing albums (none of which ever cracked Billboard’s Top 20) and out of those 3 albums, all we have left to show for it is one, dated, trite piece of nostalgia. It’s the Flower Children’s “Over There” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Important at the time. Cute and diminished now.
5. “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.
It IS a rockin’ little number. It IS a good rock song, no question. It is, however, WAY overplayed. I had a friend who wanted the song to be her soundtrack on her drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. “How great will that be, to drive to Vegas on the ‘Highway to Hell?’” I’ll tell you how great it will be: it will suck. The song is three minutes and twenty-eight seconds long. The drive from, let’s say, Downtown LA to the Vegas Strip is over 5 hours IF you punch it. How many three and a half-minute segments are there in FIVE hours? Too damn many. But I digress. Mister Program Director, you play this song too much. Please knock it off.
Tim Powers is a former radio professional, current day podcaster and stand-up comedian in Hollywood, CA. Tim has written the award winning short films “Cats on a Plane” and “The Guilty” as well as a recent article for Crave Online bitching about music and radio, which he does in person frequently. Check out his website at www.timisfunny.com
Photo credit - Wenn.com