Almost everyone I knew that grew up in the 60s and 70s listening religiously to radio station WNEW-FM, 102.7. The station born in the era of Vietnam and antiestablishment sentiment, the station delivered progressive rock that was under the radar of the mainstream AM stations delivered by disc jockeys free to offer their individual preferences without restrictions. Among the first of the DJs were Rosko whose husky but smooth deep voice recited antiwar poems against hypnotic music that made you feel - well never mind. His show started with a “mind excursion” and ended with “I sure love you” – hmm. Then there was Jonathan Schwartz who had more affection for playing Sinatra than he did for playing Layla. Sunday morning, he played nothing but Sinatra but I remember one show where he admitted that Sinatra's version of “Downtown” (originally by Petula Clark), was just awful. Mr. Cup-of-Coffee, Dave Herman woke me up in the morning with his “Bruce Juice” set. I remember the day Dave Herman discovered Springstein. He discuss with his listeners how he went to the Springstein concert with an "okay, show me what you got" attitude that quickly changed to wow. To end the day, I would go to sleep to Alison Steele the Nightbird. She opened her set with her standard soliloquy “The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Night bird spreads her wings and soars, above the earth, into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel…” before playing something like the, Moody Blues or if it was a stormy night, Riders on the Storm by The Doors. It has been close to 20 years since I listened to radio that way. Every DJ today is a woose. Those early voices played music that embodied the feeling of the time. Their playlists related to news events, their personal feelings or the world as it was that day. I felt connected to the music world. I knew the members of the band without having to look them up. And I don't get this satellite radio thing. It requires me to stick to a genre and search within it's choices like I am googling - while I am driving. I just want to turn on the radio to a DJ that plays good music from many genres, talks about music and tells me what they just played.
Recently, I found a station that is as close as I can get to the old WNEW. It’s called The Peak and is out of Peekskill, NY. Not accessible everywhere but I can get it from the car and on one radio at home. An example of a playlist has Suzanne Vega, Dire Straits, Church (?), and Bonnie Raitt. A disc jockey from a competitive NY station 95.5 WPLJ, Jimmy Fink is the afternoon jock who I listen to on the way home from work. He’s pretty good and offers playlists with old but obscure music from the 60s and 70s such as Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” together with the latest release from artists such as Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits). He's got some interesting dialogue too that doesn't center around a commercial.
At 10 AM and again at 10 PM they do something called 10 @ 10. For that hour, they pick a year and play the music and news clippings from the then. Today’s year was 1968. The set started with the Foundations singing “Build Me Up Buttercup”, continuing with Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” and somewhere in the middle, I am listening to “Combination Of The Two” by Big Brother and the Holding Co.
Now that’s music!
Recommended reading: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio by Richard Neer