Change of Format

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I worked in the Columbia House warehouse filling the orders of thousands of people who ponied up a whole penny and the promise of buying 6 more CDs over the next two years for the privilege of getting 12 slightly old albums delivered to your door in two weeks.

 

As a red-blooded 19-year old male smack dab in the center of the Midwest, I gained an appreciation of two things that summer. 

  1. Latin women. They are HOT!  Those that pose for album covers anyway.  You really only get two designs on the Hispanic CD covers that Columbia House carried: Mariachi band in full regalia or a half-naked, caramel-skinned young lady making bedroom eyes. Oh, how they secretly wanted my pale and bony body…
  2. 107.5 WZZQ – “The Rock”!!! Exclamation Point!  Imagine a time before iPods.  I know it’s hard, but try to remember those days. Three options existed for those of us in the warhouse: transistor radio, portable tape player, portable CD player.  CDs were forbidden because of security reasons.  I wasn’t going to bring tapes because, well, that’s lame and cumbersome. That left a tiny radio clipped to my waistband. It was analog, so, since my hands were busy with manual labor, I basically picked a station and it stayed there for the 10 hours that I was in the warehouse.  That station was 107.5.

 

ZZQ had been around a long time. I simply hadn’t paid it much attention because I had a nice stereo and CD player in my car and bedroom, so I had little use for waiting for music I liked. Most frequencies were country (HIGH 99.9), oldies (Wisdom 97.7) or bubble gum pop (100.7 Mix FM). Then there was “The Rock,” the bastard stepchild of classic rock and heavy metal.  Every song that makes you think of rednecks driving T-Top Camaros with mullets and open cans of PBR. That was what this station was about; Ozzy, Led Zeppelin, Stone Temple Pilots, Ted Yeah, you know it.Nugent, Lynard Skynrd, Kid Rock, AC/DC, Night Ranger, Alice in Chains and so many other bands that I am not proud to have listened to came buzzing over the air waves.  But then, at 10 p.m. every weeknight, the holy grail of my musical world, Mandatory Metallica;  back-to-back-to-back torrents of fury from the men in black.

 

Looking back, I’m not saying that this music was “good,” I’m saying that I appreciated it for what it was; fun rock n roll. 

Whenever I would be driving home from college on a break and get within distance of the station, I would flip over to FM2 on my receiver and punch the #1 button and wait for the guitar solos and falsetto to start pouring forth.  Then one day, I punched button #1 and a techno beat leapt from the pair of 12” Rockfords I had in the trunk.

 

“What the fuck is this?” I literally yelled to no one.

 

It was, in fact, format change.  Apparently, there were not enough rednecks who enjoyed 3 minute, 180 bpm instrumentals played by guys wearing tight pants to support a radio station built on it.

 

My outrage came to mind today as I was listening to The Adam Corolla Show on 97.1, KLSX. Out of nowhere, they were talking about how they had lost their jobs, thanking callers for their support, and future ideas about podcasting independently.  What was going on?

 

CBS radio had decided that a talk radio FM channel targeted at guys was no longer a feasible format. Despite leading the market in their target demographic (adult males ages 25-54) in many of the time slots, KLSX was switching formats to become the fourth Top 40 station in the LA area. 

 

Much like WZZQ, KLSX is not something that gets me any hipness points.  Those would have been earned by listening to Indy 103.1 which recently switched to Hispanic accordion music (because we needed another one of those as well!).  No, KLSX was a guilty pleasure.  The personalities were brash, crude, blunt and identifiable as well as easy to identify with on a basic level.  Kind of like professional wrestling without the spandex.  The mid-day show was even hosted by guys from the Wabash Valley who would occasionally mention locations and monuments that I could immediately picture from my youth.

 

So at 5 p.m., tomorrow evening, just in time for the drive home, Tom Leykis will sign off for the station and flip the switch to the waiting jowls of Beyonce, Justin and the Jonas Brothers.

 

I will lose a station that I had grown to appreciate and have to find a new occupant for my preset #4 button.  And, now that I’ve lived in LA and learned that not all Latin women look like Shakira, I’m completely disillusioned from the me of a decade ago.

No more

No more

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One thought on “Change of Format

  1. I worked for WZZQ on the air part-time in 1993 and 1994. Sometime after I left, it did apparently switch to dance. And then it went off the air, and has been that way since, after the FCC revoked the owner’s license for “lack of candor during an investigation” after he was sent to prison for certain felonies. Whee.

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