FM Radio … the Times the Music
Below is an excerpt from the book – THE HAIGHT –ASHBURY A HISTORY by Charles Perry – Charles Perry is a long time writer and correspondent who began writing for Rolling Stone Magazine in 1968. He was a resident of the Haight – Ashbury District in San Francisco in the late ‘60s and lived to tell the tale and document the history of the District and the Times. This excerpt relates to music….and it seems in the current state of music we have come full circle, the only hope is that we continue to circle and find our way back to art, talent, and inspiration over commercialism.
“Rock and roll was the subject of a panel discussion at Mills College. The speakers included Bill Graham, record producer Phil Spector, Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin, Ralph Gleason and Tom Donahue.
Despite being semi-retired after selling Autumn Records and giving up Mother’s, [refers to The Mother’s of Invention Band] Donahue was still a major figure in the local music scene. If they wanted his opinions, he had plenty of them. He had been rethinking radio since his days as “Big Daddy” on KYA. Why did rock radio need the pushy fast talk, the idiotic jingles, the tasteless advertisements, the limited and inflexible playlists? Why, he wondered aloud, did radio ignore songs from an album just because they hadn’t been released as 45rpm singles? The record market had changed in the last few years – people were actually buying more albums than singles – but rock stations ignored songs that weren’t available as a 45. Why wasn’t rock and roll programmed on an aesthetic, artistic basis, rather than according to a playlist?
After the panel, Gleason told Donahue about a program that had already accomplished what Donahue suggested. It wasn’t on AM radio that is why Donahue had never heard it: Larry Millar’s mid-night show was on KMPX-FM.”
The FM format of playing album cuts, sometimes entire albums, and featuring a full spectrum of the music of the times Blues, Rock, Folk, Indian, and more spread like flowing lava from Larry Millar’s KMPX-FM show. FM radio soon became the only thing to listen to amongst the music consumers, and the music just flowed and flowed.
Today we are back to the same pre FM Radio rut, the flow of inspired original music has been reduced to a trickle. Commercial and major publicly funded radio stations are feeding the consumers with commercial pop playlist music provided to them by the major music publishers. The consumers buys or steals those singles from the internet impressed by a hook or a jingle from the commercial factory line of music and have no concept of an artist’s body of work…it doesn’t matter, they like that song because that is what they have been programmed to accept as music.
We had no internet, no Spotify, no iTumes, no Music Videos on YouTube we had record stores, tape players in our cars and we had FM Radio. FM radio across the US in the late ‘60s thru most of the ‘70s was the introductory source that’s where you heard tracks or whole sides of the new albums from Dylan, the Airplane, the Dead, the Stones even the Beatles and a lot of other stuff that you may never have been introduced to had you not been listening to FM. We all listened and learned … Damn how I miss those days yeah the music of the times is preserved but the times themselves will never be recaptured … you just had to be there.