This is a companion piece to the Wed. April 20th episode of Footnotes that streams on WGTB from 9-10pm.
For the most part criticism of radio tends to concentrate on the top 40 format stations (which they completely deserve). Today, however, I’m going to air a different radio related grievance – one with classic rock radio. Why not play a Warren Zevon song that isn’t “Werewolves of London?” Why not play a Troggs song aside from “Wild Thing?” Or a Who song aside from “My Generation,” “Baba O’Riley,” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” or the other couple of songs that they always play? When you consider that much of their listeners have been listening for years, it seems likely that they would appreciate a more varied playlist. Additionally, it seems like a sound business move to stave off some of satellite radio’s competition. Admittedly, my show may tend to rely too much on band’s best-known songs, so to mitigate this, this week will be all about deeper cuts by band’s which tend to only get airplay for a few songs.
Since the Saturday Night Live sketch, Blue Öyster Cult, has been remembered mostly as “that band that played ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’” Classic rock stations tend to regularly play that in addition to “Burnin’ For You” and “Godzilla.” This limit to a handful of songs discounts their prolific career, which although including many uneven albums resulted in many other enjoyable tracks. The riff that forms the center of “The Red and the Black” creates a driving groove, which would fit well in any classic rock playlist. This video of them performing “Dr. Music” and “In Thee” showcases another two songs, which deserve more play. The former is just simple classic rock fun in the vein of Boston’s “Rock n Roll Band,” while the latter is perhaps the most different of all Blue Öyster Cult songs, as one of the better songs about long distance love (not exactly an expected topic for the band) and one of the band’s only acoustic songs.
While many stations will include the late Gerry Rafferty’s hit “Baker Street” in regular rotation, you will never hear any of his other solo work (but maybe Stealer’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You”). Upon release, however, “Right Down the Line,” was also a hit, or for a true deep cut they could play “City to City,” neither of which would sound out of place on a classic rock station, but would add a greater variety.
This trend tends to be noticeable even with some of the best-known artists. For example, how often do you hear a solo John Lennon song on a classic rock station that isn’t “Imagine?” (No, playing “Happy Xmas (The War Is Over)” every Christmas does not count). He obviously wrote many other standout tracks, hell, many other hits, so why vary his representation in playlists a bit? “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Jealous Guy,” or “Instant Karma” all could easily fit in an expanded playlist.
…and for the encore, I’ll throw out some Skynyrd…no not “Freebird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” or even “Tuesday’s Gone.” How about “Every Mother’s Son,” off Gimme Back My Bullets?
– Robert Kaminski, host of “Footnotes,” Wednesdays 9-10pm on WGTB