Four More Mystery Songs To Uncover

I suspected my column on the mystery songs that I’d accumulated over my life as a music lover and record collector would be only of interest to a certain strata of music geek. So for every likely “hoo, boy!” likely generated by the topic, it was gratifying to see how many readers it did resonate with. Of course, other readers sent me the stories of the songs they needed years to untangle, or never figured out. Then, upon further reflection, I realized I still had a few more songs I was trying to hunt down as well. So here are four more, only one of which has actually been solved. The One I’m Solving for “A Friend” In the very early ‘70s, there were still some places that would sell you a bag of ten mystery singles for a dollar. This one, which I’m pretty sure I got on a visit to New York, ...Read More

First Listen: WPNA-FM (103.1 FM) Chicago 

When WKIE Chicago was dance-formatted Energy 92.7 in the early 2000s, my favorite record that then-PD Chris Shebel played was Zero’s “Bania U Cygana,” a pounding, high-energy Polish-language dance hit. Because, of course, that was what you should play in Chicago. In my ongoing quest for local hits and oddities, I kept hoping that Chicago’s major Polish community would make “Bania U Cygana” so popular that bigger rival WBBM-FM (B96) would have to acknowledge it, but that never happened to my knowledge. By the early ‘00s, every language had a record that sounded like “Bania U Cygana,” but I knew there was a special connection between Eastern Europeans—there and here—and dance-pop. The danceable new wave of the late ‘80s, still largely underground here, was mass-appeal music and still shows u...Read More

We Will Rebuild; If You Can Find Us

Hurricane Irma decimated many broadcast facilities as it moved up Florida and into Georgia. The FCC stated on Tuesday that at least 51 stations or translators were off the air (a few others are not even listed here) due to flooding or other damage caused by the storm. While some of these stations have since returned, what has quickly struck out is that not a single one of these stations has acknowledged being off (or in one case where they moved temporarily) on their websites. Some of them have posted notices on Facebook directing listeners to stream the stations if possible. Or even a sister station in an adjacent market: But many others have left their listeners in the dark about the status of the stations not even replying to inquiries. From “99.9 Gator Country” WGNE Jackson...Read More

Why Don’t You Tell Me ‘Bout the Mystery Song?

Even as a lifelong record collector, it’s been a long time since I had a formal “want list.” The last one was exhausted close to 15 years ago, just as both used record stores and my willingness to deal with them were both starting to wind down. The obscure oldies that catch my interest now can almost always be bought, or at least streamed, somewhere online. Soundhound and Shazam help me identify the bulk of them, even those in languages other than English. But it was not always thus. There were a handful of songs that couldn’t go on my want list, much less be crossed off, because I didn’t know what they were. They were fragments of songs I’d heard on airchecks. Or heard on a distant AM signal. Often the issue was that they were in a language other than English. Usually there was just enoug...Read More

Your Summer Song And My Summer Song

It’s interesting that I’m still getting e-mails, tweets, and other communications from readers asking me when I’m going to name my Song of the Summer. Maybe, in their busy lives, they missed that moment where I knowingly went entirely off the grid and gave it to “Praying” by Kesha. Maybe it’s their way of saying “for real, though.” I’ve been ready for the last month to write the column acknowledging that “Despacito” is, at the very least, the Record of Summer 2017. If it were just the song that I’d heard the most for the last two-thirds of summer, it would be Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” But “Despacito,” by claiming the summer crown for a song (largely) in another language, was clearly more of an event and cultural signifier. “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” was a big ...Read More

Modern AC’s Greatest Hits

First Listen: Sirius XM PopRocks It’s pretty inevitable now that the hits of the ‘90s will continue to resurface on the radio in different ways. The R&B and Hip-Hop crossovers are already there, thanks to the throwbacks boom of the last few years. The teen pop that came and went over a 15 year stretch—from New Kids to Backstreet—is starting to surface for any AC radio station that will test it. And much of the Alternative music of the era, including Modern AC, never left. With the imprimatur of being “rock,” there was never the same programmer eagerness to turf it out as there was for, say, “Wannabe.” If anything, the question was where the greatest hits of Modern AC would end up. Ever since the first incarnation of WNEW (Fresh 102.7) New York, now more than a decade ago, it seemed ine...Read More

Sixties MOR That Rocks

The narrative that the birth of rock ‘n’ roll essentially eliminated the ‘50s MOR that preceded it with one big blast in 1956 has been pretty well discredited now. It took a while for the obvious vestiges of pre-rock to be eliminated. Even in the late ‘50s, you could find holdover hits like the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra’s “So Rare” (1957) or Doris Day’s “Everybody Loves a Lover” (1958) that were absolutely of a piece with what preceded rock ‘n’ roll. But I’ve been thinking of just how blurred the lines between pop, rock, and MOR remained throughout the ‘60s. Just as anything worked first to the Alternative format seemed to qualify as Alternative for a while, even if it was Hootie & the Blowfish or Haim, almost any artist who broke after 1956 started with a clean slate, and a number of oth...Read More

As TuneIn Continues Subscription Push; Where Does AM/FM Go?

TuneIn, the one time aggregator that built its brand on the backs off making it easy to find streams for broadcast radio before putting its growth behind premium subscription content, has raised $50 million to continue its investment in building a subscription based competitor to SiriusXM. Bloomberg reports that “TuneIn will use the money to pay for rights to live sporting events and original programming like podcasts and music shows, which will help the company sign up more customers for a two-year-old subscription service.” Among the content currently included in the $9.99 per month TuneIn Radio Pro are Sports play-by-play and exclusive talk shows for MLB, NFL, NHL, Premiere League and Bundesliga, Audiobooks, language learning, and commercial-free music streams. The TuneIn ap...Read More

A Few Thoughts From The Translator Window Filings

With the 1,081 pending applications (now 1,045 after the first batch of dismissals) made for Class C & Class D AM stations now public, I had a chance to dig through the applications and a few key themes became apparent. There’s little spectrum left to bring a new translator to a big market. One application filed in the New York and Los Angeles markets, two in San Francisco, one in Philadelphia for a frequency that already contested in the 250 mile waiver period, and one in Dallas and Houston. The Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and one of the San Francisco filings were made by Multicultural Broadcasting after that company sat out the 250 mile waiver moves last year. Of the big operators some were active, while others were shockingly quiet. Salem Communications, which was very acti...Read More

THE Song Of Summer 2017

There aren’t a lot of stories about galvanizing records these days. But a few weeks ago, when the song was about a week-and-a-half old, the topic of Kesha’s “Praying” came up in my office. Three of my colleagues, all female, raved about it. The fourth hadn’t heard it yet. Once she did, she went under the headphones and listened to it several more times. Not every CHR station reacted as quickly. At the outset, the immediate airplay for “Praying” was mostly in medium markets and heavily concentrated in the Midwest. Both CHRs in Kesha’s hometown of Nashville were also on board. The big market leader was KIIS-FM Los Angeles, which supported the song immediately, but KIIS was the outlier. Two weeks later, you could see many of the majors rushing to catch up. There’s always something galvanizing...Read More

Songs That Readers Wish They Could Play

When I asked programmers to name the songs they wished they could play on Classic Hits radio last week, there was a wide swath of titles. Some were favorite stiffs—songs that made it as far as the high teens maybe, but never went to current, or songs that never got anywhere near that far. Some were top 10 chart hits, but songs that nevertheless feel lost now. And some were records whose hit status was never in question at the time—especially from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Nobody disputed whether “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson was a hit. But at Classic Hits and Urban AC, it’s like it never happened. For those who haven’t friended me on Facebook, here’s a sampling of the songs that programmers wish they could play. I’ve divided them into three rough piles; (you’ll dispute...Read More

What The 2017 Summer Song Won’t Be

In Germany, the Summer Song 2017 battle is already decided. On Billboard, “Despacito” has been No. 1 for so many weeks that it would seem like they’re only holding off on the coronation to try and keep the suspense going. I’m still not ready. I like that a Spanish-language hit could be Song of the Summer (as has been happening around the world for years, see that German list). I like seeing Luis Fonsi have an English-language hit after nearly 20 years. I don’t like that the title translates to “Slowly,” in this summer of tempo deprivation. But we have reached the point where a lot of the songs that were contenders at summer’s outset have peaked or fallen away. Some of them were records I would have much preferred to do better. And the list says something about the current state of pop musi...Read More

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