10 Jun

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Quick 96, a new radio format in town. As I guessed, it was a format change stunt after all. After only a couple of days, Quick 96 disappeared — to be replaced by a new old station — KJR 95.7 FM. They are back to the old KJR call letters and jingle, and playing “hits of the 60s and 70s.” It’s just about the most boring baby-boomer-targeted format you can imagine, but I can forgive them slightly since they went back to the traditional KJR jingle and call sign of my childhood.

For those new to the area: KJR 950 AM, for decades, was the #1 pop music station in Seattle (frequently #1 station overall). I grew up listening to KJR, and during the ’70s it was pretty good. It was top 40, yeah, but it played everything that was in the top 40, which meant you’d hear Shaun Cassidy followed by KISS followed by the Village People followed by Barry freakin’ Manilow — everything, back to back (except for the “terminally non-commercial” new wave and punk bands. Their day would come). There is no such diversity on the airwaves anymore. Stations narrowcast much more these days.

It seemed, in the mid-late 70s, that every other car on the road had a yellow KJR sticker in the back window.

Then in about 1980, KJR mellowed out. Part of this was that the Top 40 turned to shit all at once — “adult contemporary” and country music were in vogue. KJR backed off from the youthful market they had always served (right at the time my age group, older Gen Xers, was starting to fully occupy that demographic) so that they could follow the baby-boomers into yuppiedom. Of course, this format change was pretty universal throughout the industry. The old Top 40 formats no longer exist, replaced by narrowcasting. I switched fro KJR to KZAM-AM 1540 (rock of the 80s in modern mono) and later to KJET (more rock of the 80s), KYYX (the Wave) and KCMU (“ridin’ the new wave”). (In 1982-83, though, I worked at KJR as an intern. By then it was already well into its slide from the ratings heights of the ’70s.)

Eventually KJR 950 became a sports-talk station. The folks who owned it (by then, the Ackerley group) picked up 95.7 FM, gave it the call sign KJR, re-recorded the old “KJR, Seattle, Channel 95!” jingle (adding a “.7” on the
end — you can hear this modern version on the web site), and played “Hits of the 70s” through much of the 1990s. The sad thing was that they didn’t play half of the stuff that they really DID play in the 70s. It was a narrowcast format, once again, and heavily focused on the earlier 70s music while ignoring the disco/hard rock/teeny-bop music my junior-high friends and I really listened to on KJR in the late 70s.

Then they changed to Mix 97 (could we be any more generic?), followed by the Beat (at least that was a format — old school R&B) otherwise nonexistent in the area). Now, they are back to the old traditional name. If only they were good. Sure, there are some good songs, as with any classic station, but it’s really nothing to get excited about. Still, despite the blandness of the format, there is a part of me that gets a little happy when I hear that old jingle. I wish they’d play the old vintage jingles instead of the modernized version.

10 Jun

For years I (and others) have complained about the ridiculously restrictive Teen Dance Ordinance here in Seattle. Apparently, Portland is proof that fewer restrictions won’t cause the end of the world. You can’t tell that to people such as bereaved parent Doug Thiel, though:

He does not know if his son went to nightclubs, but he knows his son began drinking at 16.

“I used to teach and coach, so I knew what goes on, except I didn’t know it with my child. We had a pretty decent curfew, at 12 or 11, and he kept to it pretty well. The way we found out was when he was 16, and we found him passed out on the lawn. My wife took him to Children’s (Hospital).”

His son became so out of control, Thiel finally asked him to leave when he was 18. When he was 28, he died in Miami of AIDS.

I’m sorry for Thiel’s loss, but as he says, he doesn’t even know if his son went to nightclubs. What does this have to do with the Teen Dance Ordinance? It seems that, despite the existing TDO, Thiel’s son still had problems (though I think there’s a lot more to the story than Thiel lets on).

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