The top-of-the-hour station ID ain’t what it used to be. Once, radio stations were required to identify themselves by call letters and city of license once per hour between two minutes before and after the hour. That ID was often a significant anchor to station formatics. If the station was using a “hot clock” to dictate the placement of records and commercial breaks within the hour, it usually dictated that the hour begin with one of the strongest records in the music library. But even without a hot clock, the top-of-the-hour legal ID could still serve as an anchor for a station’s image—it’s a regular opportunity to remind listeners of who and what you are.
Many stations never use their call letters except at legal ID time—my station, The Lake, is one of these. (We’re officially WHLK/DeForest.) For this reason, many stations have abandoned the formal top-of-the-hour ID in favor of the “buried” ID—a quick drop of the call letters and city of license between a couple of commercials in the break closest to the top of the hour. (The Lake uses it on weekends, occasionally.) Because satellite radio stations aren’t obligated to ID at all, many don’t do anything at or near the top of the hour—their music stream goes on and on without interruption. (Neither are cable TV channels obligated to identify, although when I was in college, a TV director/radio geek I knew insisted on identifying hourly when directing live broadcasts on the campus cable station. The man had style.)
But I’m old school. I don’t like the buried ID, and I’m actually a bit disoriented as a listener by the lack of formal IDs on satellite stations. That’s because I cherish the classic legal IDs of yore, those blazing uptempo jingles with call letters and city of license, always followed by a big current hit or classic oldie, which propelled you, as a listener (and, for that matter, as a jock), irresistably forward into the next hour. Which is why I was enchanted by Tophour.com, a website devoted entirely to legal IDs. Most of them are fairly recent and a lot of them are nothing special, but a little browsing and searching yields some gems, like this fabulous montage, mostly from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford, including the WCFL/Chicago ID from the mid-70s, the one with the donut for the jock to fill—the greatest legal ID the mind of man ever devised.
Geeks Gone Wild: Another similarly geeky pleasure I found recently is Formatchange.com, devoted to stations switching from one thing to another. It looks like it’s a sister site to Airchexx.com, the free aircheck site. Fooling around there not long ago, I discovered that they’ve archived hours and hours of the Big 89 Rewind, heard on WLS last Memorial Day. If you’d like to relive any of that, here you go.
Coming Friday: the Vinyl Record Day kickoff. Last call if you want to be on. E-mail me at jbemail229-blog at yahoo dot com.