Top 5: Less Advertising, More Prog Rock

(WNEW link at the bottom is fixed.)

Here’s a most interesting survey from CJOM in Windsor, Ontario, from 35 years ago this week. CJOM was an album-rock station, and apparently a commercial station despite its position in the non-commercial part of the dial. (Or doesn’t that restriction apply in Canada?) Check the flip-side of the survey and you’ll see an ad for “commercial-free Sundays,” which strikes me as both A) a fabulously good promotional idea and B) a great way to make the best of an underperforming sales department. Here are five more things worth noting about the survey:

1. The album listing isn’t numbered, although Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies is shown first. That album was about to go to Number One on the American album charts, and would be the biggest chart hit of Cooper’s career. It spawned three Top 40 hits: “Elected,” “Hello Hooray,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” although the latter is the only one I remember hearing much on AM stations. There’s a bunch of Alice Cooper video from 1973 at YouTube—the links above will take you there.

2. CJOM was playing several albums that spawned hit singles that spring in addition to Billion Dollar Babies: Dark Side of the Moon (“Money”), They Only Come Out at Night (“Frankenstein”), The Captain and Me (“Long Train Running”) Houses of the Holy (“D’yer Mak’er”), Electric Light Orchestra II (“Roll Over Beethoven”) and Focus III (“Hocus Pocus”). The station was, as album-rockers tended to be back then, willing to play anything they thought their audience might be interested in, from the Mahavishnu Orchestra to Seals and Crofts.

3. Jerry Lee Lewis had been recording country music for much of the 1960s before teaming with several British rockers on The Session, including Procol Harum’s Matthew Fisher, Peter Frampton, Alvin Lee, Rory Gallagher, and Kenney Jones. Most of the songs were remakes of 50s chestnuts; a version of the early R&B number “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” was on its way to Number 41 that spring.

4. Classic-rock and oldies radio have boiled Procol Harum’s entire career down to “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador,” but back in the day, they were a hugely important album-rock act with other signature songs, including “Shine on Brightly” “Homburg,” and “A Salty Dog.” Grand Hotel was recorded while the band was riding high on their live album with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the biggest hit they ever had. Grand Hotel was greeted with plenty of fanfare, especially in prog-rock circles. Although it didn’t contain a hit single, it was Procol’s second-biggest album next to the live one. Here’s a 2007 live performance of the title song.

5. On the subject of progressive rock, Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the first of three highly successful albums Wakeman would release in the mid 70s. I wouldn’t discover it until my personal prog-rock phase, and after I’d become a fan of the two albums that followed it (Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table), and back then, Henry VIII was my least favorite of the three. It sounds a lot better to me today, far less pretentious than the other two. Here’s Wakeman, rockin’ his trademark long hair and sequins, playing excerpts from the album interspersed with other well-known tunes and a full ration of prog-rock showmanship with Yes at what must have been Christmastime 1973.

Also: I’ve got a new post up at WNEW called “A Rock-and-Roll Reading List.” Do me a favor and go read it, then add your own favorite rock books in the comments. (I could use the traffic.) And since I haven’t posted any mp3s here for almost a week now, look for some Forgotten 45s either over the weekend or on Monday.

5 responses

  1. The link to “Rock and Roll Reading List” is broken but found the page here:
    http://www.wnew.com/2008/04/a-rock-and-roll.html
    The Rat Scabies was a surprise! Am now enjoying Tony Fletcher’s Keith Moon book.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up on the WNEW link. It’s fixed now.

  3. You made a little mistake. “Hocus Pocus” is on the “Moving Waves” album, not “Focus III.” I have the album, so I know.

  4. Me, a mistake? I can’t imagine. “Hocus Pocus” was the big Focus single that summer, but you’re right–it was on “Moving Waves,” which had come out in 1971. “Focus III” was released in time to capitalize on the single’s success.

  5. Dear Listeners,

    I used to listen to CJOM from Detroit when I was in High School. I first discovered the station in the early fall of 1971 while surfing the dial of a new stereo AM-FM purchased the month before while on vacation in Tennessee.

    I was swept from the first friday night with the progressive rock, blues, jazz, R&B, comedy like George Carlin, gospel, African music, etc. You could hear Jimi Hendrix (even bootlegs), the Rolling Stones, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd (pre-1973), etc. all in one night.

    I listened faithfully through the end of 1971 until the early fall of 1972, when the format changed drastically.

    As a student at Cody High School, my friends and I who were heavily into music, couldn’t figure out what had happened. A lot of people at that time also listened to WABX that was located downtown in the David Broderick Towers (Woodward at Madison, next to the Madison Theater, where Woodstock was shown).

    I later read in the Fifth Estate that the management walked in and fired the entire on air staff. They then switched to some easy listening rock for several months and then came back with new broadcasters that played a more structured format with people like David Bowie, Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973). The Jazz , Blues and R&B had disappeared.

    The station got better during my senior year in 1973-74. Then in the spring of 1975, it switched to a R&B and Jazz fusion sound. People like the Isley Brothers, Donald Byrd, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Pointer Sisters, War, etc. I remember going to Tennessee on vacation that August and when I returned the format had radically changed again. The emerging urban black music sound had vanished.

    After that I never listened because what was played could never hold my attention. By that time (1975) I was listening to Jazz, Blues, Reggae and R&B. I lost interest in the Rock that was being released after 1974.

    I started to listen to WDET (101.9), the NPR affiliate in Detroit, which was a lot different than it is now. Also the old WCHD, Bell Broadcasting, had changed its call-letters to WJZZ. It was trying to expand its Jazz format to include what was being done by Miles Davis, Ronnie Laws, Flora Purim, etc.

    Detroit at one time was rich in alternative radio. Even commercial radio stations like CKLW, WKNR, WCHB, WJLB were light years ahead of what is being done today.

    Good Listening,
    Abayomi

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