This Is a Recording

Thirty-six years ago tonight, right here in Madison at the Dane County Coliseum, Pink Floyd began a brief American tour to promote its forthcoming album, The Dark Side of the Moon. The setlist included the new album in its entirety, although it wouldn’t be released in the States until the last day of the tour, March 24. One Floyd website has an interview with the band that notes, correctly, that DSOTM turned Pink Floyd from underground stars into major headliners, although it contains a quote from David Gilmour that indicates the unreliability of memory:

It was “Money” that made the difference rather than Dark Side Of The Moon. It gave us a much larger following, for which we should be thankful. But it included an element that wasn’t versed in Pink Floyd’s ways. It started from the first show in America. People at the front shouting, “Play “Money”! Gimme something I can shake my ass to!” We had to get used to it, but previously we’d been playing to 10,000-seaters where, in the quiet passages, you could hear a pin drop. One always has a bit of nostalgia for the days when we could perform without compromise to that level of dynamics.

Except that couldn’t have happened at the very first show in March, or even on the first tour, because “Money” didn’t hit American radio until May. There was a two-week June leg of the tour on which it might have happened, though. Regardless of when or where it happened, the idea that there might have been fans in 1973 who equated Pink Floyd’s music with booty-shaking is hard to fathom. Not “versed in Pink Floyd’s ways”? I should say so.

Elsewhere, our local alt-weekly reported on the continuing demise of live-and-local jocks on Madison radio. There’s nothing too newsworthy in it, not for somebody plugged into the market like I am, or for anybody who’s paid attention to the changing radio landscape these past 10 or 15 years. But I imagine it opened a few eyes (and ears) around town.

I was pleased that it was my station’s program director, Pat O’Neill, who was willing to comment for attribution on Magic 98’s commitment to being live and local. Of course, it helped that Magic and its parent company have a commitment to being live and local. I’m not surprised that officials at the other two big companies in town, Entercom and Clear Channel, were unwilling to comment. But Clear Channel’s policy that local staffers can’t respond to questions about local programming, and that the corporate PR department will (except they won’t), left me gobsmacked. Really? I used to be a program director, and I don’t imagine I would respond well to being told that I couldn’t answer questions about what I was doing—and furthermore, that some pants-suited flack in San Antonio, who may never have set foot in a radio station a single day in her natural life, would do it instead. But that’s the radio world we live in.

5 thoughts on “This Is a Recording

  1. Shark

    A message to Pat….what I admire most about Magic 98 (and the recently departed “The Lake”) is the embracing of the past and what has made Madison what it is today. Guys like Jim “get it.” I guess that’s why we’ve been friends for 30 years…which is how long I’ve been in radio myself.

  2. For those last ten to fifteen years, I’ve watched from outside and listened as truly local radio has disappeared from place after place. Though I love radio, I’ve never been a part of it, and I’d not been sure how that contraction felt to those who have been a part of it. Now, I watch daily newspapers fail and disappear . . . and I know. Anyone who works to keep local radio alive, no matter where (and that includes Pat and you, jb), deserves our thanks. We truly won’t know what we had until it is entirely gone.

  3. Shark

    I can recall back in the late 70s and early 80s when reel-to-reel automation machines were designed to replace live jocks on the radio. The results were mixed. I remember several stations using the reel-to-reel automation, but STILL keeping a local presence with a local staff. Today, many stations don’t even try to sound local…they just run liners around the songs and commercial breaks.

    Pat, I don’t know if you were a part of the old 98 WISM-FM but I know Jim remembers it when they were automated, but had the likes of “Bill Short on Sports.”
    THAT is what has made local radio so great!

  4. WJMC-FM in Rice Lake used reel-to-reel automation when I worked there in the early 80s. Static electricity would force the system to go to the next reel or cart in the programming sequence if a person failed to discharge said static electricity before changing reels or carts. From the comments I’ve read on the web, the current system isn’t much more efficient.

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