I was amusing myself the other day at American Radio History, as one does, poking through the edition of Radio and Records dated May 21, 1976.
Item: “Dean Hallem, PD of WRNW of Westchester, New York, has done some heavy investigative reporting and claims to have discovered that the cut ‘Memory Motel’ on the current Rolling Stones album is in fact a real place in Montauk, Long Island. He called the owner, invited her to the radio station, and conducted an in-depth interview in which she shared with the station’s listeners an extensive history of the motel. One of the fascinating points that she brought up is the fact that many years ago a young boy had died at the motel and that’s why it’s called Memory Motel. There’s even a plaque on the premises commemorating the situation. Dean doesn’t want to hog this valuable information so he taped the interview and is willing to share it with other [album-rock radio stations] around the country. Stations wishing to obtain a free [copy] should call him. . . .”
Comment: One hopes Hallam’s “in-depth interview” eventually got to the interesting parts of the story. The Stones spent some time at Andy Warhol’s estate in Montauk during 1975, and they caused quite a stir. They supposedly visited the Memory Motel bar one night to drink and play pool. The owners didn’t like them, but Mick and Keef found the place memorable enough to title a song after it.
Item: “As any good production man knows, editing is actually quite an art. Witness the new action on the Manhattans release ‘Kiss And Say Goodbye.’ Before the edited version, it was tough getting Pop/Adult airplay. Things now seem much brighter for continued airplay.”
Comment: The edit to which R&R refers involves snipping off the original’s long, spoken introduction and starting the record after the last of it: “Let’s just kiss and say goodbye,” which made the record a lot more palatable to adult-contemporary and Top 40 stations. It worked: “Kiss and Say Goodbye” would end up one of the biggest hits of the year.
Item: “KFXM/San Bernadino’s new CB request line is serving a dual purpose for the station. During peak traffic periods in the area, listeners can use their CBs to call the station with trafic conditions. Reports can’t be directly rebroadcast over the air, so the caller’s name and report are taken off the CB and mentioned on KFXM.”
Comment: I am not entirely sure how a CB radio request line would have worked; presumably the station was monitoring a single CB channel and telling listeners to use it to contact them. I suppose that once I got used to it, having to respond to CB radio calls in the studio would be no worse than answering the telephone, although maybe the newsroom was monitoring CB chatter just as they would have done with police scanner traffic. That would, however, require a busy reporter to take time out of the day to tell me that Becky from San Berdoo wants to hear “Boogie Fever.”
Item: Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the big chart on the back page of the magazine (seen at the top of this post; click to embiggen) was fairly static. Songs receive a bullet if they are gaining in popularity among reporting stations, but only 14 of 40 songs on the chart get one. “Silly Love Songs” by Wings holds at #1 for a second week but maintains its bullet; “Welcome Back,” “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and “Shannon” continue to hang on right behind. “Disco Lady,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Show Me the Way,” three of the biggest hits of the spring, are still getting airplay, as is “December 1963,” which first charted in the winter.
Also on the back page is a list of active album cuts, which many Top 40 stations would have been mixing in, especially at night. It includes three cuts from Led Zeppelin’s Presence: “Hots on for Nowhere,” “Candy Store Rock,” and “Royal Orleans.” (Although it’s now considered a minor entry in the Zeppelin catalog, Presence was extremely popular on radio in 1976.) The list also includes Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” which would have been the live version from his then-current Here and There album.
Comment: If I ever think of anything new to say about the hit music of 1976, you’ll be the first to know.
7 thoughts on “Welcome Back”
Presence really seems like a radio-unfriendly album … rushed, trebly, not particularly hooky, and generally kinda fuzzy around the edges.
There’s a good reason why–the album was written and recorded in down time after Robert Plant suffered major injuries in a car accident.
Back to the main article, it stuns me that top 40 stations were playing a 11-minute cut like “Funeral for a Friend” back then. What other long songs were played on top 40 and why?
I wrote a little about the long-song phenomenon here: https://thjkoc.net/2020/01/27/all-that-glitters-is-gold/. Short version: in the middle of the 70s, Top 40 stations were starting to see some of their audience fleeing to album-rock FM stations, so they mixed in LP cuts, especially at night, in hopes of keeping them. I heard the long versions of a lot of familiar songs for the first time in this period: “Free Bird,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Layla,” etc.
Back to CB radio and—radio.
This was the hangover from the C.W. McCall hit “Convoy” earlier in the year. No less than KFRC in the least likely CB city in America, San Francisco, got in on it, with a month-long contest spanning mid-January to mid-February: The 610 Superstar Convoy.
It was a variation on one of the oldest contests on the radio. At the end of a spot break, once an hour, before the “610 KFRC” acapella, you’d hear a burst of static and a voice say “Roger, good buddy. That’s a BIG Six-ten-four!”.
Be the (whatever number) caller, tell the jocks (who all had “handles”—Dr. Don Rose was “Bones”, Marvelous Mark McKay was “Road Hog”) your handle and guess which of the seven KFR-C-B Superstars was about to check in (I remember Elton John and Michael Martin Murphey, mainly for their opposite positions on the “superstar” spectrum).
And then they play the cart with a burst of static and “This is Michael Murphey” followed by the jingle if you lost and some celebratory stuff if you won. The prize was a CB rig, installed, from Stereo Habitat in Campbell (a San Jose suburb). They probably gave away one a day, playing every hour. So maybe thirty $50 CB rigs.
By May, they were getting serious—a car a day. Plymouth Arrows. A tradeout, because from June on, there was a Daly City Chrysler Plymouth spot every hour—-even overnights—for a year.
It was in that period of time that I was Ops Mgr at WOSH/WYTL (Oshkosh, WI) and our AM, WYTL, was “15 Country (1490 AM).” We did that CB thing. Our engineer rigged a CB in the main AM studio and the jock monitored Channel 15 for five minutes before the top of the hour, after telling folks over the air that the AM 15 CB Request Line was open on CB Channel 15. For quite a while, as I recall (from more than 40 years ago) we got a request via CB every hour – even overnight. The jocks were trained to look ahead at the upcoming hour’s music log and when somebody requested something that wasn’t in the next hour’s rotation, they’d say stuff like “geez, I can’t play the Statler Brothers right now, but I think I can get in a Mickey Gilley tune for you if that’d be OK?” Of course, all the CB requesters went along with it, because the jock would say “hey we got a CB request for some Mickey Gilley from that (CB handle) Midnight Madman who’s listening to AM 15 WYTL on Highway 41 just outside Appleton” or some such.
JB: And Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do”, George Benson’s “On Broadway”, the live version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Reasons”…
KTNQ in Los Angeles actually played Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” in morning drive.
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