Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Radio memories

Listening to some rather obscure songs from the 1980s (Freur's "Doot Doot," anyone?) this week reminded me of my favorite radio station. From April 1983 to June 1985, San Francisco boasted what many people (myself included) consider to be the greatest radio station of all time. The station could be found at 98.9 on the FM dial and effectively broke the alternative music trail in the Bay Area. I'm referring to "The Quake," of course. Bay Area radio fans probably remember The Quake as the home of irreverent morning man Alex Bennett, and certainly he provided many memorable moments. It was also home to music you just wouldn't hear anywhere else on commercial radio in those days, including the latest alternative offerings from Britain and Australia. The Quake's broadcast range carried farther than such college stations as KUSF and The Quake seemed to play a greater variety of alternative music.
On-air personalities such as Rob Francis, Paul "The Lobster" Wells, Big Rick Stuart and Jed the Fish introduced listeners to the hippest sounds, so that The Quake served a similar role to that of KROQ in Southern California.
Unfortunately, if you target the hippest strata of the radio listening audience, that leaves many more layers of listeners unattended and you probably won't be able to make much money on advertising. The Quake evolved into "The City," a rather bland "adult" station. Now, I think 98.9 broadcasts in Spanish. The Quake's role would be somewhat claimed by "Live 105" in 1986, and Live105 thrived under music director Steve Masters. However, Masters eventually left the station and commercial considerations led Live 105 into a more "rock-oriented" sound by the mid-1990s. For listeners of a certain age and musical sensibility, there has never been another Quake.


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