Sunday, July 15, 2007

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First Impressions: The Return of WCBS-FM

First Impressions: The Return of WCBS-FM

Here in NYC, WCBS-FM has been an institution since the early 1970's, playing the greatest hits of the 1950's and the 1960's. Then, several years ago, they started fiddling with the format and isolated the 1950's to a once-a-week show, and the rest of the time played songs from the 1960's and 1970's. Then, one day, after more than 30 years of being the favorite station of most New Yorkers who listened to music on the radio, playing the music "we" wanted to hear, WCBS-FM ceased to be. All the DJs were let go and replaced by a voice claiming to be some guy named "Jack" who was going to play what "he" wanted to hear instead of what "we" wanted to hear. Not quite sure why anyone thought that was a good idea.

Well as you can imagine, that caused a major uproar, and the new format failed miserably. It took two years before the management decided to drop the new format and go back, sort-of, to what they had abandoned - the music "we" wanted to hear. But it's not quite the same. Gone are the 1950's all together. Gone are most of the DJs that were the on-air personalities that helped make the station what it was. Instead what is back is music of the 1960's and 1970's, supplemented with songs from the 1980's, plus a few of the DJs that were let go, and some new (to WCBS-FM) DJs.

WCBS-FM came back on the air on Thursday July 12, 2007 at 1:01PM. I listened at different times of the day for the first 48 hours. By day two I was already hearing repeats of songs that had been played. Why are they already repeating songs? Surely they could not have run out of 30 years' worth of music after only one day. And I have yet to hear any song from earlier than 1964. The 1960's start in 1960 after all.

Another thing: They should immediately stop playing that obnoxious promo that includes telling folks where the old and failed "Jack" and the songs "he" wanted to hear could still be heard. We don't care -- and any mention on air of "Jack" just makes us want to hit the button and change channels. They should vow never to mention "Jack" again. He's hit the road and should not come back. In fact, Ray Charles singing "Hit The Road Jack" is what should have been the first song played. I didn't hear it played during the time I listened before writing this article.

And finally, there would be no Rock & Roll of the 1960's, the 1970's or beyond without the Rock & Roll of the 1950's. So to live up to the motto, "The Greatest Hits", the station needs to include the music that started it all.

Richard Kuper
The Op Ed Page

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