Birth of a label-sanctioned pirate radio station
In the 1960s radio sucked badly; even worse than it does today. There were no rock stations. The only rock and roll was played on the AM pop station, and sparingly, at that.
FM was relatively new, and the FM stations only played easy listening, Jazz, etc. My dad listened to FM 95, which played Herb Alpert and the like; almost jazz, “easy listening”, boring music.
There were two pop stations in town, one of which lost its license around 1963 for a fraudulent on-air contest that had people digging holes all over St. Louis, trespassing, etc, and it turned out that the prize didn't exist. The station went dark, and came back with new ownership and a country western format. This left one bad pop station in the entire large metropolitan area.
One evening my dad wasn't home, so I turned on the stereo, a large furniture-like thing, and was amazed that there was rock and roll playing. Real rock and roll, unlike the schmaltz they played on the pop station. What's more, it was in stereo!
It was amazing. They were playing Black Sabbath, Cream, the Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix – and none of these bands had ever gotten any airplay in St. Louis, with the exception of Sabbath, whose “Paranoid” single might get played once a week or so.
Later, as I was watching TV, my dad came home, and went ballistic when he couldn't find his station. He assumed, logically, that I or my sister had changed the dial. He demanded that it be changed back.
I admitted listening to the radio, but insisted that my sister must have changed it earlier. As Dad was getting ready to ground us both, with the radio back on his 95 but playing rock, the disk jockey mentioned the format change. We got out of our groundings, of course.
The station was KSHE 95, on a frequency of 94.7. Being the pre-digital age and on an analog dial it was simply 95. It was the first FM stereo rock station still in existence.
This became the only station I would listen to, and I had lots of fun amazing my friends, most of whom were amateur musicians, with my new discovery.
Just like the pop stations of today, the pop station in town, KXOX, only played 2:40 pop singles. KSHE was most definitely not a pop station.
They played long songs, album sides, whole albums. The Who's Magic Bus had played occasionally on the pop station, but KSHE would play the entire two LP Tommy. And they would play it uncut and uninterrupted, except for changing the album; as he turned the record over, the DJ would list the tracks and then start playing them.
They played long songs and album cuts, rather than 45s (singles). Where KXOK would occasionally play Creedence's two minute Suzy Q 45, KSHE would play the entire seven minute album version.
They played the sixteen minute In A Gadda Da Vida, the eighteen minute Alice's Restaurant, the twenty five minute Quicksilver Messenger Service rock version of the old blues standard Who Do You Love.
KSHE's motto was and still is “Real Rock Radio”, and its mascot was a pig that wore sunglasses and headphones and smoked a hand-rolled cigarette. If you go to their web site you'll still see the pig, with more modern shades and phones, but for some reason the pig stopped smoking around the time of Reagan's “war on drugs”.
It didn't take long for teens and young adults to discover this new treasure, which had the side effect of forcing KXOK to play more real rock & roll. It got so most people only listened to KXOK in the car, and then only because there weren't yet any car FM radios.
By the time they were on air for six months, they had started some very unique programs. Every day at six they would play an album side, and usually follow it the next day with the other side of the album.
On Sunday nights they started the “Seventh Day” show, where they would play seven full albums back to back, uncut. They would always prompt the audience to cue their tape recorders before starting, and conveniently left a few seconds of dead air before and after each album side.
Yes, listeners were encouraged to record these LPs off of the radio, uncut and in their entirety.
Fast forward a few decades to the new century. The labels have bribed lobbied congress for new rules. Now, at least on the internet, you can't play three songs from the same artist back to back, let alone full CDs.
KSHE's Seventh Day, however, still plays. They must have been granted some sort of variance, or been grandfathered in.
Now, a question for discussion. Why were the labels okay with my recording Ted Nugent's Stranglehold album, uncut and uninterrupted, a week before it was released to the stores, but now scream bloody murder if I dare to have the audacity download a two minute, poor audio quality Metallica single?
May 02, 2004