June 6, 2005

"A very cold little jukebox."

"The iPod is a very cold little jukebox. It's a little digital marvel, but it's not radio." So says Cousin Brucie. His real gripe is not with the iPod, but with the so-called "Jack" radio format that sounds to him like an iPod on shuffle.
Radio, properly practiced, he said, is a theatrical art. "You have to have a persona," he said, "that transcends those tubes and transistors and wires and reaches into somebody's heart. When that light goes on and says 'Brucie, you're on the air,' my stomach turns warm and I know I'm with my friends on a giant telephone, having a party line conversation."

In recent years, Cousin Brucie has done the Oldies format on WCBS-FM, which is putting him out of work by switching to the Jack format. Jack is really Oldies too. It just only goes back as far as the 1970s.

I listened to Cousin Brucie in the mid-1960s when he was in his prime on WABC (AKA "WA-Beatle-C"). Those were the days before there was rock music on FM, and you only heard singles on the radio. Everyone in the NY area listened to Cousin Brucie in those great days of popular music. I can see how he's put off by Jack, and not just because it excludes his once-all-powerful voice. It deliberately cuts off the music of the 60s, the best music ever.

I can see why a format that does that is popular: people who arrived after the Boomers have plenty of reason to be sick of all our pop culture stuff. Forgive me if I get nostalgic about that 60s place once again, but it really was fine back then, with Cousin Brucie playing the new music, when the new music was the Beatles. Once an hour or so, he'd play an oldie, and in those days "oldie" meant a song from the 1950s or very early 60s, like "Peggy Sue" or "A Little Bit of Soap."

I remember how odd and disorienting it felt the first time I heard a Beatles era song called an "oldie." I considered it a misnomer. Jack seems to represent the same kind of feeling: my songs are not "oldies."

4 comments:

Timothy K. Morris said...

Here's a link to a Chicago Sun-Times story about this Jack FM replacing the oldies format on one of Chicago's big stations.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/feder/cst-fin-feder04.html

Here's the link to the orginal - www.jackfm.ca. out of Clagary, or all places.

Sounds like a Drake-Chenault format on steroids, to me.

chronicler said...

The same thing has happened out herein LA. We didn't have Uncle Brucie. We have the one and only Uncle Joe Benson. When I turned on the radio and didn't here him doing intros I gasped. How could they do this? The voice of all that is good and holy in music had been replaced by kitsch.

I once heard Uncle Joe do an intro to a song by Aerosmith. He ended and the song began simultaneously. I was at that very concert once again! The man is pure musical genius. He was at the shows, he knew all the bands and they knew him. He was a confidant not just a spinner. He shared that world with each of us.

Thank goodness I flipped around the dial and found his deep, sensuous voice once again. He is doing afternoon at the place I first heard him - 95.5 KLOS. What once was new had turned old, and now was new again.

chronicler said...

Pardon my error - Cousin Brucie!

Comet Star Moon said...

The Jack format is a sad miscalculation of the radio listening audience. WCBS was the eighth most popular station in the NYC market. Not a bad rank in a city that size. I'm from the poorly labeled generation-X and I think most of my friends would agree that killing an oldies station is a bad sign. When we all need to escape from the redundancy of our own culture we tend to find sanctuary in the pop hits of yesterday. Your observation that Jack is just an oldies station is an interesting one. I think it would apply to the Charlie format here in Madison. If you're interested I wrote about Charlie over on Dane101.