Monday, June 26, 2017
FM Rock: January 1968
January '68 and underground freeform radio is still gaining steam. Pittsburgh, Buffalo and San Diego now had stations devoting at least part of their day/night to progressive rock programming and all stations are reporting increasing listeners and success. The original stations are starting to feel their power too as record labels are paying attention and being influenced by what's being played on these rock stations to pick which singles they're deciding to release. The labels are also starting to sign more new acts that fit into the underground rock bag - Boston area bands like Orpheus, Ultimate Spinach and the Beacon Street Union are especially being snapped up and thrown together as a marketing gimmick that's being called "The Bosstown Sound" - underground radio supported these new acts but these bands would receive some backlash in the rock magazines like Rolling Stone who claimed the corporations were trying to cash in on the burgeoning underground rock scene. Well, they're businesses looking to make a profit, it really shouldn't have been surprising and the rock press critical panning did have an effect and eventually crushed these bands before the year was over. The truth is, these bands had some fantastic material - just check out Ultimate Spinach's "(Ballad Of) The Hip Death Goddess" in this mix, it was well ahead of its time.
The progressive rock programming was also becoming more socially aware as the music being released was also responding to the political and social atmosphere. The Vietnam war in particular was getting a lot of exposure in song topics as well as getting a lot of criticism in the between-song raps the DJ's were broadcasting. Some progressive radio stations were coming into conflict with their corporate management, notably KPPC in Los Angeles where the long-haired disc jockeys were working alongside their straight Metromedia suit and tie bosses. The FCC was also starting to show interest as strong language and subject matter on records by Frank Zappa and the Fugs were being aired uncensored but legal rules hadn't yet been put in place. This would come to a head eventually, but for the time being, the airwaves were still rocking in the free world.