Monday, July 3, 2017
FM Rock: February 1968
February '68 and progressive rock continues to gain strength, sometimes in odd contexts. Cleveland station WCLV-FM dipped their toes in the water by testing a once-a-week show on Friday nights from 11:15 pm to 6:30 am called "Perlick's Project" and it featured album rock cuts presented in the style that we're focusing on in this series. The catch? This is a classical music station for the remainder of their broadcast week. The progressive rock show was actually paying for the classical music programming the remaining six nights of the week! This was because "Perlick's Project" was, in fact, underwritten by the record companies who had clearly cottoned on to album radio exposure turning into album sales. This even resulted in an interesting cross pollenization with younger kids getting into classical music because they felt WCLV was now a "groovy station"! Add in the cultural shift caused by the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and then also remember legendary classical conductor Leonard Bernstein was on national television with a program called "Inside Pop" where he heaped praise on the new generation of rock musicians and it's hard not to see this era as truly artistically significant, a modern day renaissance. WCLV was also pioneering how progressive rock radio could be utilized by inviting Arlo Guthrie to sit in on the program for an hour and a half after his local gig that night. The station also hosted a "Be-Out" (the opposite of a "Be-In"!) which featured live on-air performances from Blood, Sweat & Tears and Canned Heat. The following night on the station they would air their usual classical record review roundtable as if it all fit together perfectly.
Even though this series is titled "FM Rock", there truly was an emphasis on an openness of exploring all genres of music. Again, the cultural impact of the Beatles cannot be understated. Their ability to put folk, music hall, heavy rock, pop balladry, Indian raga, musique concrète, psychedelia and many other forms of music all into one cohesive album really was a major game changer and opened up many minds to the endless possibilities that could be achieved with music.
Some artists included in this mix are making their first radio splashes - Billy Joel as a member of the Hassles (and obviously very influenced by Stevie Winwood and Traffic on the track featured here), Spirit's remarkable debut (which also incorporates some deeply classical elements), Lee Michaels (who would later have a huge pop hit with "Do You Know What I Mean"), and there's even some comedy from Murray Roman who comes on a bit like a psychedelic Lenny Bruce.