Tuesday, September 26, 2017
FM Rock: January 1969
1969 kicks off with a couple of milestones. In radio, the progressive freeform underground format gets it first 24 hour AM station with WHMC serving the Washington, D.C. area, though other AM stations had been broadcasting rock in limited blocks, usually an hour or two around midnight. WHMC, billing itself as "Radio Free Washington" was short lived however, perhaps because a big draw for the format was that it highlighted the burgeoning acceptance of stereo as the preferred way to listen to the new rock music and AM just wasn't there yet.
The more important milestone, however, was on the music front as January '69 saw the introduction of Led Zeppelin to underground airwaves. The record labels had become increasingly hip to underground airplay equaling LP sales and Atlantic had furnished many progressive stations with a white label acetate of the debut Led Zeppelin album a good month before it's actual release in stores. Because it got such heavy airplay before its release, it outsold Cream's new album, released at the same time, in many markets. Led Zeppelin would continue to shake up the rock scene, both musically and marketing wise, for years to come. Another artist that would become one of the biggest superstars of the 70's saw his first airplay on many stations in January as well - Elton John with his "Lady Samantha" single, though it would still be a year before he truly had his breakthrough. The Beatles were in full force with the White Album still topping the charts and a new soundtrack album with a clutch of some more new songs and if that wasn't enough, John and George had solo albums going too (which were very underground indeed). Many songs in this month's mix have stayed classic rock staples: The Zombies' "Time Of The Season", Bob Seger System's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man", and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" in particular. This mix also contains a couple of fantastic covers that really deserved to stay on classic rock radio; Tiny Tim's dynamite take on the Jerry Lee Lewis classic "Great Balls Of Fire" and Dion's brilliant reworking of Hendrix's "Purple Haze" - these two songs may seem on the surface to be a bit kitschy or have an air of novelty about them, but really, they hold up so well still to this day - at least I never get tired of hearing them! All in all, a great kick off to a watershed year in rock and one that starts to show solid signs of how the 70's would start to shape up.