MY FAVORITE RADIO station, 95.7 the Beat, has been scrapped! Where will I get my fix of Bel Biv Devoe, Tony! Toni! Tone!, After 7, and Snap? This blows. I love KEXP as much as the next girl, but sometimes I don't want to listen to whiny emo or Swingin' Doors. Sometimes I want unadulterated old school, and the Beat always provided.
When the Beat appeared last winter, I retired all the old cassette tapes that had littered my car. The Beat was my favorite driving music, making me bust out my most elusive dance move (I call it "the shuffle butt") while shifting gears. You know that woman at the stoplight in a beat-up 1986 Honda Civic Wagon belting out "Mamasaymamasaw mamamakoosah"? That was me (and Michael Jackson), and we were having a damn good time . . . until 95.7's local owners (who are in the process of being bought out by gigantic Texas conglomerate Clear Channel Communications) decided there weren't enough of me around and traded in the Beat's format for something they call "superhits."
Call me nostalgic, but the Beat was my oldies station. Nothing like a good Bobby Brown song to bring me right back to a cafeteria dance at Bainbridge High School—suddenly I'm 16, wearing stretch pants, and requesting that the DJ play KLF's "3 a.m. Eternal." I've never thought of myself as much of a nostalgia queen, but now that I'm in my "early late 20s" (as Hedwig would say), I have sentimental twinges.
The "any publicity is good publicity" technique used during the transition from the Beat to KJR-FM makes it clear the station wasn't looking to retain the Beat's listener base. A two-day stunt format, in which the station played just seven seconds of each track ("Quick 96 . . . only the best parts of your favorite songs") pissed off a huge number of faithful Beat listeners. The station broadcast a bunch of angry listener phone calls during an on-air press conference, as program director Bob Case and president Michele Grosenick giggled and sarcastically thanked everyone for their input. Then they unveiled the "bland new" KJR-FM format (the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt). Thankfully, unlike Quick 96, the new format plays songs in their entirety, but that's about all you can say for it.
"No doo-wop, no hard, unfamiliar rock—just all the superhits of the '60s and '70s," says the station promo. (Then they play Huey Lewis, who's distinctly from the '80s.)
95.7's new-old format, KJR-FM, is about exciting as a bottle of Valium and seems absolutely devoid of funk—and I don't mean that in a "Sir Nose Devoid of Funk" way. The Beat may have been cheesy, but it was funky and soulful, too. With it gone, the wiggle has gone out of my walk and I'm forced to scour online file trading services for my favorites like De La Soul and M/A/R/R/S. I've brought my box of tapes back out to the car.
Yeah, yeah: It's just a radio station. But for those who were passionate about the Beat and its programming, the Quick 96 stunt was an insulting smack, making devoted listeners the butt of the joke. Definitely not a good way to retain a market, but it does build buzz . . . most notably, the buzz of thousands of people roaming the radio dial looking for something else to listen to.