I remember when I first started heading to Chicago (to visit a friend who had moved there). I found the Alternative station at the time (101.1, WKQX) and tried listening to it for a while…but found myself turning up the dial a little bit to what I eventually would learn was 101.9 FM, WTMX. It was probably because of how they handled “alternative” music – WKQX handled it as a young, angry teenage/twentysomething male would, WTMX looked at things as if you had graduated from college, listened to the college station for much of that time and knew what you’d like to hear. Yes, WTMX skewered towards women, but they had to pay the bills through advertisements (unlike WDBM, the East Lansing College Station I listened to back home).
Eventually I moved to a location near Chicago and would come soon to take part in the life (and nightlife) of the place. My friend moved out VERY soon after (have never blamed him for doing that, but I would have liked to have done some stuff with him while we both were there) and while I missed my alternative station I listened to WTMX and found it workable.
For many years that choice held right. 101.1 kept to the harsher side of alternative, eventually glomming onto a form of music that seemed to make an exercise in seeing how many could be bored to death in less than three minutes, and a challenge from WZZN (94.7 on the airwaves) ended up melting into “neo-heavy metal” after their distinctive all-female morning crew went into death-match mode one morning (I remember listening at that moment while driving my car to work and thinking “94.7 is dead,” and within a year that station went to the “Classic Rock” format).
Now as it happened, WZZN didn’t do the full suicide route immediately. They did it in three steps:
- Ozzy, Guns-n-Roses, and Metallica were added onto the lineup. I thought it odd, but then thought that I had nothing against these three groups (Ozzy supported the Alt Scene and was even influencing it, Metallica had risen on their own with help from the Alternative scene, and GnR was the acceptable exception).
- Three new groups was added, one of them being Motley Crüe. At this point I was listening more through habit than anything else, that point proven that I just remember The Crüe as one of the three groups being added onto the lineup.
- The rest of the Alternative groups were tossed aside for the Metal stuff. Needless to say, I couldn’t listen to them anymore.
- Failing to hold onto the men they were trying to get, that format was tossed aside for Classic Rock.
A few years later, I found this happening over at WTMX as well:
- Bon Jovi suddenly starts showing up at the station, both as a guest and on the playlist. An artist whom I thought I had said “goodbye and good riddance” to by the late eighties was suddenly showing up in my morning alarm…with the eager support of the morning crew.
- Enter Pink and Def Leppard. One being some pop-tart with a harder edge, another a band who chose to fossilize into a more successful version of Bernard Rhode’s vision of The Clash (Cut The Crap, an album that couldn’t…).
- Enter the worst of what was playing at the top forty stations. Lady Gaga caterwauling on the air, Rihanna singing about S&M and signing a contract with the Devil, and other lame stuff.
The station no longer broadcast itself to people who listened to College stations and knew what they liked, they now broadcast to women whose sons and daughters were dictating their musical tastes to them. And since it seemed to them that the kids were all listening to Top Forty radio when it glommed onto Dance Music, WTMX changed itself to match.
Thankfully I still have some operating choices. 87.7 WKQX has added DJs since my last posting (yeah, it’s just been over a month – I think DJs give personality to a station that plain music doesn’t have), and I’ve been able to wake up to WDBM on my alarm (Thank You Broadband and Wi-Fi!). That doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss the old WTMX – just like I missed the unique (and staggeringly sexy) all-women morning crew of 94.7FM WZZN when that station was degenerating before my ears.
And as a reminder to that woman with whom I had a discussion about DJs becoming idiots in the mid-nineties, I WILL bellyache about losing a choice I had once picked. I have grown sick and tired of everything I like being destroyed by idiots looking for more pliable ears to sell stuff to, and I’m not about to just say “okay” to the loss of another once-viable choice. The moment I start doing that is the moment I’m better off lying six feet under some over-decorated rock – and I’m hoping that that moment doesn’t come anytime soon.