In honor of David Sadoff's comments on my post on Sunday night speciality shows, I've been inspired to go down Sunday night's memory lane once again.
I was in 7th grade when Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden came into my life. For someone who grew up on a lot of soft rock from the 60s/70s and all things considered Top 40 pop in the 1980s, grunge was very new to me. I had never heard music so hard that was so accessible at the same time. I was too young for the Replacements, Husker Du and Mudhoney when they were around and I didn't even know an underground music community even existed. I read about some punk and hard rock bands in Thrasher, but other than looking at the ads for their new albums, that's all I knew about any form of music that wasn't on the radio or MTV.
By the mid-1990s, more "modern rock" stations were popping up (or they were already there but I just realized they were there) to cater to the "alternative nation" that was in place in the mainstream. Houston had the Rocket, but it would soon change its name to the Buzz and that's the name they've stuck with ever since. These were the days of Candlebox, Silverchair, Bush and Pablo Honey-era Radiohead - days that are often described with eye-rolling and groaning, but these bands were very important. Why? They kept me interested in alternative rock.
By spring of junior year of high school, I started looking elsewhere for music. Simply put, the new music I was hearing in regular rotation on radio and MTV were not doing anything for me. Probably the deathnail in my interest in all things considered mainstream modern rock was the constant rotation of groups like Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Creed and Matchbox 20 in the late-90s. The "burn" factor (as in, how many times you can listen to a song over and over before you get sick of it) came in after only one listen to these artists. I started reading books (like Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama) and articles in Rolling Stone and Guitar World and read about stuff like California pop-punk, the Clash circa 1977-1980, the Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma and whole slew of other stuff. I stumbled upon a new world of music and I've been walking through that world ever since.
Some people think doing a late-night speciality show is a thankless job. In some ways, it is, but having the freedom to play whatever you want to (sans independent promoters, music directors, program directors, market research and consultants telling you what to play) is awesome. This freedom wouldn't work for regular everyday programming (too scatterbrained for a mass audience) but at least it's there for the selective group of people that are interested. Hearing what I heard on a show like Lunar Rotation and what I saw on 120 Minutes gave me the inspiration to do what I did for three years on KTCU.
I will admit to borrowing certain bits from Lunar Rotation like "Now and Then" (where a new track and an older track by the same artist would be played). For my Modern Rock Show With Meaningless Info, I did "Then and Now," inverting the order of the songs. Then there were the bits that trailed on and on with jumping around topics ala 120 Minutes. You could call it ADD on the radio, but for me, it all made sense in my head.
In regards to Post, Sunday night specialty shows get some major props. I have a section devoted to WHFS (Washington DC's highly influential alternative rock station in the 1980s and 1990s) in the Jawbox chapter. I've been in touch with Dave Marsh, the former host of the WHFS' Now Hear This and he has shared some great stories with me. Also, Jim Ward of At the Drive-In/Sparta told me about how his older sister introduced him to punk rock via a Sunday night specialty show in New Mexico. Hearing him talk about how they taped the show and listened to the tape all week brought a big smile to my face.
Specialty shows were important in not only my life but in plenty of others. I'm glad that they're still around, especially with the audio archives streaming via the internet. I haven't done a specialty show in a long time, but that's OK with me. I'd love to do one again as long as the circumstances worked with schedule and desires. Maybe I should get into podcasting as my uncle Keith has suggested to me before.