Tuesday, December 21, 2004

iPod dredges up memories

A certain tune cropped up today as I listened to the iPod at work. I can't remember the specific time but the song brought back some memories. Memories from a number of years back. I can't even remember the particular year when I first heard the song but I can definitely nail down a general time period. It was during my high school years - likely 1995.

The song I am speaking of is 'The Old Apartment' by the Barenaked Ladies. The quirky Canadian band was a touch of pure genius to my then 16-year-old ears. I hadn't heard much like it. The area I lived in was dominated by country and classic rock stations and by living in a rural area, we didn't have cable to broaden my musical horizons. I was simply stuck with what I heard on the radio, the sparse collection of CDs I owned or whatever my friends were listening to at the time. Only two of my friends, though, had any sense of musical taste.

The second song by the Ladies I remember hearing, on that same station, was 'Shoebox'. It was a bit more upbeat and faster-paced than APartment but they were equally great songs. I don't think that either one made its way onto a mix tape though. Those old mix tapes are an interesting chronicle through the years from the early 90s through 2001 when I ditched tapes altogether and logged my mixed music to CDs instead. That's another tale for another day.

As I listened to The Barenaked Ladies, my mind flashed back to that old radio station. It was a bit out of place in the rural farming mecca of southern Minnesota. It could only be heard, too, for a 30 mile radius if you were lucky. Its format has changed a few times since then but I, for one, was upset when it left. It played such a unique mix of music. There were even live DJs. One of which was even a year younger than myself and attended the very same high school. He was the one who spun this amazing music.

From around 5-11 PM that station was the best. It would go from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Fiona Apple to 311. That is one particular night's string of tunes I can easily recall. It was a true treat for me. I even forced my tastes onto those I worked with. Every night I worked, the radio in the kitchen was tuned to 94.9 KCPI, or I-95 as they were known.

It was a small-town, live station. The DJs obviously had at least some control over the music because any corporate big-whig would do well to know that the mass appeal for this type of music simply wasn't there at the time. They did a local countdown show each night that sounded local. It wasn't over-produced and it was very well done for a kid from my high school.

Then, one day in 1998 (I believe it was), the station was gone. It had been replaced by a satellite feed of some A/C schlock. They played jingles and liners proclaiming themselves the choice at work. All the best music without the rap. The only thing being that the station had that office appeal during the day, it appealed to the teen and twenty-something crowd at night. It never did feature any rap that I knew of. It was all nothing more than a way to rake in more cash. The on-air staff was cut with the exception of the guy who did mornings and thn weather and news cut-ins throughout the day. The problem was, and I wrote to tell them this, was a station from about 30 miles away which was listenable in the same area featured the same satellite network on their station. This was simply a poor move.

It eventually led to the complete collapse of the station. It soon flipped (in 2002, I believe) to a classic rock/hits format and is branded as 94.9 - The Eagle. The Albert Lea/Austin area is without this sort of music. The only choices for hit music are a Clear Channel 'KISS' station from near Mason City, IA and Rochester's KROC. I-95 wasn't the station, especially with its less-than-stellar signal, that was ever going to be a cash cow. They simply should have left well enough alone and let the station be run as an experiment. It had a local flavor and was different. Apparently, though, different is bad when viewed by their corporate parent. I even wrote twice to express my displeasure with their choices but I knew that one person can't make a difference.

I miss the local flavor in radio. It has all but vanished in today's world. It is amazing what can happen in seven years. It was during this time, too, that the Twin Cities lost its venerable radio experiment, REV 105. The loss of REV 105 is again stirring up alot of discussion as Minnesota Public Radio is about to change the formal of 89.3 WCAL to one similar to that of the defunct 105. I only hope that this change doesn't mean the eventual loss of the current Drive 105.

I am aware that things change, but for the sake of longevity and time for new things to take hold, give everything a chance. You just may miss it when it's gone.

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