Monday, October 01, 2012

The constant of change

Music is powerful. It evokes memories of days gone by. It's music that marks milestones in our lives. Music, like our lives, is constantly changing too.

Music, just like breathing, is free. It is beamed in to our cars and homes for free. (Well, almost free. There are commercials and the small investment of a radio to consider.) It can open a world of possibilities and while we bemoan its current state of blandness and lack of energy, there are those occasional bits of genius that make an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of a few.

The passion about music is what breeds such an emotional attachment to it. The people who love it are most attached and losing what you loved and were so attached to can be heard in their voices when it hits them that change has hit and it's inevitable.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are often billed as a musical mecca. Sure, our fair cities are no Los Angeles or New York City. We can't claim that punk rock was born here. We can't lay claim to birthing an entire genre of music. Hell, it's a melting pot here with well-known acts such as Atmosphere, The Replacements, Husker Du, Lifter Puller, Soul Asylum, Tapes 'n Tapes and of course Prince hailing from here.

It only seems fitting that such a musically rich and diverse region would have an equally rich history of playing the genre-crossing rock and roll that has created memories for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.

In the days gone by, radio was the choice for the average music fan to break the monotony of our two seasons. It would warm our cold souls during the winter months and follow us outside during the summer months. For many, music has been and always will be a constant companion. The fanatics will remember these pieces of Minnesota's musical history far better than I will as I have only read about them and write today from the perspective of a fan with much to learn.

Hearing the likes of recorded snippets from KJ104 (KJJO, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, St. Paul), it's hard to imagine life in the early 90s in the Twin Cities. This radio station which would become a whole host of other formats, landing as JACK-FM most recently, began in the modern heyday of rock music. They missed out on grunge rock as the plug was pulled in 1992 in favor of country but some of the forefathers of modern rock radio in the Twin Cities got their start there. I heard names such as Shelley Miller and BT mentioned during their farewell broadcast. They were a family and they loved what they did. They exposed Minnesotans to homegrown music and to music which wasn't being played elsewhere. The following was never huge but they were dedicated.

A two-year absence of modern rock followed but that drought was ended by the still-remembered REV 105. Yeah, the likes of BT, Mary Lucia, Brian Oake and again Shelley Miller surfaced here and poured their hearts in to the little station that could. Eventually three stations ringing the Twin Cities, REV 105 gained a foothold and a dedicated fan base. The staff knew the music and loved the music. The one thing they didn't have power over was the ownership who sold the station to ABC who ditched the modern/alternative rock format in favor of hard rock sending listeners to the closest thing available, 93.7 The Edge.

A mere nine months later, 105 was reborn as Zone 105 with a somewhat lighter and more "safe" alternative rock format. I still remember being scared to death as my friend's sister drove us down 35W faster than any sane person would drive as I heard Liz Phair coming through her car's speakers. From that moment on, I became a diehard alternative rock fan. As my trips to the Twin Cities became more frequent, I would enjoy whatever Zone 105 had to offer. Yes, even as they floundered around with various flavors of alt-rock and even in to alternative classics. Then one day it vanished. Replacing it was some classic R&B music. It sounded like a bad disco record.

Once again, though, the alternative rock returned. Having sustained my musical tastes for many years on a steady diet of CDs, I discovered one day on my return trip from visiting my girlfriend for the weekend that alternative rock was back on the 105s. Reborn this time as Drive 105, I remember hearing some older Smashing Pumpkins and The Ramones. Those weekends I spent in the Twin Cities, I'd be sure to check out Drive 105 and each time I tuned in, I heard something new that I liked. Sure, it wasn't the same as before but it worked for me. Slowly, my CD collection took a back seat to Drive 105. Even more so as I finally moved to the Twin Cities. I'd listen to 105.7 at work, 105.1 at home and around town and enjoyed it as the station took on an identity of its own instead of competing against Cities 97. Shelley Miller once again was a voice at the station and my ears, for the most part, were happy.

The music wasn't cutting edge but it wasn't being heard anywhere else in the Twin Cities.

Then came 2005 when Minnesota Public Radio and their deep wallets started their own station experimenting with flavors of alt-rock. 89.3 The Current was born and for over two years, I flipped between the two stations. When The Current began, I was exposed to Minnesota rapper Atmosphere and a host of other local music. The more mass appeal acts were on Drive 105. For me, the two stations co-existed well. If the music on one sucked, the other might be the place to be. They were three and five on my car radio's presets.

Then one day in May 2007, I flipped on my desk radio and heard the DJ on Drive 105 say a brief goodbye and that it had been fun. She played "Say it ain't so" by Weezer. It was the end of Drive 105. Hey, five years for alt-rock is a fabulous run. Sure, I was upset by the loss but after well over a year, 89.3 The Current itself has evolved. I still tune in every day to see how Mary Lucia will surprise me in the afternoon. Maybe alternative rock won't ever come back to the commercial airwaves but the listeners support The Current and it's my hope that as long as there is a fan base the music will live on to create more memories for the diehard music fans who still supplement their iPod listening with the tried and true radio.


Somehow, this lengthy post sat unpublished since 2008. Here it is if you care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing that is probably for the most part forgotten was that in the period between KJ104 ending and the start of REV105, that KQ92 KQRS would turn their format over to modern rock on Sunday nights.