By Tom Danehy
THIS PAST SUMMER, during the annual Danehy clan trek to states as-yet unseen, I was driving from Montreal toward Albany, New York. I was hitting the "Scan" button, desperately trying to escape those French-language stations.
Anyway, I'm driving through upstate New York and all of a sudden I latch onto the station which plays, in order, Stevie Wonder's "Livin' For The City," Santana's "Oye Como Va," and Earth, Wind and Fire's "That's The Way of the World."
In a matter of minutes, I had gone from being in the clutches of the Gargling Separatists to being in radio heaven.
It turns out the station, whose call letters I don't recall, was playing that hot, new format that's sweeping the country: music from the '70s.
Before that sends you running, screaming, into the street, try to get past your knee-jerk reaction. The '70s didn't suck that bad. All right, maybe they did, but that doesn't mean we should totally ignore them.
So what if the best-selling single of the '70s was Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life?" Heck, the best-seller in the '80s was "We Are The World," and according to Billboard, the biggest-selling single of the '60s was Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight." None of these is particularly indicative of its respective decade.
Sure, the '70s had Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John and the CB craze-inspired hit, "Convoy." But it also had Parliament, and Al Green and Linda Ronstadt singing "Ooh Baby Baby." That's better than breaking even for me.
Apparently the '70s format is spreading like wildfire. Mike Elliott, the highest-rated drive-time deejay in Tucson history, now owns his own station in Bangor, Maine, and that's his format. It's hitting big all over the country as latter-day Baby Boomers hit their earning stride.
And now it's in Tucson, on something called KHIT 107.5 (FM). They went on the air in mid-December with the promise to play 10,000 songs in a row without a commercial. The good news is they did play 10,000 in a row. The bad news is it seemed like about 5,000 of them were by the Electric Light Orchestra.
I swear, that playlist is bizarre. If those aliens on Third Rock From The Sun used KHIT as research on Earth's recent past, they'd conclude the Little River Band was the Beatles of the '70s.
They spent the first few weeks urging listeners to help "build their station," and the response was interesting, to say the least. One caller wanted an all-novelty song format, another wanted more songs from the '60s on the all-'70s format (obviously, the concept escaped him), while still another wanted the station to mix in G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh with the music.
Oh, that's what we all want to hear: a blithering felon and a know-nothing tub of goo, in stereo. "Yeah, we'll get back to the G-Man making an absolute fool of himself, but first here's 'The Night Chicago Died' by Paper Lace, right here on KHELL Radio."
I listened to the station for several hours and came away with decidedly mixed feelings. So I have a few impressions of and suggestions for KHIT, if they're interested (or even if they're not). Here we go:
Like most stations here (with only a couple exceptions, most notably Hot 98.3 FM), you appear to be afraid of black people. I listened for one solid hour and heard exactly one song by a black artist. Granted, it was "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green, which sorta made up for things, but that's ridiculous.
Motown was still hot for the first half of the '70s, plus there was Stax/Volt and the Philly stuff. C'mon guys, darken up.
Disco appears to be the 900-pound gorilla in the room. Everybody knows it's there, but no one will talk about it. That music was enormously popular, but became synonymous with bland musical product. I've never been a huge fan of disco, but I always felt the "Disco Sucks" movement was thinly-veiled racism by Aerosmith fans. Lord knows it all but knocked black music off the radio for several years.
A high-school kid I know, Luz Gutierrez, says she went to her school's winter formal, and all the kids danced to was disco and early-'80's dance stuff. The biggest hit of the night was the Village People's "YMCA." Sure, that's campy, but I don't think the station would mind luring a whole different generation in along with their target audience.
A disco song every now and then won't kill you. Besides, I don't care what anybody says, "Stayin' Alive" was a well-crafted pop song.
I don't care if you have deejays. But, if you do, try to stay local. I don't care how good Mark and Brian are (on the Hog); it bugs the heck out of me to have stuff piped in here from L.A.
Finally, from a personal point of taste: Less Carly Simon, more Linda Ronstadt; less Little River Band, more Average White Band; less ELO, more...no, I'll just settle for less ELO.
OOPS, NUMBER 437: I've been known to make mistakes; the secret is to not make the same mistake more than eight or nine times. After that, people start to notice a pattern.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column about a young woman named Marji Helser, who injured her arm and was unable to play basketball in college. In the column, I mentioned she'd been pursued by Cochise and Pima Colleges, among others.
I ran into Pima Coach Susie Pulido at a game last week and she wanted me to mention Pima didn't withdraw the scholarship offer after Marji got hurt. As a matter of fact, Pulido says, "We still wanted her to come after she got hurt. We were more than willing to wait for her to heal. We still want her to come. The offer is still open."
Coach Pulido runs a good program and she does it mostly with Tucson athletes, and I regret any inference that Pima backed away after Helser's injury.
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