Why Classic Rock Radio Sucks

Why Classic Rock Radio Sucks

   As a kid, my source of music was AM Radio, WABC in New York to be particular. They played all the hits. If it was a hit song, it was being played on WABC…. all day long. Top 40 ruled the air waves and my friends and my musical purchases. My musical horizons grew during my later teens, the late 70’s to be specfic. I still listened to the radio like everyone else, but now it was FM, a much freer format… I’d put on of several Rock stations in the Tri State area… my go to was WNEW in New York City. What made WNEW special was they went deep. They played more than the hits. Back then, most FM DJs could play whatever they wanted… personal favorite off a 5 year old Savoy Brown album ? Go for it… a new disc by a long time session guy ?, give it a spin… throw in some Cheech and Chong or vintage George Carlin to keep the listeners on their toes… that was the beauty of FM radio… Free Format. THAT would soon change.

   In just a few short years, every ROCK station across the country, would be playing the same 30 songs over and over and over ….. Rock and Roll Radio was going corporate. As a college intern at my local rock station, I would sit in on my “professor”’s show. He was the overnight guy at the time, he told me how they were getting rid of 75% of their vinyl….the stations program director (does that title even exist anymore), had decided that the station only needed to have Greatest Hits albums. It was over. New music became less frequent… Rock radio had become “Classic” Rock… meaning the same five songs from Led Zeppelin, the same seven songs from The Rolling Stones, the same two songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd, and sometimes the same songs from other great bands, that weren’t even their best songs…  ZZ Top anyone ? 

   As with any successful industry, Rock radio became less concerned with the product, and more concerned with revenue. It would be a few decades later, with the “invention” of streaming music, that the radio industry would realize they screwed up. Their solution was the putrid I “Heart” Radio campaign, but I digress. 

   Led by Pandora, and then more successfully (in my opinion) with Spotify, music streaming services offered consumers of music more choices… ALOT more choices. Listeners were given access to thousands of artists’ entire catalogs (whether or not the artists are compensated fairly is an argument for another day). If you like that Allman Brothers song, you now had the choice to hear similar artists, like Government Mule, The Derek Trucks Band, or Widespread Panic, with just the power of click. Want to listen to just The J. Geils Band for three hours straight ?, just “shuffle” their song list.

   Do you want to be exposed to new up and coming artists in your favorite genre ? There are streaming stations and blogs galore to satisfy that fancy as well. Personally, I love Blues and Blues flavored rock…. I have a whole arsenal of music choices to feed my fix… here are just a few…  SOUNDCLOUD, MIXCLOUD, LITTLE STEVEN’S UNDERGROUND GARAGE, BAND CAMP, REVERB NATION, FEEDBANDS… and then there’s the podcasts…. BLUES UNLIMITED, COLOR RADIO, JUKE IN THE BACK, MIKE KERR’S BLUES NATION, RAVEN and The Blues, THE BLUES KITCHEN, THE BLUZNDABLOOD BLUES RADIO SHOW, and so many more, each packed with icons in that particular musical genre, and up and comers. If that’s not enough, I also highly recommend the Rock and Blues Muse facebook page… 

   If all you want is background music, then pay no heed, but if music fills a void for you then, then dive into the above lists and explore. Having all those music options at your disposal, yet choosing to listen to the radio, is like having Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches everyday, when you could be going to a five star buffet.

The first 5 people to comment on this will be emailed a special 20% off Sales code for the purchase of either my Bohemian Bongo Beach Party art print (any available size), or my BONGO BEACH PARTY tee, any available size both from the MARTYTOONS SHOP. The code is valid for one week only, one time use only and expires on Tuesday, March 26th at 5:00 pm ….

Older Post Newer Post


  • Ron… thanks for the suggestion… Radio Paradise sounds like it’s right up my alley. Checking it out now.

    Marty Qatani

  • Rover… thanks for the comment. I agree 100%. Most of my online music feed and discoveries from online groups instead of streaming services. Might I recommend Rock Blues Muse…. great source for current music with the classic 70’s Rock sound. I compile a playlist on Spotify for the groups I like there, and then do a deep dive with the “If you like This, you may be interested in this…” found some really good artists that way.

    Marty Qatani

  • Hi Elmore… thanks for the comment. I share you’re sentiments. AM radio was my first introduction to modern music at the time… WABC in New York, as well. Used to listen on a little transistor radio in my bedroom. You’re timelines are dead on. I studied radio and television production at my local community college right about the time FM started to fade from deep cuts. It was only a few years later that FM spiraled down to the commercial nonsense that it is today.

    Marty Qatani

  • Believe it or not they did have classic rock/pop music on AM radio back in the 60’s and 70’s but it was usually on the weekends and it was called golden oldies night. Few young people listened to FM radio back then and I’m not even sure what was on FM at the time. I’m not sure when FM began to takeover from AM but in the beginning FM had a similar format to the AM stations. I read that the shift to FM was during the 1970’s and by 1982 over 70 percent of the radio listeners were now using FM.

    In 1982 New York’s WABC AM switched from top 40 music to talk radio and it’s been downhill for AM radio music since that time. Today’s FM classic radio plays only a few hits from the 1960’s through the 1980’s over and over again. The same songs and the same line up on a daily schedule to the point of ad nauseam. It seems like that’s what listeners want. As an example people listen to classic FM stations during the day and at night play the same songs at the local bar music box machine. This music does not change the way it did in the 1960’s through the1980’s as new hits replaced old hits and is more like 20 songs played over and over.

    For me classic rock/pop radio stations ruined much of the big hits from years past by playing them to death. I used to think it was just the radio stations that caused this. But now I think it’s partly because the airhead fans, of this music, want to relive their youth through this repetitive daily format of classic hits.

    Elmore J Klutz

  • I too miss the “golden days” of fm rock radio that i heard in the early 70’s. by 1975, i could see the writing on the wall. the really deep and cool album cuts were not played anymore in the day, and were relegated to the overnight shift.

    I know all about streaming services, and sat radio. sat radio still misses the mark in being to narrow. the fm rock radio i listened to in the early 70’s played the non-commerical “cool” stuff by rocks bands from many sub-rock genres. cool joni mitchell, frank zappa, shawn phillips, al stewart, with deep tracks by led zeppelin and other big name bands.

    what i miss, is something that streaming services don’t give, and that’s the communal feeling you used to get, knowing that not only you, but others in your area, were all jamming to the same piece of music. back when people listened to music, instead of it being just background noise. that communal feel to over- the-air radio is gone for those that love the other than 200 song playlist of corporate conglomerate rock radio.


  • 1
  • 2

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published