Friday, February 03, 2006

RIP 98.9

Wow.

I just heard "Red Hot" Brian Scott lose it over the air. It was his final sign-off, and the usually uber-cool jock was reduced to blubbering. Tonight is All Hit 98.9's last day of operations in the Quad Cities. Odds are good that by the time you read this blog, the station will be history.

When I heard the news that the station was being sold, my initial reaction was, "Hmm." I really didn't think much of it. Tonight, I'm kinda sad for the old girl, and I'll be honest, Scott's sign-off tonight left ME with a lump in my throat.

For those not in the know, here's why the station's closing: 98.9 is owned by some random company, but for the past several years has been managed by Clear Channel Communications. Clear Channel, if you don't know, owns something like half the airwaves in the continential United States. Recently, they lost some sort of anti-trust lawsuit or something, or the FCC passed some new law or something, that mandates the # of stations that a company can manage in one market... and it turns out that Clear Channel (who run Q106, Mix 96, etc.) was one over the limit in this market. So, rather than give up a station that they actually OWNED, they bailed on their management duties of 98.9. Rather than deal with another management company, the folks who actually own 98.9 bailed out and sold it off to some Christian group who will be converting it to K-LOVE or some such nonsense next week.

I remember 98.9 well. When I was a kid, it was an adult contemporary station -- your home for Barbra Streisand and like-minded ilk. Back then, if I remember right, the station was based in the studios of TV channel 4 in downtown Rock Island. I was a kid when we took a field trip to channel 4 and they showed us the 98.9 studio. To the 12-year-old me, it was like seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. Back then, 98.9 was entirely voice-tracked. That means that it was, essentially, RoboStation. No live DJ's and everything was played automatically.

Today, voicetracking is common. If you guys knew how many radio stations you listen to where you hear a DJ and you THINK it's live but in reality was recorded days prior in a separate studio, you'd flip out. Today, an automated station is handled by, like, ONE computer and a bunch of mp3's. Back then, an automated station meant like honest ROBOTICS -- giant machines running these bizarre 8-track looking things. It was more a factory than a radio station.

But something happened when I was in high school. 98.9 was suddenly gone, and in its place was POWER 98.9! Gone was Michael Bolton and his like-minded adult-contemporary schlock, and in its place was an authentic Top 40 station with a pulse and a dance beat.

I have VIVID memories of POWER 98.9's first month, of cruising the strip in Galesburg (McDonalds to McDonalds, doncha know,) while listening to tracks like Herb Alpert & Janet Jackson's "Diamonds" or Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's "Head to Toe." Back then 98.9 was THE FUTURE.

Well, the future waned, as things do, and somewhere along the way, POWER 98.9 turned into the far-less aggressive All Hit 98.9 we know and kinda-sorta-like-if-there's-nothing-better-on today.

On a personal note, I was kinda happy that the station was closing. Mostly, it's because I think B-100 is a MUCH better Top 40 station, if you're into that kind of music. It also doesn't hurt that B-100 is run by Jeff James, who's one of my closer friends and a former college buddy. Jeff's a GREAT guy, and his station should hopefully pick up a lot of 98.9's fanbase after the station closes, and nobody deserves it more than he does. I actually havent talked to Jeff since the news came about 98.9's closing. A lot of people told me that Jeff should be gloating and happy; something tells me he's actually SAD about it -- you see, he's THAT nice of a guy that his thoughts are probably with the DJ's and staff at 98.9 who are suddenly without jobs. Regardless, I DO hope Jeff picks up some listeners, and I like B-100's playlist better than 98.9's anyway (B-100 gets a little more hip-hop.)

Another reason why I wasn't too upset about the death of 98.9 was -- okay, I'll be perfectly honest here -- I met "Red Hot" Brian Scott once, and he was a total jerk. You guys should know if you read my columns that I've been DJing in clubs in and around the area since the late 80's. When you do that, you come into contact with radio personalities all the time. Clubs book radio guys to show up, do their cheezy live remotes, and bring in the girlies, right? Sometimes the DJ's that do remotes are total pros -- Dwyer & Michaels spring to mind here, as does my friend Jeff James at B100 -- but sometimes they show up with egos the size of mountains. That, to me, was my read on Scott, who basically showed up one time at this one club I was DJing at and proceeded to take over the whole booth like he owned the place and was the "true" professionalism, when in truth I could out-mix him in a heartbeat.

Maybe "Red Hot" was just having a bad night. And I'll admit it, it was a snap judgement. And, more to the point, even though I'm not a fan of the guy, you can't deny that he's not a great DJ, because he IS, and I hope he goes on from 98.9 to bigger and better and brighter things. And I hope that my memories of 98.9 -- the ones from high school, when it was SUCH a powerhouse -- stay strong.

You guys might not know this, but I actually went to school for radio broadcasting. That's what my degree's in. So to hear that ANY station in town is bidding adieu makes me a little misty-eyed. Especially one with such a great history. So rest in peace, 98.9, your snarky over-commercialized butt WILL be missed from time to time. To the 98.9 air staff, good luck in getting new positions (even you, Red Hot.)

4 comments:

Wendy said...

And I missed it. Rats.

Oh well. I was going to listen to the last few hours, but I don't own a decent radio - 'cept for the one in the car. It was weird to turn on the radio Saturday morning and have it be just dead air.

I also remember listening to POWER 98.9 in high school. Altho' I didn't do so much of the cruisin' from McD to McD. Then, I actually owned a radio. ;) I also remember the music montage contests they (and you) frequently did.

And B100 now has a home on my radio. We'll see how it fares on my all too frequent commutes to Moline & Macomb.

BillH said...

I for one was happy to see All Hit 98.9 go down. It has been much like Sam Kinison's line about Jesus: "Yeah, been dead for a while but refuses to accept it." Being almost 50, I prefer not to listen to what the young kids today call music. No, I'm not a fan of 106.5, either. I prefer the alternative rock scene. I was sad when 99.7 KFMH left the air - now THEY played anything. You could call in and have them play Pendragon or Nilsson or pretty much anything.

As far as the Christian rock station, I'll take it. In this area we have top 40, country (in my mind, country music is an oxymoron), classic rock and oldies rock. It's nice to get a change. Now if we could only get an all-blues station.

I completely agree with Moby: "We will all look back at this time in shame when we let 13 year old girls determine what music was."

BHC said...

I miss this station :'(. But, some time ago I was listening to some stuff in my old IBM desktop computer and I came across something interesting...At the time of All Hit 98.9's death I had an MP3 player that could record stuff off the radio. So while going through my old computer I stumbled across the 'Goodbye segment', my story of 98.9, the "Final Countdown" of the 5 most wanted minus the songs (i suggested they played Europe's Final Countdown for that :D), and the final song they played "American Pie". I actually thought about making them into youtube videos.

Santi said...

Hii there.

Tried to find the 98.9 frequency and now I found that it no longer exists!! Had a great time listening to your station. That was 20 years ago while studying in the US. Never found your station. I still have tapes in which you can hear Tammy Prescattely and Johnie Fidilly. Sorry if I mispelled the names. Thank you for such moments.