Hey, Look! It’s A New Article By {sneak Chuck’s name in here}

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radio edit

One of the pleasures of Top 40 radio in the ’70s and ’80s was the “station edit” of a current hit song to include the call letters of the station playing it.

In Chicago, we had a choice of hearing Reunion’s Life Is a Rock (“but WLS Rolled Me”)

… or the version played by its competitor, WCFL:

That was the apex of the phenomenon. But it came back intermittently throughout the decade.

Unfortunately, we don’t have audio proof online of the other ones I remember. In Chicago, I heard these on the AM powerhouses WLS and WCFL. and on the short-lived Top 40 FM competitor WMET (it switched formats before the ’70s were out). The Pointer Sisters’ Fire: “I’m riding in your car/You turn on WLS” Al Stewart’s Song on the Radio: “You’re on my mind/like a song on the radio (background singers singing, WMET)”

In 1977, the one-hit wonder group Q had a particularly odd twist on this in Dancin’ Man. Rather than inserting the call letters within the song lyrics, which would have been difficult if not impossible, the group did an edit at the beginning of the song, adding a line with call letters and a slogan. The one I remember was “WMET – the station for you.”

I’m sure Chicago wasn’t alone in this. On YouTube, there’s a video for a Life Is a Rock from WRC in Washington, D.C.:

The last song I remember doing this was the (mostly) tnocs-loathed 1985 chart-topper by Starship, We Built This City. (I say “mostly” because I do remember some people joining me in the “I like this song” camp.) I remember at least once hearing a version with a local DJ doing a variation on the patter a San Francisco disc jockey did in the original. (I preferred the original.) After that, it seemed to go away, perhaps as Top 40 radio itself became less market-unique and more homogenized.

What call letter edits do you remember?

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 30 years (8 legal).

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cappiethedog
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cappiethedog
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June 9, 2022 5:26 am

We had an AM station who went by the name K59. First, you heard a voice: “You’re listening to the coconut wireless,” followed by a woman singing: “Kaaaaaaaay-fifty-niiiiiiiiiine.” Now they just go by the boring call-letters KSSK. In the last decade, I think all of our FM stations went DJ-less. “Less talk, more music,” brainwashed the listener into thinking this was a good thing.

There’s a great song by Dar Williams called “FM Radio” I think you may enjoy. There’s an audio outro, apparently, by a real-life DJ. It goes like this: “I’m Allison Steele, the Nightbird, and I’ll fly again when 2AM rolls around. Join me. “Til then, love and peace. And a good day.”

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 9, 2022 7:10 am

Fascinating. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard any of these types of songs.
The ones you link sound pretty good; they don’t sound like obvious makeshift overdubs.

I’m assuming these were unauthorized? Maybe just something that was technically not allowed by music copyright, but was simply tolerated?

I know it’s different in so many ways, but it kind of reminds me of the deepfake videos of today. Subtle edits to existing recordings that could pass as originals if people aren’t paying attention. Thankfully DJs were just promoting their stations rather than slightly alter song lyrics for nefarious purposes!

Virgindog
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June 9, 2022 7:29 am

I think but can’t be sure that the records labels that knew they had a hit on their hands would have the artist spend a day in the studio and record all the various versions. Not payola, exactly, but a good way to give each station personal attention.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 9, 2022 8:01 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Interesting, and even weirder to me!

mt58
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June 9, 2022 10:14 am

This isn’t exactly the same as Chuck’s cited radio station promotional devices, but:

In the context of giving a hit record some “local color,” there have been a few instances over the years of dubbing in references that the market audience would relate to. An example that comes to mind is Tommy Facenda’s “High School, USA.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3njSBmfKB3U

He had a hit with a generic national version, and then dubbed in local town names on no less than twenty-nine different versions. Here’s the original, followed by a localized take for all of you cool kids in The Steel City:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hAH8czOh_I

Pauly Steyreen
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June 10, 2022 12:51 pm
Reply to  mt58

There’s a hometown pride commercial jingle that appeared in over 100 media markets in the 80’s with just changes in footage and slight lyrical variations. Here’s the one I grew up seeing in Nashville… did anybody else see a different variation on this hometown pride jingle in your neck of the woods?

https://youtu.be/HPIDa0gtjAw

Aaron3000
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June 11, 2022 8:58 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

That sounds verrrry familiar, although I can’t put my finger on which city I would’ve heard a customized version in… or maybe I’m just getting it confused with a McDonald’s jingle from the same era ..

lovethisconcept
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June 23, 2022 9:42 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I watched that same commercial countless times in Nashville in the 80’s and haven’t thought of it since. Thanks for the reminder!

Aaron3000
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June 11, 2022 8:52 pm

Q105 here in Tampa still airs a customized DJ patter version of “We Built This City” (Golden Gate Bridge becomes Howard Frankland, etc.).

I recall hearing a handful of these right through the ’90s, but the only one I can recall specifically was from the year I lived in Atlanta, and the line in Calloway’s “I Wanna Be Rich” that goes “My favorite number is 1-2-3” was modified to “99 is the one for me” on Power 99.

dutchg8r
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June 13, 2022 8:49 am

So my main station of choice in the 80s was Eagle 106 in Philly. 90% of the time that was where I would be taping songs off the radio for my own mix tapes. To this day, nearly 40 years later, my brain still defaults to the station-special version of Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid” because I loved that song so much I’d play it constantly, and I had recorded the station specific one.

So instead of “Radio Rockin, monster jam” I still want to say “Radio Rockin, Eagle 106”.

They managed to have several name drop songs over the years at Eagle 106, I wish I could remember the others!!

R.S.Wonham
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June 20, 2022 10:17 pm

I have that Q song on 45 and I think it made the Top 40, but is fairly obscure (I have never heard it since). We used to sing Reunion’s Life is A Rock in 7th Grade music class. The teacher had a newspaper clipping of the Billboard Top 10s each week on the bulletin board. My favorite class and middle school teacher. Cheers!

NB: Just saw the Dog’n’Suds neon sign in the video. We called it Arf’n’Barf instead. BEST Root Beers and Hot Dogs! There was a D&S down the street from my Dad’s grocery store and many lunches and dinners were had there. YUM!!!

Last edited 7 months ago by R.S.Wonham
lovethisconcept
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June 23, 2022 9:47 pm

It wasn’t station specific, but it seems that Huey Lewis’ “The Heart of Rock and Roll” was recorded with several different cities shouted at the end. I know that we got a “Nashville, Tennessee” shout-out, with other cities mentioned in different markets.

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