Friday, July 27, 2007

John Peel

John Robert Parker Ravenscroft (30 August 1939 – 25 October 2004), known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio announcer and journalist. Although not known for doing a freeform show, the kinds of music and elements he incorporated into his programs were the same as many of the early freeform stations in the States. His eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style was akin to "The Father of Freeform," Bob Fass. Little known in the United States, John Peel was a popular and respected DJ and broadcaster in the British Isles. Amongst many other accomplishments, he was one of the first to play reggae and punk on British radio and was a significant influence on alternative rock, Pop, British hip hop and dance music. He was the longest-serving of the original DJs of BBC Radio 1, broadcasting on it from 1967 until his death in 2004...

There are extensive John Peel archives, with playlists and downloadable programs. Here's a good place to start:

Kats Karavan

For a good overview of who John Peel was and his contributions, please go to:

John Peel Wiki

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Early KZAP History

Back in 2004, Alex Cosper wrote about the early history of KZAP-FM, freeform radio in Sacramento, late 1960s. Give a read at:

Early History of KZAP

(Cartoon courtesy of

Alex Cosper also wrote a short, fairly accurate history of freeform radio at:

History of Freeform Radio

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pissing Contest

Little bit of a pissing contest going on between Michael Walker, author of "Laurel Canyon" and KMPX/KSAN alumnus Ben Fong-Torres about L.A. (Laurel Canyon) vs. San Francisco during the Summer of Love (1967). Goes like this, Walker starting out:


WALKER: Fallout from my New York Times Op-Ed piece about about the relative merits of San Francisco and Los Angeles during the Summer of Love continues.
The latest, as reported by San Francisco journalist and rock historian Ben Fong-Torres in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle...

FONG-TORRES: Michael Walker, author of the excellent social history “Laurel Canyon,” recently wrote an essay for the New York Times, “(Don’t Go Back to) San Francisco,” which The Chronicle also published.
It should’ve been printed in green ink because Walker was so envious of the attention given this city as ground zero of the Summer of Love 40 years ago. “As a lasting cultural artifact,” he wrote, “San Francisco’s Summer of Love can’t hold a stick of incense to the rafter-shaking sounds coming out that same year from a Los Angeles neighborhood 370 miles south, above the Sunset Strip.”
He refers, of course, to the title of his book, and to the amazing array of talent that lived or hung out in the canyon and produced such seminal hits as “California Dreamin’,” “For What It’s Worth” and even that wear-flowers-in-your-hair number.
Well! Edward Bear, for one, was incensed (pun intended). The former KMPX and KSAN DJ, e-mailed the article to friends, drawing this sage comment from Dusty Street, who worked with Bear: “I beg to note that (free-form) radio was started in San Francisco, where these bands got the airplay they needed to become successful, and it was Tom Donahue (at KMPX) who brought FM rock to L.A., after it had been established in S.F.”
Despite the rivalry between the cities, there was cross-pollination between San Francisco and Los Angeles that informed the music and culture of both.

WALKER: Nevertheless, as Laurel Canynonite Frank Zappa recalled:

ZAPPA: San Francisco in the mid-’60s was very chauvinistic and ethnocentric. To the Friscoid’s way of thinking, everything that came from THEIR town was really important Art, and anything from anyplace else (especially L.A.) was dogshit. Rolling Stone magazine helped promote this fiction, nationwide.

WALKER: Zappa also noted that “no matter how ‘peace-love’ the San Francisco bands might try to make themselves, they eventually had to come south to evil ol’ Hollywood to get a record deal.”

WALKER: In the end, more great records came out of L.A. that summer and beyond. As Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis noted in his retrospective of the Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, which contained the band’s signature hits “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”:

WALKER: The fact is, with a few notable exceptions like the sophomore album by the Jefferson Airplane, there wasn’t a lot of great rock made in the City by the Bay at the height of the psychedelic era.


Let me weigh-in a bit, here:

1) Freeform Radio started with Bob Fass at WBAI-FM, New York in 1965. I consider him to be "The Father of Freeform Radio."

2) The first commercial station to play the new music that was coming out but wasn't being played on almost every station was WOR-FM, New York, beginning in Summer 1966. WOR-FM was not "freeform" in format, however.

3) Tom Donahue was the first one to format a commercial FM radio station, KMPX-FM, beginning in April, 1967, in San Francisco. I consider him "The Father of Commercial Freeform Radio."

4) Tom Donahue took programmatic control of KPPC-FM, Pasadena (L.A.) in November 1967, bringing Freeform Radio to Los Angeles for the first time.

As for the music, I guess it depends on your tastes. But, if you were into psychedelia, there is no question that San Francisco was the epicenter.