I'd never heard of Pete Fornatale, one such "enterprising D.J.," and never listened to WNEW which, prior to its own death, billed itself as "the outlet for the music of Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Mel Torme and America's greatest songwriters." I do, however, remember the advent of FM radio as a cultural phenomenon - I was a young teenager when the old man ("Pere Montaigne") bought an FM receiver, a diode-tube assembly kit which hooked into the speakers on the spindly four-legged 1958-ish "stereo" on which he played Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff on boxed sets of red vinyl 45 rpms, the succeeding symphonic movements interrupted by the untimely 'pause . . . click' as the next record dropped onto the turntable. The FM receiver, on the other hand, relayed signals from any number of burgeoning classical music stations - random, unheard symphonies, concerti, quartetti, fugati, musica camera, and sounds I'd never heard, like a pipe organ or a choral symphony. Music without 'pauseclick', music beyond the musical ken of mon pere.
Mon Pere operating the stereo
For starters, the phrase "enterprising D.J.'s" seems quaint when one thinks of some poor sod physically sitting in a live radio studio at a control panel, actually deciding what music is worth playing, actually "spinning" records or putting a CD into a tray, waiting for it to finish, then talking about the music, and so on. But what struck me most is the mention of the federal government mandating anything at all, let alone by the clearly unconstitutional takeover of the airwaves, ruling "that FM stations carry different programming from that of their sister AM bands."
Alan "Moondog" Freed, "father of rockandroll"
Some Founding Father must have been spinning, out of thought, out of mind, unobserved and unlamented in his lonely, unfenced, unweeded grave. In this age of bipartisan cameraderie, the FF's graves have been mended, weeded, fenced and are now jealously guarded by a growing cottage industry of amateur constitutional scholars. I can't imagine the federal government mandating a parking fine, let alone effecting any significant cultural change. Emancipation, the interstate system, the Great Society, Medicare, the War on Poverty, all come to mind as through a glass, darkly. But these days, as Strother Martin explained it so forcefully in Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is failure to communicate."
If the BLM, the agency entrusted to manage public lands, is the pimp for BOG (Big Oil & Gas), then the FCC is the pimp for ClearChannel, Fox/NewsoftheWorld, TimeDisneyWarner, Viacom, NBC et.al. You can just feel the cultural change dripping from those "media outlets." I know you can still find Beethoven on the radio dial, somewhere. And most of the stations that still play that sort of thing are funded in part by a dwindling cache of federal subsidies. And I know that's not the sort of thing that most people want to listen to. But in 1958, most people thought they never wanted to hear anything but Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee never died. And now look at him.