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‘Early '70s Radio’ author Kim Simpson at Book People tonight
By Jim Caligiuri,
10:47AM, Wed. Jan. 25, 2012
I’m a radio geek. Always have been. So I tackled Kim Simpson’s new book, Early '70s Radio, with more than a little interest. I felt I knew the subject. Lived it. Simpson, who's speaking on the subject tonight at Book People, 7pm, writes that at the beginning of the decade commercial radio formats numbered in the single digits. By 1980, the tally was 133.
That explosion mirrors the cultural changes of the time in many ways, but it was also a new method of segmenting audiences and measuring musical preferences.
My own love of radio comes from growing up in the shadow of New York City, where the dial overflowed with every type of music imaginable. I sampled nearly all of it and gnashed my teeth when, as often happens, a favorite frequency changed its format without warning. At times I’ve even been vocal about what artists fit, or don’t, into certain formats. Always a critic, I guess.
Tigers Blue Newton College 2 Stitched That’s about as much scholarly analysis as you’ll get from me on the subject, but Simpson, who's also a musician and deejay at both KUT and KOOP, dissects the topic much like a thesis. Each chapter takes a particular format – Top 40, Soft Rock/MOR, Progressive Rock, R&B, and Country – and traces where it came from and those that developed it as well as the adjustments taken to maximize the audience.
Valuable as a comprehensive radio history – famed local “progressive country” station KOKE is given more than its due, for instance – Early ‘70s Radio is also likely too dry for anyone who isn’t a media scholar or radio geek. Those who are, get thee to Book People.
Early ‘70s Radio
by Kim Simpson
Continuum, 288pp, $32.95