In the late 1960′s the way music was played over the airwaves was going through a major shift, much like it is today.
For many years only songs of less than about 4 minutes were ever played on commercial radio and between songs we had fast talking DJ’s (of which I was one). Then along came the AOR (album oriented rock) phase where longer cuts of music were played in a less hype oriented fashion. It was this new era of radio that I first cut my teeth on.
My first shift on the air was at a local FM station in Garden Grove California, KTBT Underground Radio. The station was owned by the descendants of Emil Berliner the inventor of the phonograph, the founder of Deutsche Grammophon as well as credited with the invention of the microphone.
When I first started broadcasting, the Door’s Light My Fire was about the longest track we played until the day Iron Butterfly’s Innagadadavita was approved on the station for play. 20 minutes long it was a hit with the audience and the air staff – the audience never hearing anything this long on the radio, the air staff given a 20 minute break to walk outside the studio.
Soon every group had to have their long cut to be accepted into the “underground” radio cult and to be honest, over time it got rather boring as a DJ. The two most requested tracks of the day were Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel LIke We do and Iron Butterfly.
Meanwhile the AM stations, known as Top 40 radio, tried to capitalize on the trend by playing truncated versions of the tracks – still keeping them under 4 minutes – completely and utterly missing the point of AOR. This lack of understanding and high fidelity sound eventually led to their downfall. To this day when I hear the edited versions of Innagadadavida, Free Ride, MaCarthur’s Park and many other butchered pieces, it still turns my stomach.
This doesn’t have much to do with high-end audio, just a good memory about the evolution of music.