Radio School

The 1971 posts I linked to yesterday got me thinking about that year, which is as critical to my personal mythology as 1976. It was the year when the record charts became firmly established as the calendar of my life, and when I began strongly associating times, places, and experiences with particular songs on the radio. It was also the year I decided, after a few months of listening to Larry Lujack every morning, that I wanted to do what he did. If I hadn’t made the decision by my 11th birthday that February, it must have come not long afterward.

As I listened to WLS, I tried to understand what the station was doing and why. I did the same thing with the hometown station my parents listened to. And it wasn’t just music radio that obsessed me. I listened to sports play-by-play too, the Cubs, the Badgers, the Packers, the Chicago Blackhawks, and tried to grasp the principles of what the sportscasters did. So whenever I was listening to the radio, my little brain was working, trying to think like a radio jock.  I learned to talk over the introduction of a record right along with my WLS heroes.

It wasn’t long before I started to appreciate a few records not merely as a fan of the music, but as a jock might.

The Fortunes had been around since 1965, when “You’ve Got Your Troubles” became a Top-10 hit. Several minor hits followed, but in the summer of 1971, they returned to the radio in a big way with “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again.” I would have begun hearing it in mid-June, just after school got out, and I associate it with those first days of freedom, and the first really warm nights when you’d sleep with the windows open. It would be on the radio when I was in the car, being chauffeured to baseball practice and music lessons, and it would be on the radio at night when I stole a few minutes with WLS before going to sleep.

And because I already had a slight understanding of what the radio jocks were doing, I would probably have caught a glimmer of the vast possibilities inherent in “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again”. The introduction runs 20 seconds, but a jock doesn’t need to use the whole thing. It’s got what I would learn were called “posts” at the eight-second and 16-second mark, with the vocal coming in at 20 seconds. You could talk it to one of the posts if that’s all you needed. Or, if you really wanted to show off, you could structure your talk so that you’d get out of the way for one post, come back in with something else, and get out of the way for the next one. (This is something I still try to do today, and I never get more jacked up on the air than when I accomplish it successfully.) And on the other end of the record, it’s got a great long fade that you can jump on to do whatever you might need to do. Everything between the intro and the outro sounds great too, with those Philly-style strings, that vibraphone, and the breakdown in the middle (“misty morning eyes/I’m trying to disguise the way I feel”).

Standing entirely apart from the fact that it’s a superb summer song, “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” is on the short list of all-time great intros for a jock to talk over—great for starting your radio show, or for reminding yourself why you wanted to have a radio show in the first place.

4 responses

  1. I still talk up records in my car or at home. It’s fun, even after almost four decades.

  2. What a great song. First heard it on a K-Tel comp.

  3. […] few years ago I wrote about listening to the radio in the summer of 1971, and how it was like going to school. I began trying to figure out what the WLS DJs were doing and why they were doing it, because they […]

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