KCBS FM, 93.1, Los Angeles: JACK-Off Radio.
by Jon Dunmore © May 2005

The second most annoying thing about JACK FM is their slogan ("We Play What We Want"); the most annoying thing is the LIE behind that slogan.

The marketers hired by JACK FM must be completely unhinged to believe that anyone alive in the United States of Jesus today (who has been exposed to the Howard Stern 'indecency' hoopla, the usurpation of civil liberties under the guise of 'homeland security' and the mind-bogglingly ignorant President of America) would be naïve enough to buy the colossal lie that a radio station can "play what they want" without any regulation by the Federal Communications Commission.

The fact that the FCC is a body of brain-wrecked, double-standard hypocrites and right-wing fascists doesn't even enter into this issue.

One of JACK FM's bumpers states: "Even the FCC can't tell us what to do - well technically they can - but we play what we want anyway." This is the sophomoric level of stupidity that this station has adopted as its marketing campaign for its recent facelift and format-change.

But exactly what changed at this station - and why? In March 2005, radio station KCBS-FM (93.1) changed their call-name from ARROW to JACK and apparently changed their format. (But the format-change was a lie, as I'll soon explain.) On-air staff were fired unceremoniously to be replaced with impersonal, irritating, recorded "bumpers": ingratiating station-identification voiceovers that keep reminding the public of how "radical" and "unique" and "outlaw" the station had suddenly become, whilst playing ONLY chart hits from the 60's to the 90's whereas before, they used to play ONLY chart hits from the 60's to the 90's. Oh! - the abject insurrection! The unmitigated NEW direction that they're taking! - Be still, my pants!

The bumpers were opted over live staff for the same reason that any corporate entity "downsizes its human resources" i.e. fires people - more money from advertisers into the pockets of the board members, instead of into the pockets of staff. Staff? Who needs 'em? - when a recorded track will achieve the same purpose of ably spelling out the call-letters of the station between the commercial breaks; while the Playlist achieves its sole purpose of drawing listeners' attention - to the commercial breaks. Let's remember that that is the sole purpose of a radio station - not to promote Music (young bands take note) or Sports or Religion or Culture, but to SELL SHIT.

Radio stations play a certain genre of music because they are attempting to lure their advertisers' demographics to the party. So did KCBS change their format? It's quite obvious that they did NOT, as evidenced by their playlist catering to the same demographic (the 25 to 45 year-old market) that the previous KCBS programmers were catering to. Admittedly, the new programmers flensed the previous fatigued playlist to the bone and started afresh, but it still encapsulates the same artists and era of the previous programmers' playlist and simply opts to play songs that were not PUMMELLED TO DEATH during the last decade by those short-sighted programmers. So instead of playing one-hit wonders from the 80's, like Fischer-Z and Tommy Tutone, they now play other one-hit wonders from the 80's, like Depeche Mode and The Knack; instead of Bruce's Hungry Heart, he's now Born To Run; the live version of Rock And Roll All Night has been replaced by Shout It Out Loud; since Circuit City adopted The Cars' Just What I Needed, JACK decides to spin My Best Friend's Girlfriend; and instead of playing Zeppelin every four songs, they now conservatively play Zeppelin every eight songs - how downright James Dean they are.

Whereas they used to play Hollywood Nights, now they play, er- Hollywood Nights… Some things just can't be replaced. Would that they bore us with Against The Wind or Like A Rock? No advertisers' dollars are worth that kind of prostitution.

This is not to say that JACK's new Program Directors have any kind of insight or vestige of integrity. In very short order, they will have run through their full catalog of newly-programmed songs, which the stone-deaf public has been re-awakened to (songs like Come On Eileen and Planet Earth), and these songs will, in their turn, become pummeling favorites for the next generation's weary aural cavities.

And the LIE continues to be promulgated - "We Play What We Want" - on the supposition that if you say something long enough, it gains an aura of truth, like "Jesus Is Lord" or "Meat Is Murder" (both these statements patently subjective).

Firstly, whoever decreed that "doing what you want" is a desirable exploit anyway? George Lucas "did what he wanted" and not only did we end up with Episodes I, II and Jarjar Binks, we were also subjected to watching one of the greatest screen-villains in the galaxy turned into a whining bitch.

Secondly, if they tout themselves as "outlaw", then play something really outré, but we have as much chance of hearing Brian Eno or Me'Shell NdegéOcello on JACK FM as we would in seeing Justin Timberlake grow testicles.

And it's not as audacious as one might think to buttress ABC with Aerosmith, or Adam Ant with AC/DC, because there is a generational swathe of post-youth who fondly regard these artists as the soundtrack to their salad days; of copping first feels, driving drunk in their older brother's car and being in their first sucky high school band… so they can tolerate the disparate genres. But you won't hear successive artists like Iron Maiden followed by Limp Bizkit, for though these two bands are supposedly of the same genre, there is a generational gap which cannot be bridged - oh, and there's another big difference: Limp Bizkit sucks dog's balls.

Then there are the recorded "on-air" testimonials (by the supposed public, calling in to laud JACK's playlist, therefore the voice is recorded to sound like it's coming through a telephone line); brilliant idiocies like, "You guys are on the cutting edge and everyone else will have to keep up." And all this time I thought that playing songs from the 70's and 80's was called "retro" - who redefined "cutting edge" and why didn't I get the memo?... someone better tell these bass-ackward rednecks about that invention called The Internet.

And now we must endure this moronic marketing gambit affecting other radio stations broadcasting in the Los Angeles area, as they feel the need to respond, albeit indirectly, to KCBS's lowbrow yet ubiquitous campaign. Harder-rocking KLOS 95.5 started running asinine rebuttal bumpers: "You don't have to wait through this [excerpt of Corey Hart's Sunglasses At Night] to get to this [excerpt of Van Halen's Panama]", and "Here's another song you don't hear very often". That's verbatim. That's the level of immature petulancy that Los Angeles listeners have been subjected to recently. Instead of remaining aloof and letting KCBS's imbecilic campaign run its course, KLOS stooped to KCBS's level, making everyone a loser.

The big JACK OFF - Playing What They're TOLD - Under the heel of a Board of Directors being greased by advertisers and bent over forwards for the FCC. The LIE of "playing what they want" is SO OBVIOUS that even stating this almost makes me seem like a tantruming juvie for stating something so obvious. That's why I am so outraged - the glazed hebetude with which the lobotomized public accept this bare-naked mendacity without question. We have been programmed and conditioned for so long with half- and almost-truths ("New EXTRA bold taste", "Cleans and brightens even WHITER", "the BEST insurance cover for YOU", "The LOWEST prices ANYWHERE", "GUARANTEED to work, OR YOUR MONEY BACK"…) that one more Absolute Lie amidst the clutter doesn't even register on our burned-out Bullshit Meters.

I was unfortunate enough to encounter one of the brain-washed public in a group of work-mates, sounding horrifyingly like an on-air testimonial, opining that JACK FM, "…is the shot in the arm that this city needs-" before I burned down the ignorant swine where he stood.

It's the "shot in the arm" all right - but it's not the adrenaline that people believe it to be, it's the palliative that deadens them to discernment: that's why most can't discern the LIE from the reality. And if the Majority have been brainwashed by the façade of the Playlist, one can't even rise up and "vote out" or usurp the brainwashing party because the Majority is on the brainwashing party's side.

As evidenced by George W. Bush's initial LOSS of his election to the White House in 2000. Through the most implausible, childish methods of bullying, duplicity and re-counting votes, he somehow cheated his win into the Oval Office (aided no doubt by nepotism, underhanded political allies, blood-stained money and union muscle). In the end, the Majority actually believed it was they who voted him in! In essence, he made up the rules as he went along to suit himself. (From the words of a Ronnie James Dio song: "Everybody knows it. But everybody doesn't care".) And he did it again when he was "re-elected" in 2004! How do we vote a government out of power that "does what it wants"?

And here's the scariest punchline of all, my pagan brethren: if the radiowaves are run by advertisers, and advertisers are run by corporations, and corporations are run by the government… Maybe the LIE has an element of truth to it after all…


Update: May 10, 2005