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More classic rock stations for the birds

March 03, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

I'm a huge fan of the music genre known as "Oldies," and I say that not because I mean it, but because I understand that there are many people out there who have Very Strong Feelings about the subject and since my bulletproof vest is at the cleaners, offending this demo is a chance I just can't take.

But I can't help wondering what they thought when they switched on the radiotrola to discover that one of Washington County's flagship stations, 106.9, had switched from Oldies to Classic Rock and named itself "The Eagle."

Hey look at the bright side, at least they're still speaking English. I turned on my favorite alt-rock station out of D.C. recently and it sounded as if I were at an Argentine ferry crossing.

Curious what had happened, I went to the new 106.9 Web site to learn that, yes, this is now going to be all classic rock, complete with all those hideous classic rock clichs, including the "Block Party Weekend," "Twofer Tuesdays," "Get the Led Out," "The Classic Cafe," "The Drive at 5" and so forth.

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You wonder how the "Electric Lunch" was able to escape the asylum. It probably hid behind the "King Biscuit Flour Hour."

I also don't understand the propensity of rock stations to name themselves after a critter or a geological formation. Rock stations across the land call themselves The Eagle, The Grizzly, The Moose, The Gator, The Frog, The River, The Mountain. I suppose they need to call themselves something, as they spend those estimated four hours out of every day talking about how their station has less talk. "Coming right up, another 20-minute rock slide on the Mountain of rock..."

Just once, I'd like to see an FM station call itself something original, like "The Vomit."

"Hey there on a good lookin' Tuesday morning, we'll be spewing chunks of classic hits all day long, because we're 94.6, The Vomit, and no one can keep us down."

Or not.

The curious thing is that when 106.9 was switching to classic rock and naming itself The Eagle, 101.5 in Greencastle, Pa., was switching to classic rock and naming itself The Eagle.

Imagine that. We go to bed without any birds at all and wake up with a flock. It could be we have another F&M Bank situation on our hands. To prevent confusion, the issue may have to be settled in court.

This is one of those deals where - after two teams of impeccably tailored lawyers stand before the bench and argue passionately over which local classic rock station should have the right to call itself "The Eagle" - that Judge Kennedy Boone covers his eyes with his hand and asks himself why he didn't choose a career in architecture.

If there's a judge out there with a sense of humor, I'm begging him to order the Hagerstown station to rename itself The Crow. After all, Washington Countians aren't likely to get it. You name yourself The Eagle, The Moose or The Elk, and they're going to assume your radio station sells tip jars and cheap pepper steak. They hear "Twofer Tuesday" and they'll think buy one get one free chili dogs.

My friend Jake thinks that by calling themselves The Eagle, the stations are taking the patriotism angle, hoping to tap into our strong, conservative and nationalistic values. I have to admit, I hadn't thought of that. I was just thinking: Bird. Perhaps he's right, although I don't know that radio stations think that deeply, thematically speaking. This is rock 'n' roll, not rocket science.

And if they were going to delve that far into our socio-political psyche they would have cut to the chase and called themselves "The Assault Weapon" or "The Pulpit."

Come to think of it, The Pulpit isn't bad. "Good mornin' good lookin' this is Al Bino coming at you, preaching to you from The Pulpit of rock..." Of course, there is that whole rock 'n' roll lyrics/satanism paradigm you would have to tiptoe around, but short of that it might work.

Not to be outdone, I've just been handed a memo saying that 92.1 also switched formats over the weekend. What in the name of Marconi is going on out there? I've heard of musical chairs, but this is ridiculous.

Radio stations in the Tri-State are getting to be like the weather in New England - if you don't like it, just wait around for 10 minutes.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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