Bowl in China shop: Spirit of radio lost to profits, rotation

I'm a huge fan of radio, but it isn't what it used to be.

Now most stations air-syndicated programs and voice-track everything broadcast after 6 p.m. What happened that made radio so dull?

Think back to the radio stations you listened to in junior high and high school. For me, it was WZPL and the "Hot 9 at 9" during the evenings and "Love Phones" with Chris Jagger and Dr. Judy on X103 at 10 p.m., a time when stations like WRZX (103.3) and WZPL (99.5) bucked the system by playing new and sometimes offensive songs.

I remember a time when ZPL went out of its way to be avant-garde, making its own song parodies to songs like "Shoop" by Salt 'n Pepa and "Breathe Again" by Toni Braxton. The station even played rap and R&B songs from groups like Tag Team and artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre, Warren G. and Nate Dogg.

Then the station got soft, changing its playlist to boy bands and sappy love ballads instead of playing harder music that might offend others. I understand why the station changed its play list. At the time, it had young listeners. I know. I was listening to ZPL when I was 12.

It's what ZPL down-shifted to that has made me change the station.

Now it's the same 10 songs played over and over again until listeners are begging not to hear them anymore.

Even X103 has fallen victim to conformity by going to voice-tracking and firing its greatest asset, Nigel, and their overnight guy, Pete Kilmer.

I don't listen to X103 past 6 p.m. out of protest for such a moronic decision. How could that station fire someone who interacted so well with listeners because of his brash, rude and sarcastic comments to people who called in? Firing Nigel was like taking $1 million in cash and lighting it on fire. It's something you just don't do.

People listened to Nigel because he was such a jerk on the air.

There's the smart-mouthed efforts of the entire staff on X103, but even now that youthful spirit and sarcasm seems to be waning.

Think about an article the Daily News published about a year ago when Adam Ritz, X103's "tell-it-like-it-is" jock, made a sound parody of Ball State's "day in the life" commercial. He never mentioned the name of our school. I didn't even know he was making fun of Ball State when I heard it.

Of course, he got in trouble, but rude and rowdy radio behavior just isn't acceptable anymore. A friend of mine told a story about a guy who was fired from an adult contemporary station in Winchester for playing Pantera songs at night.

Does anyone else feel radio isn't what it used to be? The songs aren't as cool. The bands aren't as loud. Maybe radio has gotten soft. I just can't identify with "pop sensations" like Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Write to Laura at

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