What’s At The Bottom Of The Music Test?

This week, with many stations gearing up their music testing for the fall book, we took a look at a sample of music tests in various formats from the past several years to look at some telling titles that finished somewhere in the bottom 25, usually out of no less than 550-600 songs.
Here’s not what’s usually at the bottom of a music test: the goofy borderline novelties, often from the ’70s, that typically comprise any “Worst Songs of All Time” list. There were a few I came across (Osmonds, “One Bad Apple”; Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes, “Get Dancing,” Aqua, “Barbie Girl,’ Shelly West’s “Jose Cuervo”). But a lot of the others have long selected themselves out of contention. It’s been a long time since any PD had any particular expectation that “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” would actually test. Or even Starship’s “We Built This City,” Blender’s worst song nominee of recent years.
Besides, not all of the songs that you think would test terribly do. Blue Swede’s version of “Hooked On A Feeling” (the one with the chanting oo-ga-cha-ga opening) turned out to do okay on some Oldies/Classic Hits stations, once the kids-of-the-’70s and not their annoyed parents or older brothers were the ones voting on it. There are situations where “Mickey” and “Seasons In The Sun” come back playable. Even Billy Ray Cyrus “Achy Breaky Heart” tests well enough, if polarized, that many Country PDs just never put it in the music test, lest they be forced to actually consider playing it.
For any polarizing novelty, there’s also just as much critically beloved music that can be found clogging up the last 25 slots of a music test. In my spot checks, I found U2’s “Gloria” and “Angel Of Harlem,” Dire Straits’ “Industrial Disease,” Roxy Music’s “Avalon,” the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes,” the Gin Blossoms’ “Alison Road,” Public Enemy’s “Bring The Noise,” and almost every Steely Dan deep cut.
Occupying a prominent spot in Sean’s iPod is almost as much of a guarantee of “bottom-of-the-test” status as critical acclaim. After five years of working with music testing, I’ve had to come to grips with enjoying “Buffalo Stance” by Neneh Cherry, “There Goes Another Love Song” by the Outlaws, “Every 1’s A Winner”by Hot Chocolate, “Don’t Misunderstand Me” by Rossington-Collins Band, and “If I Could Only Win Your Love” by Emmylou Harris with a relatively small group of others (particularly if you’re looking for the person that would enjoy them all).
What else lurks at the bottom of the music test?
A lot of songs that were big enough hits and only a little polarizing at the time, but have been whittled down by the passage of time:
* ELO, “Shine A Little Light”
* Van Halen, “Dreams”
* Richard Marx, “Satisfied”
* Tina Turner, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”
* Phil Collins, “Take Me Home”
* Taylor Dayne, “I’ll Always Love You”
* Delfonics, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)”
* Huey Lewis & the News, “Stuck With You”
A lot of songs that consultant Alan Sneed would characterize as “terminal currents,” songs that never got enough airplay after their initial run on the radio to have any particular purchase over listeners now. I could reel off a long list here that would lose anybody except the true chart junkies, but a few:
* Eddie Money, “The Love In Your Eyes”
* Dogs Eye View, “Everything Falls Apart”
* Adam Ant, “Room At The Top”
* Bell Biv DeVoe, “When Will I See You Smile”
* Animotion, “Room To Move”
* Huey Lewis & the News, “Working For A Living”; (as Lewis himself recently told an interviewer, those who remember it think it was much bigger than it was).
Songs that never got played on the radio enough as currents for listeners to remember them now. As radio programmers try to build gold-based formats around the first generation of Alternative or the rhythmic hits of the late ’80s/early ’90s, it’s hard to find a lot of songs that reached critical mass in the first place, unless you have an “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones or “Blister In The Sun” by the Violent Femmes that took on a life of its own at some latter date. So it should be no surprise seeing, say, “Show Me Your Soul” by Red Hot Chili Peppers or “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen on this list – there just weren’t enough people hearing them at the time.
Even in Classic Rock, where there was critical mass and we think respondents listened to every song on the album equally, there are a lot of depth cuts from major bands that have been at the bottom of a test, including:
* Led Zeppelin, “You Shook Me”
* Heart, “Dreamboat Annie”
* Supertramp, “Dreamer”
* Van Halen, “And The Cradle Will Rock”
* AC/DC, “Let Me Put My Love In You” (in this case, respondents options should probably have included, “uh, no thanks”).
There are whole genres that often populate the bottom rungs of a test, or at least their second tier of music does. “Sweet Home Alabama” may be the most reliable tester of the last few years, but it doesn’t have many counterparts (witness the aforementioned Outlaws, Rossington-Collins Band, or even a lot of Skynyrd and Allman Brothers depth tracks). Keyboard-based ’70s progressive rock does well in only a handful of places. And late ’80s hair has given us a handful of smashes (“Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”) and a lot of cellar dwellers, including:
* Def Leppard, “Let’s Get Rocked”
* Autograph, “Turn Up The Radio” (although it became a secret weapon record for some Bob- and Jack-type stations)
* Dokken, “Breaking The Chains”
* Scorpions, “Tease Me, Please Me”
* Ratt, “Lay It Down”
* Tora Tora, “Walking Shoes”
* Warrant, “Down Boys,” and even at one station:
* Queensryche, “Silent Lucidity”
And, yes, there are some well-known polarizing titles and artists or some that just seem too goofy to test well, among them:
* Re-Flex, “The Politics of Dancing”
* Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”
* Clay Aiken, “Invisible”
* Backstreet Boys, “Shape Of My Heart”
* Donna Summer, “MacArthur Park”
* Real McCoy, “Run Away”
* Kentucky Headhunters, “Ballad of Davy Crockett”
* Daniel Bedingfield, “If You’re Not The One”
* Little Jimmy Dickens, “Take An Old Cold ‘Tater (And Wait)”
By this time, even among this list of reliably unreliable testers, somebody has undoubtedly said, “Well that tested well for me.” Songs fluctuate wildly depending on how they’ve been heard in a market, how they’ve been used at the station in question, and how central they are to the format (in direct response to the oft-held notion that a reliable tester would work everywhere, but would still violate expectation).
Songs that were at the bottom of a test a few years ago get a new lease on life through a TV commercial or merely a changing available audience. (ELO’s “Hold On Tight” was at the bottom of one test, now it’s becoming one of those songs with which Oldies stations try to forge into the ’80s.)
In the wrong market, even the songs that “always” test might not always test, or vice-versa. The Parliament/Funkadelic ’70s hits are often at the bottom of an Urban AC test–except in a few certain markets where they’re near the top. I also came across a slew of usually serviceable Alabama titles at the bottom of a Country test . . . in the Northeast. And interspersed with them were “Redneck Girl” and “Hicktown.”
There have been AC tests where Mercy Me’s Christian crossover “I Can Only Imagine” was at the bottom in one not-so-heartland market. There have even been tests with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” (no, not the Celine Dion version) at the bottom, although, to be fair, we had to go to Eastern Europe to find that one.
In other words, it’s why there is no such thing as a national safe list. Even if you could safely assume that the stations you’re looking at all did their own testing – and you can’t – there are too many variables, and the listeners often have their own ideas about what they want.
Sean Ross is available to help your station find some good songs to test this fall, too. Call 908-707-4707 for information about Edison Media Research music testing.

34 replies
  1. Lou P.
    Lou P. says:

    I was surprised to see “Everything Falls Apart” by Dog’s Eye View on the low-end list. Granted it’s a one-hit wonder from the 1990s, but I would have figured that it was catchy enough to get at least a moderately positive reaction from non-familiar testers.

  2. Michael W. Lowe
    Michael W. Lowe says:

    How about these gems…
    “Breakout”-Swing Out Sister
    “Something About You”-Level 42
    “Whatcha Gonna Do”-Pablo Cruise
    can you say “Oh WOW” category. They have their place on AC. Remember, the 45-year old female was a Bon Jovi fan. Don’t let the Classic Rockers and Classic Hits station take your 25-54s without a fight!

  3. Bob Quick
    Bob Quick says:

    In my experience, just because a song from the past was a hit in one market…it doesn’t mean that it got any play at all in the next. Even in markets that are geographically close in proximity.
    Unless you have a long-time staffer in the building that can remember whether the station played the song, or not, it may be prudent to stay away from even the biggest national hits.
    Bob Quick
    Quick Radio Consulting

  4. Michael Fremer
    Michael Fremer says:

    A radio friend sent me this URL.
    This is what’s wrong with radio.
    “Scientific” research designed to “build” a station’s following and an audience. This is why radio is dying and nearly dead. It’s not about any of this wanking…it only seemed like it was when the audience was guaranteed and these self-indulgent “consultants” could wank and occasionally see “results.”
    Talent and leadership builds a following. Radio wants none of that anymore! TOO SCARY! Not measurable. Too big a chance!
    Not wankable….and soon, not bankable either!
    LEADERS build a following. This kind of crap is guaranteed to NEVER produce any leaders. Just lemmings. A bunch of cliche’d lemmings, musical lemmings, on air “personality” lemmings.
    If anyone comes along who actually has a personality and is different, and has unique, but eclectic and “threaded” (as in can build a unique story with music that people might want to follow) musical tastes, that person will NEVER get on the radio.
    NEVER. Not in this passive/regressive, regimented radio environment.

  5. Reggie Beas
    Reggie Beas says:

    Your last paragraph and Bob Quick’s comment resonates heavily with me! I was the PD at 97.7 WILD-FM in Boston, an Urban AC/Urban hybrid. We played Classic Soul and R&B all day except for between 5:30pm-10:00pm, where we flipped back to the Urban format we flipped from (FYI we had better ratings than our Hip-Hop predecessor, Hot 97.7, but with only 4 AEs we made little money and were sold).
    My consultant and I differed on the sound of the Urban AC portion. I had an unique feel for what Bostonians would like to hear, being a nightclub DJ in Boston since 1988, plus faithfully listening to WILD-AM, Boston’s only Black station until 1999. I knew 90s R&B was huge in Boston, but when I studied our library, I was shocked at the titles not included. My consultant told me, in the Urban AC arena, there were only 75-85 90s songs that test well enough in other markets to play in Boston. Since I was a brand new PD without any previous programming experience, I had to take his word for it. Unfortunately, the station wasn’t around long enough for us to have a Boston-based test to validate my thoughts.
    I’m going to take a slightly different look at this topic. When I moved to Dayton, OH to program a Rhythmic station, Hot 102.9, I reached out to the nightclubs to get some gigs. I’m from the “Sunny Joe White/Frankie Crocker” school of programming, where clubs are a valued tool to get instant feedback on songs and a jump on new music. What’s interesting is when I started spinning I made the same misjudgment in the Dayton club scene my consultant made in the Boston radio scene

  6. Ron Gerber
    Ron Gerber says:

    Over on the left end of the dial, I think a lot of us snicker at music research. The very idea of playing music just because it “tests well” would be pretty abhorrent to a lot of the non-commercial music programmers I know and work with.
    In most cases, we left-enders pride ourselves on being the experts in our narrowly-defined genres, and I doubt that any consultants could further illuminate what we already know about our music.
    If, for example, you’re playing older pop in Minneapolis, you’d be wise to play “Wild Horses” by Gino Vannelli, “Victory Line” by Limited Warranty, “Rush” by Big Audio Dynamite II, and for laughs, “Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot” or “Life Call Rap” by Mrs. Fletcher. All of these got enough airplay in the Twin Cities back then to be recognizable to listeners in the present day.
    But I highly doubt that even the most seasoned research company from out-of-town could come up with these titles – this is a job reserved for someone who actually lived through it, right here in Minneapolis. We know local hits, because we remember them firsthand.
    If you’re playing older pop to Minnesotans, you better be an expert in what Minnesotans used to listen to. For me, that kind of expertise doesn’t come from professional “music researchers”, but comes from a life experience of living through it the first time. In my opinion, if you can’t tell by ear what songs should go on your radio station, then you’re in the wrong business.
    Of course, the commercial radio world is vastly different from the non-commercial world, and I have no illusions of any drawing any numbers that are bigger than the noise spikes in the diary reports.
    And so I’ll ask all of you, since you and I are all music fanatics: What would YOU, personally, rather listen to? Radio steeped in “Sweet Home Alabama”? Or radio that has a soft spot for Donnie Iris, “Under The Boulevard Lights” by Chuck Francour, or “Stay In Time” by Off Broadway USA?
    O wow, indeed…

  7. Ed Salamon
    Ed Salamon says:

    Kudos to whatever Country station made the effort to test Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Take An Old Cold ‘Tater (And Wait)” in their market. I’ve always felt that research was a more valuable tool for those programmers who chose to push the envelope, rather than those looking to contract it.

  8. Sean Ross
    Sean Ross says:

    Ron, I’ll see your “Wild Horses” and “Victory Line” and raise you “If I Had You Back” by the Rubinoos and “Don’t Let Me Fall Alone” by Fan Club, two of my other favorite only-on-Twin-Cities-radio songs (if not of quite the same [relative] cosmic significance).
    I knew I was going to provoke some people when I wrote this. Pointing out that Billy Ray Cyrus tests and Nick Lowe doesn’t isn’t just what’s wrong with radio for some people, it’s what’s wrong with America! But…
    You’ll notice I never said not to play Nick Lowe. Or any other song. I’m always happy to hear “Stay In Time” by Off Broadway USA when I come across it. But I’m also in favor of taking calculated risks, and doing that requires knowing that you’re doing it in the first place.
    In that regard, Ed Salamon is right. The best use of research is when it lets you take more chances, not fewer. In the Twin Cities, KQRS is a good example, too. They’re not anybody’s free-form utopia, but I always hear “oh wow” songs and I always hear records that a programmer from outside the market wouldn’t necessarily know.

  9. Tom Cook
    Tom Cook says:

    Wow. “Victory Line” is in a stack of albums I’m dubbing into my personal hard drive!
    I believe my older brother actually went to high school with those guys…
    For obscure titles, how about:
    The Other Ones – Holiday
    Gordon Lightfoot – Circle Is Small
    Art of Noise & Max Headroom – Paranoimia
    Loverboy – This Could Be the Night
    Tommy Shaw – Girls With Guns
    Neil Diamond – Story Of My Life
    Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer
    Chris Walker – How Do You Heal A Broken Heart
    Glenn Medeiros – Nothings Gonna Change My Love
    I could sit here all night coming up with titles, but suppose I should get some work done. =)

  10. Brian Allen
    Brian Allen says:

    Remember the old slogan NBC used to justify summer reruns,”If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you”? Maybe placing a obscure, poor testing song may be a way of adding an edge to the sound of a Hot AC, AC, “Jack” or classic rock station. There are lots of one hit wonders that were local or regional hits, did not initially test well or did not rank high enough nationally for listeners to immediately recognize.That said, how about some ’80s one hitters from the likes of GTR, Partland Brothers, Cause and Effect, Roachford, Giuffria,Danny Wilson, Eurogliders (that last one may be too obscure) to name a few. There are enough people who remember these songs, plus the first time “oh wow” effect to warrant playing them.

  11. Ron Gerber
    Ron Gerber says:

    I just read your comments, then I flipped on KQRS to see what they were playing: Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”… oh, well…
    Maybe KQRS has more “oh wow”s than the average classic rock station, but to a casual rock listener like me, the perception is that it’s the same tired songs over and over.
    Now: CCR’s “Down On The Corner”
    I would love to hear the Rubinoos or Fan Club on a commercial station, but I doubt that it will ever happen. The opportune time for a Rubinoos spin would have been the Avril Lavigne “Girlfriend” scuffle from a year or two ago, but what PD would have had the outside-the-box ambition to test it?
    Now: a Led Zeppelin song
    I suppose that I could see music research as another tool, which, if used properly, could benefit the sound of a station. Unfortunately, all the commercial radio I can hear in the Twin Cities is just “audio wallpaper” (I wish I could remember where I first heard that phrase.)
    Now: “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller.
    I hear “Jet Airliner”, I think of the wasted opportunity of not discussing and/or playing the Paul Pena original version of the song, and it just reinforces my stereotypical belief that KQRS has no desire to push the envelope, music research or not.
    Just my two cents…
    Ron Gerber
    Host of “Crap From The Past” since 1992

  12. Jeff Green
    Jeff Green says:

    Great article, Sean! And I agree with Ed Salamon about using these tests to find gems worth playing that give terrestrial stations the local feel that satellite or Internet radio can’t match. Wonder how Tower of Power’s “So Very Hard To Go” tests in the Bay Area, which always takes me back home.

  13. Registered User
    Registered User says:

    Okay, but at various other times in the hour before or after that Zeppelin/CCR/Aerosmith stretch, KQ also played:
    * Kiss, “Lick It Up” (more heard these days, but a record that disappeared from the radio for 20 years);
    * Fleetwood Mac, “Oh Well”;
    * Clash, “London Calling”;
    * George Thorogood, “I Drink Alone”;
    * Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “The Damage You’ve Done”
    None are Limited Warranty, of course, but none are among the 300 most overplayed Classic Rock songs of all time either.
    The claim here isn’t that KQ doesn’t play any of the warhorses, it’s that over a 30-45 minute stretch, you’ll be rewarded with something that isn’t.
    One of the things that becomes clear from this chain of comments as PDs reel off their favorite obscure songs is that most programmers WANT to play their favorite less-heard records. That’s why it’s turntable hits — not obvious schlock novelties — that populate the bottom of a test. — Sean

  14. Brad Savage
    Brad Savage says:

    Being a Minnesota native, I felt obligated to chime in on this one. I grew up listening to “Dave Hamilton’s Secret Weapons” and I’m a longtime fan (and former frequent co-host) on “Crap From The Past” with Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber.
    The Twin Cities market is pretty special, and has plenty of regional hits in the heritage of several formats. I’ll add to the list with more recent examples: The Honeydogs “I Miss You”, Peter Himmelman “Dixie The Tiny Dog”, and BoDeans “Good Things” (live version from Cities Sampler Volume IV). Plus do not forget that Roxette “The Look” broke out of Minneapolis!
    When I left Minnesota, I was amazed (and bummed!) that my Ops Managers and coworker PDs in Madison and Columbia, MO weren’t exactly familiar with “Rock and Roll Party In The Streets” (Axe), “I Could Be Good For You” (707), “Breakout” (Shooting Star), or “Raise A Little Hell” (Trooper) for example. But then there’s a station called KSHE-95 in St. Louis with their own crazy list of “KSHE Classics” that had some effect on the Columbia market (Missouri’s “Movin’ On” for instance).
    As music fans, these songs are great fun to hear and discover — or in some cases bring in the “oh wow” factor if you remember them. But if you plan to air “She Looks A Lot Like You” (The Clocks) you better be pretty smart about where you put it, how you frame it, and what songs you surround it with.
    I wonder if there’s any research to show the percentage of Twin Cities adults who still live in the area today, that were present in the early 1980’s. How many listeners in Minneapolis (today in the 35-54 cell) were there to hear “Strange Dreams” (Frank Marino) or “A Fine Fine Day” (Tony Carey) the first time around?
    I think this phenomenon is happening today with what we call “vertical artists” — that is, stuff that makes it to regular rotation for a while but does not reach a “critical mass” or big enough crossover platform to qualify as regular gold library material. There’s plenty of artists on my station that get 300-400 spins but then have to go into an infrequent “image” or even a “hold” category. New people are discovering the station all the time — and you can’t count a song that was in rotation on our station (and only our station) from January to April 2007 as a recognizable title for them.
    Then again, that’s also the essence of what makes the station local and representative of its coverage area. But you just have to be smart about how much of this “special sauce” you use to flavor any given hour or day.
    At WCNR, we’ve found that certain 90’s Alternative titles illicit an “oh wow” response. But we are careful because some listeners don’t know these tracks at all. Examples? “New Age Girl” (Dead Eye Dick), “Cure For Pain” (Morphine), “Six Underground” (Sneaker Pimps), “Cannonball” (The Breeders), etc. We’ve also found an amazing passion level for acts like The Smiths, XTC, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure, The Pixies, Happy Mondays, or even Dead Milkmen “Punk Rock Girl” etc. I consider these “marketing records”, that is, they’re going to be very unfamiliar. But among the people that knew them and loved them (in college or musical discovery years), they’re the strongest passion/image stuff we could ever play. It shows them that we are part of their world, and we “get it”. We’re not just another station playing Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots for the sixteen-millionth-time. (But sure, we play those too. I’m saying we cut through the busy life clutter and build passion among core P1s by using these marketing records smartly and sparingly.)
    At The Conclave, Sean spoke of a major market alternative music test where The Pixies came back as playable. I find this fascinating! But it is scary because we have to do more than find 350 titles these days, if we want to move forward in the business of providing music programming content. In progressive/alt/Triple A formats for the future, there’s an expectation of some level of “discovery”. Exactly how much, exactly what percentage, how to pick which songs (new or old) get the nod, and how the heck to do this when you only get 11-14 songs per hour is the million dollar question. But this is exciting. It makes radio local and vibrant again. Stations should be less “the same” and more trailblazing moving forward.
    I am a big fan of, as Sean puts it, taking “calculated risks” in commercial radio (and being aware that it’s a risk to begin with). I think a great formula is, “establish a core sound and expectation, then break your own rules and make a big deal out of it when you do so.”
    But don’t stray too far from that average listener who just wants to hear songs they know. If you are able to engage these average P2’s and “NON-music-heads” to be more excited about what they’re hearing, that’s a great win for the programming and the medium of radio in general. Playing reaction records or unusual versions (“De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” Japanese version perhaps?) can help cut through and gain their attention. Then you just hope they care enough to think it’s clever or suprising, and build a bond with them over these memorable moments. Calculated risks.
    WCNR/Charlottesville, VA
    106-1 The Corner
    “Different Is Good”
    P.S. Ron and Sean, FYI we did play The Rubinoos “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” a few times in the midst of the Avril lawsuit!

  15. jon bruce
    jon bruce says:

    Yes, It is great to see more tunes tested that never before were. I think the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better” would test better in Los Angeles were it got a lot of airplay. I hear it on the muzak at the mall from time to time.

  16. Ron Gerber
    Ron Gerber says:

    “Establish a core sound and expectation, then break your own rules and make a big deal out of it when you do so.”
    Nicely done, Brad! A short story from my past…
    Back in college, I was a part-timer at the local CHR in addition to being PD of my college station. I was so entrenched in the radio world that I unconsciously learned how the music was scheduled, with respect to tempo, male/female, and all that. I discovered that if I listened to the CHR station for three songs in a row, I could usually guess the next song they played. I was right about 90% of the time; my friends were amazed but kinda frightened.
    It was only years later, when I was recounting my little radio party trick to other radio people, that I realized that that was some BAD programming.
    If I ever get to the point where listeners, even the most fanatical ones, can predict my next song, then I will pack up my 6,000-song portable library and retire to somewhere warm and sunny…
    So good to hear that some PDs work as hard as Brad does on their playlists. There’s nothing better than being pleasantly surprised by radio – I just wish it happened more often on the radio in my car.
    Sean and others – thanks for the interesting and enlightening discussion. It’s always a good read, and I really enjoy the perspectives that I can’t get from other non-commercial folks. If there’s a list out there of the absolute worst-testing pop songs, I’ll be happy to play them all back-to-back in one glorious show…
    Ron G

  17. Jay Philpott
    Jay Philpott says:

    Syndicators Alert!! Crap From The Past is an excellent show and someone is going to get this program on their roster eventually. It’s quirky and rooted, bizarre and sensible, mocking and reverent, familiar and surprising. It’s exactly the kind of vibe that equates to the casting brilliance you would find in a successful pairing for a morning show with a strong point – counterpoint sensibility. It’s Jack on steroids, Adult Hits Gone Wild.
    OK, I’m a fan of the show and Ron is a friend. And ditto for Brad, he is destined for even more greatness in this industry. I’m happy that both are friends of mine. Both have an exceedingly articulate grasp of the heritage and current state of pop music.
    We all hail from Minneapolis, and while some would say that market didn’t have much adventurous radio, we know differently. The original WLOL at 99.5 (1981-1990) was a trendsetting, groundbreaking and fiercely independent CHR powerhouse that stepped out on a lot of different sounds due to the leadership of Gregg Swedberg, now cluster OM at CC/Mpls. And then there’s Dave, PD of KQRS for 20+ years. In-market there is no need for the last name, but it is Dave Hamilton of the Citadel cluster (KQRS, 93X, Love 105). Known as a research-driven, by the book tactician, Dave actually has added incredibly adroit touches to the flavoring of his programming over the years. He is one of the great programmers worth studying. For example it’s not out of the question to hear “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard during an A-Z presentation. Many of the deep cut, AOR classics that can be played on KQ today are due to his stepping out on such titles as For You/Manfred Mann, Stay In Time/Off Broadway, Under the Boulevard Lights/Chuck Francour, Nicole – Mean To Your Queenie/Point Blank and finding rockin’ nuggets like “Mother Freedom” by Bread when he was PD of KDWB-FM, from 1979-82 known as AOR “Stereo 101″. Ah yes, the “Secret Weapons” – a term that he probably coined. I first heard it from one of his jocks in the 80’s – Hal Hoover.
    Maybe it was all an accident (certainly Dave didn’t know he’d spend 20+ years across town, nor did Gregg envision he’d become a leading country programmer)…but those smart enough to really know the history of any market can not only play the right depth tracks for an audience that has a longer memory than we give them credit for….but assess the ability of the current audience for something different. And if WE don’t give it to them, they’ll find it anyway.

  18. Chuck Geiger
    Chuck Geiger says:

    Jay – Those KQRS gems from KDWB were first brought to light as KSHE CLASSICS, that Bob Hattrik and our gang brought over to Doubleday. There is an actual web site that lists all those midwest secret weapon records in rock radio. Some tested well, others – Oh Well Part’s 1 and 2
    707/I Could Be Good For You/MegaForce
    10 Years After/I’d Love To Change The World
    10cc/Dreadlock Holiday/Rubber Bullets/For You And I/Good Morning Judge
    Ace/How Long
    Aliotta Haynes & Jeremiah/Lake Shore Drive
    Amboy Dukes/Journey to the Center of the Mind
    Ambrosia/Holdin’ On To Yesterday/Life Beyond L.A./Nice, Nice, Very Nice
    Animals/Sky Pilot
    Aphrodite’s Child/Loud, Loud, Loud/The Four Horsemen
    April wine/Oowatanite/Roller/Shotdown Tonite
    Argent/Hold Your Head Up
    Atlanta Rhythm Section/So Into You /Georgia Rhythm /Imaginary Lover/Champagne Jam/I’m Not Gonna Let it Bother Me Tonight/Spooky
    Brian Auger/Happiness Is Just Around The Bend
    Autograph/Turn Up The Radio
    Automatic Man/My Pearl
    Axe/Rock and Roll Party in the Street
    Badfinger/Baby Blue/Come and Get It/Day After Day/Hold On/No Matter What/Perfection
    Bandit/Visions Of You
    Barclay James Harvest/Mill Boys/Rock and Roll Star/Titles
    Batdorf & Rodney/Can You See Him/Home Again
    Blackfoot/Train, Train
    J.D. Blackfoot/Song of Crazy Horse/The Ultimate Prophecy
    The Blend/The Prize
    Blind Faith/Can’t Find My Way Home
    The Bliss Band/Doctor
    Bloodrock/DOA/Kool Aid Kids
    Blue Cheer/Summertime Blues
    Blues Image/Ride Captain Ride
    Tommy Bolin/Post Toastee
    Brave Belt/Another Way Out
    Breathless/Takin’ It Back
    Brewer & Shipley/One Toke Over The Line
    Brownsville Station/The Martian Boogie/Lady (Put The Light On Me)
    Butts Band/Be With Me
    The Byrds/Chestnut Mare
    Camel/Lady Fantasy/Who We Are
    Captain Beyond/Sufficiently Breathless
    Tony Carey
    I Won’t Be Home Tonight
    A Fine Fine Day
    Peter Cetera
    Livin’ in The Limelight
    She Loves To Be In Love
    (Bill Henderson Site)
    Arms Of Mary
    Fly At Night
    My Girl (Gone Gone Gone So Long)
    Something Better
    City Boy
    Stanley Clarke
    School Days
    Classics IV
    Climax Blues Band
    Couldn’t Get It Right
    Do It In Darkness
    Roll The Dice
    Crabby Appleton
    Go Back
    Crack The Sky
    Stone Cold Sober
    Throw Away
    Rick Derringer
    Don’t Ever Say Goodbye
    Sauscillito Summernight
    Cheryl Dilcher
    Dixon House Band
    Sooner Or Later
    Mama, Let Him Play
    Les Dudek
    City Magic
    Old Judge Jones
    From A Dry Camel
    Jonathan Edwards
    From The Beginning
    Still�You Turn Me On
    Michael Fennelly
    Touch My Soul
    Jay Ferguson
    Shakedown Cruise
    Thunder Island
    Five Man Electrical Band
    Beg Me
    Flo and Eddie
    Keep It Warm
    Phasors On Stun
    Hocus Pocus
    The Fools
    Life Sucks, Then You Die
    Chuck Francour
    Under The Boulevard Lights
    Franke & the Knockouts
    Runnin’ Into The Night
    Michael Franks
    Born with the Moon in virgo
    All Right Now
    Wishing Well
    Rory Gallagher
    Edged in Blue
    I’m Alive
    Nick Gilder
    Hot Child In the City
    You Really Rock Me
    Call To The Heart
    Glass Moon
    Killer At 25
    Andrew Gold
    Lonely Boy
    Thank You For Bein’ A Friend
    Golden Earring
    Radar Love
    Ian Gomm
    Hold On (To What You Got)
    Ray Gomez
    Make Your Move
    Listen to “Make Your Move”
    The Good Rats
    Back To My music
    Listen to “Back To My music”
    Injun Joe
    Barry Goudreau
    Grand Funk
    I Can Feel Him In The Morning
    I’m Your Captain
    Great White
    Rock Me
    Max Gronenthal
    Get It Straight
    When The Heart Rules The Mind
    As Far As You Can See
    Listen to a clip of “As Far As You Can See”
    Dead And Gone
    Listen to a clip of “Dead And Gone”
    click on “MP3s”
    Steve Walsh/Steve Hackett
    Shape of Things to Come
    Turn Your Head
    House Of Livin’
    Music Eyes
    Racin’ The Sun
    Sure The Boy Was Green
    Free Spirit
    Take A Little Word
    Humble Pie
    Fool For A Pretty Face
    30 Days In The Hole
    Ides of March
    Illinois Speed Press
    P.N.S. (When You Come Around)
    Donnie Iris
    Ah! Leah
    Iron Butterfly
    In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (long version)
    Scorching Beauty
    Joe Jackson
    Is She Really Goin’ Out With Him
    James Gang
    Funk #49
    Take A Look Around
    Jon and Vangelis
    Friends of Mr. Cairo
    I Want You To Be Mine
    Greg Kihn
    The Breakup Song
    King Crimson
    Court Of The Crimson King
    Switchin’ To Glide
    This Beat Goes On
    Calling Occupants
    Between The Lines
    On The Run
    Paradise Way
    Time Bomb
    See Them Glow
    Alvin Lee & Mylon Lefevre
    So Sad
    One Fine Morning
    Nils Lofgrin
    No Mercy
    Nick Lowe
    Cruel To Be Kind
    Lucifer’s Friend
    Spanish Galleon
    Mama’s Pride
    Blue Mist
    Can I Call You A Cab
    Rainbow Eyes
    Manfred Mann
    Don’t Kill It Carol
    For You
    You Are-I Am
    Lies (All through the 80s)
    What Am I Livin’ For
    Mason Profitt
    Two Hangmen
    Movin’ On
    Kim Mitchell
    Go For A Soda
    Sad Lady
    Mississippi Queen
    Nantucket Sleighride
    Moving Pictures
    What About Me
    Sail On Sail Away
    JF Murphy and Salt (at allmusic)
    click here for their new website
    The Last Illusion
    You’re halfway thru the alphabet. Take a break by checking out the Top KSHE songs of the year since 1988 by clicking here.
    Quite Like You
    Remember The Future
    Show Me The Way
    New England
    Don’t Ever Wanna Lose You
    Novo Combo
    Stu Nunnery
    Isle Of Debris
    Off Broadway
    Full Moon Turn My Head Around
    Stay In Time
    Love Takes Time
    Still The One
    Dance With Me
    Ozark Mountain Daredevils
    Chicken Train
    Country Girl
    If You Wanna Get To Heaven
    Spaceship Orion
    Paice, Ashton & Lord
    Remember The Good Times
    Tell Me Why
    Paul Collins Beat
    On The Highway
    Pavlov’s dog
    Planet P
    Why Me?
    Baby Come Back
    Piece of Paradise
    Point Blank
    Pousette-Dart Band
    Andy Pratt
    Avenging Annie
    Don’t Let Him Know
    Spaceship Superstar
    Procal Harum
    Whiter Shade Of Pale
    Brian Protheroe
    Quicksilver M.S.
    Gypsy Lights
    Trevor Rabin
    Finding Me A Way Back Home
    Ram Jam
    Black Betty
    Rare Bird
    Peace Of Mind
    Turn Your Head
    Chris Rea
    Fool If You Think It’s Over
    Mother Russia
    Oh Well
    Teacher Teacher
    Jonathan Round
    Sympathy For The Devil
    Roxy music
    Love Is The Drug
    Run For Your Life
    Sad Cafe
    Black Rose
    Run Home Girl
    On The Loose
    Wind Him Up
    Sanford and Townsend
    Smoke From A Distant Fire
    The Sherbs
    No Turning Back
    We Ride Tonight
    Sepia Sister
    Shooting Star
    Hang On for Your Life
    Last Chance
    You Got What I Need
    How Does It Feel
    The Joker
    Sniff ‘N’ The Tears
    Driver’s Seat
    Danny Spanos
    Hot Cherie
    Jimmie Spheeris
    I Am The Mercury
    The Nest
    Nature’s Way
    Split Enz
    I Got You
    Don’t Run My Life
    Squire, Chris
    Hold Out Your Hand…(Thanks John Boll)
    One Simple Thing
    Listen to “One Simple Thing”
    Michael Stanley
    Let’s Get The Show On The Road
    Rosewood Bitters
    Lady Of The Lake
    John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks)
    Mind Bender
    Gonna Keep My Head Together
    Man In My Shoes
    String Driven Thing
    Don’t Call Us (We’ll Call You)
    Green Eyed Lady (Long Version)
    Sutherland Brothers and Quiver
    I Don’t Want To Love You (But You Got Me Anyway)
    Ballroom Blitz
    Fox On The Run
    Love Is Like Oxygen
    Marc Tanner
    Hot and Cold
    No Time To Lose
    Walking Wounded
    George Thorogood
    One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
    Billy Thorpe
    Children Of The Sun
    East of Eden’s Gate
    In My Room
    ThunderClap Newman
    Something In The Air
    Toby Beau
    My Angel Baby
    Westbound Train
    Tonio K
    Better Late Than Never
    Don’t You Know What Love Is
    Listen to “Don’t You Know What Love Is”
    Black Star
    Listen to “Black Star”
    When The Spirit Moves You
    Listen to “When The Spirit Moves You”
    About a song on the Touch LP “So High”, I thought those of you who know the song would like to read the words of keyboardist Mark Mangold…”…that bird like note on So Hi was Craig…he had an amazingly high voice and sang lead on almost everything, except So Hi, which was me, and Yes You Need To R&R which was Doug…. I remember that note…Craig couldn’t believe we were asking him to do it…but the song IS called SO HIGH… Anyway, stay in touch (oh!) and all the best, M”
    Check out Mark’s new project here.
    Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
    Mr. Fantasy
    Pat Travers
    Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)
    Snortin’ Whiskey
    Miles and Miles Away
    Hold Out
    Raise A Little Hell
    Tucky Buzzard
    Gold Medallions
    Tommy Tutone
    Jenny, Jenny (867-5309)
    Angel Say No
    Tell Me Why
    Such a Woman
    Only You Can Rock Me
    Too Hot to Handle
    Bullseye Bill
    Uriah Heep
    Easy Livin’
    The Wizard
    July Morning
    Burning Heart
    Steve Walsh/Steve Hackett
    Wet Willie
    Street Corner Serenade
    The Who
    all the Who classics available by clicking the artist name!
    Wishbone Ash
    Blowin’ Free
    Gary Wright
    Blind Feeling
    Really Wanna Know You
    Who’s Behind The Door
    Tell Me What You Want

  19. Jay Philpott
    Jay Philpott says:

    You’re absolutely right, Chuck…there was a lot of Hattrik & KWK DNA in the success of Stereo 101 (KDWB-FM).
    That’s quite a list you posted…and here’s another: http://www.kwk106.com/kwksongs.htm
    If you haven’t checked out the KWK/WWWK tribute site, block out a couple of hours and take the tour!
    It’s worth noting that both KSHE and the station I work for (106-5 The Arch) have depth programming on their respective HD2 signals. “KSHE KLASSICS” is good, but I’m partial to my own station of course…and our own Al Hofer has done a masterful job putting together “ARCH 2 – Gateway Deep Cuts”. It’s not online, but come for a visit to the STL someday and give it a listen!

  20. Mark Elliott
    Mark Elliott says:

    Sean – Two points about your column:
    1) I disagree with your premise. Choosing songs for my music test begins with some sort of “music map” or general idea of what our sound is going to be. Then songs are chosen on the basis of “if they like this one, we will play it.” The bottom looks very similar in style and sound to the top. I’m not looking to separate the best from the worst. I’m looking to find “the best of the best”.
    2) You are right about changes over time. My first experience with a music test was WFWQ in Fort Wayne Indiana in 1982. The number one testing song.. “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Evaluating the results as a fledgling PD, I argued that as a “novelty” song that hadn’t been played in a while, perhaps it’s not really that strong. If we play it a lot, won’t it “burn out” a second time? The “consultant” from the research company argued back..”This is the strongest song for your audience. It is a power record.” With the GM and owner in the room, I was pushed into played The Gambler every day and a daypart for a year. The research company came back to town a year later and the worst testing song was… “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. The “new” consultant, in the same room with the same GM, owner and me looked up and said – “What moron told you to play this song as a power?” “Your moron..” was the reply.

  21. Dan Updike
    Dan Updike says:

    Working in Central NY and hearing/playing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Cheap Trick. I still hear it on the radio today. I wonder if that track gets a lot of play anywhere else. After all it was a #4 hit.

  22. DJ Mo
    DJ Mo says:

    As a DJ, I could care less of what samples in research think about the music I play on the radio. It’s really the people in MY listening audience that needs to be sampled, not a random sample.
    I do my own research doing LIVE & LOCAL radio by do trial & error. You’d be surprised at how many people enjoy some of the really cheesy songs I’ve played. My motto is “If you play it, they will come.”
    I have played songs just once or twice in a whole year & have gotten requests to play a good number of those songs again. That’s how I know I should keep it in rotation.

  23. Ron Parker
    Ron Parker says:

    And how about “Jacob’s Ladder” Huey Lewis. Number 1 Billboard song that never sold a copy and very unfamiliar – But made number 1…. Hmmmmnnn

  24. Jimi Bruce
    Jimi Bruce says:

    There is waay too much “testing of songs” and research, and not enough “gut-feeling” programming like the late Rick Sklar, Frankie Crocker, and Sonny Taylor did making their stations number UNO! Research Testing” also erroniously falsifies reasons for not using a Dance or Electronica format on commercial stations in markets where they would surely place in the money.

  25. Tom Webster
    Tom Webster says:

    Jimi–I have to challenge that piece of “conventional wisdom” each and every time I see it. Radio stations do markedly less research today than they did 10 years ago. The reluctance to take risks in radio today is more informed by a lack of consumer insights than an over-reliance.

  26. Jimi Bruce
    Jimi Bruce says:

    I cna only go by the dozen or so of today’s “PD”s who have given “those songs don’t test well” to mae as an EXCUSE not to open their narrow playlists up like they were twenty to thirty years ago. It’s similar to the jobs drying up, i.e. “he’s too creative” Wha??

  27. Jimi Bruce
    Jimi Bruce says:

    I can only go by the dozen or so of today’s “PD”s who have given “those songs don’t test well” to mae as an EXCUSE not to open their narrow playlists up like they were twenty to thirty years ago. It’s similar to the jobs drying up, i.e. “he’s too creative” Wha??

  28. :java:
    :java: says:

    Some questions:
    -Who in their right mind would test Eddie Money’s “The Love In Your Eyes”??? Why not test One 2 Many’s “Downtown” or Martika’s “More Than You Know”? How silly…Of course that song isn’t going to test.
    -The fact that “Dreams” by Van Halen and “Silent Lucidity” by Queensyrche didn’t test, leads me to believe the wrong hook of the song was used. The Van Halen is nearly iconic and the Queensyrche was a massive hit on CHR/Mainstream and MTV. I remember some CHR’s playing it during the mid 90s all-over-the-road approach to Top 40 radio.
    I’d like to see a format based solely on GUT and instinct. Or at least start seeing stations have categories devoted to UN-tested records that THEY (the programmers) think sound good on-air or work for their market.
    Of course, that will never happen. Since this business is overrun by non-risk taking sheep.

  29. Steve Michaels
    Steve Michaels says:

    This is a great thread. The big mistake in today’s programming is not that the music is over-researched but that the pool of songs researched it too predictable and cookie cutter.
    All one has to do is look at the recent elections to see how regions of the country can have different tastes. Programmers who either don’t or are unable to take advantage of local market differences with regard to music selection are going to consistently under perform. In our market songs like “Too Young” by Benny Mardones, “Nicole” by Point Blank, “New Orleans Ladies” by LeRoux, “Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Sknyrd, and “Ah Leah” by Donnie Iris would test through the roof but may not in other markets. If you are in a market for the first time you have to test the limits of your expectations in your music tests somewhat with a percentage of your selections to try and find those “secret weapon” records. Also, today many radio stations don’t encourage (or pay attention to) listener participation via requests. Your active listeners who call in requests are a great source for historic market song titles that can be considered for future music tests and airplay.


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