Jack Radio: Where your childhood lives forever!

What is Journey’s ’80s nugget ”Don’t Stop Believing” doing alongside The Click Five and Weezer on iTunes‘ list of the top 10 downloads? Stereogum may have the answer: The song was featured in the premiere of Laguna Beach. Still, what was that song doing on an MTV show about (and aimed at) kids not yet born when Steve Perry first belted the ballad? My theory: Jack put it there.

Jack, of course, is the new radio format that consists mostly of Gen-X nostalgia tunes from the ’70s and ’80s, mixed with an eclectic set of new tracks and other offbeat oldies. It violates all kinds of radio-formatting conventions, mixing genres and allowing ”train wrecks” (abrupt mood-shifters that place, say, weepy ballads before thrashing rave-ups). In short, it’s like the way people program their iPods.

Already, Jack is making its pernicious influence felt. It’s an easily automated format that makes it simple and cheap for radio conglomerates to replace more deejay-dependent  formats (as it has at New York’s beloved ’60s-vintage oldies station WCBS-FM). It may also be influencing other pop-cultural products; check out Bret Easton Ellis’ very Jack-like what-I-was-listening-to-when-I-wrote-my-new-novel playlist. (Oh well, it beats his American Psycho playlist, which was probably all Huey Lewis and Phil Collins.) And now, it even seems to be infecting MTV. Reality TV has been blamed all sorts of detrimental effects on the culture, but what could be more insidious than slipping Journey onto kids’ iPods?

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  • Martha

    I can think of many more insidious things than Journey to slip onto kids’ iPods…and since when was eclectic a bad thing?

  • CBD

    It seems Jack has other friends. There’s Ben, he lives in the greater Philly area. There’s also Ed. Ed lives in Albuquerque. And he also plays non-offensive, gotta tap your toes to it, “aw man I love this song” music for hip Gen-Xers like myself. Yes folks, radio as we know it is dead. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of singing along in succession to song after song (New Mexico is a REALLY long state, and Ed-FM has a bandwith that stretches from Tucumcari to Gallup). No, Twisted Sister, we aren’t going to take it…anymore. And yes, Robert Palmer (RIP), I also have a bad case of lovin’ you. And Marvin Gaye (also, RIP), I would like to, as you say, “get it on”. But there’s just something about this new “format” (or better yet, lack there of) that rubs me the wrong way. No jocks, no news, no local weather, traffic or farm reports. No sponsoring Saturdays at the local speedway, no ladies nights at Sharkey’s in Manhattan Beach. No cheesy live-in-a-car-to win-it-type contests. Just music. “Music we like”, as the disembodied (that man cannot have a soul) voice reports twice an hour, to tease you that he knows we don’t like crap, but “we’ve got to pay the bills, so let’s listen to some commercials…”
    So if I like the music, why can’t I just seem to shut up, tap my toes and wail along with David Cassidy to “I Think I Love You”? I feel vaguely like what Katharine Ross’ character in “The Stepford Wives” (the original, please, people!) must have felt among her perfect pre-Martha Stewart Connecticut neighbors. Sure, everyone’s pretty, perky, polite, and spotless, but something just doesn’t seem right. And what Katharine learned by the movie’s end was that her neighbors were all lobotomized fembots. Am I afraid of what happened to Katharine (Spoiler Alert!) will happen to me, if I enjoy “Shiny Happy People” followed by “Sweet Child of Mine” followed by “Funky Cold Medina”, lobotmized by the nostaligic pop tunes of Stepford Radio? God I hope not. But I think we should probably prepare for the end if we see Joe-FM, Tom-FM, Bob-FM, Juan-FM… (Oh no…Joe and Bob already have taken over in Canada! Run for your lives!)

  • EP Sato

    Hey Susman: Sorry to be a hater dude, but it’s time for you to get schooled.
    Authors have been putting their song lists on the backs of books for at least 20 years, so it can’t be a genX thing as most GenXers were writing for English class or the school paper then. So this concept belongs to the boomers, not the genxers.
    Shifting gears now; Mr. Susman, songs become hits when they have exposure. Did you think it was coincidence that Pulp Fiction’s soundtrack featured “Jungle Boogie” and the song became a hit nearly 30 years after its original release?
    Similarly, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” was prominently featured in an episode of “Family Guy”. That episode gave many 18-24 year olds exposure to that song long after its radio days. Either the writers of Laguna Beach have a great sense of nostalgia, or they watch family guy. My guess is the latter and yours should have been too .

  • blah

    Ugh. Where I live, they replaced a pretty decent radio station with Jack a few months ago. It sucks. Sure, everyone once in a while (like maybe once a week), I’ll switch over and hear an ok song playing. But I definitely miss the old station.

  • Angelina

    Listen up Susman: I don’t care whether or not Laguna Beach is scripted or not, but the song was playing in a character’s car, and it was asssumed he put it on by choice, not something added in later by the editors. This was pretty obvious, seeing as another character said, “Ooh, I like this part,” and started singing along. So don’t ponder why MTV put the song on the show, because clearly it was chosen by the characters. Why is it so hard to believe that a 19 year old would listen to something other than current music? I’m 19, and have playlists full of Journey, Heart, coked-up Eric Clapton, the Eagles, E.L.O., and other music that came out before I was born. Why? Not because it’s “eclectic” but because it’s good, timeless music that shouldn’t be questioned just because it didn’t come out last week.

  • GerryS

    Dude, music from that area of radio is the soundtrack to many peoples lives. And the younger generations who are just now being exposed to things that only our parents use to listen to is crashing upon us in waves. It is a totally cool tim–to be exposed to a whole new kind of music, for that music to find a following again is awesome! The music rocks and it makes you feel good at the same time. Everyone can sing along to it, even if you cant hit Steve Perrys notes (not many can). No violence, no in your face sex. The music has crossed decades and those guys are still touring. More power to the younger folks who find and embrace different styles of music, and arent afraid hear and let it be heard. Retro t-shirts, ball caps, bell bottoms and JOURNEY! Go pick up Escape, Frontiers and even give Trial By Fire a shot, I think you will be singing along with us. It is a music revolution man, dont hate…embrace!

  • Gayle
  • New Persuasion

    Radio may not be dead after all

    I gave up on terrestrial radio a long time ago. Sick of the limited, repetitive playlists, annoying commercials, and lack of innovative programming offered by my local stations, I switched to XM Satellite Radio in 2001 and haven’t looked back.

  • MT

    Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is popular lately on iTunes and on the radio stations because it was on Family Guy. I don’t think Laguna Beach has the following that Family Guy has. I am a recent college grad and last year everyone I knew in college faithfully watched the Family Guy reruns on Cartoon Network every night and the new season of Family Guy on May 1st was largely anticipated among that age group. I believe the Family Guy episode with the Journey song premiered before the new Laguna Beach, within a few days of the Family Guy episode airing I heard “Don’t Stop Believing every day that week on different radio stations.

  • gracie123

    I’m liking Jack more and more, but of course, I was a teen in the 80s so it’s up my alley. Radio has been heavily programmed since forever so this is just an extension of that. Rarely have I heard the same song (if ever). I hear the same song on the other CC stations all the time. Most music is already preprogrammed on most stations anyway. There will always be local stations, but this is a nice change if you don’t want that.
    Yes, I do miss 101.1 every so often, but it was getting a little musty with the reverb sound, and I think Cousin Brucie has other things lined up already.
    I love that it doesn’t have as much junk talk, tons of boring DJs gabbing to hear themselves gab, and stupid ads. If you want all that other stuff, go there. I don’t listen to the radio much, anyway (listen to audiobooks a lot) so this is refreshing.
    I still love my local rock radio because they don’t always play the standard. Also, I will be changing the channel if Journey comes on, but Jack played Moody Blues today-when do you hear them? Rarely.

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