(Above: Promo photo for the Men, circa 1992)
One of the great advantages of working in radio without concern for ratings – because you don’t have any – is the ability to take certain liberties with the playlist. I think I can best sum up my stint as the morning host at Joliet’s WLLI-FM from 1991-92 as “unencumbered by ratings.”
It’s not for lack of trying. We were busting our butts in there every day. It’s just that in 1992, there was some damned good radio to be had in Chicago, especially in the morning. I had 3,000 watts to compete with the Jonathon Brandmeier Showgram at WLUP, which covered the same area. (Somewhere packed away I have tapes of the April Fool’s Stunt of 1992, when Johnny B and the late Doug Banks – another highly rated program – switched stations for the morning. To be fair, Doug sounded better playing Zeppelin on the Loop than Johnny did reading ads for Moo and Oink on WGCI.) This was the time when WLUP was doing groundbreaking comedy radio, stations had huge budgets for prizes, and none of that mattered because Bob Collins still ruled the morning roost at WGN. For WLLI to have made the ratings book at ALL would have been a major accomplishment, let alone in morning drive. Nevertheless, my show had a loyal following that I sought to entertain each day.
Sometimes that meant tweaking the playlist. We were a satellite station for about half the day. Our live morning, midday, and afternoon shows gave way to piped-in programming the rest of the day and almost all weekend. (Those that complain that ‘consolidation killed local radio’ are bereft of a knowledge of radio history.) To avoid too many repeats, we were expected to follow the playlist that the satellite would have been playing during our programs. I did so, except when I didn’t.
Once such exception occurred when I heard “The Church of Logic, Sin, and Love” by a band called The Men. Perhaps the greatest in-joke in pop music was that The Men consisted of two men and two women. (Hey, I find it funny.) Technically a “no-hit wonder” in terms of the pop charts, they got a lot of rock radio airplay with this tale of a road trip that made #8 on the Mainstream Rock chart. I’ve always been a sucker for excellent lyrics – I’m a Dylan fan, after all – and the narrative style of this record jumped out to me the first time I heard it. Certain parts convey very strong images – “It’s the kind of place where space explorers could have landed around 1963 – when Kennedy was in Life Magazine and everything was aquamarine” may be one of my favorite pieces of writing ever to come out of the radio.
Not everyone liked it. I played the LP version several times on my show, and the screaming guitar solo may have been a bit much for breakfast. (At 22, it worked for me.) Our station manager at the time, Ed Morris, particularly hated the song. One morning after it aired he came to find me, demanding to know what was the song “about the church of booze and broads and butts or whatever.” I’m thinking that that would be a fantastic follow-up. (Calling members of the band: if you did this song, I think it would get airplay.) Needless to say, the ire of the boss coupled with a lack of any research to defend the choice to play it resulted in the CD going back to my house and not gracing the airwaves again. Too bad, since it’s a damned good record.
See for yourself – the thing is ahead sixty miles, do not miss. You can hear “The Church of Logic, Sin and Love” by clicking here.