However, the radio business is about advertising, it isn’t about music, and the change in music could be noticed in the eighties and it was real. If you ask me anyone starting a band after 1980 was handicapped by the lack of an immersive exposure to great music by good radio stations. Mediated America no longer allowed provincial folk cultures to develop deeply on the highly refined level they once achieved in Appalachia, Louisiana, the Mississippi Delta, the Piedmont, the border…, so this new airborne folk media was what we had to make do with after WWII. It was quite productive for awhile and great folk media synthesizers like Eddie Cochran, Dick Dale, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, James Blood Ulmer…, made contributions as brilliant and nearly as organic as earlier, more rooted, less mediated folk synthesizers like Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry…. But it was less sturdy and thereafter, if young kids got turned on to music in junior high and form a band by the end of high school, then the end of great music radio in the early seventies resulted in the end of great bands in the early eighties. The good bands thereafter, even if inspired by their immediate predecessors became more directly derivative, more conceptual and thinner in achievement. (I’m thinking of bands like Social Distortion, Dream Syndicate, The Pixies, Eleventh Dream Day…, vs. those formed earlier such as The Germs, The Sleepers, The Wipers, Black Flag, The Minutemen…) These unsigned and unheard casualties are better known today than they were in their day, and this too is culture damage charged to Lee Abrams, even though no small label releasing such records ever mailed him a copy.
By the late 1980s the slight demographic wind at their back and the slow advance of the new independent label economy through college radio stations, a smaller club circuit, and a new generation of music writer and editor yielded what passed for a watershed radio event where AOR and CHR (FM’s Top 20 format) stations were suddenly forced to play what to them sounded absolutely foreign, Nirvana’s breakthrough single. But by then the music culture of America was dumbed down to the level rather of a media culture; meaning Grunge was as the Twist and it evaporated. Our music culture’s been broken down further of course since then.