Farewell to the Loop

The-Loop-97.9

It’s now the last hour of WLUP’s existence as a radio station, at least as I’ve always known it. It’s changing formats at midnight tonight, and it will apparently continue on at a different frequency and on the internet. So that’s something, I guess.

Listening to “Stairway to Heaven” for the final time on 97.9 FM in Chicago is surely a bittersweet experience. It’s an awesome song, that I’ve written about before in this space, but it has an otherworldly sense that lends itself to moving on to the other side, whatever that looks like. A radio station in Albuquerque once announced a format change by playing “Stairway to Heaven” continuously for 24 hours. No such dramatics for the Loop, though. It’s on to the next song already.

Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is exactly the type of 80s rock that I’ve always come to expect on the Loop. Life has moved and changed a thousand ways since 1986, when I first started listening to the Loop, but the music can always take me back to that time in my life. Not too many things have that power, after all.

Next up is Lynrd Skynrd’s “Freebird.” If there’s a better song to encapsulate what the Loop is (or what it was? I’m still not sure just yet) I don’t know what it is. There’s a live version of “Freebird” where the audience is calling out for the song and the singer asks “What song do you want to hear?” And when they played it, the crowd went nuts, just like they always do.

About 15 years ago, give or take a few years, I was having dinner at a restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan, and a couple of college kids were playing some live music. To be a goofball, I called out “Freebird!” and they obliged me by playing the entire song. It’s moments like that one which make me proud to be a rock and roll lifer, along with those who’ve listened to the Loop over the 41 years they’ve been on the air.

The guitars at the end of “Freebird” are a wondrous thing, aren’t they? I’ll hear them again after tonight, but they take on some added bite knowing that this is the last time on a space where I’ve always expected to hear them.

REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)” is up next. I don’t feel fine that the Loop is ending in a half hour, but here it comes, so why not embrace it? If I live to be 100–and I won’t–I’ll never be able to sing this one correctly all the way through. I may get 70% or so of the words right on a good day, but that won’t keep me from continuing to try…birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, Boom!…. What a ride it’s been through the years.

An addiction rehab commercial is playing now. Rock and roll and addiction have always seemed to go hand in hand, and so many brilliant artists have been snuffed out as a result. Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Tom Petty….and so many others. So this commercial seems fitting. Now there’s an iPhone commercial playing. Nobody could have ever seen something like an iPhone when the Loop went on the air back in 1977. How far everything has come since then! Lowe’s Hardware is up next. Kudos to them for getting in on this farewell party. And the Eagles are coming back to Chicago this fall, apparently. Minus Glenn Frey, of course. How many times have the Eagles been played on the Loop over the years? The mind reels at that thought.

Commercials are over, now back to the music. Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” leads it off. The programmers are pulling out all the stops down the final stretch, aren’t they? The bell is tolling for a station I first heard as an 18 year-old college freshman, but as the song lyrics say, “time marches on.” And so will the Loop, once the midnight hour arrives.

Rush’s “Limelight” is up next. Living on the lighted stage approaches the unreal…All the World’s a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers…This is another one that will always be played on the radio somewhere, but thousands of plays later, and it won’t be found where it seemed like it would always be.

More commercials up next. Coffee made by homeless vets (a worthy cause, for sure). A male enhancement pill that calls itself “viagra on steroids” (and this is the perfect place to reach the market for such a product, amiright?) Another Lowe’s ad. There’s just 15 minutes left until midnight. Time for two songs, maybe three. Let’s see how they bring the curtain down. And unlike at a rock concert, pulling out the lighters and yelling for more probably won’t work this time.

Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil” is next. Where to begin with this? I bought the Crue’s album of the same name on vinyl back in 1983, as a high school freshman. They hadn’t yet become what they would later on in the 80s, but they had a sound that would define the decade for me. Guns n’ Roses, Ratt, Poison, Twisted Sister, and a hunderd other bands that nobody remembers wanted to be half as good as Motley Crue was.

Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” brings us to the doorstep of the end. I’ll possibly never hear this one on the radio ever again, because Iron Maiden was never quite commercially popular, but the guitars and the vocals are something that isn’t for everyone, anyway. Anyone who considered the Loop their station loved it, though.

And here we are. The end of the hour, and the end of an era. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” brings it all home. These three songs seem determined to tweak the Christian music that’s coming to take the place over once this song is finished. But let’s ride the “devil’s music” off into the sunset, shall we? As the late Bon Scott sang, Don’t stop me!

WLUP, 97.9, Chicago’s rock station…over and out.

Thanks for all the memories through the years.

Are you happy, Rock Hall?

Word of Axl Rose dissing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just days before the induction ceremony, struck me as vindication for what I wrote last year about the band not being suitable for induction. I stated, at that time, that Appetite for Destruction was worthy of Hall of Fame induction, and the “November Rain” video was, as well. Both are achievements that I’d be hard-pressed to find a parallel to.

With that being said, the band itself has been a dysfunctional mess for almost 20 years. Or at least the lineup that produced those great achievements is a mess. Without Slash’s guitar, there is no Guns n’ Roses. As far as Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler, and Matt Sorum are concerned, it would be nice to have at least some of them involved in the induction, too. But the head member, the one who apparently owns the band’s name all to himself, is the one I can do without.

Rock bands have tended to operate on the opposite principle. Journey somehow soldiers on without Steve Perry. Boston is going on tour without the late Brad Delp. Judas Priest got by for a decade without Rob Halford. And Queen without Freddie Mercury is about to become a reality, too. There is lots of precedent for this sort of thing.

But Guns n’ Roses  (i.e., Axl Rose) has turned that on its head. You and I could be in Guns n’ Roses, if that’s what Axl wanted. And Slash and the others can play together, as they have in Velvet Revolver, but they can’t use the name that Axl controls. So you have the mess that now exists: Axl wants Guns n’ Roses to be thought of as the band he leads, while if they tried to show up and play at the induction ceremony, nobody there would know who any of them were (besides Axl, that is).

If the Velvet Revolver contingent showed up at the induction ceremony and played “Paradise City,” with Kid Rock or anyone else on vocals, Axl would feel pretty stupid (if he can even feel this way at all. I have my doubts). His letter states that he doesn’t want to be inducted in absentia. But for this one moment, he doesn’t have control over what Guns n’ Roses is. He could have issued this statement months ago, and the people who are planning to be in Cleveland to see them perform on Saturday night may or may not have gone ahead and booked the flights, reserved the hotel rooms, and made other necessary arrangements.

Would the ceremony still be sold out, as the website claims it is, if Axl’s intentions were made known last winter? We can’t know that for certain. But just as Axl routinely disrespects fans by starting concerts hours later than they’re supposed to start, he also disrespected, I have to believe, the fans who were planning a trip to Cleveland this weekend. I’m hoping that Slash and the others who once made up Guns n’ Roses show up instead, to deliver a pointed message to Axl. He sure has left himself open to getting one, in my view.

I’ve written about how the ongoing exclusion of KISS from the Rock Hall is wrong, in my view. They wrote the rock anthem that everyone knows, judging from the reception they received on Dancing With the Stars this week. That song is Hall-worthy all by itself, but it’s looking like KISS might not ever get in. RUSH is worthy of getting in, too, but they’re also on the outside looking in.

The Rock Hall people–apparently not embarrassed enough by the spectacle of Van Halen’s induction without any actual Van Halens being present–have upped the ante with Guns n’ Roses this year. We’ll see how it all plays out, I suppose, but there will be lots and lots of awkwardness in Cleveland on Saturday night. Welcome to the Jungle, Jann Wenner.

You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy

I just learned today that my family and I will be going to Cleveland in May, and I finally will get to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Besides the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, that’s probably the only one that I would be interested in seeing. So it will be a pilgrimage of sorts for me.

But as I was out driving around tonight, I got a reminder of a reason why I’m not so high on the rock Hall in the first place. On the radio, the most anthemic rock song ever written was being played. If you read the title of this post, you already know which song I’m talking about, but if not, let’s just say it’s the one song that anyone going to a KISS concert wants to hear.

I’ve been to a couple of KISS concerts, and they’re quite an experience. They’re rock concerts in every sense of the word, and the fact that they’ve appeared on the ballot for the Rock hall, and not gotten in, rubs me the wrong way. Strip away everything else but this one song–the perfect embodiment of the rock and roll ethos–and that’s enough to put them in. But Jann Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone and the gatekeeper of the Rock hall, seems to have something against KISS, so they remain on the outside looking in. And it’s a shame, really, because KISS has a fan base–the KISS Army–that could make the turnstiles move in Cleveland, which has been something of a problem.

So I’ll go and visit the Hall when I get the chance this spring. I’ll look at Springsteen and the Stones and U2 and all of the other acts that are represented there. And I’ll probably walk away from it with some material to post here, too. But KISS, and Rush, and many other fine acts who have also made a contribution to the music won’t be there, and I’ll just have to remember them as well. And if I break into a little Rock and Roll All Night, they’re just going to have to put up with that.