An Open Letter to Chicago’s Classic Rock Radio Stations

To Chicago’s Classic Rock Radio Stations:

As a loyal listener for my entire life, we’ve shared a lot of moments together. I remember taping songs off the air when I was young. We’ve shared countless deep cuts, Memorial Day Rock-Blocks, and Two-for-Tuesdays. I remember I was once overjoyed  when it was a Two-for-Tuesday and you not only played “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions” but a third Queen song too.

Times have changed, but sadly you haven’t. After 30 years of loyal listening, I’ve decided I can no longer listen to you and thus effective immediately, I am removing you from my car radio presets.

I know, you think this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” letters, but it’s not. It’s you. I really enjoy all of the bands you play. Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin is one of the best albums ever; Pink Floyd taught me more about music than any other band I’ve listened to; Van Halen is arguably the greatest American rock band. You play all of these artists and more, but you play nothing but the same songs constantly.

It may seem like a lot to ask that you play different music by these groups considering most of them are no longer actively recording. However, you’ve had three decades to find worthy B-sides and non-singles to broadcast over the airwaves. When I hear the cash register at the start of Pink Floyd’s “Money” I change the radio station. Hearing the splashy hi-hat of John Bonham in the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” – something I once enjoyed – now makes me feel indifferent and blasé. You repertoire is as tired as David Lee Roth waking up from a three-day bender.

You play Pink Floyd’s work post The Wall but how can you ignore Bruce Springsteen’s work after Born in the USA? You have no problem playing R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World” but with the exception of “Losing my Religion” you ignore everything else they did and that’s a shame.

If aliens in outer space are listening to Chicago’s radio stations, they must be under the impression that we love hearing Boston and Journey every other hour, on the hour. Your ads over the year make it seem like we should really care about these bands and be passionate. How are we supposed to be passionate when we only know the greatest of the greatest hits?

It was you who sent me a license plate holder with Aerosmith’s logo on it. I’m not sure why you decided I needed this. If it was 1975 and I had a T-top, I’d totally put that license plate frame to use; but it’s the 21st century and I’ve never given a damn about Aerosmith. I’ve never even listened to Toys in the Attic and never plan to.

The classic rock radio format has been around for quite a while, but you haven’t done anything to make it exciting. I remember I winced when I first heard the Smashing Pumpkins – my favorite band as an adolescent – being played by you. When you do play music from bands outside the classic rock canon, it’s the definition of cherry picking. Somehow it’s ok to play Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but you omit Oasis. Why do you not play Rage Against the Machine or Nine Inch Nails? Do they rock too hard? Or is it that songs which don’t involve topics such as rock and rolling all night and partying every day aren’t allowed? Why don’t you play David Bowie songs other than “Fame” and “Suffragette City”? And why don’t you play Prince?

I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but if you want to add new music to your playlists, I think most, if not all, of The White Stripes oeuvre is up your alley. Heck, even the Strokes and Queens of The Stone Age would fit in well. If bands from the late 1990s/early 2000s scare you, there’s a lot of independent release releases in the 1980s and 1990s that would fit in well with your format; the Replacements, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr would all fit in just fine on your radio waves. They may not all have coruscating and finger-tapping guitar work, and they aren’t necessarily stadium rock either, but they all have great radio-friendly singles that would help break up the monotony of your rock block of Rush.

I feel I’m wasting my breath here. Given your longevity, there is obviously a market for nostalgia and you’ve cornered it well. Your satellite competitor has dozens of channels that relish in nostalgia as well, but their playlists are much more varied and deep. With your shallow playlists, you’re incredibly predictable.

Since so many of these songs have been used in commercials and in pop culture over the years, and you refuse to acknowledge most great rock music post-1993, my fatigue has reached a breaking point and it’s time to say good bye.

Farewell from my radio presets, but thanks for the memories.