Ongoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music: Episode Number 1000 runs this week! Yes, ONE THOUSAND one-hour radio shows.

I have no idea how we got here. But if we rewind things way back to January 1993, I can try to reconstruct things.

The radio station where I’d been working for seven years had been sold—again. This time, though, new management had a plan. Instead of flipping the station to a country music format (which had been a real possibility), they looked around, saw that grunge was happening, and thought, “Yeah, this is something we can work with.” So instead of switching to country, the new bosses doubled down on an alternative rock format.

That was good. That meant I still had a job. Or did I? Well, kind of.

One day in mid-January 1993, I was ordered into the general manager’s office, and he laid it out for me.

“If we’re going to properly serve all these new listeners we’re going to get, we have to make sure they know what they’re getting. No more of this ‘too cool for the room’ stuff. We will be inclusive and welcoming. We will no longer be snobs.’

“Therefore,” he continued, “we need a show that will explain the music we’re playing. We’re going to it The Ongoing History of New Music and you are going to do it.”

I was a bit taken aback. This was not in my plans. “Uh, okay. Why me?”

“Because you have a degree in history, right? No one else on staff does, so congratulations. Oh, and by the way: as part of our restructuring, we’re going to sever your employment.”

“You’re going to what?”

“You will be severed from payroll. You will no longer be a full-time employee. Instead, you will need to incorporate, and we will engage you as a private contractor. Gotta save on payroll costs, you see. Your contract job will be working on this program three days a week. And then we will hire you on an hourly basis to work on the air Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 am to noon.”

I was kinda stunned. “Well, thanks for the opportunity, but I’m good. I really like my current Monday to Friday shift from 2 pm until 6. Besides, The Ongoing History of New Music is a stupid name. No one is ever going to remember it.”

That’s when the general manager slid a manila envelope across the desk. “We thought you might say that. Think about it. Should you decline, you’re invited to take this settlement package. We will part ways and I will wish you well in your future endeavors.”

Well, that was a kick in the teeth. I’d just gotten married. I’d just bought my first house—with a 12% mortgage—and I really didn’t have any portable skills. Talking about records and musicians for a living doesn’t have exactly have a lot of runway, you know?

But to my shock and surprise, things turned out okay. Show number one of The Ongoing History of New Music ran on February 28, 1993. This was before the internet. Almost no one had cell phones and if they did, we were more than a decade away from smartphones. My computer, a clunky station desktop, was an old 386 running a DOS word processor called Q&A that would turn out to be incompatible with just about every program that came later. Recording was done to reel-to-reel analogue magnetic tape. Editing and mixing was a nightmare

I figured I’d be saddled with this thing for a couple of years before I found something else or quit. But a weird thing happened. As the years passed, the number of episodes began to increase. People seemed to like it. Other stations asked to run the program. Episode 100 was broadcast in February 1995. Show 500 ran in October 2005. And this, as insane as it seems, is episode number 1000 of The Ongoing History of New Music.

I think a special event is warranted, don’t you?

There’s no music in this week’s show–too much to talk about–but if there were, Eric Wilhite’s playlist would look like this.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s, and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38134 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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