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KISSing it goodbye!

April 26, 2012

WBLS competition logo

On TV news this morning, I suddenly begin hearing mention of ESPN moving into the 98.7 frequency! (Channel 254, but nobody uses the FM channels). Wow! I had heard nothing of KISS-FM folding. (WRKS-FM, actually; the station with actual call letters as KISS-FM is a rock station in San Antonio!)
Merging with longtime arch-rival WBLS! (Which I never cared for, for some reason).
I didn’t even know the two stations and ESPN had the same owner. (It had been Kiss and whatever Hot-97 became. Didn’t it move to 103 or something? Completely lost track of radio!)

I had just attended the 30th Anniversary celebration in Harlem last fall. It was just an outdoor concert in front of the Harlem State Office Building, followed by a dinner at the Alhambra ballroom. (Didn’t go to the dinner, as my wife wasn’t with me. Only two months later, however, my “22nd St block reunion” would be moved there, even though we were in Brooklyn. Because the catering hall in East Flatbush we were to use, somehow changed its plans, or something).

I began listening to the station 30 years ago almost to the month, because it played Stevie Wonder’s smash “Do I Do” more often than the old WKTU, which I had been listening to. (I swear, that summer, the song played 15 minutes apart once!) It’s what got me back into him, after growing up on Talking Book and some of the later “Contract 1” singles.

I stuck with it since, “officially” (but see below).
I had previously listened to the frequency in the mid-70’s (the height of the disco age), when it was top-40 WXLO, “99X”.

Back in college days, in the car to other states, I would listen until it faded away (In northern Delaware), and then try to find other “KISS” stations when from other cities. In college, there was WQKS 96.3 in Williamsburg VA, but that was very faint, and could only be picked up on the northwestern side of the NSU dorm, as Norfolk’s own 98.7, rock station WNOR, pretty much crowded it out. (I listened to WOWI, which was located two blocks from campus).
Driving the other way, to Springfield, there was a WKSS 95.7, a top 40 station, in Hartford.

While forever waiting for the next Stevie Wonder album (heralded by a new single being released), I followed the rap battles of Roxanne and the Bridge Wars (actually favoring Shan and Shanté, though BLS was their base, and Kiss was their enemy BDP’s base, though Chuck Chillout was a bit more likely to play the other side’s stuff than Red Alert, as he was the one closest to BDP). Sometimes, I would switch to BLS on the Fri. and Sat. night rap shows, to try to hear the latest “Juice Crew” response.
Rap eventually became more violent as time went on, so I lost interest in that; and eventually, I got more into Christian radio (WWDJ).

Earlier on, Kiss was a bit more diverse in their sound, paying even white music, such as Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”, Falco, “Rock Me Amadeus”, The Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer”, ABC, “Poison Arrow (Jazz Mix)”, Toto (“Africa”, “Waiting For Your Love”, “Georgie Porgie”), Paul Davis “65 Love Affair”, Hall and Oates, Culture Club, and Madonna (though the latter three had pretty much crossed over).

I eventually fell away from the station, by the late 90’s, basically ceasing to listen to the radio altogether, for some reason (likely because the music by then was all sampled rehashes of earlier sounds, an then Kiss went all “Classic” for a time, when it hooked up with HOT-97, which then carried the new stuff). But I would occasionally still try to catch the KISS talk shows on Sunday mornings, because they were the only ones really sticking up for the black community against all the conservative rhetoric and news developments. (Missed their reaction to Diallo, however as I was really out of radio listening by then).

I had no idea it would be folding, until this morning. Why couldn’t they keep Kiss, and move ESPN to 107.5? I guess because BLS is older; the more “classic” black station, perhaps the city’s first? Who knows; if the ESPN thing ever fails and the format changes again, then maybe it would be a chance to get 99X back, which I always wanted to see, but where would it go, without bumping Kiss off.

  1. I streamed the station for these last few days, and then right before midnight, Sunday, when I was going to bed, I brought out my old Sony radio/cassette player (which I hadn’t used in years, and I haven’t even listened to the radio on my own in years either for that matter), to listen to the last few minutes of Kiss on it’s own frequency.

    The regular Sunday night talk shows were progressing on as usual, though focused on the station shutdown. (I too get the sense of the “big guys” taking something away from us, though I think in this case, it was cast a bit too much along racial lines, when as I have always been saying, it’s more of an economic or class issue, involving the power of corporations. Here’s an aticle covering the apparent racial angle:

    A few minutes before midnight, they put on one final song, as their final sentiment to close on. A song I had never heard played on Kiss, but I do hear a lot on Music Choice Classic R&B. (In fact, that was the first place I ever remembered hearing it, when I began listening to that cable station six years ago). The 1973 proto-disco “We Can Work It Out” by Willie Hutch.
    Having turned the computer off, I also streamed it on my phone.

    About halfway through the 12:00 minute, both the radio and the stream abruptly cut off somewhere in the song. The stream stayed dead (to the present, where now you just see “Not found, Error 404”, spelled out with red “Boggle” style blocks, but on the same page design, albeit with the Kiss logo on top replaced by WBLS). On the radio, you suddenly heard the ESPN intro music, and then whichever DJ that was introduced the “New” ESPN, mentions briefly Kiss, and then goes into sports.

    So ends a 30+ year era in NYC radio.

    On the Kiss site outside the stream, you just have this video:

    Here is my old Kiss card (And a pin), circa 1985, which I never used (especially since I was in college at the time, and then eventually, you stopped hearing about the cards), and I figured would one day be worth money, or at least some collector’s item.
    Also, the other station in my life, Fordham’s WFUV, where not only my Father broadcasted his jazz show (Jazz in Black Mocha, then Jazz in American Heritage), for 20 years from the 70’s to the 90’s, but I even got to go on in between records occasionally, from about ’76-78.

  2. See that someone found the logo for the the previous station, which brought me through the disco era, and also mixed in with top 40:

    Your Discotheque

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