KROQ, known in the 80s for new wave, actually played quite a bit of classic rock. On the music key while under Program Director Rick Carrol’s reign, appeared — once per hour — “any Beatles, any Zeppelin, any Stones, any Who.” This meant that we could have our choice of those artists at a certain position in every hour. One hour, “Start Me Up,” the next, “Cold Turkey,” etc. We even played 38 Special! Occasionally, we would see “any” Steely Dan (named after William Boroughs’ mechanical dildo from “Naked Lunch”). Steely Dan also appeared in regular programming. This because they were unique. They were the first to have any success fusing jazz and pop. Their songs were erudite, witty and production values were at a premium. They tried having a band, but their values got in the way of unity. The late Walter Becker and Donald J. Fagen would typically go though various combinations of the best session players in L.A. until the songs were just so. Aja took a year to make, and drove the engineers batty. Their music has the best guitar and horn arrangements I have ever heard. While they always did the lead singing, their background singers were sublime. And they would stack harmonies — create unheard-of chords — that somehow worked. Here’s extraordinary vocalist Michael McDonald whining about their perfection (go to 6:30 https://youtu.be/waIBA6_0GQc). Bless his heart! I could not STAND Michael McDonald in the 70s. I thought Toto and The Doobie Brothers was everything wrong with pop music. But here is is singing the impossibly difficult harmonies in the song “Peg.” He did not do it perfectly — as the video shows — but it was as close and anyone could get. Folks, these are melodies no one else in the world could think of. Who would write a song about a girlfriend who became a college prostitute (“My Old School”)? Their incisive lyrics were also just funny. But in the context of the serious, jazzed-up arrangements, the humor was mostly overlooked. This is why stuff like this is called classic rock.
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