19. November 2004 · Comments Off on Wee Paws for Station Identification: Why Radio DJs Like Long Songs · Categories: General, General Nonsense

There was a noted tendency in modern pop music, for the selections played over the AFRTS airwaves to become gradually longer, as the decades passed. Selections from the 1950ies and early 1960ies generally clocked in at about two minutes, those from the late 1960ies and 1970ies averaged about three minutes. After the mid 1980ies, the top of the pop charts were often clocked at four to six minutes.

Why is this significant? If you were putting together an oldies show, you needed to pull fifteen or sixteen selections to fill out each hour of the show, rather than the twelve or so that would serve for more contemporary programs. Which would actually be 55 minutes, or an hour less the 5 minutes of news at the top of the hour, two or three minutes of spots scattered throughout, and the DJs own patter. Myself, when marooned in the wee hours doing midnight rock and roll—I played the game of seeing how few cuts I could play, without resorting to the champion long-wind “InaGaddah-Davidah” (18 minutes). Given a couple of concert renditions, and the “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” album, I had it down to 4.

Of course, there have always been exceptions to the general time rule, especially from the more adventuresome pop artists, and these exceptionally long cuts were esteemed and valued by working DJs for a very good and particular reason.

Which was, that during the course of a two or three hour live show, you might have to leave the studio, to pull news copy from the teletype… or as is most common— to use the bathroom! This could, at some stations, be rather complicated— I worked once with a woman whose first radio job had been at a station in a trailer around the back of a large, old-fashioned hotel… and the nearest woman’s restroom was in the lobby. She needed a record to run at least six minutes, which was just enough time for her to run out of the trailer, around to the front of the hotel, and into the lobby… and then back again.

With time, DJs develop a sort of internal clock, becoming excellent judges of exactly how much time they have to perform these and other chores, and still be back behind mike, perhaps breathing a little hard, ready to roll the next record. At EBS-Athens, I could put on a similarly-lengthy record during the afternoon show, cue up the next one, and dash across the parking lot to the Post Office to get my mail and collect any packages from the window. One of my supervisors at Misawa, TSgt Don, the Program Director took it even farther, when he was assigned to an AFRTS unit based in Teheran, some decades before the embassy takeover. The AFRTS station operated in a building across the compound from the AAFES cafeteria, and the young TSgt Don would put on the deathless “InaGadda-Davidah”, and gallop out of the studio, across the compound to the cafeteria, go through the service line, and hasten back to the studio with his meal. The morning guy, Dickie the Crazy Marine once spent most of a show in the can, the morning after the Marine Ball at Misawa AB, hung over and throwing up during a couple of hours of long songs, and speaking very little in between them. Emergencies do happen occasionally.

Technically, on-duty DJs are supposed to remain the area of the studio, if not actually in it, during their shift, and monitor what is going out over the air…. But the need for a meal, or to collect a much-anticipated package from the Post Office… or just to answer the call of nature… sometimes it is just too much to ignore. And when you hear something rather longer then usual on your radio station, now you know that there may be a reason for it… other than it’s position in the charts and place on the stations’ play list rotation.

And the title for this post? The first part is the answer to the riddle, “Why is it a prerequisite for broadcasters to have small hands and feet?

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