I toyed with a station called WLUP ("The Loop," which refers to Chicago's central downtown area), which at the time played a hard-rock format similar to the KMOD ("The Rainbow Station") I knew from my high school days. But WLUP was a little more metal-minded than my comfort level admitted, and my tastes were shifting somewhat anyway. Just as well, for The Loop would soon move to the "Classic Rock" abomination of a format that some dubbed "Radio Big Chill" after the early 1980s movie featuring a bunch of thirty-something baby boomers having a nostalgia weekend.
And then one day, sometime in October of 1982, I spun into 93.7 and heard, if I remember correctly, a Dave Edmunds song on the radio. Other than the quick cup of coffee his former band Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher" had with the Billboard charts (No. 51 in 1981), I'd never heard Wales' own king of retro on the airwaves and was astonished. What was this broadcast wonder?
I had found WXRT, "Chicago's Finest Rock." XRT, as we fans called it, played an eclectic mix of just about anything. Each weekday had a featured artist, who would be played a little more heavily that day -- the first of every month meant a trip to Laury's Records to pick up the new Featured Artists Card, which told you the featured artist schedule. Each Sunday had an hour-long live concert recorded at a Chicago venue, from just about any band you could think of. Some box somewhere in my house may still have at least a dozen cassette recordings of these Sunday Night Unconcerts (sponsored by 7-Up, natch) lingering in it.
XRT mixed new music by established artists, older music and brand-new stuff from unknowns in a fascinating gumbo. A friend described it as the station that played songs you wanted to hear but didn't know you wanted to hear until they'd played them. When my trips home for Christmas or the summer were via automobile, I'd leave the dial set there as long as I could possibly distinguish sound from static. On the way back I'd start checking 93.7 somewhere east of St. Louis until it finally came in.
Ye olde Pandora had been losing its luster -- unless you input some modern indie band, the site's ability to match styles and offer great variety wanes quickly. So on a whim I looked at XRT's website and discovered I can listen online. It's not exactly the station I remember. They've pulled back from the cutting edge stuff and have mixed in quite a bit more baby boomer nostalgia music than they did in my days glued to their setting. But they still have New Music Thursday and I heard more new-release stuff that interests me and a wider range of artists in five days than I'd hear in a month of OKC radio broadcasts.
Heck, last Saturday they played Lou Reed's 1984 release "I Love You, Suzanne." I'd forgotten how much I liked that song until I heard it -- hey, maybe XRT hasn't changed that much after all...