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KAREN GLAUBER LOOKS BACK ON HER 25 YEARS AT HITS


About ’90-95:
 

One year, max, was the promise I made myself when I came to work at HITS.  I’d spent the previous eight at A&M—a place I regarded as my “forever home”—and it was, at least until the label got sold to PolyGram. It was time to jump before I was pushed by my condescending asshole boss (hi, Al).

My new responsibilities were unclear. I knew I had to write a weekly column, which I quickly figured out was like playing Mad Libs in reverse. I had the proper nouns, namely the bands, label reps and radio programmers requesting ink. I just had to find words to fill around them. 

At first, the PoMo charts were dominated by bands like The Cure, Charlatans UK, Soup Dragons, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Lush and my beloved Jellyfish. If my situation bore any similarity to that of my peers, it’s unlikely that any of our bosses knew our names or had any clue what we did all day. Early on, Lenny Beer “suggested” that I might call Top 40 radio PDs. My first went something like this: “You’re not going to play that dreadful Vanilla Ice song, ‘Ninja Rap,’ are you?” PD: “I added it this week.” Me: “Ugh.” PD: [click].  

By 1991, a few records had made the leap from Post Modern (aka Alternative) radio to Top 40: EMF’s “Unbelievable,” Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now,” The Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” That February, Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman borrowed $40,000 from me to finance two records: Nirvana’s Bleach and Tad’s 8-Way Santa.  

Unlike most men I dated, Jonathan paid back the loan, albeit after Nevermind had been released. I also got an official “What Part of ‘We Don’t Have Have Any Money’ Don’t You Understand?” Sub Pop T-shirt, along with his public affirmation during a SxSW panel I was moderating that I could indeed refer to myself as the “savior of indie rock.” 

The next year brought the identification of “Generation X” as a consumer demo and Kurt Cobain’s emergence as its spokesman. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails and Screaming Trees dominated radio and MTV, while sold-out flights to Seattle bulged with A&R execs in search of the next big thing. Radio group owners flipped frequencies to the burgeoning “Edge” format, tripling the number of reporting stations within two years.

I remember calling 1993 the “Year of the Geek.” Artists like Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Breeders, Soul Asylum, Live, Beck and Belly were the anti-stars, unwittingly launching a subculture of “loser chic.” “Punk” returned to the mainstream the following year, with debuts from Green Day and Offspring, while Beastie Boys, Meat Puppets, Cracker, Hole, Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Weezer had their first appearances in the spotlight.

Radio played a wide range of artists. The lineup for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Xmas in 1994 underlined the era’s diversity: Bad Religion, The Black Crowes, Candlebox, The Cranberries, Sheryl Crow, Dinosaur Jr., Hole, Luscious Jackson, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Live, Love Spit Love, Mazzy Star, Meat Puppets, Liz Phair, Seal, Stone Temple Pilots, Simple Minds, Sunny Day Real Estate, Veruca Salt and Weezer. This truly was the Renaissance of Modern Rock.

 


About ’95-00:

The 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed radio groups to own up to eight stations in a market. Quel surprise, bigger companies started gobbling up “mom and pop” operations. Less than a year after Kurt Cobain’s death, the sense of wonder over what we had accomplished by giving fringe artists exposure was replaced with overwhelming greed from so-called gatekeepers. 

With new corporate owners in place, many Post Modern stations, unable to sustain high ratings after grunge’s initial burst, flipped to other formats. PDs who survived the purge were commanded to bring in NTR—non-traditional revenue—as a way to recoup the big bucks their stations had been sold for. Brilliantly curated and executed events like WHFS’s HFStival and KROQ’s Weenie Roast and Almost Acoustic Xmas became mandatory for every station between Landover, MD, and Burbank, CA.

Programmers from Top 40 were being transferred to Post Modern stations. Market managers cited Kevin Weatherly’s success at KROQ as the reason for replacing the passionate, music-obsessed PD who had built the station from scratch. Here’s what these GMs and market managers didn’t get: Few other Top 40 PDs making the transition could hold a candle to Kevin Weatherly. 

Nor could KROQ be at its best without Gene Sandbloom and Lisa Worden. Especially in 1997, when The Cure, Radiohead, Blur and Oasis shared the stage at the Weenie Roast —a lineup no other station could’ve pulled off. This was also before the birth of the Hot AC format, so the angst and rebellion of the past five years was still represented by Green Day, Liz Phair, Oasis, etc., along with the softer sounds of Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan, Sugar Ray, Better Than Ezra, Matchbox 20, Marcy Playground, ad infinitum.

One repercussion of the influx of Top 40 programmers into “our” format was the extra bounty put on records by their contracted indies. Besides picking up the tab for bands to play at these newly established—and often disastrous—radio station festivals, we were being asked to pay the station’s indie on top of it. That quadrupled the costs of getting a record played, even factoring in the occasional free pair of shoes left outside your hotel room during SxSW

So much for the possibility of indie-label artists getting their songs played on commercial radio. Sub Pop Records certainly gave it a shot with Sebadoh and Velocity Girl, among others. But the costs of entry were too rich for most, just a year after Pavement had a hit with “Cut Your Hair.” The charts became song-based rather than album-based. It was the first time that a debut single’s success didn’t guarantee a shot at a follow-up. Well, unless it was from one of the dozen or so “core” acts, like Bush, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, etc. 

We were much more susceptible to musical fads during this time. Swing, Lounge, Ska and Electronica all had their moments. My personal highlight was working on the soundtrack to Empire Records, a film that grossed less than $1 million its first weekend. It’s since become a cult classic, with a soundtrack that went gold in the US and Canada. Feel free to guess why, but my favorite song of this period will always be Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You.”



About ’00-05:

Welcome to the Dark Ages. Bristling from having to play Alanis Morrisette, still recovering from endless Dave Matthews Band-inspired drum circles and pan-flute solos, PDs reclaimed their masculinity by boosting the most sexist, vomit-inducing, anxiety-provoking bands being marketed as Alternative. Nu metal, rap rock, heavy metal, RAWK, Rock2k and post-post-grunge corporate rock left little room on playlists for anything good. Moby’s Play was an oasis of genius in a sea of red baseball caps worn backwards. 

The sense of community and camaraderie the format had built for its audience over the past decade was annihilated. As the popularity of bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Disturbed and Linkin Park exploded, the crowds at shows changed〞with men far outnumbering women. As never before, I worried about the safety of the girls in the audience. I forget who was the first to call 
the stuff “rape rock.”

A pervasive cloud of anger hovered over everything, especially post-9/11. Vulnerability was masked by macho bravado. Once the FCC decided that the majority of a station*s ratings needed to skew older than 21 if they were going to accept alcohol ads, the targeted demo shifted from 18-34 to a narrower range of males 25-34. Audioslave, featuring three of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, were the first band to benefit from these new rules, as their first fans were now in their 30s. Every single they released was a radio hit, and Chris Cornell*s vocals were a welcome reprieve from the Cookie Monster rock that had ruled the airwaves for the previous two years.

On the other hand, radio wasn't the only option as soon as the format's original audience discovered Napster. As anyone who*s ever followed musical trends knows, once the pendulum swings to its farthest point, it will eventually swing back towards the middle. This seemingly endless slew of awful music would end up as a footnote about inexcusably bad behavior and a million regrettable tattoos. Pop-punk*s emergence was the lesser evil, even though those of us who grew up in the *70s never got over the sight of mallrats buying their bondage pants and Dead Boys shirts at Hot Topic.

During this time, I spent two years working as the Music Supervisor on Jackass: The Movie〞me, a sober 40-year-old, surrounded by that gang. My punk cred was in question until I brought Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Jeff Tremaine and their friends backstage to meet Iggy Pop, who threatened them that they'd better treat me well or he'd kill them. Thanks, Iggy.

Oh, well, let the kids have their "punk rock." I was happy to wear my Polyphonic Spree robe and Travis  "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" raincoat and deeply grateful for the arrival of Franz Ferdinand, White Stripes, Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as mental palate cleansers. 2004 ended with U2 bypassing traditional media by launching their new single "Vertigo" via a multimillion-dollar ad campaign for the Apple iPod. Say, does anybody know how that worked out?



About ’05-10:

Ivana: Looking over my columns for the past 25 years, I realized that I spent 2005-2006 IMing with you, rather than writing the 750 words deemed sufficient to cover the week in the Post Modern world. It was a good trick, don’t you think?

Lenny: And I realize how much I miss doing it; I had the chance to ask a lot of questions and learn some things. We should get back into that.

Ivana: Sure. But didn’t we mostly discuss my PMS and my contempt for programmers?

Lenny: You expect me to remember? I’m working on what I had for breakfast.

Ivana: 2005-2010 was a life-changing era for me; I was working with Arcade Fire, Interpol and Spoon.

Lenny: Ah, spoon­­—always considered it my favorite utensil…

Ivana: Plus, I had my son Julian in 2008, on a Tuesday.

Lenny: I let that happen on ADD DAY?

Ivana: Remember when I convinced Marc Young, then at Q101, to add “Sometime Around Midnight” while I was in labor? At least I had something to show for it: an add.

Lenny: Ah, yes I do... I always consider it your best add ever.

Lenny: Can I ask some quick questions? For one, who the hell is Crossfade? Did you make them up?

Ivana: I hated them. They signify the darkest days in Post Modern, along with that whole rape-rock thing I despised.

Lenny: Ha… noted. So, whatever happened to The Bravery? Is their disappearance a Pete Galli-inspired plan?

Ivana: The keyboardist’s father holds the patents for the Magnum condom and a type of breast implant–he doesn’t have to work. Sam, the singer, is still around.

Lenny: Finger Eleven? Is that a band or an extra middle finger to the world?

Ivana: I cannot answer that question. I’m going to blame “mommy brain” for that one.

Lenny: Most of these bands are either gone or exiled to Active Rock... at least Trent Reznor was smart enough to get a day job.

Ivana: There were bands you loved, like 
The Killers. And I taught you the meaning 
of “angularity” vis-a-vis Interpol.

Lenny: I’m still in the dark on the whole issue of “angularity”… Makes me think of the two guys from Matador. What are their names? 

Ivana: [sigh] Chris and Patrick. Having bands like Slipknot, Seether, The Used, Mudvayne and Theory of a Deadman being played on Modern Rock was something I took personally. Like I hadn’t done enough to prevent it.

Lenny: I still love the first Killers album, btw.

Ivana: Working with bands like Arcade Fire, Spoon and Interpol reignited my take-no-prisoners attitude. Something I didn’t quite have when we were working with mainstream rock acts.

Lenny: This was a strange time… Green Day had the album of the year, played on American Idol and ended up on Broadway... who woulda thunk it? Punk heroes move into the absolute middle of mainstream, yet retain their ultimate cool?

Ivana: Green Day, Foo Fighters, Black Keys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Weezer, etc., have sustained decades-long careers.

Lenny: And all deservedly so. The same can’t be said for My Chemical Romance.

Ivana: It’s the law of averages… these are people, not brands, and life gets in the way sometimes. Unless you’re Trent Reznor, who 
is the clear winner.

Lenny: Yep, he won an Academy Award and now programs music to everyone in the world... fairly strong second act.

Ivana: If you can think that far back, what do you remember most about 2005-2010?

Lenny: The birth of my first grandson Landon, who popped out shortly after your son, Julian… and now, since I’m about to take him to the movies, it’s time to sign off and say goodnight, Gracie.

Ivana: Goodnight, Gracie.



OkCupid Profile, circa 2012

IVANA B. ADORED

50 – Los Angeles, CA – Woman

My self-summary

I’m an easy-going, go-with-the-flow, non-judgmental “catch.” Like the W Hotel motto, I’m all about whatever, whenever, wherever. Except I hate walks on the beach, watching sports, playing sports, talking about sports, hearing about your ex, camping, wine bars, paying for your meals, mainstream movies (unless I worked on them) and probably the bands you like, except for the ones I slept with in the ‘80s. I’m cooler than you, and your sense of humor is not as evolved as mine. I speak in obscure pop-culture references, lines from Woody Allen’s “early, funny work” and Todd Rundgren lyrics. I’ve been written up in Guitar Aficionado, but I can barely play the intro to “Smoke on the Water.” I will never let you play my Tom Verlaine guitar. I still live with my ex and our toddler—it’s not weird at all. If you are remotely up to my standards, it’s certain you’re looking for someone half my age. Your loss.

What I’m doing with my life:

Looking forward to my 25th anniversary at HITS

I’m really good at:

Redefining pop culture by imposing my will on radio programmers

Favorite books, movies, shows and music:

Dr. Seuss, Pixar, Bravo, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Phoenix, The Lumineers. I know I will love Tame Impala and KONGOS once they meet me.

The six things I could never do without:

Dennis and Lenny, the word “counterintuitive,” a highly developed sense of the absurd, your largesse, a fallback plan and an escape route.


I spend a lot of time thinking about:

My next add on KROQ. Barring that, a rich, childless 94-year-old suitor who’s willing to sign over power-of-attorney.

On a typical Friday night I am:

Looking at Real Time Mediabase. Aren’t you? 

You should message me if:

You understand that #2, #6 and #11 equal failure.

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