For weeks since the news that alternative rock radio station Q101 was bought and primed for a format change, many of my friends, acquaintances and strangers discussed the maligned company, nostalgia for the Q101 of our rose-colored youth (and thankfully not the days of Q101.1 — BLEH), the current and future state of rock radio, and radio itself. It’s been an interesting outgrowth of how much of an impact music has had in our lives, how we view entertainment as a nurturer and commodity, and how to read varying levels of snark.
Many memories were shared, many jokes were told (most featuring some form of “I’ll need to find another station that plays Pearl Jam/Nirvana/Soundgarden ___ times a day!” — which I was guilty of) and many discussions of the radio format and business were held. None of these would have any impact on the inevitable, which happened today.
This image from my email inbox was the proverbial tombstone for Q101’s life as an over-the-air rock station:
Q101 was one of my gateways into rock music, a tempting getaway from the Motown and ’80s R&B that inundated my parents’ home and the gangsta rap that blared from classmates’ cars and portable music players. Q101 introduced me to bands like Green Day, Oasis, the Cardigans and those “grunge” bands I joked about. I spent many late-nights listening to a variety of programming, from the sexual advice juggernaut known as Loveline (with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla) to call-in interview shows like Modern Rock Live and experiments in electronic music — which brought me front and center with the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and the Crystal Method. Saturday and Sunday nights with my headphones on were a tradition when it came to Q101.
Like teenage relationships, my connection with Q101 waned as I attended college and started my 2os. I would listen to it at work for prize contests (I won tickets to Green Day twice, got an iPod mini — remember those? — and gas cards) but I saw the station as less of a giver and more of a necessary evil. There weren’t many stations at the time playing modern rock, let alone anything I grew up with. And those overplayed Pearl Jam jokes were already steeped in truth.
My connection with Q101 was all but severed when I left the nest — and the state of Illinois. (Those gas cards I won financed the majority of my cross-country drive to Phoenix.) I haven’t lived in Chicago since 2005, and I would occasionally seek out the station during my 26 times a year that I would blow into town. It wasn’t the same, and the station knew that their changes were rocky; those q101.1 days were TOUGH to listen to. Reliance on the alternative music that made them famous was dragging them down, and the few new songs and bands they were breaking were dwindling. Digital technology made music easier to access in the form of MP3 players, internet and satellite radio. The crows were circling, and they toyed with the preordained corpse for way too long.
So when I learned that Q101 had been sold, I was relieved. Not so much for the employees that would be losing their jobs, but for the opportunity to see the station reinvent itself. The chance to take back the Q101 I loved, and not the lumbering zombie it became, into my memories was welcomed.
And sure, I still giggle at a well-placed “But where will I hear ‘Jeremy’ 3534 times a day?” joke, but it’s out of recollection of all the other great songs that turned me onto rock music, inspired me to go to live concerts and made me the person I am today. And I am grateful for Q101 for that.