Something that Denro and I talk about incessantly is how drastically music changed year-to-year in the 1960’s. The best place to go for a thorough and insightful exploration of Sixties popular music is Andrew Sandoval’s unique and outstanding online show, Come to the Sunshine.
After Pop gave way to the Psychedelic shake-up of 1967, 1968 was the year when underground FM stations started to take over the older teen market. The influence of FM on AM could be heard in records like this one, which became an unlikely top 20 hit.
What made underground, aka Hippie, radio possible in the Sixties? The same thing that was behind other 60’s happenings like NASA, the pre-Internet Arpanet, and the Vietnam War. The United States Government, that’s what.
To promote the adoption of FM stereo radio, on January 1, 1967 an FCC mandate went into effect that required radio broadcasters to no longer simulcast their AM signals over their FM stations. College-aged disc jockeys started to flood the airwaves in major cities, formats changed overnight, and instead of playing the latest singles they played album cuts.
The iconic Boston station, WBCN, had an overnight format change, but it didn’t happen because of the simulcast requirement. What made ‘BCN possible was the desperation of the owner of a failing all-Classical station. Former ‘BCN disc jockey Carter Alan, who is now on WZLX in Boston, has the story in his excellent book, “Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN.”