The Experiment That Produced a Local Radio Hit
SacTV.com "Video of the Day" review by
Alex Cosper on April 11, 2012
What is painfully obvious about Sacramento music history and history radio history is that the two worlds
did not intersect much in the past. Only a handful of unsigned artists can say they got a lot of airplay
in town. I'm happy to say I was one of them. In 1989 while Music Director at KWOD, which at the time was
a top 40 station, I wanted to experiment with a new sound that had never been heard on radio before, which
was a mix of the emerging electronic sound with a summer surf theme. I sensed that people still craved
music that painted "fun in the sun." So I recorded a song I wrote a year earlier called "Waves On The West Coast"
at a recording studio called The Lasting Impression.
This video of the spinning 45 rpm of "Waves On The West Coast" was shot at Puddingstone Recording Studio
in Downtown Sacramento. It's a place run by Bruce Bolin where the Beer Dawgs recorded. The Beer Dawgs became
part of local history by lasting a few decades and getting beer sponsorships that helped give Sacramento
recognition as a music city. I've made a few other videos like this for other artists for nostalgia purposes
and to document that a record was pressed. It's also an easy inexpensive way to make a video to represent
a time period that isn't well documented.
Harrison Price produced the song for me. He had a few regional club hits of his own and was
well known in the local electronic music scene. We patterned the drum tracks after the band Information Society,
who at the time, I thought were among the bands with the most modern sound. My song was written on acoustic
guitar. From the cassette demo I gave him, Price learned the song and created all the music tracks. He and singer
Stephanie Lords added background vocals. The recording was completed in June 1989 and within a few days I gave
it to the night jock to play on the feature "Like It or Spike It." The song overwhelming response was positive.
So we kept the song in the studio on cart and it was the one song jocks were allowed to play whenever they
wanted should they get requests for it or feel like playing it. The purpose of such a record at any radio
station was to be a "secret weapon" that the competition couldn't or wouldn't play no matter how big it got.
To my surprise, competitor FM 102 did play the song once on the air. Mark S Allen, who went on to be a TV star,
played the song then blew it up with explosion sound effects. I took it as a joke, as the two stations were
always playfully bashing each other on the air.
The funny thing was that the song kept getting more and more requests all summer, so it kept getting
played by jocks even though it was never scheduled on the playlist. By August it was a top three requested
song on the station. I pressed 500 copies of the song on 45 rpm, making it one of Sacramento's final vinyl
singles that got exposure as CDs were quickly replacing vinyl collections by that point. I gave most of the
copies away to listeners and friends in the radio industry. It ended up getting tested on other West Coast
stations and a few East Coast stations. Although it didn't go any further than that, it was an experiment
that opened the door for other local artists.
After KWOD started playing modern rock in 1991, I was promoted to Program Director. In June of 1992 I created
the local show "The Sound of Sacramento" based on the success of the "waves" experiment. I believed that I had
proved local unsign music can work on the air if the song fits the flow of the station and has memorable hooks.
I also proved that it was possible to go against the grain and have a local hit that sounded unique from the
rest of the station yet still blended in. The Sound of Sacramento
did become an exciting show and launchpad for local aritsts. The show played Cake, Deftones and Oleander before they
were signed to major labels. Even though "Waves On The West Coast" has become a buried treasure like so
many other local records, I still think of it as the time marker that opened the door to local airplay. Read more about the "waves
experiment" at Tangent Sunset.
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