Mass culture died its first death in Toronto the first weekend of June 1986, when 1050 chum abruptly ended 29 years of a format based on a weekly pop chart, in favour of “Favourites of Yesterday and Today”. An aircheck of the transition, via Rock Radio Scrapbook, sheds light on the thinking: A spin of the worst song ever, Starship’s “We Built This City”, is followed by a montage of the biggest chum tunes of 1957 through 1985, a minute of wave noises, then a sermon from program director Terry Williams, sounding more social worker than disc jockey: “A few months ago, I asked you what exactly you wanted from this radio station. I told you then that what you said would matter very much. I’m here now to tell you how much. After all the calls were listened to, and all the letters were answered, and all the research was analyzed,” he explains, “we had no choice but to come to an undeniable conclusion”. The audience for AM radio music was aging, so the best they could do was satisfy “an unfulfilled demand” for sedate sounds of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s – after all, the rock ‘n’ roll youthquake moved to the FM dial, not to mention the impact of 1050’s corporate spin-off MuchMusic, while the more dynamic 680 CFTR had successfully siphoned off the remaining local interest in the hyperactive teenybopper Top 40 format. Plus, draconian CRTC policies ensured a ratings-deprived station like chum had nowhere to go but backward, as their internal energies shifted to synching CHUM-FM with the emerging yuppie zeitgeist instead. A few weeks later, the legendary CHUM sign outside 1331 Yonge St. was splayed across the road, coincidentally cut down by crafty vandals. The attempt to keep 1050 sounding quasi-contemporary hobbled along for a while, until the switch was flipped to nothing but oldies in 1989. Five years ago, when they tried to escape that trap as the flagship for a national sports radio network called The Team, it was an unmitigated disaster that resulted in a return to music 16 months later. Today, 1050 chum is a low-rated relic not without considerable charm, in spite of all the DJ patter outside of its morning show comprised of pre-recorded voicetracks. But while its definition of oldies radio has plunged deeper into the 1970s, the last several years of chum’s weekly hit list aren’t acknowledged. The final chum chart – published the day of the format change – is pretty drab, but the station fought to retain its cultural vitality until the battle turned into a losing one. While they’ve vowed to keep 1050 chum intact to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2007, the nostalgia is running on fumes now, especially in the era where an AM signal in Vancouver has surrendered drive time periods to nothing but the traffic reports.
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