Back in the days before Clear Channel owned every other station in the country, record labels were forced to do a little bit of legwork in order to promote their releases. Throughtout the 70's and 80's, one technique in their arsenal was to mail an "interview records" to every station in the country. Interview records were essentially spoken word karaoke interviews with rock stars, so that a local station could pretend that its own jocks had landed the big one. Stations received a record with the rock star giving answers to interview questions, which were supplied to the station on a script.
An hour or so in the production room with reel to reel tape and a razor blade, and voila! even the lowliest station in the country could air that exclusive interview with Jimmy Page! We still have one such interview record in the mighty FMU record library, "Collins on Collins," in which Phil Collins knowingly chuckles to your insighttful questions, and waxes philosophical on "Philmania" and the difference between "pop fans" and "music fans." Here is an MP3 of the Collins on Collins record which came out in 1985. If you really want to play along at home and ask Phil the questions so he can knowingly chuckle and reply to you, here is a pdf document of the script that accompanied the record. Another variation on this theme were rock star "indents," in which a celebrity introduced his or her new single. Here are a few David Bowie idents we still had laying around: Bowie Ident 1 | Bowie Ident 2 | Bowie Ident 3 (Station Manager Ken)
As if those "interview" LP's weren't enough to make listeners think DJ's are hobnobbing with the stars, there's another common practice where labels sit down the talent and have them bang out 200 or so personalized station identifications as a seemingly personal love missive directly from the artist to a given market's listenership. One of my more vivid memories of this was during the rise of Billy Idol's solo career in the 1980's; after "Rebel Yell" hit big, Chrysalis records tried to revive some singles from his earlier LP. Some genius at the label decided that for the part of "Hot In the City" where Billy stops and snarls "New Yawwwkk!", they'd drag him into a studio and simply have him yell out a string of city names, after which they'd chop 'em up, drop 'em into the single and service them to the Radio PD in each of those respective markets. My friends and I back home would crack up everytime the song came to the point Billy would yell "Wilkes-Barre!" But it was a totally great, economical promo gimmick that worked. It would also be hilarious when you'd hear Aldo Nova proclaim in a bumper "When I'm in Wilkes-Barre, I listen to the hottest hits on (name of station)," knowing damn well that Aldo Nova was never, nor had ever set foot in Wilkes-Barre. But it made everyone think that maybe indeed Aldo Nova adored Wilkes-Barre, you just knew that he would tell his driver to make a detour off I-80 on the way to New York. He would stop in, hang, go fishing with the locals. Buy some Tastykakes and pierogies. Hang out in the VFW and talk about his song "Fantasy" with his new friends.
So, I was always intrigued when WFMU would get personalized ID's via big label promo departments from artists who had never had set foot here. We've actually had real celebrities doing a WFMU shout-outs on tape at our request: DJs like Dave the Spazz have gotten personalized-for-their-show shout-outs like this one from King Coleman (MP3), Dan Castellaneta/Homer Simpson kindly read our 1-800 pledge number for the Marathon (MP3), and once Yogi Berra even did one for us when he asked it he could borrow our studio to cut a PSA (he lived near us when we were East Orange). But hearing David Bowie say your station ID knowing he has no idea who the hell we are is always and odd thing.
Two of the more memorable examples of en-masse promo dispensing were Interscope's Weezer ID's, and XL's Peaches ID's. Peaches had actually been to WFMU early in her career, she performed live with Gonzales and Feist on Scott Williams' show (Real Audio archive, click on the show (realaudio archive) and then listen 1 hour 26 minutes in), Weezer never have been here. But somewhere along the line the labels sat them down and had them churn out tons of specialized market radio IDs, though they never indexed them before sending them out, hence you had to find and fish out your respective station. FMU for the time seemed to enjoy playing the whole disc of all the ID's on the air; it became a somewhat Warholian study of celebrity in a way many don't usually have access to. You could really sympathize with these guys for having to sit there and seem upbeat while reiterating station and locale over and over and trying to see like they were excited. You know these Weezer guys (MP3) just wanted to get out and go party with Drew Barrymore. And here's a remix (MP3) I did on air some years ago of Weezer's and Peaches' ID's going head to head over some gnarly Christian Marclay stuff. (Brian Turner)