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Things Past: In Praise Of AOR

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, radio was a constant companion in the Holder home. Even when it wasn't convenient - there was an AM station on the next street, and its signal was picked up by the family phone, so we often had to talk over the sound of the program. Sure, we watched too much TV back then, but radio was king.

Rocky Face, GA is located between two large FM radio markets, so growing up I had a choice between Chattanooga and Atlanta stations. The Chattanooga stations came in more clearly, but Atlanta had more variety. Top 40 stations were most prevalent, but for me, there was only one kind of station: Album Oriented Radio.

While Top 40 stations played just that, the most popular current singles, Album Oriented Radio (AOR) stations dug deeper, playing "deep cuts" from albums old and new. Atlanta's most popular AOR station was 96 Rock, where you could hear everything from the Eagles to Iron Maiden (often in the same hour). 96 Rock was THE station of the 80's, before it embraced the burgeoning classic rock format that still haunts the radio waves of today, only to become a Top 40 station a few years ago. The Chattanooga market had several AOR stations come and go, almost always on the 105.5 FM frequency and constantly changing call signs.

To Gen X'ers like myself, AOR is a fond memory, but what did it do to earn our respect? Simply put, it made classics of songs you might not otherwise have heard. Case in point: "Moving In Stereo" by The Cars. This New Age masterpiece of the late 70's has been used in film (Phoebe Cates' unforgettable pool scene in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" comes to mind), is now a mainstay on classic rock radio, and appears on The Cars Best Of album(s) and many other collections. However, the song was never released as a single; it's success can be credited to AOR and the listening audience that wanted something more than official record label singles.

In memory of a great format now gone, enjoy:


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