For Houston music commentators, picking on the sorry state of the city's commercial airwaves is even more fun than sportswriters must have making fun of the Astros. But on the rare occasion a new format does come along - even if it's hardly "new" - it still inspires a glimmer of hope in even the most jaded among us. That's why Rocks Off still can't quite bring ourselves to give up on the Eagle (107.5 FM), "Houston's Classic Hits." For one thing, morning-drive hosts Dean & Rog's "birthday scam" is about the funniest thing on local radio right now. Another is that Rocks Off could never hate a station where it's entirely possible to hear Blondie and Led Zeppelin, Eurythmics and Lynyrd Skynryd or the Clash and the Rolling Stones back-to-back. But the Eagle is already falling victim to the traps that have doomed so many of its counterparts on the dial to hopeless mediocrity, so if Rocks Off could play program director for a day (or even an hour), here's what we'd do to fix that. No charge. 1. Play More "Hits": Unlike Rocks Off No. 2, we're not going to go off on a rant about how the Eagle plays too much Eagles, mostly because we love "The Long Run," "Already Gone" and "Lyin' Eyes." But if you classify a "hit" as any song to crack the Billboard Top 40 - or hell, even the Top 10 - the Eagle could still radically expand its playlist to include everything from the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" to Nena's "99 Luftballoons." The station shouldn't worry that such a move might alienate its advertisers because, as the DJs point out ad nauseum, it's not selling very many ads anyway (see No. 5). 2. Play Some Black People, for Christ's Sake: Rocks Off is certainly not suggesting anything as radical as the Eagle start playing rap, even Run-DMC & Aerosmith's remake of "Walk This Way." But why not add some Earth, Wind & Fire, Bill Withers, Prince and (especially now) Michael Jackson to the rotation? They all had some pretty big "hits" in their day. And not spinning Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" once a day is just a crime. 3. Go to Lunch. A lot of stations doctor their programming during the noontime hour, such as the Eagle's chief rival the Arrow's (93.7 FM) commercial-free all-request hour. The Eagle could do all sorts of things, like a "New Wave Hour" and spin the Go-Go's, Greg Kihn Band, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe (all of whom charted) or pick a year and dust off some forgotten hits. 1979, for example, could bring everything from "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" to Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" and Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" 4. Go Deep. The Arrow already spins a "Classic CD at Midnight," and since it already stole Dean & Rog, there's no reason the Eagle couldn't steal this too. (Doing it at lunchtime would be even cooler.) Furthermore, its expanded "classic hits" format means it would have a lot more LPs to choose from. How's this for a sample week: Blondie's Parallel Lines, the Stones' Some Girls, Billy Joel's The Stranger, Duran Duran's Rio and ZZ Top's Deguello? 5. Enough With the "Fewer Commercials" Already: The most annoying thing about the Eagle isn't the station's playlist, it's the DJs harping about how many commercials the Arrow plays, down to such-and-such number per hour/day/month. Constantly reminding listeners how much money the station is not making sure is an odd marketing gimmick, especially since the DJs spend so much time talking about it that the Eagle doesn't actually play any more music than the Arrow. Just saying.
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