HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

Twenty-five years ago today, I called my boyfriend in NYC from a pay phone at Burbank Airport, moments before boarding my flight to Seattle for a Sub Pop weekend. He worked at Gold Mountain at that time, and, through tears, told me that Kurt Cobain had died. My next call was to Bob Waugh at WHFS—we’d attended many Nirvana shows together, including the taping of MTV Unplugged, and he was the first station in the country to play “Heart Shaped Box,” which I’d hand-delivered from the U.K., days before the U.S. release.

The weekend in Seattle was surreal and so sad—my own history with Sub Pop involved loaning Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt money ($40k) to keep the label afloat, which went toward the making of Tad’s 8-Way Santa and Nirvana’s Bleach. The Tad album cost four times what Bleach did, for whatever that’s worth. Ted Volk and I worked “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at radio—he was at the label; I was at HITS. The Modern Rock format was borne from the youthquake incited by Kurt, Mark Arm, Chris, Eddie, Andrew, Billy, Layne, Mark Lanegan, etc.

I knew Kurt—not well, but we’d circled the same orbit for years—somewhere there’s a photo with his hands around my neck, while the band Eugenius made goofy faces in the background.  Now, it seems mandatory that Modern Rock stations have to play a Nirvana song every hour, thereby turning the music that once defined a generation into background sonic wallpaper. So much for our “edge.”

Dave Grohl, whose daughters are superfans, compared Billie Eilish’s impact on her audience to the early days of Nirvana, whose fans existed outside of the mainstream but kept growing exponentially as Kurt’s music provided the voice for a generation. Half of the Top 20 on the iTunes Alt singles chart is made up of Billie Eilish songs. It’s unfathomable to me that the format hasn’t fully recognized that she, and artists like her, are the key to radio’s future. I feel like a broken record, but most PDs (and consultants) have lost the plot.

This week marks my 29th anniversary at the “career cul-de-sac” known as HITS. I remember when the format didn’t want to play Pearl Jam, or countless other bands now considered core artists. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you will eventually “come around to my way of thinking,” to quote Urge Overkill, but damn, you sure make it soul-crushing sometimes.

Also this week, I celebrated 27 years of sobriety. The key to navigating social situations while clear-eyed was easy—plan an exit strategy immediately upon arrival.

Thursday at midnight, Dualtone launched “Gloria,” the first Lumineers single from their upcoming album III. Lori, Ted and I shared radio airplay “first alerts” until way past our bedtimes, beginning again early this morning. The response to the single has been unequivocally enthusiastic, which is always a relief.

Heather Luke and Allison Smith are out with a new Badflower single called “Promise Me,” which is already being played on WEBN, KROQ, KITS, KTBZ and KPNT, among others. It’s one of those rare rock records that can also flourish on the West Coast as well as the “Red States.” Even the PDs whose taste aligns more to the left (like mine) see the potential of this song. Very exciting!

Two songs out now should make you feel like winter is finally over: Dominic Fike’s “3 Nights” (nearing 900 spins at SiriusXM Alt Nation) and Smith & Thell’s “Forgive Me Friend.” Now, if I wasn’t stuck in bed with the same flu that has plagued me since January.

Mumford & Sons’ “Beloved” is already Top 20, on the heels of their massive sold-out tour, during which they’ve done radio sessions, in-store performances and myriad meet-and-greets with radio dignitaries. Last Friday, Marcus Mumford and CumulusTroy Hanson exuded greatness as they posed for a snapshot (at top) prior to Mumford’s sold-out show at the United Center. Glassnote’s Nick Petropolous was on hand to capture the magic.

SONG TO HEAR: Judah & the Lion “Why Did You Run?” 

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