Rock Moment: When Radio Was ‘Live’


Once upon a time, radio was the great communicator.  Radio was totally of the moment – in the late 1950s through the earthshaking times between 1967 and 1970 – and it conveyed an immediacy, an urgency, that seismic changes were taking place in the culture.  Television, on the other hand, was more uptight and conservative and born to follow.  Today, radio’s preeminence has been eclipsed by the internet.

Some radio programmers were not content to merely play the latest hits.  They wanted their music live, so they went to the source and plugged right in.  The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) in the 1960s pioneered this practice, inviting top-of-the-pops groups like the Beatles, the Kinks and the Moody Blues to perform in their studios with little or no overdubbing.  The live-to-tape shows were then broadcast as a package later.

Today, some brave radio stations are still following that practice, but they are few and far between.  The great KGSR in Austin, KEXP in Seattle, KCBO in Boulder, Colo., KCRW in Los Angeles and WXPN in Philly all regularly feature live performances.  They’re not the only ones, by any means, but they are all available on the web.  Seek them out and support them.

Let’s flip through a few of our favorite live performances on the radio.  Some notes: Jimi Hendrix, the Moody Blues, the Kinks and the Byrds were BBC favorites and made numerous appearances.  So were Led Zeppelin, who performed Sleepy John Estes’ “The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair” in 1969, the only time they ever did this song live.

Bruce Springsteen had a legendary in-studio show on Houston’s KLOL in 1974, but later that year he did another great show, on WBCN in Boston.  The Stooges in 2007 and Vampire Weekend in 2008 performed from the South by Southwest festival in Austin for KEXP.  And David Gilmour and Carbon/Silicon come to us from the always incredible “World Café” show on WXPN.  Enjoy!

MP3: Lovely To See You by the Moody Blues (BBC) 

MP3: Days by the Kinks (BBC)

MP3: Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix Experience (BBC)

MP3: The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair by Led Zeppelin (BBC)

MP3: So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star by the Byrds (BBC)

MP3: Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen (WBCN)

MP3: Comfortably Numb by David Gilmour (WXPN’s “World Cafe”)

MP3: Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson (KGSR)

MP3: Jimmy Reed Highway by Omar “Kent” Dykes & Jimmie Vaughan (KGSR)

MP3: Trollin’ by the Stooges (KEXP)

MP3: A-Punk by Vampire Weekend (KEXP)

MP3: I Loved You by Carbon/Silicon (WXPN’s “World Café”)

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