There are few people in the music industry that I loathe more than Lee Abrams. He, of course, is the worthless fat-ass responsible for implementing uniform radio playlists across the country, thereby erasing any possibility of commercial rock radio stations having any sort of "local flavor" whatsoever.
By that, I mean one capable of great commercial impact. WXRT's Local Anesthetic has been great exposure for many a local band, but 'twas a time when a station like WLS could pluck a local band from obscurity and turn them into regional Top 40 hit makers.
Thanks to Abrams, you can now drive cross-country without your ears ever knowing that the stations have changed. Instead of a playlist full of regional favorites interspersed with national acts, you get the same ten songs in Denver as you do in Danville.
See, long before radio became one indistinguishable Morning Zoo with more commercials than songs and began hiring DJ's who didn't seem to know or care what song just played, local stations were a great way to get a feel for the city. When you were in Chicago, you could turn to WLS or The Loop and hear bands specific to that region. When you were in Cleveland, the stations had a totally different vibe and their fair share of local heroes getting airplay alongside national hit makers.
Thus, it was during those heady days of radio that I tuned into Larry Lujack's legendary radio show on Chicago's powerhouse rock station, WLS, and first heard "Loved By You" by a local band called The Kind. At the time, I didn't know they were local, though. They were treated like any other band given access to the airwaves and, to my ears, sounded like a band destined for greatness.
A week or so later, at my local Wonderland Discount store in Dowagiac, MI, I was taking a glance at the Top 40 singles list and saw "The Kind - Loved By You". I immediately asked the guy behind the counter for a copy of said single and immediately noticed that the 45 rpm record I held in my hands didn't carry the logo of any major label, but, rather, the band's own 360 Records imprint.
My first thought was that of amazement: Wow, a local Chicago band scoring a big hit without the help of a major label?
Being a kid stuck in small-town Michigan, I was not able to keep fully abreast of happenings on the Chicago scene so my knowledge of The Kind was sketchy at best, and, sadly, remains so to this day. I did have the good fortune of attending a Duran Duran concert in Chicago where, unbeknownst to me, The Kind were the opening act. They took the stage with no introduction and immediately began delivering one thick, hook-filled slice of rock after the other.
After a couple songs, it began to dawn on me that these guys sounded just a tad familiar to my ears. I then became completely enthralled in their performance, wondering if, in fact, they were who I thought they were. I then heard the familiar intro to "Loved By You" and watched the otherwise disinterested Duran Duran crowd suddenly jump to life. "Hey, we know that song", they seemed to be saying as their eyes darted from the glossy Duran Duran programs they'd procured in the lobby to the five guys on the stage.
A week or so later, I grabbed a copy of their new album, Pain And Pleasure, when it landed in the bins at Wonderland and played the crap out of it for the next several months. I never heard another peep from the band and, by the time I moved to Chicago in 1986, they'd long since gone their separate ways.
What boggles my mind is that a band that enjoyed this level of regional success never got picked up by a major label while dozens of arguably less worthy acts got signed left and right. At the time, I remember there being a huge bias against Chicago acts by the major labels, but, for the life of me, I never knew why. Was it because past major label efforts by the likes of Off Broadway and Shoes had failed to set the charts on fire? Was it because A&R scouts were too lazy to venture beyond NYC or LA when searching for "the next big thing"?
By the early 90's, of course, Nirvana and Chicago's own Smashing Pumpkins brought alternative rock to the masses, thereby creating a signing frenzy that saw just about any Chicago band that had been together longer than two weeks land a major label deal.
Today, of course, The Kind remain almost a figment of my imagination. As a band that existed in a time when vinyl records and cassettes were the formats of choice, their music has yet to be made available in any digital format whatsoever, simply fading into the ethers like smoke from a cigarette snuffed out decades ago.