XXX: Thirty Years of 91X Year End Countdowns becomes The Top 888 Modern Rock Acts of All-Time

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30 years of 91X-FM’s top 91 year end countdowns have been counted on fingers, toes and abacus’ by Yer Doin’ Great to give you the longest, drawn-out alt-rock countdown of all-time!  20 years ago, the San Diego station hired me to do this on their tenth anniversary and broadcast a countdown of the top 91 acts of their first decade. This time, you get to see the WHOLE history. The rules are simple: give an act 91 points for a #1 song, 90 points for #2, 89 for #3, etc. all the way down to one point for a #91 song.  Now do that math on 2730 songs and figure out how many points each act has. Carry the one. Don’t use spreadsheets. That’s cheating. Keep checking here to see updates or just “like” our Facebook page for reminders.

THE COUNTDOWN’S ON
#803-888
#703-802
#603-702
#502-602
#400-501
#300-399 THE LAST OF THE ONE-HIT WONDERS
#201-299
#101-200
#92-100 (missed it by THAT much)
#81-91
#71-80
#61-70
#51-60
#41-50
#31-40
#21-30
#11-20
THE TOP TEN
THE WHOLE LIST AT A GLANCE/SCROLL
HALL OF RECORDS (LONGEST STREAKS, MOST SONGS IN ONE YEAR, ETC)
XXX COUNTDOWN FACEBOOK IMAGE GALLERY (full of fun comments, arguing, etc)

HITS OF THE YEAR: 91X & ME
1983-countdown19831984-countdown198485-countdown1985
86 91x countdown1986 87-91x-countdown  1987
MORE GLORY YEAR HIGHLIGHTS FROM 1983-1992 COMING SOON….

DO YOU REMEMBER CUTTING EDGE RADIO?!
I first started listening to 91X around 1981 after Roger Ray gave me the “How could you not know that song?!” eyeroll on the fourth grade playground.  He was singing “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” by some band called the Police and apparently 91X-FM in San Diego played the song a lot. The Mighty 690, a top 40 AM station owned by the same company as 91X, had been my introduction to current music the year before and I fell for it HARD.  I’d make custom cassettes called “The My Tape” with a handheld recorder held up to my radio and then back announce the songs myself.  “That was ‘Turning Japanese’ by the Vapors and now here’s Blondie with ‘The Tide Is High’.”  Then I’d sit and wait for it to come on.  At my classmates’ insistence, my teacher would play these tapes on school buses or during arts & crafts, making me the most popular DJ at Grant Elementary.

Sticker of original 91X logo from 91X.com's 1983 page.  Their building on Pacific Hwy had a HUGE sign of this that they never changed.

Sticker of the original pre-“cutting edge” 91X logo from 91X.com’s 1983 page. Their building on Pacific Hwy had a HUGE sign of this that they never changed.

At the time, 91X was a basic AOR (album oriented rock) station.  They played the Beatles, the Stones and the Who plus current arena rock like Journey, Styx and Foreigner. After a year or two, I wasn’t listening to much radio because I was completely obsessed with MTV.  Once my family finally got cable television, I watched as many terrible videos as my parents would allow me to. Then, on January 12, 1983, I turned on 91X and didn’t recognize any of the songs. At 6pm the night before, they’d changed formats.  When “Stairway To Heaven” finished playing, Berlin’s “Sex (I’m A…)” came on, at the wrong speed, according to legend, and the “Rock of the 80’s” hit San Diego’s airwaves.  Recently, Steve West replayed the first three hours worth of music, including general manager John Lynch’s announcement and it’s archived on 91X.com.

Playlist from the very first three hours of 91X's Rock of the 80's era.  From 91X.com's 1983 anniversary page.

Playlist from the very first three hours of 91X’s Rock of the 80’s era. From 91X.com’s 1983 anniversary page.

MTV-logo-drawing

Given my high MTV intake, it’s strange how put off I was that they’d gone new wave. But I was still young enough to just want to hear familiar songs on the radio and turned to the town’s other AOR stations, KPRI and KGB to fill the void  I owned a few records but made tapes of the songs I already knew from them.  After awhile, I grew to love the Clash, U2, Madness and Devo too much to not switch back. Suddenly, UNfamiliar was what I wanted. Everything sounded new and exciting to me and for years, 91X’s music directors were the best in the country. I liked so much of what they played that I almost never bought records throughout high school.  91X was enough for me.

Before music became my obsession, I was nuts about baseball. In 1978, the All-Star game was played in San Diego and even though I knew nothing about the sport, I watched the game that night, drew pictures of the players along with all kinds of numbers and notes. I played it, watched it, studied its history and would hand write pages and pages of statistics. Not surprisingly, when I turned to music, that nerdy number crunching and list-making came with it. When 91X did block party weekends, playing a few songs in a row by one band, I’d tally up everything I’d heard in a three-ring folder with a page for every band.  I cut out all kinds of music and pop culture randomness from magazines and would make collages for my school folder DAILY for my friends’ amusement.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood drawing on cover of January 1985 X Magazine from 91X.com's 1985 photo page..

Frankie Goes To Hollywood drawing on cover of January 1985 X Magazine from 91X.com’s 1985 photo page..

1987-randomsIn January of 1985, I picked up an issue of the X, 91X’s free monthly magazine.  It included the 91 top songs of 1984, as voted for by the station’s listeners. In looking at it, I wondered who the most popular band was for the year (I think it was Duran Duran). So, using basic math, I gave acts 91 points for a #1 song, 90 points for a #2 song, etc on down to one point for the #91 song. So started the obsession. All throughout high school, my friend Dan and I would try to predict as much of the annual countdown as we could.  Since I didn’t drink, I’d usually be more interested in sitting in a car outside of a New Year’s Eve party where I could listen to 91X reveal their biggest hits of the year. As 1986 turned to 1987, I was seeing Oingo Boingo at the San Diego Sports Arena and they played that year’s #1 91X song, “Dead Man’s Party”.  Three years later, I was there again, watching the B-52’s play “Love Shack”, the #1 song for 1989. Security came over to ask that my friend and I stop dancing so the short people behind us could sit. Yeah, right.b52s-side

By the end of high school, I figured I should follow my passion and do something in the entertainment world.  Being a 91X DJ was still my dream job, so my dad suggested I see if I could get an internship at the station.  It seemed unimaginable so I kept putting him off when he’d ask me about it.  One night, we were supposed to have dinner together and he drove up to the station, turned off the car, looked at me and said “You are going to go in there and ask for a job.”  I was terrified and started to stammer and swear that I’d call or write them a letter the very next day.  He only let me sweat for a minute or two before telling me he’d arranged a meeting with their production manager, Bill Corkery.

Well, ain’t it nice to have a dad with radio connections!?  His audiovideo rental company did business and trade with the station for years, so I’d get calls from him saying things like “What’s a Lollapalooza?” which meant I was getting free tickets. It also meant that I was now roaming the halls of hollowed ground. Just being inside the building, let alone the studio was pure magic for me. Corkery couldn’t have been nicer and I had video editing experience and a ton of ideas but I was too scared to insist he really teach me about production.  So for three months, all I did was transfer pre-made advertisements sent to the station on tape reels onto carts, eight track looking cassettes that held one 30 or 60 second spot (or a single song).

Some carts from the glory years in front of the cart machine.  Color coded so even an intern couldn't screw it up.  Until I heard that Steve West started a cart I'd made and it started in the middle of the ad.  Trouble.

Some carts from the glory years in front of the cart machine. Color coded so even an intern couldn’t screw it up. I thought I was perfect until I heard that Steve West hit play on a cart I’d made and it started in the middle of the ad. Trouble.

I couldn’t seem to connect with anyone that worked there. If I got a reply “hello” in the hallways, I considered it a small victory. But being a 91X intern meant maybe I could finally get copies of all of the old top 91 countdowns. I was told who at the station could get them for me and they said they’d look into it but they weren’t exactly friendly about it. I only dared to ask one more time and got the same cool response. Much later, I became friends with some of the DJ’s but I don’t even remember seeing them that summer. The people that were there seemed too cool to be nice, just like every other showbiz place I interned throughout college.

I stayed in San Diego for my freshman year of college and thought I’d give their radio station a look-see on my first day on campus.  The folks at KCR were impressed I’d worked at 91X and let me create some ads on the ancient equipment in their production room.  It turns out that I was as good as I thought I’d be.  They put me in charge of production, making me the youngest manager they’d ever had. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who looked at 91X as the corporate enemy. “91X Is A Joke” was sung to Public Enemy’s “911 Is A Joke” (sample rhyme: “They only play, play what they wanna/block party weekends featuring Madonna”). It was around that time that I ran into 91X DJ Mike Halloran at a Pop Will Eat Itself show at Iguana’s in Tijuana. I don’t know that we’d ever spoken at the station but, by himself, he couldn’t have been nicer. I knew he was a big supporter of PWEI friends the Wonder Stuff and he was impressed that some kid knew his stuff.

My desk at BMG in Hollywood.  How many posters and album flats can you ID? Click for the answers.

My desk at BMG in Hollywood. How many posters and album flats can you ID? Click for the answers.

Three years later I was interning for BMG Music in LA and going to Cal State University Northridge. I listened to legendary, local alt-station KROQ plenty but most of their DJ’s were beyond annoying. Jedum Fishum!? Kill me now. I longed for the anti-hype of 91X’s on-air “personalities” so I’d find pockets of the Valley where I could get it. While there, Halloran actually came through and sent me the magic package in the mail I’d been waiting nine years for: all of the top 91 countdowns from 1983-1991. It occurred to me that with the station’s tenth year-end countdown coming up that maybe they might want to count down the top 91 acts of all-time using my patented method.  I wrote Halloran a letter pitching him the idea and he called me to say that he loved it.

Once the 1992 countdown was over, I added up ten years of radio airplay on a greenscreen Apple IIE and printed it up on a dot matrix printer for the station to air. They rearranged some of bands’ positions, just as I’d heard they did occasionally on the actual yearend lists, but they kept thanking me by name as they spent a weekend counting down the top acts. As thanks, they let me come in and host their weekly “Hey Mom I’m On 91X” show where listeners could come in and play whatever they wanted.  Robin Roth engineered and interviewed me and was surprised at how good I sounded on the air.  Instead of talking me out of pursuing radio like most people, she actually encouraged me to keep at it.  You’d agree with her if you could heard that tape, but a briefcase full of my only on-air radio stints was stolen along with my stereo the week I relocated to LA years later.  Welcome back to Hollywood, kid.

top-oart-of-93

As I grew older, I cared less and less for these popularity contests, not that I ever even voted or rooted for bands I liked.  I just always found it interesting to see what got popular and how. Over the years, I’ve had dozens of good friends work at the station and, after all of its changes, they’ve gone back to having three of the 80’s jocks on the air daily, which is nice for us old folks.  Flash forward twenty(!) years and 91X is celebrating their 30th anniversary.  They’ve been doing all kinds of interesting things to commemorate the big 3-0, including a whole visual history on their site that even includes old on-air recordings.  I’ve been listening to 1984 as I type this. Kallao’s 2006 station relaunch is a really great, interesting listen too.

After all this time, the station is still doing top 91 countdowns, making it one of the longest running year-end lists on the planet. With traditional radio slowly fading into the sunset along with record stores, bookstores, video rentals and Atari 2600s, it’s amazing they’ve stuck with it. The list has long been a closely guarded secret until it’s broadcast, but this year, they posted it on their website early in the evening. Even LA’s KROQ got tired of counting down 106.7 songs every year and scaled it back to a top 20 in 2009. Naturally, I got curious as to who would be the top acts after THIRTY years of countdowns.  I started doing all of the finger counting early last year and told my friends at the station about it but they never really showed much interest.

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My grandfather, who fronts local senior sensations Geezer, decided I was being a sissy about it. He found the list on my computer, stole it and sent the station a ransom note, insisting they broadcast it AND have Geezer headline this year’s 30th Anniversary XFest concert. I tried to tell him that 91X does not deal with kidnappers but he just won’t listen. It’s a little embarrassing, to say the least. He’s still screaming about how they stole pictures from Cover Me Badd’s concert scrapbook for their anniversary website without any thanks, credit and/or links.  Please just ignore him.  He’s 92 years old.
91X Ransom Note So I’m happy to count down the list right here on Yer Doin’ Great and share some classic year-by-year treasures.  Putting it up all at once would be so….quick and dirty.  Where’s your sense or drama?  I’ve got lots of fun stuff to share so check in on the countdown often or just like our Facebook page to keep up.

Glad the old man insisted on printing up a t-shirt and taking this photo or else it would be like it never happened. Props to Pops.

No wonder no one would talk to me. Look what a skinny little dork I was. I’m wearing a watch. What is this, the 1800’s?! Glad the old man insisted on printing up a t-shirt and taking this photo or else it would be like it never happened. Props to Pops.

BIG THANKS TO
91xlogo slicing logocasbahruby roomleftysspinSORSOR VISTAmtheorytigerBLIND LADYjayneshandlery sdhandlery sfCAFFE cabpadrespowgreat maplebelly upbig takeover

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40 thoughts on “XXX: Thirty Years of 91X Year End Countdowns becomes The Top 888 Modern Rock Acts of All-Time

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  33. Hi there…I’ve stumbled on your blog and love what you’ve done commemorating 91X! I grew up in SoCal and was a dedicated KROQ listener in the 80s – but I loved when I could get 91x on a good day and truth be told, their playlist was superior to KROQ!

    I though you may be able to help regarding a question about the 1989 chart – it appears everywhere I look number 88 is unknown. So, what is the song that squeezed between Lenny Kravitz and The Ocean Blue on the 89 year end chart?

    Much appreciated!

    Rob

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  35. Your post made my day! We grew up in the same music — your memory is very impressive and kinda jealous you kept records of this great music era. Keep feeling fascination 😉

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