Fifteen or so years ago, L.A. had a radio station I liked. Well, that’s an understatement. My radio dial never, ever left 101.9, KSCA. I’d heard about them when they were new, so I checked it out. They played John Hiatt. They played The Band (I heard “Chest Fever” once; I was stunned). They played Elvis Costello, for crying out loud! No one plays Elvis Costello (which is completely inexplicable to me). I felt like I had found a home on the FM dial for the first time since KMET died (RIP). I tried to listen from 7 to 11 PM, because that’s when Mama Mia was on. Mia (I can’t remember her last name, sorry) was the DJ that shift, and she was called Mama Mia because she would often bring her baby daughter to the studio with her. If you listened carefully, you could sometimes hear the baby playing while Mia did her patter. Dr. Demento moved there for a while. It was without a doubt the most awesome radio station ever.
And then it went off the air. Everyone knew it was coming; the format change was announced a few weeks beforehand. (101.9 became, and still is, a Mexican station.) On their last night on the air, they got as many of the staff and DJs as they could on the air to say thanks to all their loyal listeners. The GM even compared them to WKRP in Cincinnati, that’s how much like a family they seemed. Then they played their last song.
Michelle Shocked’s loving tribute to L.A. was the best song they could have chosen. Nothing else I’ve heard has ever captured the diversity, the beauty, the sheer weirdness of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. And that’s the kind of thing KSCA always tried to capture. They were a radio station in a town that has multiple personalities, and they tried to reflect that sort of cultural schizophrenia. They played what was (and still is) called “Adult Alternative” music. I don’t know what that means, I just know a significant portion of the artists and musicians I listen to fall under that format. KSCA represented what might have been the last gasp of original programming and freedom in commercial broadcast radio. There’s still a little glimmer occasionally, like 100.3 The Sound right now, but a free radio station that decides what to play without a corporate master list is pretty much a memory in SoCal.
So this song, a song about freedom and joy and a place that really doesn’t exist anywhere else, was the perfect way to say goodbye.*
*After the song ended, there was a really long pause, during which I wiped my tears away, I suddenly heard a very familiar guitar chord.
Now that’s the way to end something.