“Hot” Top 40 dub-steps on the grave of The Fox

Jerome Janairo , New Editor

I will never forget the look of absolute horror on my younger brother’s face one rainy Thursday night as he tried to listen to his favorite radio station on his MP3 player. I asked him what was wrong, and he replied by giving me his headphones. The song “Blow” by Ke$ha was playing. Why would my brother listen to Ke$ha?

“That’s supposed to be The Fox!” my brother said, his eyes wide with shock. “What is going on?”

That night, he discovered that 101.7 FM, which had been playing hard rock music for Sonoma County since 1988, had gone off the air. Ke$ha and her Top 40 cohorts had killed The Fox.

My taste in music differs from most of what The Fox offered, but I understood how tragic the loss was. The Fox was more than just a radio station; it was a local institution. Whether you liked the music it played or not, it was always a familiar part of the radio. As a station, its presence wasn’t limited to Sonoma County’s airwaves; it proved itself an active participant in our local community, not least because it served as a venue for local bands and artists. More importantly, it was the only station in our area that played hard rock. For those reasons, The Fox was an indispensible part of our community.

The Fox also had a relationship with its loyal listeners, a fact proven by people I know. In a way, it had always been a part of their lives. It was the station that completely influenced my brother’s musical taste, and was always blasting from the headphones plugged in his ears. My friend Rebecca loved that there would always be a Metallica song playing on the radio as she got ready for school every morning, while Kenny always went to bed at night with music from Guns & Roses, Rob Zombie and Nirvana playing in the background. John won tickets to see Rammstein in Oakland just a few days before The Fox went off air.

For me, I will always remember listening to a succession of songs on The Fox from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stone Temple Pilots and Audioslave as I tried to sleep off a particularly awful night. It was music that I normally didn’t care for, but I found the songs oddly fitting and comforting for my situation that night. Pop music, for all of its catchy tunes, never gave me moments like that.

The sudden and unceremonious change from The Fox to Hot 101.7 was an act of betrayal. Those responsible for The Fox’s replacement chose profit over integrity, callously disregarding an established part of our community. To add insult to injury toward longtime listeners and fans of hard rock, they chose to replace a station that famously played a unique mix of ZZ Top, AC/DC, Pantera and Slipknot with one that broadcasts pop music mainstays reviled by many hard rock fans such as Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, Lil’ Jon and Lady Gaga.

But perhaps The Fox’s demise was inevitable, as iTunes, satellite radio, Pandora and smartphones have changed the way people listen to music, steering listeners away from traditional radio. Even fans of classic, metal and hard rock don’t need genre stations like The Fox to listen to their favorite songs. The truth is that radio is a business, and the anger from fans of rock (and they were really pissed) won’t be enough to change that fact.

Losing The Fox means people who still listen to the radio regularly now have fewer choices, like my brother, who doesn’t own a smartphone or have access to a computer all the time. It will also be harder for longtime hard rock listeners, since The Fox is the only station in the area that plays their favorite music. With the encroachment of pop music stations, musical diversity of Sonoma County’s airwaves has taken a nosedive.

It was particularly sad watching my brother delete 101.7 FM from his radio presets. He had listened to the station since the 8th grade, and it was the essential soundtrack to his everyday life. It must have felt like losing an old friend. But all that is left of his beloved station are the obscene amounts of auto-tuned vocals, shallow lyrics and recycled, electronic Eurotrash beats (a little late for the party, aren’t we America?) of today’s pop-music hits. It’s the sad end to an era.