Rock and roll was born to give offense, and radio has long served as the music industry’s primary gatekeeper. AM, FM, free-form, Top 40, AOR, left of the dial (was there ever a right of the dial?) – the programmers who pick which songs get on the air (whether based on gut feeling, label entreaties, payola, peer pressure, or audience testing) live and die by the records they choose.
These firing-line calls can seem bizarre in retrospect: radio, and its audiences, has often latched on to (or flatly rejected) the most unpredictable songs. Even bands headed for the cultural pantheon have struck radio as ones to avoid. The Clash, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Stooges, Patti Smith – all of them are in the pantheon, but none of them had more than a song or two (if that) in serious rotation.