Contact Us

37 Years Ago: ‘FM’ Movie Released

Universal

“It started with the crystal age. It moved to the golden age. And now, welcome to the solid platinum age,” states the tagline in the trailer for the movie FM, which was released on May 3, 1978. Before MTV and MP3s, radio was music’s unifying force. During the classic-rock era, it was also the gas that fueled the record industry.

Directed by John A. Alonzo (who was the cinematographer on classics like Chinatown and Scarface), FM stars Cleavon Little, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull and Alex Karras in the story of Q-SKY, a fictitious radio station based on Los Angeles’ legendary KMET, and its struggles as it comes to terms with a big-business move.

Back in the ’70s, many stations once considered underground and free-form saw business tides shift as Top 40 yielded big numbers to album-oriented rock. Over the years, AOR would become just as sterile and confining as the Top 40 playlists it freed itself from. But back then, as the movie illustrates, the battle between the industry’s mega-bucks and the stations’ musical freedom was a heated, and often soul-crushing, one. FM captures that moment before the balloon burst.

Even though the movie features concert performances by Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett, it bombed at the box office. But its soundtrack was a hit, selling more than a million copies, with songs by Bob Seger, Boston, the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers fueling sales. Steely Dan even had a Top 30 hit with the title song. The film preceded the similarly themed television series WKRP in Cincinnati by a few months, but that was more of a coincidence than anything else.

As the ’80s took shape, things changed. Promotion, payola and moving thousands of units in certain markets didn’t mean as much as MTV, which had a huge impact on radio, essentially forcing new artists to be added to playlists and prompting the end of radio’s stranglehold. Since then, radio has had even less impact. Talk radio, syndicated programming and increasingly tighter playlists killed whatever was left of the mighty industry. More significantly, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in the deregulation of corporate ownership of media outlets, opening the door for mega corporations to scoop up radio stations and concert promotions across the nation. Even so, satellite and Internet radio can never rival radio’s significance in the ’70s. FM documents the era with loving respect.

See Boston and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’70s

25 Interesting Rock Movie Facts

Next: Top 10 Steely Dan Songs

Best of 103.7 The Hawk

Recommended For You

Around the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://kmhk.com using your original account information.

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for Rockaholics quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!

Sign up to have exclusive Rockaholics contests, events, coupons, presales, and much more delivered to you for FREE.