Book Report: Inside Q101, Chicago’s Iconic 90s Alt-Rock Station
Working as a radio jock in the 1990s was surely a special experience: part rock star, part corporate vassal, part science project — perhaps like being a magazine writer in the 70s, or a Gawker editor in 2006.
Growing up in Chicago in the 90s, radio was my dream. I wanted to host a late-night FM talk show, or broadcast Cubs games, or something like that. But by the time I was out of high school and into college, my favorite stations were mostly dead. And my Walkman had long been replaced, first by Discman and MiniDisc, and later by an iPod. The idea of rearranging my station presets whenever one changed formats seemed quaint.
(Funny enough, talk radio is probably the closest analogy to what I do here — one of the first things Henry Blodget taught me in 2007, when we were starting what would become Business Insider.)
Anyway, if I couldn’t work at a 90s rock station, I still want to read about it. And this new book is probably as good as it’s going to get: “We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm” — an insider history of Chicago’s famous alt-rock station Q101, as told by ex-employees, and as edited by James VanOsdol, one of the station’s more memorable hosts.
The format — chunks of transcribed interviews — is unusual, and reads more like a spoken-word documentary or a play than a business history book. At some points, that makes it feel a bit repetitive, and perhaps too light. But it’s a good story and a fast read.
Two things surprised me the most. First, it seemed like people were constantly getting fired. Perhaps that was just how things were in radio, or maybe how they still are, but I’ve never worked for a company like that, and it seemed strange.
And second, it was really weird to read how short some shows lasted — six months or less for some of the failed morning shows, for example — when my memories from age 14 were that those hosts had been on the air forever. I guess that’s part of getting older: See this similar, frightening BuzzFeed list of 29 albums that are now 20 years old.