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AROUND THE DIAL

An Anthem in the Wings : Singer wants every U.S. radio station to help her national network for rape, abuse and incest victims.

May 15, 1997|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're flipping around the radio dial at midday Friday and keep getting the same song, don't panic; there's nothing wrong with your radio. It will mean only that Tori Amos has accomplished something remarkable.

The singer-songwriter is asking every radio station in the country--all 10,000 of them--to play her confessional ballad "Silent All These Years" at noon local time Friday along with a public service announcement she has taped as part of a campaign for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The organization, which Amos founded, provides 24-hour hotline services for counseling, referrals and information about sexual assault and abuse.

"Silent," originally released in 1990, has had a tremendous new life this year, serving as the theme for Amos' "Unlock the Silence" benefit concert for her network in January at New York's Paramount Theater. The concert was televised on the Lifetime cable channel, which stimulated a flood of requests at rock and adult alternative radio stations nationwide.

Amos says she is uncertain if anything like this has been tried before.

"I'm sure some time there was a Michael Jackson song that played all over simultaneously, but no one knew about it," she says.

The effort recalls two attempts to get global simultaneous airplay for John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." The first was with the original version to mark what would have been the late icon's 50th birthday on Oct. 9, 1990. Then in January 1991, a campaign was held with a new all-star version, featuring updated lyrics by son Sean Lennon, as a call against hostilities in the Persian Gulf.

Of course, getting most stations to do anything like this is out of the question. Few country, urban and mainstream pop stations--let alone talk, news, sports, religious and other non-music outlets--are expected to join in. Kevin McCabe, charts director of the trade weekly Radio & Records, says that anything in the 1,000 range should be seen as a notable accomplishment. Even that would involve a lot of stations that have never played Amos before.

"This has been set up in a way so that stations that wouldn't normally play the song can get away with it," he says. "The timing is right for this particular song and this particular message."

Amos hopes the message will override format considerations.

"There are so many causes out there, and they're all valid," she says. "But a lot of stations feel this is a cause that their listeners are affected by and want to be a part of it."

Executives at Atlantic Records, Amos' label, said their count of committed stations was approaching 800 at press time. That includes six L.A. stations: female-targeted pop and rock outlet KYSR-FM (Star 98.7), alternative rock leader KROQ-FM (106.7), rock upstart KMAX-FM (Y107.1), album-rock KLOS-FM (95.5), public station KCRW-FM and, perhaps most significant, talk station KABC-AM (790), on which Amos has been a guest with host Michael Jackson to discuss her network. Three others, Top 40 KIIS-FM (102.7) and soft-poppers KOST-FM (103.5) and KBIG-FM (104.3), were still deciding.

"When Atlantic told us what they were planning, we were excited not only to expose a song of Tori's that we think was very far ahead of its time but also to tie into a cause we felt would touch a lot of our listeners," says Chris Ebbott, music director of KYSR, where Amos has been a staple. "I would expect that most of the stations across the country similar to us will be a part of this, and I hope it transcends the playlist restrictions at other stations."

But Tracy Austin, music director of KIIS, which has never played an Amos song, says it's a tough choice. "The issue is very important to everyone here, and a lot of our audience is female," she says. "But it probably would be difficult to fit into our programming."

Weekly World Tunes: Which was the first radio station in the United States to play the Spice Girls' pop phenomenon "Wannabe"? OK, to many, airing such pop fluff is nothing to be proud of, but in the competitive radio world, that sort of thing is fought over all the time.

Three stations in the United States can claim bragging rights on this one, having been as much as six months ahead of the competition. The trio--one in Chicago and two in Hawaii--are the only stateside outlets carrying "The World Chart," a weekly syndicated program that explores the music that is topping the pop charts around the globe.

"We first aired the Spice Girls when 'Wannabe' was an international hit late last summer," says Darryl Morden, who produces the show for the L.A.-based syndicator Radio Express and who also writes about pop music for the Hollywood Reporter.

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