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Who's Got the Beatles? WEAM's Got the Beatles!

D.C.'s 1960s Top 40 machine, WEAM, is long gone from 1390 on the AM dial--it's now called Continental Radio and features broadcasts in Spanish, Amharic and other languages of the Washington immigrant world. But for those who grew up here in the 60s, WEAM was the sound of the city, the beat of a generation.

This afternoon on XM satellite radio, WEAM will be back, in a five-hour re-creation masterminded by Terry Motormouth Young, the deejay who puts together XM's "Sonic Sound Salutes," faithful reconstructions of the radio stations of a couple of generations ago. The broadcast will be available on XM's Channel 6 or if you don't subscribe to the pay service, you can listen by signing up for a free trial at

Or you can hear some of the actual original WEAM sounds archived on Webly Webster right here.

This is not the first time Young has channeled the voices and jingles and hit tunes that made WEAM the go-go (no, not that go-go, the one with the white boots and the Hullaballoo! hits) sound of D.C. He recreated WEAM a couple of years ago and the Post's Paul Farhi wrote about it here.

XM's dedication to the sounds of the stations that Americans grew up with in the 60s and 70s is one of the important distinctions between XM and Sirius that make their likely impending merger all the more disappointing and worth fighting.

The two satellite services each do different things extremely well, and they each have their weak points. There are avid fans of both, and depending on what your particular passions may be, a different service might be right for you. Hard core jazz fans tend to gravitate toward Sirius, while rockers tell me they find the XM approach reaches deeper into the vaults. Baseball lovers choose XM, while football fans need Sirius. That latter divide is easily papered over in a merged satellite world, but the different notions of how to do music radio represent a real divide in approach and philosophy--just one of many reasons why the proposed merger is a bad, though understandable, idea.

By Marc Fisher |  April 6, 2007; 7:31 AM ET
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The TECHNOLOGY of satellite radio is`s the lousy BUSINESS decisions of BOTH companies that is the problem [eg: tens of millions for Stern, etc.] Unless they bring some savvier leaders in to run the merged company, [which these ego-maniacs are unlikely to do,] what makes anyone think IT will work?

Posted by: gitarre | April 6, 2007 9:34 AM

I remember listening to WEAM in the 70's. Then I discovered DC101, and FM.

What's killing satellite radio is the same thing that did in Iridium: The multi-billion dollar cost of putting up the satellites. You just can't sell enough subscriptions to cover the cost.

Posted by: wiredog | April 6, 2007 9:46 AM

Once the FCC finally is allowed to control it and the content is censored the same as AM/FM it'll be dead in the water. Then real radio will have to get its act together instead of the stations being a carbon copy of each other.

Posted by: Pat Purcell | April 6, 2007 10:59 AM

I find Fisher's (and John Kelly's, and other columnists') obsession with local radio, and local radio trivia/history a bit weird.

Posted by: bkp | April 6, 2007 11:18 AM

WEAM Tops was right by the station. Now those are memories!!!

Posted by: jim | April 6, 2007 11:51 AM

Marc, what are the typical listening patterns for a satellite radio user? How many users switch frequently among the vast array of choices, and how many settle down to two or three favorites most of the time? There was a cable TV survey recently that concluded that the average cable watcher visits only 15 of the available channels, and I'm curious if the radio patterns ar the same or even more constrained.

Posted by: Tom T. | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

The FCC will not be allowed to control satellite because the frequencies it uses are not owned by the people of the US, unlike broadcast frequencies. People seem to forget that's the purpose of the FCC- to make sure the scarce radio waves are used for the benefit of the public. there is no scarcity in satellite, web broadcasting, cable tv, etc.

Posted by: DCer | April 6, 2007 1:04 PM

I find Fisher's (and John Kelly's, and other columnists') obsession with local radio, and local radio trivia/history a bit weird.

Hey carpetbagger, move back home.

Posted by: DCer | April 6, 2007 1:05 PM

I'm old enough to remember WEAM, but I preferred WOOK, the local station that featured what is now called "urban" music. Back in the day that was R&B, and in the '60s, Motown. Another decent AM station was WDON 1540 in Wheaton. Don Dillard's daddy bought the station and named it after his son. Don was a good DJ, and he had a protege' named Barry Richards.
Other good local AMs were WPGC, where Don Geronimo got his start, as did Walt Starling, the late traffic flyboy, and WINX 1600 in Rockville.

Posted by: 50's white boy | April 6, 2007 1:10 PM

Dear DCer, OK, I will. Thank you for telling me.

Posted by: bkp | April 6, 2007 1:14 PM

Hey, Jim,
I remember Tops Drive-In. In my area, there was one on New Hampshire Ave. just over the D.C line in MD. Friday and Saturday nights, if we did not have a date for the Queenstown Drive-in Movie, I would cruise in my customized '54 Ford between the Mighty-Mo in Queenstown, the Mighty-Mo at the corner of East-West Hwy. and N.H.Ave in Takoma Park, and the Tops Drive-In aforementioned. If you did not find someone from your school to hang with (DeMatha or Northwestern) you would complete the cycle until your gas (at 29 cents/gallon) was low, and then you headed home for the night. Good times!

Posted by: '50s white boy | April 6, 2007 1:19 PM

I think wiredog's got it right. Two things are holding satellite back. One is the cost of providing service. Both XM and Sirius have been hemhorraging money trying to "buy" customers through subsidies. It's really expensive to maintain all those satellites and to hire all that talent/secure broadcast rights. They've been killing themselves and each other competing for what remains a niche market.

And second is that there may not ever be enough subscribers to support the actual cost of running the operation. Paying for radio is just not something that most people are going to do. People do it for TV, but people also watch a lot more TV than listen to the radio and there's a noticable decrease in quality if you rely on over-the-air broadcast TV that isn't as much a problem with satellite vs. broadcast radio.

Other than people with extremely long commutes or maybe people who want to listen at work, I can't imagine that there is enough of a market to justify satellite radio.

Posted by: OD | April 6, 2007 1:28 PM

Tops Drive In. My high school classmates and I used to go to the one on Lee Highway after ball games, concerts, or just about anything else. The food was good, and celebrating in the parking lot after a big win made it even better. Students today miss out on a lot.

Posted by: gmhs | April 6, 2007 4:13 PM

I loved to listening to WEAM again. It really brought back memories. I hope the merger doesn't go through, because XM rocks!

Posted by: RL | April 9, 2007 11:58 AM

Which station had "Tiger" Bob Raleigh ?
Was it WEAM or WPGC ?
Or both at one time or another.Also, did
WEAM have "Marvelous" Marv Brooks or was
that WPGC?

Posted by: James | April 10, 2007 8:41 PM

James, both WPGC and WEEL, the old Top 40 station in Fairfax, had "Tiger" Bob Raleigh.

"Marvelous" Marv Brooks was on WPGC.

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginia | April 15, 2007 5:07 PM

James, "Tiger" Bob Raleigh was on WPGC and WEEL, the old Top 40 station in Fairfax.

"Marvelous" Marv Brooks was on PGC.

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | April 16, 2007 9:38 AM

Sorry - didn't mean to post twice. Didn't see my original comment come up after the initial posting!

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | April 16, 2007 9:39 AM

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