Top Menu

Radio Survivor's Top 5 Commercial Radio Stations: #3 San Francisco's KQAK-FM

Long gone, but not forgotten station "The Quake"

I am a college and community radio loyalist and these days I never listen to commercial radio unless someone else has put it on and I have no way to control the radio (during cab rides, in doctor’s office waiting rooms, and perhaps via cheesy hold button music, etc.).

Since coming up with a list of my favorite commercial radio stations is VERY difficult for me, I’ve had to turn to the last commercial radio station that I can proudly declare myself to have been a fan of: KQAK-FM out of San Francisco in the 1980s.

I’ve heard that people are most passionate about the music of their youth and that many never get past that period musically, becoming permanently stuck in the sounds of their teen years. Well, for me, I was a teenager smack dab in the 1980s and my favorite commercial station helped me transition from the heavier rock sounds that I listened to in the late 1970s (on KSJO and KOME) to the emerging new wave sounds of the 1980s.

“The Quake” was on the air from 1982 to 1985 and is most known for its “Rock of the ’80s” format (which they launched in April 1983 after an initial stint as an album rock station). The station went off the air in June 1985, just a few months before I headed off to college. Many of us were saddened about its demise and tearfully sat by our stereos tape recording its final hours of programming. Somewhere in a shoebox is my tape of the last hours of The Quake and tidbits from recordings by others can be found online.

The station played a mix of new wave, punk, rock, reggae, ska, pop and goth sounds. On “The Quake” I heard bands like Depeche Mode, Book of Love, Strawberry Switchblade, X, The Cure, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, and Siouxsie and the Banshees for the first time.

I also enjoyed Alex Bennett’s morning show (take a listen to his first show on The Quake here) and found him to be much more entertaining and intelligent than his counterparts on other stations. He also introduced me to the Bay Area comedy scene, with his multitude of guests.

Quake DJs in general were a lot of fun, from the comedic Tim Bedore (with his segments like “The Bible According to Tim”) to the approachable, music-loving Big Rick Stuart. On his website, Rick Stuart shares some memories about The Quake, including the program director’s philosophy about adding music to the station. Rick writes, “I would sit in with Oz sometimes at music meetings and he would add weekly current songs with a nice theory. One for the boys, one for the girls, one for the older rock fans, and sometimes a weird song.”

For me, one of the lasting influences of the Quake was that it brought me to college radio. It opened my ears to a wider range of sounds and when it ceased broadcasting in June 1985 I switched my listening to the left side of the dial, becoming a college radio fan. I discovered all of the amazing stations at colleges south of San Francisco and started listening to KFJC, KZSU, KSJS, and KSCU. A few months later I was off to college near Philadelphia and became a fan of the student stations at University of Pennsylvania (WXPN) and Drexel (WKDU) and started DJing at my campus station WHRC.

Another “modern rock” station, Live 105, appeared on the commercial radio scene in San Francisco in 1986. Attempting to replicate some of The Quake’s adventurous programming, Live 105 caught my attention periodically from about 1989 to 1995 (when I couldn’t get college radio reception in my San Francisco apartment). But, my heart still belonged to the long-departed Quake and increasingly to college radio.



Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!


, , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Responses to Radio Survivor's Top 5 Commercial Radio Stations: #3 San Francisco's KQAK-FM

  1. Jesse Skeen March 20, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    I was only in 5th-6th grade when The Quake was on the air, but I was a big fan of it. I recorded that same Tim Bedore show that’s archived online, but that’s probably not my copy although the reception is eerily similar (I was in Davis, outside the market area but it usually came in pretty well.) I completely remember Howie Klein (later president of Sire Records) being extremely annoying during this particular show. I have the entire second-to-last Alex Bennett show on tape, but for the life of me I can’t find the tapes. I’ll transfer them to CD if I ever find them.

    I was introduced to Rock of the 80s radio by KPOP in Sacramento, which only had the format for 5 months but had a HUGE influence on my music taste. I’d listened to top 40 before that, but afterwards I could never go back.

  2. Jeff April 8, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    I remember the Quake well, and I was parked out front of the station the night it died. That particular choice of things to do that night was either try and score a ticket to the third sold out show of Prince’s Purple Rain Tour at the Cow Palace, or go see the station die; I choose the later. I and a buddy were in my ’68 VW bug drinking a beer listening to the radio station when all of a sudden Lobster or Big Rick ran outside the building holding a beer. We tried to get him to talk but it was no use he ran down the street. The last song I remember them playing ever was Prince’s ‘Controversy.’ I loved the Quake, and I actually followed Alex Bennett first from KMEL (I still remember their slogan, “K-M-E-L, Rockin the Bay,” then the sound of a camel or some kind of fog horn would blow), when I used to listen to him and his mother on the morning show. A couple of years later in 1989, I was introduced to Rob Francis and started to work for him with his Quake Sound and Light Show deejaying various clubs and parties; this lasted until he moved to Long Beach to work for another radio Station that played Techno and House music. Working with Rob was great, for we worked the Cactus Club Tuesdays, Club Oasis on Wednesday and Fridays in San Jose; Playboy wrote up the Cactus Club as being one of the best clubs for 1990-92. The real talent spinning was a deejay named Fernando who would play the Cactus with us; he was amazing with the turn tables and mixer! The Club scene had sort of died in SF by then, and Live 105 was just starting to change their format to Modern Rock, instead of just a weekend recording of ‘Rock Over London;’ Daas Club and The X (Trocadero) was waning; gone was the Kabuki Noh Club, Magic, Speed, RSVP, 1052 Geary; all of those great clubs were gone! The only club left was Glass Haus and DV8, but who could afford $15 to $20 to go dancing back then; most clubs were $5-6 dollars! So, it took a few small clubs in San Jose to keep the feel and movement alive.

  3. Jennifer Waits April 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks for all the Quake memories. Great stories! And, wow, hadn’t thought about Daas Club in a long time. Is it true that Rob Francis was a college DJ before the Quake? Do you know what station?

  4. Robert May 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    The Quake (along with KROQ) was probably the best attempt to get the “college rock” and “new wave” sound to the mainstream masses. They were so ahead of their time. I remember hearing many European and British acts on the Quake MONTHS BEFORE their release in the states.

    I was a teenager living in Stockton during the time up to their demise. I remember installing a hi gain FM antenna on my roof specifically to improve the reception of the Quake’s signal. During breaks between classes at college I would sit in my car and listen because it had a pretty good FM stereo. Though I had to park in an East/West direction to get good reception (lol!).

    Their programming was so diverse and covered many genres, though some stuff you would only hear in the wee hours. And, of course, Alex and his comics in the morning were a riot!! They broke all the rules.

    Live 105 made an attempt to fill the void after the Quake’s silence, but never quite did it IMHO. I worked at KSJS occasionally between 1985 and 1987, where they tried to fill the void a bit by playing and booking a lot of local acts that were promoted by the Quake (i.e. Robert Seidler, Wiretrain). But still, it wasnt the same.

    Those were the days!

  5. Jennifer Waits May 4, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    It’s amazing the lengths that people went to in order to get reception for their favorite radio stations. That’s interesting, Robert, that you DJ’d at KSJS back in the 1980s. I actually have a cassette of one of KSJS’s top 90.7 countdowns from 1985. You can see an image of it on a blog post that I did about KSJS back when I toured the station last year.

    http://spinningindie.blogspot.com/2009/03/radio-station-field-trip-12-ksjs-at-san.html

  6. Rayn Wolf aka DJ Catt December 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi!
    First of all thank you for this site and the info! Second I was listening to the quake as a kid still in 82-83 @ 11-12 yrs old and used to record songs I found interesting and different like oh say the Passion Puppets :o) I still have those tapes 30 yrs later lol …I need help finding a song that was played around 82-83. We do not still know the band or song title and the only word you can make out is a breathy emotions. I have posted this on you tube (link below) and have been looking for this song info since about 2003 after trying to find another rare badn All That Jazz (who I am now friends with several band members thanks to my old site thats currently down) Big Rick Stuart and a few other Dj’s I have spoken to who were on during this time have NO clue on the band or song …little aggrevating lol. Anyways there are people world wide looking and who have been looking now for years, I should have gone localk first perhaps but ..it is what it is…if anyone knows who this or what this is or from PLEASE please please let me know!
    Thanks!
    Rayn aka Catt
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZOep0ncI6c&list=HL1354393857&feature=mh_lolz

  7. Rayn Wolf aka DJ Catt December 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Hi!
    First of all thank you for this site and the info! Second I was listening to the quake as a kid still in 82-83 @ 11-12 yrs old and used to record songs I found interesting and different like oh say the Passion Puppets :o) I still have those tapes 30 yrs later lol …I need help finding a song that was played around 82-83. We do not still know the band or song title and the only word you can make out is a breathy emotions. I have posted this on you tube (link below) and have been looking for this song info since about 2003 after trying to find another rare badn All That Jazz (who I am now friends with several band members thanks to my old site thats currently down) Big Rick Stuart and a few other Dj’s I have spoken to who were on during this time have NO clue on the band or song …little aggrevating lol. Anyways there are people world wide looking and who have been looking now for years, I should have gone local first perhaps but ..it is what it is…if anyone knows who this or what this is or from PLEASE please please let me know!
    Thanks!
    Rayn aka Catt
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZOep0ncI6c&list=HL1354393857&feature=mh_lolz

  8. Rayn Wolf aka DJ Catt December 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    oops sorry for double post lol

  9. Jennifer Waits December 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Hmmm. I can’t figure it out. I forwarded to some people who may know…Good luck sleuthing!

  10. Jennifer Waits December 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    I posted a link to The Quake group on Facebook and someone suggested China Crisis.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/115785265362/

  11. Rayn Wolf aka DJ Catt December 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi Jennifer, Thanks yeah Love lvoe lvoe China crisis (not them) lol actually I do a rare obscure 80s alt post punk, progressive rock show for 103rockfm . com, also found on fb and we have the song goin around lol …been looking for this for years now with no luck. Was also thinking Wire Train, Ultravox and tears for fears between their ska phase as The Graduates and before the Hurting and what we know as them today…been several other suggestions as well. These guys were local we think to SF Bay Area and could have possibly not gone far which is why no one knows them…ohh yes and the sleuthing continues lol! Thanks though will be checking back ;o)

    • Jennifer Waits December 3, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      A friend wrote, “Sounds a bit like Japan, don’t you think? Reminds me of the song “the experience of swimming” from Gentlemen Take Polaroids. Could be a 45 single played at 33 or vice versa, or pitch shifted.”

  12. Jennifer Waits December 3, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Another suggestion was Shriekback at the wrong speed…someone else said, “I can see it used as like early 80’s teen movie montage music. In that context is IS kinda cool. Perhaps an early Harold Faltermeyer effort?”

  13. Jennifer Waits December 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    A former KFJC DJ suggested, “Sounds like it maybe Group 87 just a guess Mark Isham-ish not sure”

  14. Vicki December 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Rob Francis was on KFJC before the Quake.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes