Toronto radio station Q107’s Psychedelic Sunday signs off, and it’s a bummer for loyal listeners, man
Rock ’n’ roll will never die — but as far as generations of Toronto radio listeners are concerned, it’s suddenly become a whole lot less psychedelic.
That’s because Psychedelic Sunday, the popular Q107 classic rock program hosted by Andy Frost, has abruptly signed off after 33 years of exciting ears and expanding minds with Sunday-long servings of album tracks by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Supertramp, Yes, Neil Young and other artists from rock’s headiest era, 1965-75.
The show lasted three times longer than the decade it celebrates.
Sunday’s show was the genial Frost’s last, as Q107 pursues a corporate plan to expand from its Baby Boomer base towards a more youthful audience. But judging from the reaction of shocked and dismayed listeners, Toronto Mayor John Tory among them, the news was a colossal bummer, man.
They took to Twitter en masse, using the hashtag #ThankYouAndy, to express their dismay over the shuttering of Psychedelic Sunday and the imminent departure of Frost, 62, who is also known to hockey fans as a former public address announcer for the Maple Leafs.
Many people used similar phrases to describe the loss they’re about to feel:
“Sundays will never be the same … Sunday drives won’t be the same … It’s going to be hard to get things done around the house without Psychedelic Sunday.”
A long-haul trucker named R.J. Thompson posted a photo of his vehicle, accompanied by the tweet, “Washing the truck with the small washer today, just so I can enjoy the final airing of Psychedelic Sunday.”
Mayor Tory tweeted “we will miss you” to Frost: “It was all Riffer Madness, reminder of fun days and great tunes! We miss your voice at the ACC, too!”
Seated before his microphone for the last time at Q107’s Corus Quay offices near Toronto Harbour, comfortably attired in a sports shirt and shorts, Frost seemed dazed and confused by all the listener affection coming his way.
“It blows my mind,” he said an interview. “I’m hearing from a lot of different people. I knew it was a popular show, but one thing that really sticks out to me is a tweet from a guy who says he starting listening to the show when he was 17, and he’s now 50. I’m also hearing from people who tell me they used to listen to the show in the back seat of their parents’ car, and now their parents have died. They’ve grown up with it, you know?”
Frost, a Winnipeg native, started Psychedelic Sunday in 1985 at the age of 29, shortly after moving to Toronto. He’s hosted it for most of the 33 years since then, with a few years off in the early 1990s when he pursued gigs in record sales and concert promotion.
The show’s free-flowing format has been largely unchanged all that time, running mainly from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, with additional hours in the morning and early evening hosted by other Q107 deejays.
Always commencing with Alice Cooper’s triumphal 1973 tune “Hello Hooray,” the show was a combination of hits and deep album tracks, along with a regular feature called Riffer Madness, where listeners could win prizes by guessing a song’s title from its opening guitar salvo.
With a voice that sounds like God’s cooler brother and an encyclopedic grasp of songs and artists, Frost has delivered an estimated 120,000 tunes into the ears of eager listeners over three decades.
He smiles at the irony of a show called Psychedelic Sunday, which was often listened to by people enjoying herbal refreshment, should be going off the air in the same year that recreational marijuana use is to become legal in Canada.
Frost made Psychedelic Sunday seem as trippy as its title, which was sometimes expressed as Psychedelic Psunday. The show’s playlist could segue, as it did Sunday, from Bill Withers’ soul lament “Ain’t No Sunshine” to Supertramp’s Britrock “Hide In Your Shell” to The Allman Brothers Band’s melodic instrumental “Jessica” with no apparent connection apart from Frost’s impeccable taste and nimble cueing by Mike Stringer, the show’s producer/board operator.
Frost insisted he played songs that his fans wanted, not necessarily the ones the station brass would have chosen from computer-selected hit lists — which is why he selected Rod Stewart’s lesser-heard ballad “Mandolin Wind” this week rather than the overplayed “Maggie May,” for example.
“Sometimes I get told (by management) that something’s too obscure, but I play what the listeners want to hear,” Frost said.
Listeners appreciated his devotion. A fan named Christian Hornby tweeted that Frost played a certain Neil Young song for him when his newborn daughter was undergoing heart surgery: “Andy Frost played ‘Heart of Gold’ for me when Grace Hornby was in Sick Kids Hospital after being born with a heart defect. I had called in and asked, and he wished us well over the phone and on the air. She and I still listen to this day.”
Frost said he doesn’t understand why the show is being cancelled — station management couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday — because ratings showed Psychedelic Sunday had an audience that ranged in age from 7 to 80.
This was borne out by two well-wishers who waved at and gave a thumbs up to Frost from the streetfront window outside his Corus Quay perch — a man in his 60s and a boy of about 14, possibly a father and son.
Stringer notes that most of the show’s contest winners, the ones who correctly named those “Riffer Madness” tunes, were in their 20s.
“Who knows why the show is ending?” said Frost, who was told by management in March of the show’s impending demise, but without a whole lot of specifics. He’s grateful he was given a chance to say goodbye on air.
“I don’t know what they’re after. Whether they want to go for a younger demo, a younger sound … who knows, man?”
He also doesn’t know what he’s going to do post-Psychedelic Sunday.
“I haven’t had a weekend off for years. What am I going to do next Sunday? I don’t know. Probably sleep. Take my dogs for a three-hour walk. But I’m not retiring … I’ve got two kids, and too many payments!”
But Frost knew exactly how he wanted his final show to sound. He and Springer threw out much of the station-planned playlist to go with listeners’ requests — 70 people wanted to hear Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You,” for example — and also to freestyle his own selections, more than he might normally do.
And he knew exactly what the final song would be for Psychedelic Sunday, naming and explaining his choice with that same you-gotta-hear this enthusiasm he brought to all his selections: “The first song I ever played on the radio, 40 years ago this summer, July of 1978: Little Feat’s “Rock ’n’ Roll Doctor.” That will be my last song today, 5:57 p.m.”
And so it was, but right before that he played a song with a more appropriate title: “The Song Is Over,” by The Who.
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