At a concert in St. Louis on March 6th, Elvis Costello made two dedications that surprised the audience at the Kiel Opera House, and shocked the radio station that was co-sponsoring the event, KSHE-FM.
He first sent out his song "Accidents Will Happen" to "all the boys at radio station KADI," KSHE's rival in the progressive FM market.
He then dismissed all thoughts that he might have confused the call letters of the concert's co-promoter with those of its major competitor by dedicating his song "Radio, Radio" to "all the local (expletive deleted) radio stations that don't play our songs... and to KSHE!" As a result, none of Costello's records are being played on KSHE, the highest-rated FM rocker in St. Louis.
On the day of the concert, Costello and his management were apparently told that KSHE, which had been contacted by Columbia Records and Contemporary Productions to help promote the show, was giving his record, Armed Forces, only light airplay. Allen Frey from Costello's management, A.R.S.E., said KSHE was playing the record three times a day, and he did not feel that the station was living up to its part of the co-promotion agreement.
Shelley Grafman, executive vice president at KSHE, said his station had been playing Costello's records starting with the earliest releases, and that Armed Forces had been in heavy rotation. Numerous advertisements for the concert were made, he said, encouraging listeners to attend. The station did not have a financial interest in the show.
Costello's management said they considered the arrangements with KSHE to have been a mistake. KSHE had been selected to "welcome" Costello because Arbitron figures had seemed to indicate that it could reach the largest number of listeners. In retrospect, Allen Frey said KADI might have been more supportive of Costello. A spokesman at KADI said his station had been giving Costello's records exposure even when others were considering them "new wave" and unsuitable for FM progressive airplay.
Grafman, from KSHE, said that the issue of how much airplay Costello was receiving was beside the point. He felt Costello's in-concert remarks were a great insult to his station, which had been acting as a host. He considered charges that KSHE had only recently picked up on the record a "low blow" and a "cheap shot."
Grafman said he regretted the incident, and that Contemporary Productions, the local promoters, and Columbia had expressed their surprise, but that he and the station could not "feel comfortable" playing Costello's records at this time. He said that at sometime in the future the situation might change, but for the present, Elvis Costello will not be heard on KSHE in St. Louis.