My oldest son thinks I’m crazy, but not for the many legitimate reasons that exist that can be used to make a solid case to question my sanity. He thinks I’m crazy because he can’t understand why I enjoy radio more than just streaming songs off a playlist. This post is for him (and maybe a set-up for a new recurring blog feature in 2019), so I hope you will enjoy it, too. We have lots of words and clickable links to come.
I love music. It has been an important part of my life since I was little. I’m not sure how that happened. I have almost zero musical talent and I swear my guitar winces whenever I pick it up. As for my voice, I regretfully admit that I have a voice made for pantomime. Regardless, I have written and arranged songs over the decades. These days I wisely stick to writing lyrics, although I always seem to have opinions about the arrangements. Here’s a favorite song of mine that I released with friends in 2017, and more info about our music is available at www.sunsetsrising.com. Looks like we’ll be releasing some new songs in 2019.
I think streaming is fine. When my son gets into my car, he’ll plug his phone in and stream new music for me that he thinks I may like. Sometimes he’s correct, and I do my best to forgive his grievous breach of automobile etiquette that clearly decrees that whoever drives controls the radio. It is the law.
I streamed (music, in case you were wondering) when we had a houseful of guests for Christmas Eve. I like my quirky Christmas songs, so I made sure my playlist had these holiday classics:
- I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
- Santa Lost a Ho
- Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
- Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
- Christmas in Hollis
You get the idea. Those are songs that the FM radio station that has been playing Christmas music since Halloween likely would not play. So I’m not against streaming. It has a place in my life. I just love radio more. I’ll do my best to state my case.
My love of music is tied inexorably to my love for AM radio when I just a kid holding a transistor radio to my ear on a hot summer day in the city listening to the Lovin’ Spoonful sing about Summer in the City. We had two choices for rock & roll radio stations back then, WLS AM890 and WCFL AM1000. The radio personalities at those radio stations drew us in with their patter and funny bits between hit songs that they played hourly, and those deejays became parts of our lives.
AM mono rock & roll slowly ceded airwave dominance to FM stereo progressive rock on formerly all-classical or jazz stations on the FM band. WXRT was born in Chicago in 1972 playing rock along with a smattering of jazz and classical music on the 93.1 FM frequency in the evenings only. During the day, the beauty of the Spanish language was on display for all to enjoy. I stumbled upon ‘XRT in 1974 and can recall anxiously awaiting the evening hours when the fast-talking (or faster than my high school Spanish education would allow me to comprehend) Spanish deejays gave way to the low-key, monotone FM deejays of WXRT.
WXRT went full-time in 1976 and became my ‘go to’ radio station from that point on. Sure, I had my radio dalliances on the side ranging from country music to sports talk, but I have always come back to one of the world’s great radio stations in WXRT. I still listen to Terri Hemmert deejay these days as I did back when I discovered the station in 1974 and she pulled the overnight shift.
Doing some driving for business has led me to satellite radio for those long road trips as WXRT only takes me about 40 minutes west of where I live. Then it is a veritable wasteland of classic rock, top 40, and lots & lots of country. My satellite subscription at $5 per month is up soon. I think I’m canceling and just using the radio.com app where I have programmed WXRT and WXRT-like stations from around the country as favorites.
That explains my long history with radio, but why don’t I just switch to streaming now? I have the technology and ability. The answer may surprise you because the answer starts with surprise. I like the element of surprise and discovery when it comes to radio. I’ll give you a perfect example.
I enjoy some Jethro Tull songs. I was never a huge fan of the band, but I liked some of their stuff. I likely would never stream a Tull song. (Editor’s Note: This is a blatant lie as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Tull was on his Christmas playlist) (My response to that smartass editor’s note: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is not a Tull song, but a song performed by Tull) (Editor’s Note: Dick) (My response to the editor: Bite me)
Anyway, I was listening to the radio and Tull’s Bungle in the Jungle came on. I had not heard it in many years, and remembered it more as a cute novelty song. Not so. I heard it on the radio as a layered, complex melody, rich with strings and of course, Ian Anderson’s flute. Surprise! By the way, Tull’s guitarist is bringing a Tull show to my local theater.
According to the promotional material, “At the center of Tull’s unique sound is guitarist Martin Barre.” Nope. That would be Ian Anderson and his flute. Sounds to me like a Bungle in St Charles coming up.
Moving on, then I got another surprise on the radio … the Sex Pistols doing a version of Steppin’ Stone. I always thought of that as a Monkees song, but the deejay informed me that it was originally a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders. That’s what radio gives me … surprise and musical history. By the way, Paul Revere and the Raiders used to play our town annually. They were scheduled to play in late 2014 or early 2015, but Paul Revere died in October of 2014. They performed anyway as Paul Revere’s Raiders. The show must go on!
The reason I prefer radio to streaming can be summed up as the human connection. From deejays I think I know because I have listened to them so long (I have met ‘XRT’s Terri Hemmert and graduated from the same college several years after she did) to surprise songs that I have almost forgotten to radio lore to being introduced to new artists, radio just beats streaming for me.
And to wrap this post, here’s Elvis Costello singing about radio, although not in quite as complimentary of a manner as I have been writing.