I, Audio Dinosaur

I am an unapologetic audio dinosaur. I know my kids like to listen to what they want, when they want. Not me. Radio still tickles and tantalizes my audio antennae. It helps that I can easily listen to Chicago’s WXRT at 93.1FM, one of the great radio stations in the USA. Before you tune me out since you don’t live in Chicago, you can also listen to WXRT using the radio.com app on your PC, tablet, or phone. We can listen together!

Why do I prefer a live radio broadcast rather than using Spotify or another streaming app that allows me to listen to exactly what I want? I like to be surprised, and WXRT still surprises me. When I first started listening in the mid-70s, WXRT was an evening-only music station. During the daylight hours, the 93.1FM station featured Spanish language programming. But when darkness fell, the language changed to English with understated FM deejays spinning music on vinyl. And what music! They played progressive rock, jazz, blues, folk, and even classical.

Times have changed, and WXRT is now a slicker, corporately-owned music giant. Sure, they play some newer songs sometimes too much. But they play plenty of new music heard nowhere else and lots of old music, with always a surprise to lift my spirits. It may be rarities like The Polecats singing “Make a Circuit With Me” or “Belly of the Whale” by Burning Sensation. And I can’t help but smile if I happen to catch Perry Farrell’s dog kick off “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction on the radio when I’m in the car with the windows open on a warm, sunny day. I know I can play those songs anytime I want, but it always is a nice surprise and thoroughly gratifying when someone else who also appreciates those songs plays them for me. There’s a 3 or 4 minute bond that forms, as fleeting as it may be.

And then there are the WXRT special features like Sunday morning’s Breakfast with the Beatles, Saturday Morning Flashback, or new music on The Big Beat. I was moved to write this today as I listened to all-vinyl Friday. Vinyl album sides are being played in their entirety, taking me back in time to listen to some timeless music. I’ve already heard album sides from Bonnie Raitt, The Cars, CS&N, Billy Joel, Supertramp, and the Rolling Stones. I’m looking forward to hearing an upcoming album side from Chicago’s own John Prine who succumbed to Covid in 2020. To me, this is radio at its best, harkening back to the halcyon days of progressive rock radio when many a deejay may have put on a 20 minute long song by Yes so he or she could step outside for a couple smokes/tokes. And the hiss and pop from the vinyl is just so viscerally stimulating and satisfying for me to hear. I guess that not only makes me an audio dinosaur, but an analog audio dinosaur. I will gladly wear that title. Try and take that title from me at your own risk. I may hiss or pop at you.

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