Sunday, November 11, 2007

leave it there for safe keeping

This makes me sad.

I'd heard about it from Mom while home last week. Z-93 was an institution when I was growing up. It was the radio station I first secretly turned to when I wanted to explore what the big kids were listening to (we're talking 1991--I had a list of favorites, like Amy Grant's "Baby Baby," Another Bad Creation's "Iesha" and Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You"). It wasn't my high school station (that was 103.9, the Edge/X, before it started to suck after I graduated), nor my musical home away from home, online in college and on the radio (briefly) afterward (97X/WOXY). But I distinctly remember taping Collective Soul ("Shine") and Madonna ("I Will Remember") off of Z-93 in middle school, and when I've been going home on law school breaks, I would pop it on from time to time to hear current guilty pleasures (coughPanicattheDiscocough).

But it's a Jack station now. And as novel as I initially found that format, as a former radio DJ, it's kind of soulkilling. There are no DJs--it's all computerized. More music, less talk. It's basically admitting that radio is no better than your iPod at setting the tone for a musical listening experience--in fact, it's probably worse, because you'll have to sit through the Steve Miller Band for the umpteenth time rather than something new. Not like we're listening to our iPods for anything new anyway--I might not know what's coming up next on my Shuffle, but I put it all in there, so there really isn't any genuine surprise.

So, yeah. I didn't intend for this to turn into a diatribe on the state of radio today. Maybe radio really is an anachronism after all. I mean, all the songs I cited above--those were big hits. And I haven't thought about them in years. In fact, if I never hear "Baby, Baby" again, it will probably be too soon. But there's something to be said about a collective musical consciousness, (inter)national songs and artists that shape an era, and we just don't have that anymore. And damn it, there's also something to be said about hearing your song on the radio. I'm working my way through the back episodes of Lost from last season as adds them online and just got to the episode where Charlie (former member of fictional band Driveshaft, for the uninitiated) is listing the things he considers his 5 finest moments in life--and what do you think #5 was? Hearing your ad on an iPod commercial just isn't the same thing, Feist. (Though the Boy tells me that Dylan's intrusion into an iPod ad did help sales of his most recent album.)

Anyway, this is just a long way of saying that nothing ever stays the same, especially not in radio. And it's worth noting that the music that has endured, the stuff I really love, came via word of mouth, not via radio play. Exhibit A, They Might Be Giants--I realized last night (at a grrreat show) that it was just over ten years ago that I saw my first TMBG concert, which also was my first ever concert, and I've been a fan for more than fifteen years. That's well over half my life. That's something worth holding on to. That's what matters.

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