Radio in Raleigh, in a word, sucks. Unless, of course, you like 24 hours of twangin’ country, metal-head, post-grunge, Metallica-meets-Pearl Jam hard rock, or total 90’s alternawannapop. And as for variety, forget it. In Raleigh, variety means three different songs by Britney Spears.
As a result, I swore off the radio in favor of CDs. At home, in the car, wherever I go, I usually have at least a half dozen with me, and since I own several hundred, I get plenty of variety. When it’s not CDs, it’s one of the 32 digital music channels on cable. I have become almost totally a radio-free zone. Almost.
Occasionally, when the mood struck me just so, and the light was just soft enough, and I had just had one of those kind of days, I would tune in to 102.9 The Wind, the local smooth jazz station. Not the greatest station in the world, but just different enough, and funky enough, and un-cool enough to make a radio worth having for more than just weather reports.
And so, of course, they killed it. The gods of bad radio reached out and coldly, swiftly, cruelly, smote.
Saturday morning at 6am, I climbed shivering into my truck, started the engine, flipped the radio to 102.9 and heard “The new home of the Super Stars of the 80’s and beyond!” Without warning they had destroyed my last, best hope for decent radio in Raleigh. And in my despair, I listened.
I’ve listened to it for the past 3 days out of a combination of perverse curiosity, and a desperate hope that I might actually hear a really cool, obscure 80’s gem…something like Lene Lovitch, Lucky Number, or Missing Persons Mental Hopscotch. Needless to say, I have been disappointed. Very disappointed.
What did we get? The Police, but not the cool Police. Not the Regatta de Blanc Police. Not even the Zenyatta Mondatta Police. We’re talking Synchronicity, and worse yet, the dark, brooding,adult-contemporary-angst musings of Sting, solo. But at least there’s Genesis. Or is there? Sorry, we’re talking Invisible Touch here. Nothing to get excited about. Unless of course, you get excited about the smooth pop sensibilities of Phil Collins – then you’re in luck! This station has managed to dredge up every sappy love song, duet or movie ballad the man ever recorded. (Not that I can really tell them apart, I just figure they wouldn’t play the exact same song that many times in a day.)
I was hoping for the bands and songs that created the wave, not the ones that rode it. But I suppose that’s what “superstars” means. The biggest, not the best.
I give them 3 months. Tops. And believe it or not, I don’t say that because of the totally unimaginative choice of music, or even because I’m bitter. I say that because they have no target audience. Who wants to hear all 80’s music all the time?
I look back at my friends. Some of them, like myself, enjoyed the eighties for what it was and let that creativity and energy take us on to new types of music – alternative and beyond. Others became settled in rut, with music becoming merely a background track to their new lives as soccer moms and tax attorneys. But none of us wants 24 hours of Peter Cetera, Aaron Neville, and El Debarge. None of us.
You see, here’s the thing: If you ask me if I want to hear more 80’s music, I’ll say Yes. Meaning: Yes to intelligently chosen tracks, sprinkled throughout my listening experience. I admit it, hearing the right song takes me back to carefree times in smoky bars with good friends and few responsibilities. It’s called reminiscing, and it’s where the fun is. It feels good to take a break and peak back at where you’ve been.
But all 80’s music, all the time? That’s not reminiscing. That’s living in the past. And as with everything else, too much is, well, too much. We need a shot of the past to warm us up, not a liter to numb us.
Anyway, a word to the wise. If you’re considering a trip to Raleigh, bring some CDs. And don’t panic; that enormous sucking sound is just your radio.
See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.
ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER
more about roger striffler
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.23.01 @ 9:39a
a) Yes, it is possible that they do play the same Phil Collins song that many times during the same day. b) People live in the past all the time. You're not giving nostalgia enough credit. c) The "all 80's" station in Philadelphia is still thriving after a year. d) They'll probably expland their selection as they build their collection. e) Which song do you think gets more listeners (the name of the game in radio) - "Canary in a Coalmine" or "Every Breath You Take"? I rest my case.
2.24.01 @ 10:25a
I lived 24 years in Raleigh, and I'll take their radio anyday over Syracuse.
And the new station will survive. Independent radio stations are all being bought by larger corporations who only see the radio as a cash cow rather than "what's cool." And it's easier to sell advertising to other "non-radio" industries if you're playing the same thing everyone else hears than to try to sell commercials to the "this is what people really want to hear, I swear, all those other stations are wrong."
The underground jazz/ hip-hop station up here was forced to fold to a large conglomerate the end of last year as well. The big eat the little...
2.24.01 @ 7:29p
Roger, Roger, Roger. Please. Don't you know by now that the ONLY thing that matters to the powers that make all programming decisions is money? Listeners equals advertising income, and that's all that matters. That's all that ever mattered. When all the people who listened to 60's rock are dead (i.e. no longer paying attention to the ads), d'you honestly think anyone will give a shit about the Beatles... much less the Who?
2.25.01 @ 3:54p
Ok, Lila's gone too far. While the radio market for bands such as the Who and the Beatles may shrink over time, there will always be those who care. Why else would people own CD's from jazz bands that all died out in the 1920's? Why even would bands from the 1920's be on a CD? Not even to mention 16th and 17th century symphonies on CD's.
2.26.01 @ 1:29a
Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey. I didn't say no one would CARE about the Beatles and the Who. Okay, maybe that is what I said, but it isn't what I meant. I meant, you won't be able to hear them on the radio, because the people who listen to 1920's jazz don't buy Isis breast improvement systems. Capiche?
2.26.01 @ 9:21a
Wow, this is fun. It's been a while since I wrote anything that got such strong opinions out of people....
Ok, I'm not naive enough (you can read that I'm too old) not to realize that radio is all about the money, and I *do* appreciate the power of nostalgia. I just think that this station is that bad. Three months may have been a little aggressive, but I"m convinced it will die.
And don't be dissin' the Beatles. Love 'em, hate 'em, or just be tired of them, but they changed the face of music forever.
2.26.01 @ 9:43a
Hell, they just did it again. The new Beatles collection pretty much blew every other CD out of the water this past shopping season. Pretty good for three over-the-hill Brits and a martyr.
2.26.01 @ 11:54a
I was in San Francisco recently - there was a station there called "Star" One-oh-something-or-other. they played all 80's tunes, and I found it both entertaining and depressing. I loved hearing The Cars, but I was saddened by the fact that I am OLD. I found another 80's station that played mostly Ratt, Ozzy, Dokken, AC/DC, Van Halen and Def Leppard. For what it's worth, nostalgia in Metal form is far less disruptive and upsetting. Cranking "Panama" in your car is still as fun as it used to be, beleive it or not.
lee anne ramsey
2.26.01 @ 2:04p
The new all-80s station in San Francisco was so popular that another one sprouted up less than a year later, so now we have two. Which is fine by me, because that makes 2 stations that never play "bye bye bye" or anything by Eminem.
2.26.01 @ 3:41p
I like cheese.
2.27.01 @ 9:29a
I agree. Cheese is good. I'm of the opinion that to leave "Unskinny Bop" off of any station's playlist is just a travesty.
2.27.01 @ 5:33p
come sit on my knee, little boy, and I'll tell you a story...It's a shame that Raleigh is still a radio wasteland, especially considering what a "thriving metropolis" it is now. I am proud to say I was one of the original voices of the The Wind before it was hog-tied and sold the first time...(when it was one-oh-three, not two). It used to have a really wonderful sound, and it was thrilling to have people excited about music again. However, salespeople and consultants castrated The Wind not once, but twice.
In general, government deregulation killed the radio stations, not video. The only way radio will ever be fulfilling again is if you buy stock in one of the three major broadcasting companies.
And yes, cheese is good. But processed cheese is just that-unfortunately its potential shelf life exceeds the normal boundaries of taste.
2.27.01 @ 5:58p
Wow, Tracey, you rock! You are my new hero. (A dubious honor, at best, but true nonetheless) Processed cheese...boundaries of taste...I love it!
And Adam, my body started convulsing uncontrollably when you said "Unskinny Bop" (ThErE iT goES AgAin..) Please don't do that anymore.
2.28.01 @ 8:20a
curtsies Thank you, Sir Roger, I am thusly honored.
2.28.01 @ 9:11a
Yeah, I've found that people's reaction to the mention of any Poison song is often confused for the reactions to that Japanese cartoon with all the flashing lights.
2.28.01 @ 10:04a
Actually, I have nothing against Poison, per se. I mean really, the whole big-hair, make-up, spandex, and still somehow you think we're tough phenomenon is pretty interesting. But to choose that song...
3.1.01 @ 11:58a
I'm just a big fan of original euphemisms for sex.