Sunday, December 18, 2005

I was out here listening all the time.

I once told myself I needed to stop forming attachments to radio personalities. I didn't realize at the time that many kids like me do end up considering the voice coming out of the radio a friend that always has the best taste in music. I should have realized, of course, because my grandfather had pictures and postcards of DJs from WNEW-AM from before I was born, that I wasn't alone in the radio-love. He listened to that station from the day the Make-Believe Ballroom began to the day he died...and maybe beyond that.

Ted Brown used to play songs for my grandfather, he even made an announcement on the day I was born, so I guess it was my destiny to become a radio geek. I got my first radio for Christmas, 1983, and not only did it stay tuned to Z-100 for years, I took the advice of the station ID and removed the tuning knob from the radio. I thought I was rebelling by listening to Prince and all the new music that's now played on nearly every station in New York as "classics" or part of their retro weekends, but I could have listened to my tapes if I just wanted music. Back then, I listened for Hollywood Hamilton. He was out of his mind, and I loved it.

Two years later, I learned that DJs sometimes disappeared for no good reason. Hollywood was replaced, and Z-100 was never the same for me. Took me a while, but I found another station down the dial, on 92.7, called WLIR. Every one of their DJs was funny, even their intros cracked me up. Every day, I use to wait to hear Larry The Duck's Nick Danger intro. WLIR turned into WDRE and one night in 1993, I heard Loscalzo and Peter Puberty for the first time. Despising telephones, I had never actually contacted any of my heroes until I got the fax number for WDRE, and between sending comments to Mrs. Gyrtlebaumer, asking about fatalities in Mortal Kombat, and voting 9 billion times for songs that no one really knows to this day (if you know Hobo-Humpin' Slobo Babe by Whale, I love you), I earned the title Gumby, the Mad Faxer. Nothing will ever replace those days, and for me to try to explain why would be impossible. When Peter Puberty had to leave because he set fire to his science lab, and Loscalzo just wasn't on the air anymore one day in late 1995, I realized being a fan of radio hurts.

Entire stations started to be removed after that, and it all went to hell. I still had a few DJs I enjoyed listening to, mostly people that I'd first heard on WLIR/WDRE. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to see what some of my old friends were up to, and was able to hear their voices again.

This past week, the station I listened to for "modern rock" after 92.7 was taken away let go of its DJs, and basically changed format. K-Rock's still playing music until January, but it's not about the's never just about the music to the radio geeks. Jake Fogelnest and Dead Air Dave, the night guys, had their last shows this week, and the way FM radio goes, I don't know where I'll hear them next. Lazlow--who I knew from 92.7 way before Grand Theft Auto III--is doing his last show on K-Rock right now. I thought he might have stayed on in the new format, because his show is mainly talk, but no. On tonight's show, like all of last week, they've been taking calls from people that wanted to wish them well, people that want the station to stay as it was. Again, the listeners don't get to decide what stays. We're called geeks with agendas by people who decide formats and live by rating books. Even worse, I'm not not a white male aged 18-35, who apparently make up the majority of those ratings. Rock doesn't sell to them, I hear. American Idiot alone can't save a format, I suppose.

Who knows, people who stay at home at night, listening to the radio to keep their minds from going places they don't belong, may very well outlive the rest of the world. Then again, I think that happened on The Twilight Zone, and it wasn't pretty.

Last year, during the all-Christmas radio onslaught, I did my whole FM-transmitter-through-the-computer hook-up so I could hear the Sirius stations that come with Dish Network on my little FM headset as I wandered around the house. I went to Sirius looking for music, and ended up liking the DJs on First Wave. I even found Larry the Duck again. I'm not 12, or even 20 anymore, so I tell myself that if they "move on to better things," I'll take it much better. I'm not completely mad yet, either, and so I'm sure I'm lying to myself. Look for a long-ass post like this if anything ever happens to CD 101.9.

Dar Williams wrote a song called Are You Out There, and it's about pretty much everything I've just said here, but she says it better, and to a catchy tune. There's only one station in my area that plays Dar Williams, and it isn't corporate...yet. After this week, I'm down to two FM radio stations to listen to, here, guys. It's making me feel old. That's not what radio is meant to do, is it?


xodiaq said...

You are not alone with radio. Listened BIG TIME in DC before we moved... Elliot in the morning, Ron and Fez, Opie and Anthony, Don and Mike... I met Ant at WJFK, handed him my Yankees hat to sign, he commented it was "dirtier than shit" signed it, and handed it back saying that I should wash it. I did. Washed the autograph right off it and shrunk the hat too small for my head. And thats probably what he had intended all along... I was "z-z-z-Xodiaq" on Ron and Fez, and I was the first 8 "Howyadoin" guy calls on Don and Mike, until some guy called in doin howyadoin, got hids number and decided he was the real deal, and not me...

Yes, radio is addictive, but here in Charlotte, radio is like a bad itch, you'll do anything to make it go away... *sigh* oh, but for the days of top 10 radio markets...

Wigwam Jones said...

JJ Jefries at WLS in Chicago in the 1970's. Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" explains it all:

BrideOfPorkins said...

Xodiaq, I bow to your target demographic superiority. You're the good kind of listener, that actually interacts with the airstaff, they like that, that makes for good talk radio. Me, I was just a creepy kid with WinFax Lite.

Wiggy, I love that song! I found an aircheck online of JJ Jeffries at WRKO. He sounded fun. From what I read, he owns stations in Maine now. Lucky, lucky Maine to not have corporate suits running things.