Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Come Back, Mr. DJ...."

A nice article from about an increasingly endangered species: the "Disc Jockey". One sadly typical sign o' the times is that Clear Channel 's been getting rid of many of it's New York DJs (WLTW'S Bill Buchner and JJ Kennedy, for instance: JJ's evening show, which always did just fine in the ratings, has been replaced by the syndicated Delilah, who has to be heard to be believed... oy!)

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Now this is pretty cool: click on this link to go to, and then pop in the call letters of a radio station - any radio station you can think of in the U.S. - and you'll find out what song that station is playing right now (!!), as well as it's Top 10 or Top 100. F'rinstance, Z100's current top 10 - at this exact moment, as I write this, June 15 2006 at 1:19 pm, is:

1. Fort Minor, “Where’d You Go”
2. Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”
3. Nick Lachey, “What’s Left of Me”
4. Panic! At the Disco, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”
5. Cassie, “Me & U”
6. Nelly Furtado, “Promiscuous”
7. Ashley Parker Angel, “Let U Go”
8. Chamillionaire, “Ridin'”
9. The Fray, “Over My Head”
10. Rihanna, “Unfaithful”

Compare and contrast to the always-tasteful WFUV, which seems to be having an Elvis C./Allen T. moment:

1. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, “River In Reverse”
2. Mason Jennings, “Be Here Now”
3. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, “Tears”
4. Alejandro Escovedo, “Arizona”
5. Bruce Springsteen, “Jacob’s Ladder”
6. Paul Simon, “Outrageous”
7. Beth Orton, “Heartland Truckstop”
8. Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, “This Is Us”
9. Josh Ritter, “Wolves”
10. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, “On The Way Down”

And then compare and contrast to the the crazy, lovable and irascible folks at 'FMU!

1. Andy Williams, "Can't Get Used to Losing You"
2. Celtic Frost, "Progeny"
3. Queen, "Liar"
4. Outkast, "Pink & Blue"
5. Led Zeppelin, "Out On The Tiles"
6. Nortec Collective, "Olvidela Compa"
7. The Flirtations, "Nothing But A Heartache"
8. Manu Dibango, "Ceddo End Title"
9. VHS or Beta, "Solid Gold"
10. Boom Bap Project, "Sho Shot"


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

John Batchelor: To Love, Hate, or Both?

Maybe I should turn my blog into a NY Radio Message Board fanpage. I'm greatly enjoying the current discussions about The Dumbing Down Of Radio and Broadway Bill Lee's Challenge and various thoughts about the non-viability of HD Radio. (Although "enjoying" might not be the right word - sometimes - OK, often - the topics can be depressing. But this is the kind of stuff that intrigues me... am I weird?)

Meanwhile, the Board inspired me to write about one of my favorite radio shows - The John Batchelor Show, which airs on 770 WABC every weeknight from 10 PM to 1 AM. (The next few paragraphs of this post were originally written for the Board.) I am a regular listener partially because there's nothing else interesting on the radio at that time of night - sometimes I'm in the mood for Lionel, often I'm not - and because I'm almost always in the car at that time, driving home to Harrington Park on my never-ending commute. And the weirdness of John's show is appropriate for my usual frame of mind at that time of night ("Well? How Did I Get Here?")

I have a love/hate relationship with this show, but - I do listen to it quite a bit, and will sorely miss it if it disappears. I find John's broadcast odd, yet compelling. There's no other place on the radio - hell, in the media in general - that maintains that we're-still-in-the-middle-of-9/11 vibe that John's show has. (I mean, the show still signs off with Kate Smith singing "God Bless America"!) While I do not share John's relentless trust in and love of the wisdom of his regulars (Malcolm Hoenlein? John Loftus? Who are these mooks?), there's something both frightening yet endearingly cheesy about the show - very old-fashioned, as if Walter Winchell had come back to life, dropped the gossip, and went full-hog on international paranoia.

John's doomy music beds (cribbed from movie soundtracks) go on faaaaar too long; John is cluelessly in love with his own voice and with his fave big words, foreign capitols and pet phrases ("news cycle"... "why don't you give us a timeline"... etc.) - he parrots stuff designed to make him sound like he has insider information, but he comes off more like an excited, naive, and right-wing amateur, if not an Inspector Clouseau.

Yet I find his flamboyant voice and paranoid tone fun and reassuring to listen to as I'm dropping off to sleep. It's an Art Bell-like pleasure; voices like that are a reminder of the weird old America we live in.

And I also think he may be doing a service by keeping 9/11 alive, and by relentlessly bringing up the dangers of the big scary ol' world, because it IS scary and big, and much of it is up to no good, in terms of the eternal vigilance this society needs to (possibly) survive into this century...

Monday, June 12, 2006

David Hinckley writes...

Here's another example of why David Hinckley rules; a lively Monday-morning column that sums up the of-the-moment NY Radio News, relying (as well he should) on the always-happening New York Radio Message Board. Today he writes about the unseemly firing of KTU's Broadway Bill Lee, not to mention "The Conversation", a three-week series about New York City on 820 WNYC-AM that kicks off tonight at 8. I'll be listening...

(In case you're wondering, I am gently dipping my toe back into the waters of producing this darn blog. Posts for the time being are pretty much going to be short and linking to other pages... but that's... OK.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Lee Abrams speaks

He is one of the most notorius figures in modern radio history. He created the radio format known as AOR (album-oriented rock) back in the early '70s, which sort of decimated the era of the individualist/free-form radio jock, helping to create "cookie-cutter" radio from coast-to-coast.

Anyways, here's a pretty cool interview with Lee Abrams, who's now at XM. It's a good round-up of the state of terrestrial radio vs. satellite (of course he favors one side over the other)...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Turn On Your Radio, Baby, I'm Gone (for a bit)

Hey gang. If it hasn't been too painfully obvious yet, I have put this blog on hiatus until further notice: another pressing personal project is keeping me too busy at the moment to do this lovely website/idea justice. If you want me to get back to work on this sooner rather than later, drop me a note at, and let's talk!

Meanwhile, I hope the Harry Nillson estate doesn't mind if I quote one of my favorite songs of his:

I don't know where life's goin'
But soon it will be gone
I hope the wind that's blowin'
Helps me carry on
Turn on your radio baby
Baby, listen to my song
And turn on your night light baby
Baby I'm gone

Friday, March 17, 2006

What to listen to this weekend (a best-of)

OK, I've been lax lately. (More like gone.) Getting my Sirius radio broke and my car broken into/iPod stolen - is God telling me something? Anyway, I will be back - I promise - better than ever, but first let me propose to you a weekend full of wonderful radio listening, as I present a specially-chosen best-of my weekend radio recommendations... enjoy - and Happy St. Patricks Day!
  • Tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:30 PM, tune into WQXR 96.3, grab a comfortable (preferably plush) seat, and take in Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa as part of the 75th Anniversary season (!!) of the longest-running classical music radio series in the world - The Metropolitan Opera's International Radio Broadcast. Tomorrow's show features conductor Valery Gergiev leading a cast featuring Olga Guryakova as Maria, Larissa Diadkova as Lyubov, Oleg Balashov as Andrei, Nikolai Putlin as Mazeppa, and Paata Burchuladze as Kotschubey in this kick-ass adaptation of Pushkin’s tragic poem Poltava. And don't miss the Opera Quiz during the second intermission!
  • Straight from the horse's mouth... and then from the donkey's! Saturday at 2:50 pm on C-SPAN Radio, take a break from Mazeppa to listen to President George W. Bush's Weekly Radio Address... which is then immediately followed up by a response by a representative of the Democratic Party. C-SPAN Radio can be heard on both XM and Sirius satellite radio, and can also be heard on the Internet via RealAudio or Windows Media Player.
  • Bob Edwards, the erudite and calm-voiced former host of NPR's "Morning Edition" (who was rudely pushed out of the gig in 2004 for sounding "too old", and was dissed for being not willing to "embarass himself" enough in Sarah Vowell's 1995 book Radio On), can now be heard again - unembarrassed as ever - on the airwaves of WNYC-FM 93.9 tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 PM. (It's actually his regular XM Weekend show that's being brought to terrestrial radio via PRI.)
  • As I've mentioned before, you can indulge in the glorious sound of classic pop on AM Radio every Saturday Night by tuning in Saturday Night Oldies with Mark Simone on 770 WABC between 6-10 pm (Dan Ingram's guest spot a couple of weekends ago was awesome)... or if you crave more of a pre-WWII vibe, don't miss Danny Stiles' incredible Big Band Sounds show on WNYC-AM 820 AM between 8 and 10pm.
  • More Saturday night nostalgia (and I'm not even gonna mention A Prairie Home Companion* here!): Do you remember the deejay Paco? I do. From the early, classic days of WKTU? No? Then you weren't living in the NY metropolitan area in 1978-1980. 'Cause back then, 'KTU was a MONSTER. KTU was IT. (Yo.) It ruled New York's airwaves, because it played DISCO DISCO DISCO nonstop. Anyway: if you miss that era (and I do, said the blog writer semi-embarrassedly), you'll be delighted to hear the legendary Paco - a very cool dj with a kind, fatherly, and still-heavily-Spanish-accented voice - bringing it all home every Saturday night on WNEW 102.7 between 7 and 10 pm. Tomorrow, he's going to be doing his warm-hearted and nostalgic show from the POSH Ultra Lounge in the Garden City Hotel in Long Island (disco's home turf). Whoop whoop!
  • I've found WABC 770's Sunday morning program Religion On the Line, which is the station's longest-running show (!) and can be heard between 7 and 10 am every Sunday, to be thoughtful, gentle and reassuring... that's probably because it's hosted by two pleasantly-voiced religious guys who get along incredibly well, Father Paul Keenan (Director of the NY Archdiocese's Radio Ministry) and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.
  • Tomorrow (Sunday) at 10AM on WNYC-FM 93.9, you can hear On The Media, the consistently excellent NPR show on the weekly goings-on of news media; then, right after OTM, you'll not want to miss the always-witty and fun Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me - the closest thing to an old-school radio quiz show you'll currently find on the air - in its new-ish timeslot of Sundays from 11am-noon. You can count on this weekend's broadcast to have a mention or three of Jessica Simpson's "snubbing" of George W. (I wonder if the President will address this dis in his Presidential Radio Address?) This show can also be heard, in a more timely fashion, Saturday at 1 PM on the AM side of WNYC - 820 AM.
  • Although they don't play nearly as much classic salsa as they used to (and too much reggaetron!), Polito Vega's Sunday afternoon institution, Salsa con Polito, still plays much great stuff - the kind of intoxicating stuff you hear booming out from the streets on New York City weekends - between 12 Noon and 8pm on La Mega 97.9. (Click here for a cool article about the history of Latin music on American radio.)
  • Sunday at Noon: Arthur's back! After leaving WOR in a huff in 1996 after the station hired right-wing "hate-mongerer" Bob Grant - who had himself just been fired from WABC - Arthur Frommer returned three weeks ago to WOR 710 for his weekly program The Travel Show, which airs from 12-2pm. This return has surely happened because Grant recently has been let go from the station, leaving the coast clear for Arthur's comeback. Frommer's show is low-key yet wonderful, full of sane and smart travel advice, with a nice Sunday in New York vibe, featuring more than a few amazing travel bargains... making me think more of the abundance of life, and of how I forget there's a lot of great opportunities out there, opportunities to live a reasonably good and adventurous and occasionally relaxing life, opportunities I've ignored year after year... but not anymore, if I listen to Arthur closely enough!
  • Speaking of the abundance of life: in the second hour of Arthur's show, during his commercial breaks, start tuning over to nearby WABC 770 to catch The Dave Ramsey Show, which can be heard every Sunday between 1 and 4 pm. It took me a little while to get used to, but I now think that Dave's show is a great companion of Arthur's, in that it can help you afford the nirvana-like vacations Arthur presents. Dave spreads an encouraging but no-nonsense gospel of fiscal responsibility, and talks to caller after caller about resolving credit card debt and getting on with life in an adult manner... maybe with a bit of a red-state vibe, but hey... that's OK sometimes too. It's like DA without all the meetings!
  • The classic This American Life now airs Sundays from 4-5pm; this week's theme is "Superpowers". Dry, articulate humor rules! (This show can also be heard on the AM side on Saturday at 11 AM.)
  • Now, I can't tell you much about the other new-time-slotted WNYC-FM program, The No Show, hosted by Steve Post (which now can be heard Sundays from 6-7pm). Why? Because I haven't heard it yet, sorry. (I don't know this weekend's topic either.) But WNYC's website intriguingly states that " was during overnights on WBAI during the 1970’s that Post’s acid wit, droll presentation and dead-of-night, anti-establishment tirades earned him a strong cult following amongst New York radio aficionados." Sounds very cool. I will listen and report back... soon!

* speaking of APHC, click here for a preview of the new Robert Altman movie... cool!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Running Down the Devil...

Sorry about the slowness of new posts. The last couple of weeks have been a personal challenge, to be sure.

Anyway, click here for crazy David Lee Roth news. I'd advise tuning into the show now, because it's actually rather entertaining these days, with all the on-air agita. There is much speculation on the New York Radio Message Board that Dave will shortly be replaced by Opie and Anthony, which will be quite the thing, as those guys are currently on XM Radio.

As for me, I've been listening alot to Star and Buc Wild - I think the show's quite compelling and that Star is quite a talent, certainly the only guy currently on the air with Stern-like talents (i.e. a daddy-figure with a cynical outlook and "shocking" opinions.) I will post more in-depth stuff about that show shortly. I hope.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ornette all day tomorrow... and all day Friday: Bix!

It's been a long-standing tradition at WKCR 89.9 to celebrate the birthdays of jazz greats by dedicating their entire broadcast day to the playing of their music; that is why, starting at midnight tonight and through all day tomorrow (Thursday), 'KCR will be playing nothing but Ornette Coleman (left, born March 9, 1930) for 24 hours; and then on Friday, again starting at midnight, Columbia U's station plays nothin' but Bix Beiderbecke (right, born March 10, 1903, died August 7, 1931). And the amazing Phil Schaap, whose knowledge and love of jazz is truly staggering, will preside over much of these days (usually from somewhere in the morning into the afternoon), providing info and trivia and alternate takes and wisdom and all the astonishingly detailed Phil Schaap-stuff he usually provides. WKCR is the only station that could and would do this, and god bless 'em - their Ray Baretto day, for instance, was wonderful and eye-opening. (Question: Ornette has recorded dozens of albums, but how much recorded Bix is out there? Not much... so I'm curious as to how his day will play out.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sarah Vowell's "Radio On": a book review, in pieces

I am in the process of reading Sarah Vowell's 1996 book Radio On, and I'll be reviewing it as I continue to read it (I'm on page 69). For starters, what this book is - a year-long diary of radio-listening, with commentaries on different stations and shows heard from across the country - is very very close to what I'd like to blog to be like. Plus this, from her intro:

"While American magazines and newspapers employ armies of critics to dissect the content and influence of television, movies, art, and music, radio is rarely covered. Its presence is intimated with skeletal listings that can't begin to hint at the medium's diversity. Glancing at the 'Radio Highlights' section of any metropolitan daily, you'd think that all we hear is Puccini or public policy - Rush Limbaugh was never born and Kurt Cobain never died."

(Note: Sarah talks about Kurt Cobain in this book. A lot. Too much, actually. Yeah, it was written the year after he died, and he was talented and important and his suicide was a shame, but she quotes him, mourns him, idolizes him, tries to be his Lester Bangs. Unfortunately, I've read far too much about poor ol' Kurdt so far, and I fear there's lots more about him to come.)

But I also very much like this pull quote that Sarah got from Susan Douglas's* Where The Girls Are:

"If enough people think studying the media is a waste of time, then the media themselves can seem less influential than they really are. Then they get off the hook for doing what they do best: promoting a white, upper-middle-class, male view of the world that urges the rest of us to sit passively on our sofas and fantasize about consumer goods while they handle the important stuff, like the economy, the ernvironment, or child care."

Umm. I think she's got a point - does that make me a feminazi? (uh oh) - especially in regards to the dangers of under-thinking about the media, especially radio, a medium so influential yet barely thought about, a medium that works on its listeners is such a semi-conscious, under-the-skin, poorly understood way.

So far, I have to say that I'm finding much of Sarah's commentary underwhelming and adolescent, although she has a healthy mistrust of NPR (funny that she's beome such a goddess of public radio since the book's publication). I can definitely say this: this book would work MUCH better as a blog. Still, I'm very glad she wrote it - there's much about it I find fascinating and valuable, especially as a wanna-be radio critic.

* author of the indispensible Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yo La Tengo; Woe La iPod

Oy... sorry I haven't been posting as much (as much as I was, and as much as I want to). Did I mention that somebody broke into my car last week to steal my iPod??!! (sob) A mere couple of days after I got the iPod to work with RadioTime??! The last week has made my never-ending commute even more hellish and exhausting. So: again, I apologize. It's a month or so into my blog's short life, and the two most important pieces of electronic equipment that I was relying on and being wildly inspired by - my Sirius radio and my iPod - are now gone or broken. Aaargh. I really want to get the Radio YourWay as a stopgap measure, but I simply can't afford it at the moment. Maybe after I get my tax refund?

Anyway... I would like to promote Yo La Tengo's annual covers-for-pledges throwdown on WFMU 91.1. It's gonna happen tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8 pm on Tom Scharpling's show, and the band will play - or attempt to play - any request. Which is quite cool, and I would be more psyched about it if I wasn't so depressed. (Poor me.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Troubles for Air America?

According to this right-wing radio blogger, Air America may soon have its programming off of WLIB 1190 (a station owned by Inner City Broadcasting that leases its air time to the network). This would not be a good thing, though there's a chance the programming could shift to WSNR 620, a station that's probably up for sale from its owner, The Sporting News. But WSNR's signal is not as good as WLIB's.

More show-shifting at WNYC, starting tomorrow...

As discussed in a previous post, there is more "show-shifting" going on at WNYC, this time on the AM side - 820 on your dial - starting tomorrow, as of Monday March 6:
  • The BBC World Service will be simulcast on both the FM and AM stations from 9-10am weekday mornings. (Right now, "News and Notes with Ed Gordon" is heard during this timeslot.) If you're not familiar with the Service, it's a rather excellent source of international news, with smart and deep reportage, always presented in clipped, well-trained English tones. Here's an interesting guide on how to properly write news copy for the Beeb, and an informal behind-the-scenes look at the radio newsroom. (You can also hear plenty of BBC World Service on WNYE 91.5 FM, one of New York's more under-rated radio treasures.)
  • An intriguing and web-friendly PRI show named Open Source, produced by WGBH radio in Boston, makes its New York debut tomorrow (Monday) night at 9pm. It sounds darn intriguing: according to this how-it-works page, a show idea is posted on the show's blog, the idea is discussed via the magic of the Web by you and me and whoever else registers with the show, then the idea and the show and its guest-bookings gets discussed and whatnot, and at some point a show gets aired which we've all "produced". How modern! Check out the website for archived shows, podcasting links, an explanation from the producer, etc. I'll be listening... (Open Source will air Mondays through Thurdsays at 9-10pm on 820 AM; on Friday nights, you'll hear The Tavis Smiley Show in that slot.)
  • The show that's currently being heard at 9am weekdays, NPR's News and Notes with Ed Gordon, will be moving as of tomorrow (Monday) to the 10-11pm weeknight slot. It's a good show, one that - according to the NPR's PR - "shines a light on some of the most important topics and concerns of interest to African Americans today". (For what it's worth, I rarely think of the show as African-American-centric while listening.) I'm not sure what this move "means" - is this a dis? - especially regarding the fact that its an NPR show that's based in New York City; who knows what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations may be happening here? Is 10 pm a better or worse timeslot for such a thoughtful and worthy show?

Friday, March 03, 2006

What to Listen to this Weekend...

  • Of course, you should be listening to WFMU 91.1 all weekend - they are in full-fledged Marathon mode, and the station tends to present the most-entertaining and least-annoying pledge drives I've ever heard. Plus all the deejays will have co-hosts, to make things even more... entertaining, I guess. Plus there's all that swag! Of particular interest will be Station Manager Ken Freedman's mid-Marathon "State of the Station talk and listener phone in" Saturday (tomorrow) at 9 AM. He'll be talking about various station developments - technical, program-related and financial. Call in questions at 201-536-9368 from 9:30-10:00 am, or they can e-mail questions ahead of time at
  • Tomorrow (Saturday) night at 10 pm on Air America WLIB 1190: Part 2 of David Bender's fascinating chat with Gore Vidal on Politically Direct. (Meanwhile, feel free to compare and contrast with yesterday's Leonard Lopate segment with Gore's old nemesis Norman Mailer, which you can listen to and/or download here.)
  • I've found WABC 770's Sunday morning program Religion On the Line, which is the station's longest-running show (!) and can be heard between 7 and 10 am every Sunday, to be thoughtful, gentle and reassuring... that's probably because it's hosted by two pleasantly-voiced religious guys who get along incredibly well, Father Paul Keenan (Director of the NY Archdiocese's Radio Ministry) and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.
  • Sunday at Noon: Arthur's back! After leaving WOR in a huff in 1996 after the station hired right-wing "hate-mongerer" Bob Grant - who had himself just been fired from WABC - Arthur Frommer has returned to WOR 710 for his weekly program The Travel Show, which airs from 12-2pm. This return has surely happened because Grant recently has been let go from the station, leaving the coast clear for Arthur's comeback. Frommer's show is about " with respect; an opportunity for learning that impacts your mind in a way like no other, from a cost-conciousness point of view." OK, then!
  • Elvis! One of my all-time fave songwriters will be Kurt Anderson's guest tomorrow (Sunday) evening at 7pm on WNYC-AM 820 on the always-fine and diverse Studio 360. Plus a chat with Paul Haggis (writer/director of the Oscar-nominated Crash) and a story about how the love of Maurice Ravel's Bolero lead a near-deaf man to the forefront of neurosurgery: bionic hearing.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Satellite vs. Terrestrial: the thawing of this cold war is already well underway

"Could this signal a thawing of the Cold War between satellite and terrestrial radio?" writes Ken Tucker in this Billboard Radio Monitor article. He's writing about the fact that, for the first time, a terrestrial radio station - Cincinatti's WLW 700 - will have their signal rebroadcast on XM satellite radio. The station has a rich history, so it's kinda cool to hear a "heritage" station via such modern technology, plus it's always fascinating (to me at least) to hear local radio from exotic places... and Cincinatti is exotic, in a way. (For those of you without XM Radio - and that number includes me - you can hear WLW's signal over the good 'ol Internet here.)

Speaking as a radio nostalgist, I especially liked this paragraph from the story:

"For the first time in 67 years, we are truly 'the nation's station' again," Clear Channel/Cincinnati director of AM operations Darryl Parks said in a statement. That slogan was used early in the station’s life when it was it was licensed to broadcast at 500,000 watts and its signal reached across the U.S. “Now through the power of satellite technology, 700WLW has a farther reach than ever before,” Parks added. "

500,000 watts! Dude! (Meanwhile, for more of a "WTF" reaction, go here.)

But, beyond this, there is more deal-making going on than you might think between Satellite and terrestrial radio. For instance, Bob Edward's XM-produced weekend show is now syndicated on "regular" public radio (WNYC-FM now has the show at 4pm Saturdays), and much of PRI and NPR's output can of course be heard on Sirius; many if not most of ABC Radio's, Fox News Talk's and ESPN Radio's shows are just as available on both XM and Sirius as they are "on the airwaves"; and Westwood One/CBS Radio provides much of Sirius's NFL Coverage (including the Super Bowl), not to mention all of their local traffic reports (via Metro Traffic).

My point? There may be a "big war" publicly going on between the technologies, but the terrestrial radio industry is not dumb; they're also frantically looking for ways to cooperate with, if not co-opt, XM and Sirius. And you know that Clear Channel is a major investor in XM, right?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Arbitron ratings are in, and...

Where have all of Howard's listeners gone? Well, for one thing, they haven't gone back to 92.3 FM, according to the Arbitron ratings, which have just come out for the very end of 2005 and very beginning of 2006; here's the New York Post's and the Daily News's wrap-up of the ratings news, and that news is none too good for David Lee Roth (who's "on vaction" this week, though rumor has it the show is being heavily re-tooled at an off-site location)*.

The stations that had the biggest post-Howard morning increases early this year included La Mega 97.9 (the rowdy and risque "El Vacilon" continues to thrive; check out their movie trailer for an, umm, "taste" of the show), Q104.3'S Jim Kerr classic-rock morning show (brava, Shelli Sonstein!), WKTU's Baltazar & Goumba Johnny (folks love those "80's at 8", no doubt) and New York's only morning-drive sports-talkers, 1050 WEPN's Mike & Mike, who I have never ever listened to and will only do so out of blogger-ly duty.

Of course, many of Howard's listeners simply went to Sirius. How big of an effect that will have on the NY terrestrial radio marketplace still has to be seen, though it is apparently true that the radios are still quite hard to come by at local electronics stores.

The New York Radio Message Board is absolutely the very best place for post-game analysis on this subject, just as long as you don't mind the satellite radio-bashing. Some of the big topics at the board include:
  • how JACK FM is tanking (yay!), and what Infinity/CBS (the station's owners) should do about it;
  • how The New Mix 102.7 is tanking (awww...), and what Infinity/CBS (the station's owners) should do about it. Should they switch formats and take on New York's overall #1 station Lite FM directly? and;
  • how WBAI's fund drive is tanking, and what the station's owners (not Infinity/CBS, thank God) should do about it. I dunno, maybe by making the station a bit more... listenable?

* I still say Give Dave A Chance.

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What's It All About, Alec?

An apology to my reader(s) for the lack of activity lately.

I have two excuses: first, I've been busy as hell. With life. And with being away from computers for long stretches. (Although that is not necessarily a bad thing.) Keeping up this blog to the extent I want to is going to be plenty demanding, and, umm, sorta never-ending. Which is a scary thought.

Secondly, I have a lot of great ideas and projects and stories in the works for the blog, and for its big-brother website I hope to launch in... let's say... early 2007. But these ideas and projects are going to take some seriously work - listening, cataloguing, critiquing, more listening, designing, thinking, even more listening, and writing writing writing. It's a worthwhile, fun project, and I love doing it, but am definitely getting up to speed at the moment, very much so, and beg your indulgence while that happens.

Meanwhile, I finally got my RadioShark, which - in combination with RadioTime and my cranky ol' iPod (which I have to replace the battery of, ugh) - PLUS the advent of radio's reluctant-yet-inevitable embrace of podcasting - will allow me (and you) to listen to radio in a pretty much unprecedented way: when we want it, where we want it, with shows and songs ready for listening and fast-forwarding and acquiring and deleting. It's the TiVo experience for radio; in other words, it's a major revolution/moving-forward for the phenomena of radio-listening, which is what I want this blog to be about.

So, in the meantime, please pledge some money to one of the greatest radio stations ever, WFMU, and stay tuned.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What to listen to this weekend: Bob's Back!

  • Start your weekend off right by listening to the afore-mentioned Country Music Festival on WKCR. Yes, yes, it's the old stuff - the genius stuff - not the new Nashville crap. And it's on right now. OK, maybe not all the new Nashville stuff is crap, but get yer radio turned on and tune it to 89.9 FM fast. C'mon, you may be missing out on some Lefty Frizell, Tammy Wynette or Townes Van Zandt* as we speak!
  • It's the final weekend (sigh) for Tonight in Torino, the excellently-produced Winter Olympics 2006 show that airs its last three shows tonight, tomorrow and Sunday on WFAN 660 from 11PM to 1AM. It's fast, smart, and a great way to get a larger sense of what's going on at the games than the USA-centric NBC stuff.
  • Tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:30 PM, tune into WQXR 96.3, grab a comfortable (preferably plush) seat, and take in Saint-Saëns' gorgeous Samson et Dalila as part of the 75th Anniversary season (!!) of the longest-running classical music radio series in the world - The Metropolitan Opera's International Radio Broadcast. Tomorrow's broadcast features Emmanuel Villaume, Olga Borodina and Plácido Domingo, plus an intermission chat with big-time opera fan Rufus Wainwright.
  • He's back! Bob Edwards, the erudite and calm-voiced former host of NPR's "Morning Edition" (who was rudely pushed out of the gig in 2004 for sounding "too old"), can now be heard again on the airwaves of WNYC-FM 93.9 starting tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 PM. (It's actually his regular XM Weekend show that's being brought to terrestrial radio via PRI.)
  • Do you remember the deejay Paco? From the early, classic days of WKTU? No? Then you weren't living in the NY metropolitan area in 1978-1980. 'Cause back then, 'KTU was a MONSTER. KTU was IT. (Yo.) It ruled New York's airwaves, because it played DISCO DISCO DISCO nonstop. Anyway: if you miss that era (and I do, said the blog writer semi-embarrassedly), you'll be delighted to hear the legendary Paco - a very cool dj with a kind, fatherly, and still-heavily-Spanish-accented voice - bringing it all home every Saturday night on WNEW 102.7 between 7 and 10 pm. Tomorrow, he's going to be doing his warm-hearted and nostalgic show from the POSH Ultra Lounge in the Garden City Hotel in Long Island (disco's home turf), with minor disco diva Alicia performing live at 10:30. Whoop whoop!
  • Bob Edward's new placement on the Saturday afternoon WNYC-FM shedule has brought with it a bit of show shifting (not to be confused with shape shifting), which gives me an opportunity to encourage you to check out three excellent programs** at their new times. First, the always-witty and fun Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me - the closest thing to an old-school radio quiz show you'll currently find on the air - will now air Sundays from 11am-noon. You can count on this weekend's broadcast to find the lighter side of the Dubai/US Ports-boondoggle. (This show can also be heard on the AM side of WNYC - 820 AM - on Saturday at 1 PM.)
  • Secondly: the classic This American Life now airs Sundays from 4-5pm; this week's theme is "Cat and Mouse", and you'll hear a story about "pissed off patriots" (they call themselves the Minutemen) who are staking out illegal immigrants trying to cross the border... plus a brand new story from David Sedaris. Dry, articulate humor rules! (This show can also be heard on the AM side on Saturday at 11 AM.)
  • Now, I can't tell you much about the third newly-moved WNYC-FM program, The No Show, hosted by Steve Post (which now can be heard Sundays from 6-7pm). Why? Because I haven't heard it yet, sorry. (I don't know this weekend's topic either.) But WNYC's website intriguingly states that " was during overnights on WBAI during the 1970’s that Post’s acid wit, droll presentation and dead-of-night, anti-establishment tirades earned him a strong cult following amongst New York radio aficionados." Sounds very cool. I will listen and report back...

* who, by the way, is the subject of a new film documentary that I wanted to see that played at the Angelika for like a week in December, then disappeared - but the DVD is due out next month...

** or at least potentially excellent

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I bought this radio, and you should too!

How, my loyal reader(s), are you currently listening to radio? (You are listening, aren't you?) If you don't have a working radio, or are bored/underwhelmed with what you have, and if you have even just a touch of radio geekiness within you - just a tad! - I would very much like to recommend this adorable little radio. I got it a few days ago, and I'm head-over-heels in love...

It's called the Grundig Mini World 100 PE, it can fit in your pocket, and is currently being discounted at Radio Shack stores for $20 plus tax; here are reviews (admittedly radio geek reviews, but still useful). First, it gets AM reception really well. In Manhattan, I can easily hear Danny Stiles' fantastic 8-10 pm weeknight show from Paterson's WPAT 930, and WWRL 1600's oft-wimpy signal comes in like a champ wherever you are. And FM reception is not only strong as well, but sounds great through the headphones - basslines sound especially dope yet crisp (I was actually able to figure out an extra McCartney lick in "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" I'd never noticed before). The radio even has a little loudspeaker, so you can bring it to the beach - or you can pretend to be one of those weird guys in Yankees caps listening to baseball and talk radio on New York City streetbenches. (Or maybe you don't have to pretend...)

Plus: it gets shortwave. Shortwave! It's not what SWL-ers would call a "serious" reciever - it has an analog tuning dial, after all - but it's surprisingly good. I was very pleased to hear Radio Havana booming into a New York apartment at 14th and Ave B, with nice fidelity even! (through the headphones, of course). It's fine for pulling in BBC World Service and Radio Canada and weird American shortwave stuff too. Just grab a copy of the essential Passport to World Band Radio 2006 (much of which is available online, as PDF files, here - check out the "Getting Started" chapter), and you're good to go.

Anyway, do people even buy "radios" anymore, in this era of satellite this and HD that and iPods and podcasts and TiVos and TV-on-cellphones, etc.? (There's something increasingly quaint about buying a radio at Radio Shack.) No matter - this is an lovable little radio, very fun and very cheap, and it sounds great and pulls in stations great and even gets freakin' shortwave. What's not to like?

WKCR goes Classic Country! (for the weekend)

Here's another example - of which there will be many - of how I (and this blog) are deeply indebted to David Hinckley of the NY Daily News. Starting at noon tomorrow - and running through the whole weekend - WKCR 89.9 celebrates their annual Country Music Festival, which this year salutes the 50th Anniversary of the so-called Million Dollar Quartet (seen above right - from left, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash harmonizing together at a Sun Studios session on December 4, 1956).

I'm not on WKCR's PR list - yet - so I didn't know, until this morning, that this great weekend is coming up. So, I'm just tellin' ya, any fan of NY Radio should check the Daily News's TV & Radio page daily for David's radio news and recommendations. Anyway, this is what's coming up on 89.9, starting tomorrow:

Noon-2 p.m.: Blue yodels
2-3:30 p.m.: George Jones & Tammy Wynette
3:30-5 p.m.: Maddox Brothers & Rose
5-6:45 p.m.: Million Dollar sessions
9 p.m.-3 a.m.: Vassar Clements, John Herald, Jimmy Martin

3-6 a.m.: Country rock
6-8 a.m.: Hillbilly boogie
8-10 a.m.: Rockabilly
10 a.m.-noon: Cliff Carlisle
Noon-5 p.m.: Sun Records
5-6:45 p.m.: Lefty Frizzell
9 p.m.-1 a.m.: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Tom Russell

1-3 a.m.: Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
3-6 a.m.: June Carter & Johnny Cash
6-8 a.m.: Wing
8-10 a.m.: Country gospel
10 a.m.-noon: Moonshine
Noon-2 p.m.: Tennessee Border
2-4 p.m.: Delmore Brothers & Wayne Raney
4-5:30 p.m.: Million Dollar sessions
5:30-9:30 p.m.: Million Dollar performers
9:30-11 p.m.: Songs of Billy Sherrill
11 p.m.-2 a.m.: Hank Williams

HD Radio promotion goes into overdrive: a mistake

This is a mistake. If you've been listening to commercial radio lately, you've probably begun to hear quite a few ads promoting HD Radio. Here's a Red Herring article about how the terrestrial radio industry is pushing the technology, and its burgeoning number of new stations, via lots and lots of dedicated air time.

BUT: still there's only one home model (which is getting tepid reviews) and a handful of car models that can recieve HD radio. And they currently cost at least $300. And the programming I've heard on the internet streams available for the NY HD stations (check out this previous post) is less than amazing; two of the "deep cuts" on Q104.3's HD station included Yes's "Roundabout" and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", two songs that get played the crap out of on regular ol' Q104.3 already. I thought "Classic Lite" was pleasant enough, but please. Hey radio: don't start pushing this stuff so hard yet and getting the audience simply confused and/or immediately disappointed in the programming and/or frustrated by the expense of the technology. This is the sound of terrestrial radio clutching at straws...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Read about, and listen to, HD Radio!

I've been putting off writing a heavy-duty post about HD Radio, but while that's in, umm, "production", here's a great LA Times piece about it (great in that it sums up alot of the issues about it neatly in one place) that you should read while I get around to writing a longer post. And here's links to audio streams of 6 of the city's HD stations! Check out:

  • Free FM's KROCK2 (modern rock - i.e., what K-Rock used to play)
  • Z100's New Music HD2 (an more adventurous and diverse version of Z100's hits format)
  • Jack FM's WCBS-FM HD2 (a return of the old 'CBS FM! But without the DJs, sadly...)
  • WKTU'S New York Country (the city's first country station in a long while)
  • WAXQ's Deep Classics (a "deep cuts" version of Q104.3)
  • WLTW 's Classic Lite (more of an oldie take on "lite music", also discussed here)

Clear Channel: Less Commercials, Mo' Money

Good ol' monolith Clear Channel is reporting higher radio earnings for the first time in a couple of years, and is attributing that fact to the success of their "Less Is More" strategy - that is, their radio stations are actually playing less commercials. And, umm, that's good. That's certainly part of terrestrial radio's strategy against the onslaught of satellite, and it's a smart idea that needs to be widely imitated, SOON. For instance: the 6 to 7 am hour on Curtis and Kuby's WABC 770 show has no commercials, which frees up the hosts quite a bit, gives the discussion some momentum, and makes for a more freewheeling and entertaining hour, if you find Curtis and Kuby entertaining (which I do, to an extent). Of course, the pair are campaigning hard to pick up some of Howard's former listeners - there are C&K billboards all over town stating "No Stern? No Problem" - so the show's low commercial "load" may not be part of a larger strategy, more of a "let's get listeners now, then drag in back all the ads" kinda thing. (WABC is owned by Disney, but is getting sold to Citadel; some folks at the NY Radio Message Board are hopeful the transfer will lead to improved programming at the station, but I wouldn't get my hopes up too high.)

Clear Channel owns 6 of New York's radio stations, including some of the most successful ones (4 of the city's top 10, according to this list), but I wish they owned WCBS or WINS, two stations that play so many commercials that they're unlistenable for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I'm sure those station's managers have research that shows that their listeners only tune in for short periods, usually to catch some traffic or weather or a couple of headlines. So the station thinks they have to stuff their hours with spots. But I'd argue they'd get lengthier "listens", and more loyal and upscale listeners, if they'd cut down on the ads in a significant way, and let their anchors have a bit of breathing room. I'd certainly listen, it'd be great to be able to listen to local radio news for a decent length of time; both stations have a local, sarcastic, tabloid NYC flavor that the chilly NPR types at WNYC lack.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Teens sure dig the Classic Rock

Here's an intriguing Rolling Stone article about teenagers discovering, and helping keep alive, the genre of "Classic Rock", which New York's Q104.3* plays pretty much non-stop. My favorite factoid was this one:

"According to the market-research firm NPD, kids ages thirteen to seventeen bought twenty percent of all Floyd and Zeppelin albums sold from 2002 to 2005, and seventeen percent of Hendrix and Queen discs but accounted for just three percent of Creedence Clearwater Revival sales, six percent of Rolling Stones sales and a paltry one percent of Cat Stevens sales."

(What? What? What's wrong with Cat Stevens, you young people of today? Other than the supporting-the-death-of-Rushdie thing, of course, which was unfortunate, and anyway he's now claiming he was misquoted. Anyway, give me the Cat-man, whose first four albums are incredibly pretty and inventive, anyday over Pink Floyd. Yecccccchhh. I hearby declare a fatwa on Pink Floyd. Well, a fatwa on post-'71 Pink Floyd, the early stuff is pretty dope. OK, only kidding. About the fatwa.)

Anyway, I know about this phenomena first hand, and it's not just because I've already turned my 10-year-old daughter Julia into nearly as big a Beatle-head as me. (1) When I was spending some time at the Guitar Center on 14th Street last December (buying a lovely bass amp which may or may not have been an excessive purchase, but I love the damn thing), I ended up advising a kid who was no older than 13 on what kind of a bass he should buy. I asked him what kind of music he listened to, and he said "Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin". (I told him to get a Precision "Squier".) (2) And when I played bass with Bubble while performing The White Album and Revolver in front of an outdoor crowd in Hoboken last summer, there were these two kids - both about 12 or 13 - staring at us worshipfully from the side of the stage the entire show ... like they were soaking every note in. No Death Cab for Cutie for them! (3) Likewise, when I took my nephew James to his first rock concert a while ago, it was to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse. James survived the show, and (though no longer a "teen") is still a big-time classic rock fan... as a matter of fact, he and I continue to have vehement arguments about - you guessed it - Pink Floyd. He thinks they're much more important to the History Of Rock than Devo, which I strongly disagree with... but I digress.

Speaking of the Floyd: if you're a fan of the '79 album The Wall, you may want to tune into Q104.3 tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 11:30 PM to hear Rockline (a perennial syndicated rock call-in show). Tomorrow's show will actually be a compilation of previous Rockline interviews with Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason about the making of the album, the 1982 movie, and the 1990 Berlin live performance in front of over 250,000 people. Did the album have secret messages? Does the end segue into the beginning? What movie does this one sync up with? Find out tomorrow night...

* Speaking of Q104.3, here's a fascinating - or tragic, depending on your point of view - article about how the station is programmed. Three acts that come with both big positives and negatives for the programmers: Bob Dylan, Rush, and The Grateful Dead. (It all has to do with the vocals, no?) And while Elton John and Billy Joel are considered "Classic Rock" in New York, in Chicago they're "Adult Contemporary". Interesting!

A Blast from the Past: Payola!! (Uh-Oh.)

Here's an ABC Primetime story and an AP report about Elliot Spitzer's new and ever-widening Payola investigation (payola being the act of having record companies pay radio stations to play the records they want to have become hits).

As you may know, this issue rears up its ugly head every few years or so, originally when Alan Freed's career was destroyed by a House Oversight Subcommittee investigation that started in 1959. (Dick Clark emerged from the same investigation pretty much unscathed - I wonder why?) Last Saturday, the Discovery Times channel aired an excellent documentary - 1998's "Rock 'N' Roll Invaders: The AM Radio DJs" - which had a fascinating interview with former WTAM Cleveland DJ Joe Finan, who was implicated alongside of Freed and Clark at the time. He reminisced about a '59 Miami Beach radio DJ convention, the one that started up the whole scandal, that he recalled as a blur of "booze, bribes and broads" - which is actually the working title of his memoir. Good times, my friends, good times.

Anyway, this is an old/new story, but Mr. Spitzer is promising that this investigation will be the biggest one yet. (According to AP: "The practice appears to be have been underway in its current form since the mid- to late 1990s, said Terryl Brown Clemons, assistant deputy attorney in charge of the payola investigation. She said the practice was found across the spectrum of music, from Top 40 to urban to rock.") Already, the bands/performers Jennifer Lopez, Franz Ferdinand, Good Charlotte, Jessica Simpson, Switchfoot, Michelle Branch, John Mayer, Celine Dion, R.E.M. (no!), Maroon 5, and Gretchen Wilson have been implicated - well, at least their songs have. (In the ABC News story, the band Semisonic comes clean that their hit "Closing Time" happened because of the practice. But then again, they're a band with its hit in the past, so they've nothing to lose.) The bands won't catch the blame - I don't think they should (should they?) - the evil guys in the suits will. Or will they get off like Dick Clark?

(Speaking of evil guys in suits, the webzine Salon has done an excellent job of covering not just payola, but the more important and depressing story of the Clear-Channel-ization of American radio and live music performance. "Why Does Radio Suck?", indeed.)

Radio Rookies on WNYC's Morning Edition this week

The good news is that WNYC is airing one of its "Radio Rookies" weeks this week on Morning Edition - which means you can hear New York City teens trying their hand at producing radio documentaries, with always fascinating results. Tomorrow - Wednesday - you can hear 16-year-old Wen Ou (left), who first moved to the United States from China in 2001, talk about living in Elmhurst with her Mom, and how she wishes she had appreciated her relatives (whom she barely remembers) more when she was still living with them. Thursday morning, you can hear Yesica Balderrama, who's 15, wondering if she and her friends are Internet addicts. And on Friday, Edward Llanos (now 17) revisits the time he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, at the age of 12. According to WNYC's publicity:

"Once he fully recovered, he didn’t look back. Now a healthy high school senior, Edward assumes that everyone around him has moved on, too. But when he decides to revisit this part of his past, he discovers that his each of his family members experienced his illness in ways he didn’t (or couldn’t) recognize at the time – and some effects still linger."

This is cool stuff, with authentic voices from the city's young - voices you don't get to hear too often, with the help of mentors who know how to produce good radio.

The bad news is that I didn't get around to telling you this until almost the middle of the week, and that WNYC doesn't exactly tell you when, during Morning Edition, these pieces will air.

But the good news is that you can hear all these week's stories here, via the wonders of RealAudio and mp3. Plus you can check out more stories from past "Radio Rookies" weeks here. This, my friends, is compelling, intelligent radio - the kind of stuff I wanted to tell you about when I started this here blog. Listen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My broken-Sirius-radio: an update

I wrote earlier about the fact my Sirius Starmate Replay radio had gone bust, and promised updates: I knew it was gonna take me awhile to deal with customer service - I just knew - so I made sure I had a day where'd I'd have some free time - today.


I just spent the last 1 1/2-to-2 hours on the phone, a time in which I got hung up on twice, and got three different numbers for warranty service, only one of which worked. I finally got a helpful guy who informed me that while I was talking to the wrong department, he'd credit me for a free month. Which was nice, although I should note I've already been without service for 5 days.

When I finally got the right number, a woman quickly told me that "the computer system was down", and that someone would have to call me back to talk about my issue.

An hour later, I got a call back. I have to send my old unit to Sirius, in Florida. Them in 2 to 4 weeks, I will get a new unit back.

Oh, great.

Now I'm gonna call Sirius to put my subscription on hold.

The upside - for me, and for this blog - is that I'll be less distracted by the many many choices I have of stations to listen to. I can get down to some pretty specific New York City AM & FM radio listening... which I plan to write about. Stay tuned.

Ray Barretto lives!

Ray Barretto - one of the most prolific and influential percussionists and bandleaders in the history of Afro-Cuban music - may have passed away last week, but his fine fine playing lives (and dances) on, as New York City radio remembers his life and music. You can hear it all day today, till 1 AM tomorrow morning, on WKCR 89.9... plus a 2002 concert from NJPAC will be replayed tomorrow (Tuesday) night on WBGO 88.3 at 9 pm. I'm listening to KCR now, and it's GREAT. They're letting his albums just play... hear the vinyl crackling! This is the kind of music Polito used to showcase all Sunday afternoons on La Mega 97.9 - and he did play a fair share of Ray yesterday - but now he doesn't play the "classic" stuff nearly enough, for my taste...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Howard's Bully Pulpit

George Carlin was the subject of a New York Times story not too long ago, and the subject of Howard Stern came up. "I like Howard," George said. "I like his mind. I like his spirit. I am not a big fan of the stuff he does. He knows that. I think he picks on underdogs."

That observation - "I think he picks on underdogs" - has stayed with me. He's got a point.

You see, growing up, in schoolyard society, I was a kid easily laughed at, a kid who cried easily. I was bullied. I was an underdog. Which is why I wonder about my Howard fandom.

After I started listening to Howard, I tried to put my finger on just what his appeal was. My thought was that the sound of his show, reassuring in its way, is the sound of a bunch of high school guys (or college guys) killing time, ragging on each other, waiting for class bell to ring - waiting for that moment when one has to trudge to class (or the office) and act all grown up.

Those kids laughed and felt liberated in those moments before "class", but the humor was mean - especially when it came to girls (who were held in awe and/or in contempt). And the humor was even meaner when it came to underdogs. Which, umm, I was one of. I wonder if I would have been held in contempt by Howard and his real high school friends if I had gone to Roosevelt or South Side High - although Howard takes great pains to point out that he was a loser-outsider too at that point in his life.

There are times when I automatically turn the Stern show "off", and one of those times is during the Captain Janks-type calls, or during the recorded interviews when a hapless celebrity gets peppered with "naughty" questions. Why? Because the surprised celebrity/anchorman/person, at the time of the recorded interview or call, doesn't know he or she's now an object of laughter, someone not privvy to the joke they've now become the butt of - in that sense, a laughed-at underdog. Those hapless folks haven't had the chance to choose to be a part of the joke. If one chooses to be on Howard's show, then great, welcome, prepare to be harassed or bugged with extremely personal questions. If one haven't yet had a chance to agree to be on the show, then... well, that person should be leaft alone. Ambushing them isn't funny, even if Howard thinks you're a blowhard or full of yourself or whatever. In my opinion.

Another sense of Howard picking on the "underdog" is probably the way George was thinking of, when Howard chats with Beetlejuice or Jeff the Drunk or Gary the Retard. Certainly most of the members of Howard's "wack pack" (who are more often than not mentally disabled) are real underdogs. Now, Howard and his partisans would argue that these people are "in on the joke", know what they're there for, and are getting much more publicity or attention or money than they normally would if they were left alone. One also might argue that Howard is laughing with these wack-packers... although that argument feels... weak.

Perhaps more interesting/confusing is Howard's ongoing relationship with Daniel Carver. Is Howard giving publicity and airtime to a hate-mongerer? Or is he, by allowing Daniel (who is a loon) froth at the mouth, and ttherby dig his own grave? Is it a "hoot" to hear Daniel?

I feel like I am posing more questions here than providing answers... (I also have to admit I am posting this from a 14th-street laundromat in Manhattan, and am running out of time before I get logged off!) But I would love to hear from you about this. And I am trying to think this issue through. What do you think? Am I a hypocrite for being an (former?) underdog that "laughs at" other Howard underdogs? Discuss. (Please.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Welcome Daily News Readers!

Great. The weekend I get a bad cold, need lots of rest and am pretty much away from a computer, I get mentioned by my hero David Hinckley in today's Daily News. So I rushed out to my friend Rob's place (thanks Rob!) so I can make a quick post to say: hello! And welcome to The NYC Radio Gazette, which I hope continues to grow as a home for fans of intelligent New York (and satellite) radio.

So: take a look around!

What to listen to this President's Day weekend

  • Straight from the horse's mouth... and then from the donkey's! Today at 2:50 pm on C-SPAN Radio, listen to President George W. Bush's Weekly Radio Address... which is then immediately followed up by a response by a representative of the Democratic Party. C-SPAN Radio can be heard on both XM and Sirius satellite radio, and can also be heard on the Internet via RealAudio or Windows Media Player. (What better way to be a good citizen, and/or get into the President's Day spirit?)
  • At 4pm today (Saturday), this will start getting veeeerrry scary, boys and girls, as the "The Cool Ghoul" - the amazing and spooky Zacherley - sits in for the first hour of Pete Fornatele's "Mix Bag" show, on WFUV 90.7. (Click here for a great bio of Zach, who was a horror-movie host on Channels 9 & 11 well into the mid-'60s, until he switched over to the role of being one of FM's pioneering rock dee-jays.)
  • No, Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan (above) aren't guesting on tonight's A Prairie Home Companion, which you can hear on WNYC at 6 PM (live, on 93.9 FM) and tomorrow (Sunday) at 11 AM (replayed, on 820 AM). The publicity still seen above is from the new Robert Altman movie (!) "A Prairie Home Companion", which just got its world debut at the Berlin Film Festival, where it's getting rave reviews. Guesting this weekend from the live broadcast from Milwaukee, Wisconsin are slightly less famous but no less compelling entertainers, including the 100 year-old Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra.
  • Do me, and yourself, a favor: if you're going to donate money to WBAI 99.5 during their current membership drive - and you should - call in during Sunday night's The Golden Age of Radio, which is heard 7-9 PM. (That way, the station will know it should continue to air Max's always-fine programming, which also includes the super-early-Tuesday mornings Mass Backwards show, which always plays Jean Shepherd at 5:15 am... but you knew that already, didn't you? You didn't?)) Schmid plays fantastic "Old-Time Radio" shows (vintage broadcasts from the '30s, '40s, and '50s). And - if you pledge $75 or more -you can get some of these tapes (yes, tapes - an appropriately aging format for ancient shows) of classic radio series and shows, including Suspense, Escape, and Agnes Moorhead's incredible tour de force "Sorry Wrong Number". Yeah!
  • Tomorrow (Sunday) night on WAXQ 104.3 at 10: one of the best songwriters ever, Ray Davies, guests on Little Steven's Underground Garage, probably to promote his amazing new album Other People's Lives (click here for samples)... but Steve will probably get him to spill about his unspeakably brilliant garage-rock-trailblazing early Kinks days. (Let's thank Ray for the days... those endless days, those sacred days he gave us...)

Why all the fund drives are happening NOW

I asked Ken Freedman, the station director of the great WFMU 91.1, why they're about to start up their membership drive, at the exact same time WBAI is having theirs, and just after WBGO and WNYC just finished theirs. Why, oh why do these listener-supported stations - all worthy causes - have their necessary yet brain-deadening appeals at practically the same time?

Ken, very thoughtfully, responded thusly: "Basically, all the public radio stations are avoiding the same things, which is why we all end up having our fundraisers at the same time. We all need to avoid the major Christian and Jewish holidays so that rules out April, some of October and most of November and December. We also need to avoid January since that is when the Christmas bills come due. We also need to avoid April 15th, so that rules out April. And we need to avoid the summer, since many people leave town to go on vacation."

Oh. So that's why. OK. Interesting.

My Sirius Radio Broke.

It did. It broke. A day or two ago. It just lights up - I see the Sirius logo, with the doggie - on the display, and then nothing happens. Ugh. I'll have to call customer support. I'll report back on how that goes. (At least that gives me an excuse to concentrate on NYC AM & FM more.)

I also feel like crap. I caught a cold yesterday. Plus getting on the Internet will be iffy this weekend, off and on. Sorry to whine. I promise not to do this too much.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Jake E. Lee on Power 105.1: Weird.

This morning, on the city's top-rated Star and Buc Wild show on Power 105.1, a story was read about how Ozzy Osbourne's house in Hollywood was being sold. That promptly inspired Star to start rhapsodising on the guitar-playing skills of Jake E. Lee, perhaps the most uncelebrated of Ozzy's post-Sabbath guitarists, as he proceeded to play most of Ozzy's 1986's #10 hit single "Shot In the Dark" - which is rarely heard on any station, much less a hip-hop one. He even argued that Jake was superior to Randy Rhodes and Zakk Wylde (who, according to Star, "can't write a song worth a damn"). Not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear on the city's most happening "urban" morning show. Cool, though.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Olympics on Radio? Strangely enough, it works

One doesn't think of the Olympics - a grand and colorful spectacle that NBC* is covering the hell out of (and doing a pretty good job of, by the way) - as "good radio". Yet I have to say that Tonight in Torino, the 2 hour nightly recap being heard nightly at 11 PM on WFAN 660 during the games, is doing a great job. It's an exciting and fast-paced show, the hosts (John Tautges and Rich Ackerman) are obviously having a great time, and - free of the need for "compelling visuals" or all that "up-close-and-personal" crap - the games come alive in your brain. The show not only features great, smart commentary, but even replays the day's radio "play-by-plays" of skiing events, figure skating, etc., and I'll be damned to say I find it compelling, entertaining stuff. (Hear clips for yourself at Westwood One's website.)

An admission here: I'm not much of a sports fan. OK, I'm not a sports fan. So I almost never listen to sports radio. I can tell you precious little about Mike and the Mad Dog, although I'm certain they're brilliant at what they do. Much of my sports radio listening over the last couple of years happened by accident, when I was driving in my car (on what I like to call my "never-ending commute"), trying to get the traffic report on WCBS 880, and finding that - to my chagrin - I was listening to a goddamn Yankee game.

And yet (after of course yelling at the radio and at WCBS's betrayal of its mission to be an around-the-clock news station) I'd find myself listening to the games... envisioning, if you will ,the game and the ballpark in my mind... and loving it.

I'd like to quote Susan J. Douglas here from her book Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination, which is - hands down - the single best book on radio I've ever read. She talks about how and why sports (specifically, baseball) on radio works - or at least worked in its heydey:

"Today, on television, there are cameras everywhere to provide every view, from the wide-angle establishing shot of the ballpark to the closeup of the pitcher's face. There is instant replay. There are endless visual displays of statistical information. On radio, the announcer had to provide all of this, from the weather conditions and mood of the crowd to the play-by-play and instant replay. It required great observational skills, a sharp memory, and, during lulls, changeovers or rain delays, the ability to tell stories... This mattered because [the announcer] was the listener's only source of information; the listener was utterly dependent on him for everything as he or she imagines the game - what kind of pitch was thrown, what the count was, how the batter swung, where the ball went in the field, who caught it and how, and whether someone was safe or out. The listener had to work, too, imagining the width, height, depth of the ballpark, the configuration of the bleachers, the trajectory of the ball. When an announcer described an outfielder going 'back, back, back, back,' the listener zoomed in on the ball, its motion, its arc."

Radio puts your brain to work - a delightful kind of work - in a way TV never does.

* admission: the company I work for

This morning at 10 on WNYC: Were We Misled?

The live debate I was mentioning last week - "Were We Misled? A Debate on Pre-War Intelligence”, which took place at the New York Society for Ethical Culture last Wednesday night - will be aired on Brian Lehrer's show this morning on WNYC-AM (820) and FM (93.9) between 10 AM and Noon. (If you're reading this after the fact, click on Brian's link above to listen via RealPlayer and/or mp3.) The guests of the event included Christopher Hitchens, David Corn, Bob Graham and Ruth Wedgwood, a neo-con replacement for neo-con Bruce Jackson, who was a no-show. (Perhaps he blew off the debate because, as David Corn himself notes in his blog, "the event took place on the West Side of Manhattan, a rather liberal spot, and we were before a crowd of 800 or so people who clearly were not Weekly Standard subscribers.")

I plan on recording the show so I can hear it later, and I hope to hear more than just the Upper West Side hooting described here... but this writeup in spiked: politics (a London-based political magazine) gives a rather discouraged review of the evening. Perhaps it'll all sound more coherent and less blustering with some savvy editing. One can hope. I like Brian's show - a lot - but inviting such partisan types to yell at each other in front of an inevitably partisan crowd... does that make fresh, open political insight possible? And/or does it make "good radio"?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Howard. Let's talk.

Last week, I was talking with a friend of mine, a guy I think highly of, a guy I find highly intelligent. I was telling him about my new blog, and mentioned that I was a Howard Stern fan. He was taken aback. "Don't you realize Howard hates women?" he told me.

I don't think Howard hates women. But I certainly have mixed feelings about him, and feel worried, whenever I hear from someone whose opinion I really respect, when I hear that they think Howard's a misogynist, or evil, or whatever. I know many of my friends disapprove of (hate?) Howard for any number of reasons. Do you? Tell me. Please add a comment at the bottom of this post.

I had been thinking about starting this blog for a couple of years, but the thing that finally motivated me to actually do it was my getting a Sirius radio for Christmas, and how I dug all the different stations on it after I got the thing working. But what motivated me to get a Sirius radio in the first place was: Howard. Of whom I am a fan. With mixed feelings. I have a couple of "big stories" I have "in the works" for The NYC Radio Gazette about Howard and his stations and his status, but in the back of my mind I worry: will such coverage turn off my intended audience - whom I have defined as "people in need of intelligent radio"?

What do you think? Tell me. I will post more Howard thoughts in the days ahead. But I'd love to hear what you have to say.

WQXR - showin' us some loooove

WQXR 96.3 is gonna help us get all gooey and romantic this Valentine's Day by playing "love songs... nothing but love songs" between 9AM and 7PM today.

To quote the station, we'll be hearing "operatic arias, duets, and orchestral repertoire relating to amorous themes, including selections from the Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Berlioz versions of Romeo and Juliet; Bernstein’s West Side Story; Dvorák Romances; duets from La Bohème and Madama Butterfly; Fauré’s Pelleas et Melisande; Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict; Strauss’s Don Juan; Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice; and the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde." Sweet!

Then, tonight at 9, WQXR presents its nationally syndicated program, The New York Philharmonic This Week, which has been described as "the most ambitious orchestra series currently on American radio". The broadcasts aren't live, but are pretty current (while the orchestra is in its season, of course). Tonight's show, recorded in early February, features conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane with Mozart's Piano Concertos in G Major (K. 453) and D minor (K. 466), plus the Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major, K. 364. What's especially neat is that you can go here for an amazingly useful guide to tonight's show - with audio clips, video clips and exquisitely detailed PDF notes about each piece. Very cool!