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 "...it 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!

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's not about radio, but it is about music, and I would really like you to click on the link below.

OK, first off, please check out the other part of my life, my musical side, at my MySpace homepage. (My my.) I've put up a few original songs, which you can listen to and/or download, plus there's a bio of my "musical career", as it were. Plus: pictures! And lots and lots of friends... my friends! (They like me, they really like me!)

Secondly, I'm sorry to go off-message (re: radio) here, but hey, it's a blog, right? Free-wheeling, post-modern, blah blah blah? Plus it's early enough in The NYC Radio Gazette's life that I don't have a big audience who would feel peeved or misled or something about me posting something that's not directly about radio, right? Anyway, these songs should have been on the radio... hell, they should've been massive hits, and it's just so typical of the lame radio programmers of my generation that they ignored my genius... Bastards.

OK, I'll shut up now. More exciting radio posts to come. (Plus it was a busy weekend, with the snow and everything.... hey, why am I being defensive? As if anybody's reading this.) Meanwhile, if you're interested, check out the quirky/catchy tunes and the page and find out a bit more about me, OK? OK.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Big Broadcast on the Moon - tomorrow night

Tomorrow (Sunday) night's a full moon, and Rich Conaty's The Big Broadcast - which you can hear on Sunday nights between 8 pm and midnight on the great WFUV 90.7 - salutes that wonderful fact by playing "One Hundred One Moon Songs Part I". (Part II airs next week. No, the full moon'll be gone, but that night will be a celebration of Nicholas Copernicus's birthday*. From the earliest recorded Moon-themed song Rich could find - Billy Murray's "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", from 1909 - to the latest song he's planning on playing, a 1940 record of Rosemary Calvin's "How High the Moon" (Rich doesn't play much music that dates from WWII or later), you will hear... well... peerless American pop. About the moon.

There are two nice new write-ups about Rich's always-worthy show - this mention in David Hinckley's column and this nice write up by the New York Observer's Terry Golway - but I disagree with Mr. Golway's statement "if there’s a radio program like Mr. Conaty’s in the New York market, I’ve yet to hear it." Dude - just tune to WNYC-AM tonight, or any Saturday night, to catch Danny Stiles' Big Band Sounds show, between 8 and 10 pm, on WNYC-AM 820.

* “All right,” Rich told The New York Observer, “he’s more of a sun guy, but he certainly saw the moon”.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What to listen to this weekend...

  • Last night at 7:35 pm on WLIB 1190 Air America, REM's Michael Stipe chatted with Janeane Garofolo on "The Majority Report". (You could have even seen the show as a webcast if you signed up for Air America Radio Premium. Did he look like this?)
  • As I've mentioned before, you can indulge in the glorious sound of classic pop on AM Radio on a Saturday Night by tuning in Saturday Night Oldies with Mark Simone on 770 WABC between 6-10 pm... 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.
  • Too bad all that great oldies radio tonight (Saturday) has to compete against Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight (between 8 PM and Midnight on WFUV 90.7), because Vin (who I've also raved about here before) has on as his guest Ken Emerson, author of Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era – the story of great pop songwriting teams such as Goffin & King, Bacharach & David, Mann & Weil, Leiber & Stoller, et al, and their early '60s home on Broadway and 49th. As a Burt Bacharach expert - fiend? - I will not be missing this. (I'm ashamed to admit I haven't devoured the book already...)
  • Tonight between 11PM and 1AM on WFAN 660, tune in to the second night of Tonight in Torino, Westwood One's 2-hour nightly recap of what's happening at the 2006 Winter Olympics, hosted by John Tautges and Rich Ackerman. (I plan on doing more of a write-up on Olympic radio coverage shortly... stay tuned. One doesn't think of WFAN fans as being all that interested in the Olympics... but maybe I'm wrong?)
  • 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; this weekend, host Brooke Gladstone is in Jerusalem, reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict; one of the things she looks at is how the words used to report the ongoing crisis ("wall" or "barrier"? "Seperation" or "security"?) reveal worlds about the political viewpoint of whoever's doing the reporting.
  • 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.)

Satellite Wars: will Oprah kick Howard's ass?

As you may have heard - the way this woman makes news, it's amazing - Oprah Winfrey has signed a $55 million, 3-year deal with XM Radio. While Business Week sees this as a potential knockout blow for Sirius because "Oprah's marketing appeal far exceeds Sirius's radio jock Howard Stern", Rick Munarriz of The Motley Fool points out:

"Sure, Oprah is great. According to Nielsen, her TV talk show attracts nearly 50 million viewers a week. That's more than the audience that Stern was commanding on terrestrial radio. But there's an important distinction here, in that Stern's radio show replaced his popular show on Viacom. Oprah has no plans to give up her prime TV gig. Folks who need an Oprah fix will still be able to check her out for free on the tube every weekday."

The use of the word "fix" is right on the money, because the issue here is about junkie-dom. Howard's hardcore fans are Howard-junkies; Oprah's hardcore fans are Oprah-junkies. Howard removed himself from terrestrial radio, so the only way his junkies can get their fix is to buy a Sirius radio. Oprah has no intention to leave television, and will actually only be on XM's air for a half-hour a week (which is why Oprah's many friends will be there to fill in the rest of all that airtime). Howard - despite his denials - promoted Sirius relentlessly on his FM radio show since his deal was announced; it's not certain how much Oprah will mention XM in upcoming months, although even a handful of mentions by her can do wonders for any company's product. (Look at Random House's "A Million Little Pieces"! Oops.)

To me, Oprah's new radio channel - filled with "topics such as current events, self improvement, health, nutrition, fitness and home" - will be an awful lot like Martha Stewart's channel on Sirius, and will be as fascinating (which is: not very. Then again, I'm not in the demographic.). Now Martha is certainly important and promotable for Sirius, and Oprah is definitely important for XM, a far bigger star than Martha. (A far bigger star than anybody at this point, it seems.) But I think the deal has more to do with corporate posturing and promotability* than it has to do with a bloody battling for audience.

Now - if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity removed themselves from terrestrial radio and went to XM, that would be a fight. But those guys don't have the FCC-punching-bag impetus that Howard did.

* don't get me wrong, that's very very important stuff at this point for satellite radio.

Microsoft's "Smart Car Radio" - a Radio Tivo?

There's not much info there yet, but here's a fascinating* Endgadget story about how Microsoft has just been granted a patent (applied for in 2002) for what's called a "smart car radio". In other words, it'd be a "Radio TiVo" for your car or computer that would allow you - quoting Endgadget - "to record music and filter out 'undesirable audio content (e.g., advertisements and unwanted news).'" As a huge fan of "Radio TiVo"-type technology - the Radio Shark, Radio YourWay and RadioTime are all out there already, at varying levels of coolness - I am excited about this thing, though worried about the Microsoftization of this incredibly important innovation for my fave medium.

What's interesting here is that a TV TiVo don't exactly "filter out" TV ads - they allow you to fast-forward past them, sure, but the big TV business doesn't let TiVo install a simple method to completely "edit out" commercials (though there are workarounds for some of the older models that'll help you jump past 'em in 30 second increments). If Microsoft's Smart Car Radio lets you zip past ads... what's the ad-based radio industry gonna do?

When I first got a TiVo in 2000, I was blown away. The best way I found to describe it is in terms of grades: it transforms a C+ medium (the vast wasteland that's still firmly in place) into an A- medium. In other words, by finding and then recording great shows, the kind of stuff I (or you) want to watch, a TiVo takes out the time-wasting/brain-deadening quality that much of the electronic media has had since the beginning. A TiVo, if you use it well, gives you the good stuff, as you define what "the good stuff" is. A Radio TiVo would do the same, I think, I hope. Unless Microsoft finds a way to completely ruin the concept.

A big part of why I've become such a Sirius enthusiast is because the model I have, the Starmate Replay, records up to 44 minutes of whatever channel you're listening to. Do I want to hear a cool/bizarro BBC Radio One song again? I rewind and replay. Did Howard really say that? I rewind and replay. And, if I'm a few minutes or more behind what's "live" (admittedly a hard concept to grasp until you actually start using this stuff), I can zip past the commercials on those stations that have 'em. Post-Sirius, when I now listen to "regular" radio, I now have that weird/frustrating experience that all TiVo owners report at some point - that desire to rewind to re-hear what you've just heard, or that desire to zoom past the commercials, or that desire to just pause the damn thing, and then you realize you can't, and you're bumming.

* to me, anyway

Thursday, February 09, 2006

All we are saying is...give Dave a chance...maybe

Listening to David Lee Roth this morning on 92.3 FREE FM, he had on Billy Altman - legendary rock critic and a former editor of Creem, the best rock magazine ever, R.I.P. - talking about last night's Grammies. It was good radio, with both Billy and David intelligently and (fairly) humorously reviewing the previous evenings performers. David was too robotic in how he kept quickly bringing up different artist's names, as if he was reading the topics off a sheet and keeping the conversation too brisk, without allowing any particular line of conversation to develop, but I guess that's professionalism (of a kind) for a tightly formatted morning show.

Of course, David Lee talking about how well music stars pull off their "acts" is a comfort zone for him, a subject he's perfect for. I was a bit surprised that he nor Billy nor any of the callers brought up the brilliant old Dave quote that "all rock critics like Elvis Costello because all rock critics look like Elvis Costello." Maybe Dave's too polite, or maybe he's forgotten. Mr. Roth is a very smart guy, and has that jive-talking psuedo-Lord Buckley quality that a few other rock-star frontmen famously share, like Ted Nugent, Dee Snider* and Peter Wolf (all guys who do or have done radio, incidentally). I had a former brother-in-law with a similar gift of gab. It's the kind of patter that that semi-intelligent brother-in-laws or uncles or co-workers commonly use to cover up basic insecurities. It can be entertaining, at times.

But Dave also seems... I hate to say it... square. He sounds like a 50-year-old fairly-out-of-touch coddled former rock star. Now - there's nothing saying that a square 50-year-old fairly-out-of-touch coddled former rock star with a well-worn motormouth can't become a good morning radio show host. A metalhead friend of mine, a Dave partisan who's become a regular listener, says he's coming along fairly well and has an interesting take on things. And Howard himself has been saying that Roth deserves at least a year to get good at his gig. Yet the gig might not last that long, according to disgruntled 92.3 staffers. We'll see. I'm rooting for the coddled old bastard, for some reason.

* who had a touching reunion with Howard yesterday - details here - and may be getting a Howard-produced Sirius radio show of own soon. It's interesting how the King of All Media does alot of his radio-boss work on the air.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bette, talkin' with the 'Cuz, today at 5 on Sirius 103

I once had the chance to meet Cousin Brucie. It was about 10 years ago, at the Tower Records on Broadway, down near NYU, and "the 'Cuz" was standing near the doorway, cheerily chatting with folks. I wanted to go up to him and say something, but I didn't know what to say - frankly, I was star-struck. I've met a few fairly famous people, but Brucie... I mean, he was part of my childhood. He was - is - a God. A goofy God, certainly a cheerful God, but a God nonetheless. (Murray the K was apparently in full swing when I was a kiddie, doing his "fifth Beatle" bit with the submarine racing and everything, but I don't remember him at all. I guess my older sisters Maggie and Cathie weren't WMCA Good Guys fans. Cousin Brucie was IT.)

Years later, Les Marshak - one of the best voice-over guys I ever had the pleasure to work with, a super nice guy and one of Brucie's closest friends - told me I should've gone over to him to say hello. He told me he likes and appreciates fans... and when you hear the guy, his niceness and genuineness indeed seems real. So, if I ever get a chance again, I will try to muster up the courage.

Meanwhile, today at 5, you can hear Cousin Brucie, cheerful as ever, on his "Talkin' with the Cuz" show on Sirius Stars channel 103 - chatting with Bette Midler, who's promoting her new album of Peggy Lee covers. Bette credits Cousin Brucie for "breaking" her first record, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," in 1972. (Remember that one? That was in the heydey of '30s retro, when art deco was becoming a big deal, and when a record like Norman "Hurricane" Smith's "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" could become a number one hit. That was when I started getting interested in the '30s, in the whole era of depression-era New York - which I still envision in my mind as a Hopper-esque "Nighthawks" nightscape, and the rise of the first "Golden Age of Radio"... I think I was trying to find a way to connect to my father... but I digress. Sorry.) (But aren't such digressions what blogs are for? But I digress further. Oh, never mind.)

Meanwhile, here's a complete, classic WABC Cousin Brucie aircheck from September 9, 1968.

Presenting "Mr. Rhythm" - today at 1 on WFMU

Today (Wednesday the 8th) from 1 to 2 pm on WFMU 91.1, session drummer Sam Ulano – aka “Mr. Rhythm” – is Irwin’s guest. At age 86, he still happily plays weddings and bar mitzvahs, but there’s a bit more to him than that. Sam’s played and recorded with the top names in jazz and pop; he made regular appearances on the Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs shows, and gigged with Moondog and Public Image Limited (sitting in on their infamous 1981 "riot show" at the old Ritz); he’s written over 2500 (?!) instruction books, and even recorded a series called "Drum's Fairy Tales" in which he plays wild percussion solos while simultaneously reciting hepcat Mother Goose; in a word, Sam is cool. Listen in as the man brings recordings and recollections about a lifetime behind the drum kit to WFMU's Jersey City studios. (Speaking of longevity, Irwin - described by Robert Christgau as "a tedious ideologue with a hustle", which Irwin seems to think of as some sort of badge of honor - is himself a bit of an old-timer!)

Tonight - a live taping of the Brian Lehrer Show: Were We Misled? A Debate on Pre-War Intelligence

Brian Lehrer hosts an excellent morning 2-hout talk/call-in show on WNYC every morning; during the subway strike his coverage was unparalleled, with great guests (not the usual suspects), many calls from the subway workers themselves, callers reporting on how their neighborhoods were holding up... every media outlet was going crazy on the story, but Brian's show - by a wide margin - gave a complete, sane, and smart round-up of every day's madness. And the show also felt more authentically New York - more connected to the streets - than anything else out there. You can hear his show every weekday morning on WNYC-AM and FM between 10 and 12 noon (although he's only on FM this morning - the AM side is offering "gavel-to-gavel" the Senate's Wartime Executive Power/NSA Surveillance Authority hearing. Amidst requests for pledges, by the way. Have you given them money yet?)

Tonight at 7pm, Brian will be hosting a live public forum entitled “Were We Misled? A Debate on Pre-War Intelligence,” at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (2 West 64th Street at Central Park West). Admission is free - first-come, first-served - and the panel features Christopher Hitchens, former Florida senator and 2004 presidential candidate Bob Graham, David Corn (editor of The Nation) and Bruce Jackson, co-founder of the neo-con think tank The Project for a New American Century. Fair and balanced? Yep. (Brian hosts the most genuinely fair-and-balanced talk show I've ever heard.)

Look here for suggested readings for the event; the show itself will be heard on Wednesday February 15th at 10am.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

And So It Goes: RIP Reuven Frank

Yes, this is primarily a radio blog, but - as an NBC Historian - I would be remiss not to mourn the passing of Reuven Frank, who was a president of NBC News, and an incredibly important guy in broadcast news history.

I am a bit too young to remember Huntley and Brinkley's nightly show - Reuven was responsible not only for the innovative telecast, but for their pairing - but I do remember the seemingly nightly mentions of dead American boys from Vietnam. And I certainly remember "Good night, David..." "Good night, Chet" - although Reuven later pooh-poohed that particular innovation, despite it becoming a major catch-phrase (as he was quoted in Jeff Kisseloff's fine oral history of television The Box, one of the most fun and readable broadcast history books ever published).

Kansas City Star writer Aaron Barnhart hails Reuven for the great 1980's night-owl classic NBC News Overnight, but I most treasure the even-more-infrequently remembered Weekend, a monthly (!) NBC newsmagazine that ran Saturday nights at 11:30 PM, alternating with the earliest days of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Linda Ellerby and Lloyd Dobbins. I believe this was the show where Linda coined her famous "...and so it goes" tag, and I also believe the show presented the first-ever USA footage of the Sex Pistols in a (worried) news report... overall, the show it was smart, funny, irreverent - if a news show could ever be called "sexy", "Weekend" was it. (Am I saying this just because I had a thing for the young Linda Ellerbee? Ummm...)

Reuven was a throwback, a profoundly thoughtful, innovative and decent man in the TV business, a rapidly vanishing breed. (Boy, do I sound like an old fart, or what?) In searching for a way to tie this posting to the subject of radio, I found this anecdote at the end of the AP/Washington Post obit, about how Reuven - then working at NBC Radio - was considering a job at the just-starting Camel News Caravan, TV's first news show of note:

Though understandably reluctant to make the switch, he wangled a $20 a week raise (to $110). Then he asked his new employer why no one from NBC Radio had seized this TV news writing opportunity.

As Mr. Frank recalled in his 1991 memoir, 'Out of Thin Air,' the answer he received was simple: Nobody in radio "who is worth a damn thinks (television) is going to last."

Miss WCBS-FM? Try "Classic Lite"

If you happened to listen to 106.7 LiteFM last weekend, you might have been mildly surprised to hear songs that mildly deviated from the station's usual playlist. (WLTW LiteFM's the kind of station where mildness is king - a gameplan that's firmly placed them at the top of the ratings heap, New York's most popular and successful station by a long shot.)

So last weekend the Celine Dion, Michael Bublé and Kelly Clarkson got put on the back burner, and songs like Jim Croce's "Operator", the Beatles' "Please Please Me" and Steam's goofy yet mysteriously haunting "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" were put in rotation... because the station was having a Classic Lite Weekend. "We got a great response," program director Jim Ryan told the Daily News's David Hinckley. "People really love those old Simon & Garfunkel and Neil Diamond songs that we don't get to play very often on Lite."

The stunt - which apparently got such a great response it will be repeated monthly - was actually devised to publicize Classic Lite, the new HD2 (high-definition) radio station that you can hear as an Internet audio stream here. A recommendation: if your office was the kind of place where the late lamented WCBS-FM was heard, "Classic Lite" will be a perfect replacement. Right now I'm hearing Dionne Warwick's "Alfie" (sigh), and in the last hour or so I've heard such guilty pleasures as the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun", Aretha's "Spanish Harlem", Chicago's "Just You 'N' Me", A Taste of Honey's 'Boogie Oogie Oogie", Creedence's "Proud Mary", and (gulp) Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything".

I like it. OK, so I'm a cheeseball.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rodney on the 'ROQ in New Yawk!

KROQ - the legendary Los Angeles rock station - can now be heard streaming live over the Internet. Go to their home page, click on the "Q Stream" button, and: there.

Which means we New Yorkers can finally hear Rodney On The Roq - Rodney Bingenheimer's famed and influential show, running since 1976 - for ourselves, Monday mornings at the somewhat early hour of 3 am ET. (Of course, because I have RadioTime, I can have the streamed show recorded onto my computer while I sleep, then have it in my iPod by the time I have to head to work the next morning. Nyah nyah.)

Rodney, who was Davy Jones' stand-in on The Monkees, has led quite the interesting life, helped countless bands get heard, and has even had a movie made about him. Which I'll get around to seeing soon, I suppose.

Interesting to note that the number one song on KROQ at the moment is Matisyahu's "King Without A Crown" - an catchy number performed by a hasidic rapper. Oy, those kids of today!

Dance, Dance, Dance! (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)

Felix Hernandez has the BEST classic soul radio show. EVER. (Editor's note: Am I doling out too many superlatives too early in my lil' blog's history? Perhaps. But maybe that's because I want to write about the stuff that excites me the most right off the bat. So sue me.)

Anyway, you can hear - wait, let me restate that, you MUST hear - Felix Hernandez's Rhythm Revue, the BEST classic soul radio show EVER, on Saturdays between 10am and 2pm on WBGO-FM 88.3* (sans commercials) and on WRKS-FM 98.7 (avec commercials). The fact you can hear Felix play this kind of music on a Saturday and a Sunday makes NYC weekend life worth living, quite frankly. (I've heard the show described as "perfect car-washing music". Which is right on the money, but it's alot more than that too. It's kinda like defining Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" as perfect pinball-playing music. Of course, but... there's so much more to it!)

And Felix - god bless 'im - is always taking his show to the stage, deejaying his blissfully fun dance parties late into a weekend night. The music is soulful and danceable and perfect, and the audience - a "gorgeous mosaic" (to quote former mayor Dinkins) of all ages and races - is in heaven. He's got two shows coming up this weekend: at the Celebrate Brooklyn Winter Souljam Dance Party at the Brooklyn Lyceum on Friday Saturday 10 and his Valentine's Dance at Roseland on Saturday February 11. (Click on the links for details.)

* (WBGO, which is a very very fine classic jazz/NPR station out of Newark NJ, is holding their fund-raising drive at the moment. Why they're doing it at the exact time as WNYC, I'll never know. Anyway, they deserve your donations too.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Oh, so you don't care about the Super Bowl?! Well.

Ok, if you're gonna be like that, maybe you'd like to listen to WNYC tonight instead of the Super Bowl. (Although it is time for the fund-raising drive, so consider yourself warned. Hey, give money to them, lots, OK?) The evening starts off at 6, on both the AM (820 Khz) and FM (93.9 Mhz) sides, with the always-brilliant (if sometimes twee) This American Life: tonight's show is about "stories that take place on the edge of civilization, just out of sight." Then, at 7 on the FM station*, there's David Garland's Spinning on Air, tonight featuring Mi & L'au (pictured above), two musicians who make sad, floating, and lovely music. They'll sing and play their songs, and talk about guitars reverberating over lakes, cabin fever, and the Halloween night they met.

At 8, David Garland's music blissfully continues, while - on the AM side - you can hear two straightforwardly-named KCRW shows about show-biz: New York Times writer Elvis Mitchell's The Treatment and Variety writer Claude Brodesser's The Business. Then, at 9, flip on over to the FM side (is this getting confusing enough for you?) 'cause you do not want to miss Tom Brokaw - Tom Brokaw! - on the monthly show Mad About Music, where he "reveals his emotional side to host Gilbert Kaplan and the power music plays in his life – from Bach cantatas in the cockpit flying cross country, to Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Mozart’s Requiem and the American classic 'Shenandoah,' that touches his Missouri River roots and has been picked to be played at his funeral." So there you go. (Have you ever thought about the music to be played at your funeral? As for me, I hope somebody plays "Buckaroo" by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos... at the right moment, of course. Hopefully after everybody starts to walk towards the refreshment table.)

*(On the AM side at 7, there's a replay of yesterday's Studio 360, which will talk about the Super-Bowl-unfriendly subject of Psychoanalysis. "From Freudian slips to videogames to The Sopranos," says the show's website, "we’ll look at Sigmund Freud’s long shadow on our culture". Hmm. Speaking of psychoanalysis, you might need some after listening to Joe Frank's staggeringly weird and innovative show at 11, also on 820 AM.)

The New Golden Age of Radio? Yep.

Here's an article from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune declaring we're in "The New Golden Age of Radio".

I agree - but not just because of satellite radio. We're entering a new Golden Age for several reasons: (a) satellite radio, yeah, but also (b) the exploding new world of podcasting, (c) the fact that the "terrestrial radio" industry is attempting to compete with these new technologies with new ideas, (d) the fact that "terrestrial radio" is cooperating with these new technologies, and (e) the advent of the "Radio TiVo".

I'd say these are very interesting and stimulating Radio Days indeed - which is why I've started this blog.

Turn off the TV and LISTEN to the Super Bowl!!

A Radical Suggestion for This Most American Of All Religious Holidays: why not turn the damned TV off tonight and LISTEN to the Super Bowl on the radio?? There are so many cool ways to do it! Consider:

- tune in old-school-style by catching the official CBS Radio-Westwood One network radio broadcast at WFAN 660 AM today, starting at 4 PM, with the classic, reassuring and post-scandalous voice of Marv Albert at the helm, with the help of Boomer Esiason, John Dockery, Jim Gray, and Bonnie Bernstein.

- you can listen via the Internet to Sirius Satellite Radio's NFL Radio Channel - hearable today for free via RealAudio - with all the pre-game action you could possibly shake a stick at, leading into a simulcast of the official CBS Radio broadcast tonight.

- Go to NFL.com's Field Pass and request a seven-day free trial. All set? Now you're ready to listen to the game in a myriad of wondrous ways! As long as your computer has RealAudio, you can hear:
  • the Pittsburgh Steelers hometown radio coverage
  • the Seatle Seahawks hometown radio coverage
  • the direct press box audio from the game
  • the Ford Field announcer (interesting!)
  • BBC Radio (hear the game described with a clipped upper-crust English accent!)
  • Canal + Spain (the game in Spanish!)
  • TV 2 Denmark (in Danish!)
  • NTV + Russia (in Russian!)
  • BeTV (in French!)
  • SMG (Chinese Mandarin!)
  • NTV Japan (in Japanese!)
(PS - I did suggest turning off your TV tonight, but it might be fun to listen to the Danish or Mandarin feed while you're watching the telecast, no?)

- for you Sirius subscribers, you can hear all of the above international feeds, plus the already-discussed NFL Channel, as part of the company's mad crazy radio coverage.

- last but not least for you Sirius subscribers (especially for those of you who don't give a crap about the Super Bowl itself): you can celebrate the day by listening to any number of goofy Sirius programming "stunts". Three of my favorites:
  • In tribute to the Rolling Stones halftime show, the Sirius Blues station (Channel 74) will have its Fantasy Halftime Show, speculating on which tunes the band will play during halftime in Detroit -and spinning the ones they should - at 6pm ET tonight.
  • SIRIUS Pops (Channel 86) launches the Sousa Bowl at 8 pm ET, during which Sousa' s classic compositions will be performed by the top US university marching bands, while Symphony Hall's (Channel 80) Super Bowl Battle will offer alternating selections by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, starting at 6:30 pm ET.
  • Jam On's (Channel 17) The Phish Bowl will feature hosts Jonathan Schwartz and Adam Foley pitting their favorite Phish concerts against each other, while Andy Bernstein, author of the Phish book "The Pharmer's Almanac Vol. 1-4", referees. To replicate the four quarters of a football game, both hosts will present four songs from their chosen Phish concert to support their argument as to which is the "greatest Phish concert", starting at 7 pm ET. (Yes, this is waaaay geeky.)