Tuesday, January 31, 2006

RIP Dumont

OK, this post isn't about Radio, but it is about New York City's fascinating broadcast history, which I adore: here's a cool Hollywood Reporter article about the 50th Anniversary (sorta) of the demise of the Dumont Network.

Dumont, in the very very early days of network television (late '40s-early '50s), was the "fourth network" - a true competitor to NBC and CBS - and was probably ahead of ABC-TV in terms of programming and technology, at least in the beginning. The network's amazing history (best known as being the place where Jackie Gleason debuted his most legendary characters, and where Captain Video patrolled the universe) has been written about in a couple of recent books. (This Reason Magazine review of one of the books points out how times haven't really changed all that much at the good 'ol FCC.)

Dumont's flagship affiliate in New York was Channel 5. A few years back, I was able to get into the channel's studios on on 205 East 67th street, and I looked up into the rafters - and could still see some Dumont logos spray-painted onto the lights!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Joey Reynolds - New York's one and only late-night alcohol-free cocktail party host and raconteur

A nice David Hinckley story on the 10th anniversary of The Joey Reynolds Show, which airs every weeknight on WOR-AM 710 between 1 and 5am.

Joey has a long, rich history as a deejay from the "classic" era of Top 40: you can read about (and even listen to, in the book's enclosed CD) those days in the indispensibly fun Ben Fong-Torres book The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. (You'll read that, back in the day, Joey was - gasp - anti-Beatles! But so was another radio hero of mine, Jean Shepherd. At least Jean was, that is, until he gained some respect for the Fabs after his fascinating '65 interview with them, which you should read. But I digress.)

Joey's night-owl show is wonderful - filled with stories upon stories, laughs between friends, cornball jokes, surprising insights, funny and fascinating chats with authors and singers and has-beens and wanna-bes and very very minor and occasionally major celebs. It sounds, and feels, very New York, old-school showbizzy, in an unforced way so unhip it's incredibly hip. (Consider him a more entertaining and less off-putting Joe Franklin.) Next to Art Bell's weekend show (who's thankfully returning in full force - more about him soon), it's the best late-night radio on the New York airwaves.

The "fizz" of a great segue

Part of me wants Jack FM to go to hell, because they threw WCBS-FM off the air.

On the other hand, their iPod-on-shuffle playlist often leads to (in my opinion, of course, your mileage may vary) dazzling segues.

For instance, last Saturday, the station went from Nick Gilder's late '70s guilty pleasure "Hot Child in the City" into Nirvana's "All Apologies".

That's the kind of absurdist segue that I frickin' LOVE. You don't expect it. A deejay with "taste" wouldn't think of putting the two songs together. How dare taint poor ol' Kurt's '90s angst with pure & silly pop cheese?

Yet, when I heard that, I swear, it created a kind-of "fizz" in my brain. I love hearing unexpected songs slamming into each other, especially when differing genres get thrown into the mix, 'cause my brain craves such a surprise: it creates new synapses (or something like that).

Imagine a world where Nick G. and Kurt C. were treated as equals - in the sense they both created great sounding American pop soundscapes... imagine a world where rock hipsters and un-selfconcious pop fans rocked, side by side. Imagine a world where "cheesy pop" songs (like, say, the teen epic "More Than a Feeling", or "Behind Closed Doors") get the credit they often deserve - as works of art that often get to the heart of human emotion more perfectly than many other better-acclaimed artworks. Imagine a world that... OK, I'll shut up.

Speaking of Nirvana and '70s pop cheese, there's wonderful video of Kurt and the boys running through - quite non-ironically - a version of Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun". Slate's James Sullivan writes:

Having switched roles—Kurt Cobain on drums, Dave Grohl on bass, Krist Novoselic on guitar—they exhibit a funereal seriousness that might reflect their lack of skills on unfamiliar instruments. It's more tempting, though, to believe that impossibly maudlin tune is hitting them right in the gut...

However we hear the song—as a heartbreaking suicide note or an unforgivably mawkish tug on our emotions—it remains lodged in the collective cranium. "Strange how potent cheap music is," Noel Coward once remarked. The secret of the enduring appeal of "Seasons in the Sun" is just that simple. How will we face our own final days—with grace, humility, a defensive sneer, or a loud guffaw? It's a sad song about death, and death gets us every time.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why Radio is Better than TV Pt. 1

NPR radio news is becoming the refuge for more and more TV journalists in search of a place to create good, solid broadcast journalism, says the Wall Street Journal. (This article is also viewable here in case the WSJ link disappears.)

Thursday on Leonard Lopate's show: Why People Die By Suicide

This Thursday, on WNYC's consistently excellent and unapologetically bookish Leonard Lopate Show - which airs every weekday between 12 noon and 2pm on both AM 820 and 93.9 FM, and can also be heard via the Internet, if you click on the links on the station's home page - Leonard interviews Thomas Joiner on his new book Why People Die by Suicide.

Here's a fascinating excerpt, as a PDF file.

Meanwhile, the rest of this week's schedule in an unapologetically link-rich format:

*Former CIA field commander Gary Berntsen with a behind-the-scenes account of tracking down Bin Laden (Jawbreaker)
*Jazz trumpeter Charles Tolliver
*Lisa Fugard and her new novel, Skinner’s Drift
*Jonathan Kaplan on his education as a war surgeon (Contact Wounds)

*James Carville and Paul Begala on the future of the Democratic Party, and of America (Take It Back)
*Nick Laird and his novel, Utterly Monkey
*Marianne Legato on Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget
*Norah Vincent on her experiences living as a man (Self-Made Man)

*The latest in the show's Underreported feature
*Bernard Henri-Levy on his experiences traveling in the footsteps of de Tocqueville (American Vertigo)
*New Yorker staff writer Alec Wilkinson and Thomas Joiner on Why People Die by Suicide

*Dramaturg Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, and Rosie Perez on 50 years of the Public
*Darrin McMahon with a history of Happiness
*Film historian Roman Gubern and filmmaker Jordi Torrent (“East of the Compass”) on 100 years of Catalan Cinema
*All about suspension bridges for the weekly series, “Please Explain
*Something from the WNYC Archives on “Past Present

(PS to my early readers, if you're out there: I'm still experimenting with this blog. The above information would be best presented as part of a radio listings website, I know; I don't plan on reprinting the schedules like this too often. But... just trying things out at the moment, I suppose. Stay tuned.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

3 Questions for Bob Shannon

All hail Bob Shannon, the CBS-FM deejay who abruptly lost his gig when the station changed to the Jack format (which is doing quite poorly in the ratings, serves 'em right). (OK, I'll admit I often like the "iPod-on-shuffle" playlist of Jack. But I wish that Infinity had "flipped" a less happening station - say, Mix 102.7 - to the format instead of CBS, which had such a great legacy and such a great amount of local goodwill. New York City without a station that'd play "On Broadway", "I Love How You Love Me" or "5 O'Clock World"? For shame.)

He is asked three questions by Time Out New York here.

Bob (a fellow Syracuse U. alumni, yay) was CBS-FM's greatest and funniest deejay, and co-wrote one of the great pop music trivia books of all time - Behind the Hits. (In honor of the late Wilson Pickett*, check out his entry on In The Midnight Hour, with the unforgettable story of how Jerry Wexler "danced" the groove in the studio.) Get this guy back on the air!!

*One of my all-time soul faves is "99 1/2 (Won't Do)", co-written by Wilson and Steve Cropper, who contributed perhaps the most brilliant guitar intro of all time. Got to have a hundred! Damn. Wilson always gave his all, was the epitome of soul, and will be greatly missed.

Q: What should I listen to tomorrow (Saturday) night? A: AM Radio Oldies on WABC and WNYC!

Tomorrow night - and every Saturday night, for awhile at least - you have 2, two, TWO! great options for oldies (depending on your definition of "oldies") on the AM dial (which is the way to hear oldies, I'd say. At least it's the authentic way).

On WNYC-AM 820, between 8 and 10 pm Saturdays, you can hear Danny Stiles classily present his Big Band Sounds show. Danny plays music from the 20's through the '50s - not exclusively Big Band, mind you, just classic inventive American Tin Pan Alley pop you'll hear nowhere else. Danny's got an amazing collection of music (most of it on the original vinyl) and an incredible knowledge about the singers, the songs and the songwriters. There's nothing like driving around on a Saturday night, with Danny on the radio, pretending - for a moment - you're on your way to a glamorous nightclub, partying like it's 1939.

For oldies of a more recent vintage (i.e. stuff that I remember from my childhood) it warms the heart that 77 WABC is playing an oldies format on Saturday nights from 6-10 pm. Deejay Mark Simone plays old WABC soundchecks and jingles amidst the hits. There's even a Message Board dedicated to it. Rock on!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

RadioTime - a TiVo for Radio?

I am trying out a computer program called RadioTime. It is a wanna-be TiVo for radio, one of several options that are out there. (Last year I had the very cool if lo-fi Radio YourWay, but I misplaced the damn thing after a month of two, which SUCKED.)

As we speak, the RadioTime program is recording Air America's 7-9am offering, The Rachel Maddow Show*; after a quite complicated set-up last night, it was relatively easy to tell the thing to record the show. It's now making an mp3 recording of the RealAudio feed of WLIB, which it will then place into my iTunes library, so I can listen to the show on my iPod later today. Neat, huh? I'll let you know if it's worth it. I have it as a 10-day free trial; it costs $39 a year to subscribe.

(If I'm happy with it, I may spring for the RadioTime-plus-RadioShark option...)

* one of the shows recommended in that TONY article

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On the AM and FM Dial: Life after Howard

Here’s a handy David Hinckley round-up of the most recent NYC radio ratings "book". Guess who was number 1 at the end of 2006 - with the highest Arbitron numbers of any NYC radio station since 1995? Why, it was WLTW 106.7, with their noxious month-long all-Christmas song format! Wheee!

Speaking of handy articles, here’s a who-to-keeps-your-eyes-on piece from Time Out New York on some of the more interesting radio shows in the post-Howard radio landscape. TONY (next to the Daily News) does the best job of covering Radio news in the city.

As your intrepid radio reporter – OK, as your wanna-be intrepid radio reporter – I’m going to make an effort to hear all the radio shows discussed in that article, and report back to you on them. That’s my goal, to be able to listen to many of the radio shows one might be able to listen to on local AM, local FM or Sirius (plus the occasional podcast), and give them a write-up of some kind. Can I do this? Will I do this? And does anyone (sniff) care?

Sirius Disorder: No Static At All

Meg Griffin's Sirius Disorder - Channel 24 on your Sirius Satellite radio dial - is so damn wonderful, I can't help thinking that somebody is going to yank it off the air at any second.

Any radio station that can play and mix up such astonishingly great and diverse music (from Conjunto Tipico Ladi's “Un Jibaro en Nueva York” to Debussy's "Danses Sacrée et Profane" to an absurdist cover of "Tighten Up" by the Yellow Magic Orchestra) sounds like it has to be at death's door.

Why? Because musical variety in a station's play list is "commercial suicide", and because "free form" radio has been dead for so long. (The great WFMU, of course, excepted. Though I prefer Sirius Disorder more cause the deejays there have less to prove than the usual 'FMU jock, who's usually trying too hard to play stuff that's WEIRD and "so bad it's good" and hipper-than-thou.)

It's been decades since music programmers like Lee Abrams* made sure that lowly commercial FM deejays would nevermore choose their own playlists. (Did you ever see the movie FM? Sundance has been showing it recently. It seems so quaint now - to think that the jocks of a commercial FM station would ever make a stand against corporate control. Those were different times, as Lou Reed would say.)

God Bless Meg Griffin and God Bless Sirius Disorder. Maybe I can get used to the fact that they exist. But a radio station that good has to be doomed... doesn't it?

* who, ironically enough, now programs XM, Sirius's competitor...

Mix 102.7: Music for Manicures

Today I got a manicure! Umm. Well. Normally I don't get manicures - today was my second, the first was right before a job interview a year or two ago. But today they were offering them for free at CNBC's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, where there is some sort of CNBC Global celebration going on. (I also got a free shoe shine as part of that celebration. Cool.) I don't work for CNBC actually - I work for NBC Universal's Cable Networks, where I format TV shows for USA Network and the Sci Fi Channel on the second floor. Formatting TV shows means I get them ready to go on the air - I make sure they look OK, sound OK, are edited to an exact time length, etc. etc. Exciting stuff.

So I go and get my manicure, things are slow and behind schedule, there are many women milling about, I'm the only guy there, I'm embarassed. (Look, y'know, I am confident in my sexuality, but... getting your nails done seems like such a... girlie thing. One of the manicuristas assures me she does the nails of a garbageman every Friday, so his nails can look good for the weekend. OK. Umm.)

At some point I notice that, in the background, the sound of Mix 102.7, "New York's Classic Dance Mix", is gently wafting across the executive dining room. The manicure ladies have brought their own boom box with them! And the station's women-in-the-office-friendly "Mix" indeed provides a reassuring sound; we hear Prince ("When Doves Cry" - still a genius song, one of the ladies getting her nails done sings along with every word), and - and... I'm trying hard to remember the other songs, but, a hour or so later, I can't. I do remember there was a new-sounding cover of the O'Jays classic "I Love Music", sung by a female group. Looking at the station's current advertising banner, the artists pictured are: Madonna, Tina Turner, Cher, Prince, Jennifer Lopez. All incredibly famous and Oprah-ready women, with the exception of Prince, an incredibly famous and Oprah-ready guy very much comfortable with his femininity.

I get the feeling that the Mix 102.7 songs are not designed to be listened to in the same way I listen to, say, the music-nerd-friendly songs on my current favorite radio station in the world Sirius Disorder. The Mix songs are familiar, gently aggresive, upbeat, workmanlike (workwomanlike?). The songs sound right as the nice manicurist lady works on my nails. (A pleasure, by the way.) The songs sound just right as I chat with the ladies, playing my role as the bashful guy who's interupting this pleasant office girl ritual.

Some music radio stations - maybe most of commercial FM stations in New York, now that I think about it - play their songs because they "sound" right. It has to do with sound frequencies plus "vibe", and the body's reaction to those frequencies and "vibe". I can imagine music directors being able to choose whether new songs can fit in their playlist within seconds, just because it's not too hard to know if the song's "sound" is right, once you know what the intended audience is gonna be. Definitely Lite FM, for instance, or WPLJ - two other stations that are competing for the same audience that Mix 102.7 looks for.

Years ago, I used to work an occasional night shift, editing promos for USA Network in Jersey City; if you worked late enough, you could get a town car to drive you back to Manhattan (where I lived at the time). Always - always - those town cars would have their radios tuned to CD101.9. And I would sink back in those Lincoln Continental seat cushions and gaze sleepily at the walls of the Holland Tunnel, and damn if those "smooth jazz" songs didn't sound just right. Now: I am a hardcore rock snob, and I wouldn't want to be caught dead admitting that I enjoy the gooey pablum of CD101.9-type music.

But - in those moments of sleepiness after a hard night's work of tension and coffee - I swear to you, that gooey pablum sounded right. It was as if the frequencies of the songs were perfect. I could feel my brain and body relax, I could feel myself feel safe as I unwound, as the Lincoln Continental bounced comfortably across Houston.

Sometimes the sound is what matters (he typed with his newly-manicured fingers, strangely relaxed and at peace with the world.)

Diamond Dave: Satellite Marketing Tool?

For the purposes of this here blog, I am still trying to get around to listening to more of David Lee Roth - I'm actually listening to Howard in the mornings (somebody's got to) - but for now here's a pretty scathing and detailed blog review of the show so far, with a cute headline: "Sirius Satellite and XM Radio’s Newest Marketing Tool: David Lee Roth".

Writes David Schultz: "In the absence of guests, well, to be fair, interesting guests, Roth must carry the show with his wit and charm. Instead, Roth falls back on stories of his recent exploits as a New York EMT and rehashes old grudges with Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen. In 1985, when Roth oozed charisma, this might be interesting. In 2006, it's painful radio."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

All We Need Is Radio Google

(This blog is quite new, and I'm still sorta deciding what it's mission statement oughta be. So forgive me for thinking out loud here: should I be covering the Google-buys-dMarc story at all? Will that help my intended "readers" - if any show up - find and enjoy great new radio entertainment? Not really. But should I just relax and write about this interesting new-meets-old media story? 'Cause I am interested in the whole old-meets-new media thing. Hell, nobody's reading this anyway... yet. OK, here goes.)

What doesn't Google want to be? Do they want to be a big-ass media behemoth? Yep. Certainly they want to be a heavy-hitter in the radio industry, as they've just announced that they're buying a company named dMarc Broadcasting for $102 million up front. dMarc serves as an intermediary between radio stations and advertisers via their radio automation software. Google apparently wants to hook up advertisers with highly-directly local "spot-buying", using the same kind of technology and thinking that they use in their powerful "Adwords" program.

"They want to serve as an advertising aggregator where they can offer a multimedia advertising package to their customers that might otherwise go an ad agency," says Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Capital, in The Street.

"Guess anyone still entertaining the notion of Google as a technology company versus a media company can put that to bed," writes Danny Sullivan on the SearchEngineWatch blog."Putting ads on radio isn't really a technology business. Nor is it central to that mission of organizing the world's information. Neither is putting ads into print or slapping them up all over the web, either."

(OK, I've decided why I wanted to write about this story. It's radio history in the making. Google is a giant mover and shaker in the media business, and quite possibly the most interesting growing-media-behemoth to watch at the moment. But will this affect your listening experience? I doubt it.)

PS - another interesting take here.

My other radio is a Sirius

Cool. When I get my next Rolls, it'll already have Sirius in the dashboard - and a lifetime subscription. Howard's farted Also Sprach Zarathustra is going to sound so crisp and elegant in my nice new car!

XM Radio has had the edge in getting their equipment ready for cars, although it seems that Sirius's auto industry "partners" list is growing too. Yep, it's a race.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vin & Shep: the soul brothers of New York Radio

Although this post isn’t really about WNYC radio, I’ll start off by saying that I think that it’s the best radio station in New York – maybe the best public radio station in the country (especially on the AM side) –and that I listen to it a lot. A LOT. Because of that fact, I am a proud subscriber, with my checking account debited $10.83 a month (it’s pretty painless that way). And, because I give them all that dough, they give me my choice of a “free” gift every year – you know the drill, take your pick, an umbrella, tote bag, CDs, the usual stuff.

A few months ago, I opted for a copy of “Excelsior, You Fathead!”, the recently published biography on Jean Shepherd (1921-1999), written lovingly by Eugene B. Bergmann. Leonard Lopate did a show on the book, which is why I suppose it was offered as a WNYC premium. (You need Real Audio installed on your computer to hear many, if not most, of these these audio links.) Eugene sums up “Shep’s” appeal pretty succinctly in the interview: “He had this ability to talk to you as though you were the only one. It was as though he and you were carrying on a dialogue. He was a great conversationalist, except that he was the one doing the talking.”

Jean is probably best known today as the writer and narrator of the classic holiday movie ”A Christmas Story”. But his WOR-AM radio show, to me, is why he “matters”. Listen to him. You can catch him on WBAI every Tuesday morning at 5:15 am (!) on Max Schmid’s great “Mass Backwards” show. If you can’t get up that early – or don’t have a “Radio TiVo” hooked up just yet - take a listen to “A Day at the Races”, his broadcast of January 7, 1965, which is available (along with quite a few other shows) at the Mass Backwards website.

And – and! – if you know how to download podcasts via Apple’s iTunes, you can download archived Jean shows right to your iPod. Seriously. I mean, jeez, that’s great stuff. (I have plenty to say about podcasts – I love ‘em – I’ll get around to it. I swear. There’s so much to talk about…)

When I got the book – which I love, even though it jumps all over the place chronologically, which confuses this easily-confused reader - I noticed that Vin Scelsa is quoted on the back cover: “Ain’t no one else ever gonna come close to what the man accomplished… in the dark… with a microphone, a kazoo, and 50,000 watts!” Now Vin is a hero of mine – and once I started listening to him on his Sirius radio show last night, I realized that Vin is the spiritual inheritor of Jean Shepherd. Listening to Scelsa is the closest thing you’ll find to listening to Shepherd: they are both brilliant, soulful, only-in-New York genius radio monologists, inventive and funny and kind and obsessive and generously talented.

Listen to them – both. You need to.

My favorite Scelsa show, ever, took place sometime in mid to late June 1982, shortly after the writer John Cheever died. Vin spoke eloquently of the man, quoted from his books – now this was on a weeknight on a major commercial radio station, WNEW-FM, if you can believe it, seems impossible now – and ended up segueing into the Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime”. With just a song, Vin brilliantly paralleled John Cheever and David Byrne’s brilliant portrayals of bewildering American suburbia (“And You May Tell Yourself/This Is Not My Beautiful House!/And You May Tell Yourself/This Is Not My Beautiful Wife!”) And: I got chills. I’ll never forget it.

Vin’s “Idiot’s Delight” can be heard on Saturday nights, between 8pm and midnight, on WFUV-FM; his shows are archived as Windows Media files here. You can also hear him on the FANTASTIC free-form Sirius station “Sirius Disorder” (Channel 24), which just may be my favorite music radio station ever, on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12 noon and 2pm, with replays of the daytime shows on Sunday nights at 8pm and Thursday nights at 1am.

Howard vs. Diamond Dave

Here's a New York Times "Critic's Notebook" comparing the radio debuts of Sirius's Howard Stern and 92.3 K-Rock's David Lee Roth. (Editor's note: I originally linked directly to this article, but as it's now a "Times Select" offering, I am reprinting the article in its entirety.)

January 12, 2006
Earnestly Pursuing the Gentle Art of Nastiness Behind a Radio Microphone

David Lee Roth's new morning radio show has made one thing clear: Howard Stern is one ingenious pervert.

It's not that Diamond Dave has been knocking Howard, whom he replaced on some several stations on Jan. 3 as Mr. Stern moved to satellite radio. In fact, Mr. Roth has been smarmy and collegial about the King of Difficult to Acquire New Media. But Mr. Roth makes the point about Mr. Stern's pervy ways by contrast with his own, since Mr. Roth's own efforts to come across as a dirty devil - boasting of girls girls girls and chugging Jack Daniel's - seem pitiful compared to even the slightest heavy-breathing utterance of Mr. Stern's.

Meanwhile, on Sirius Satellite Radio, where "The Howard Stern Show" started with some tech difficulties on Monday, Mr. Stern has turned in respectably true-to-form programs that display his maestro skills with his nasty-geek persona. So far, he hasn't departed much from the tone and structure of his old Infinity radio show; though on Sirius he's now free to say what he wants, he has resolved to curse sparingly. He's still panting after lesbians, pushing the subject of genital grooming and laughing at people like Pat O'Brien, the television host who was said to have left obscene voice-mail messages for an acquaintance. Mr. Stern also barrels into impolitic topics that the rest of us are afraid to broach: Yesterday he asked a gay radio personality whether his lisp was an affectation or a speech impediment.

Mr. Stern, as his fans know, is born for radio: his on-air character is an unwashed basement figure, best kept out of sight - a haggard masturbator and morbid misanthrope who must hang out with deformed and desperate men because he can hardly perform with women. The fact that the pinup girls who come on his show now seem to want to have sex with him is, in his telling, evidence only of the women's ambition and depravity.

The Stern character simply hates his guests and co-hosts as he hates himself; he's a mean little pornography-addicted freak whose self-loathing reverses itself only in fits of equally grotesque narcissism, as when he flashes his listeners with a dirty raincoat by disclosing disgusting secrets about himself. But his relentlessly loser style makes him seem honest, and wins him a privileged relationship with the truth; fans believe what he says - about everything from politics to back pain to etiquette. He has hewn his character brilliantly.

By contrast, Mr. Roth is a jaunty frontman - really, Mr. Stern's opposite. In his heyday singing with Van Halen, he was a red-blooded dude who bounced around, yelped the high notes and handily pulled the bikini chicks. There was nothing depressing about Diamond Dave's sexuality: it was happy, voracious, superficial. He postured with the best of the hard-rock studs, strutting around with his moussey hair and Spandex pants. Had Mr. Roth's big-dog persona met Mr. Stern's gamma-male one, they would not have partied together.

But on radio, the tables are turned. A doctor's son who worked recently as an emergency medical technician, Mr. Roth is far too square for the morning slot. His stories about his drunken antics of the late 1970's - or, worse, about the 50's in crazy Greenwich Village, where his uncle Manny owned the Café Wha? - ring obsolete. And he won't reveal much about his life now, refusing to answer even routine questions from fans about his love life. As a result, his sanctimony on subjects from drugs to plastic surgery to celebrity misdeeds, is unearned. If he won't say anything about himself but bland boasts about his glory days, why should he get to tell us what to do?

Finally, Mr. Roth's tenor, which is can be poignant and otherworldly on Van Halen songs like "Jamie's Crying," is surprisingly grating and banal when he's speaking. Listeners to regular radio will miss Mr. Stern's low, unerring, New York-inflected voice - and the depth of weirdness it unfailingly conveys.

I think the writer is pretty much on the money. I have tried listening to "Diamond" Dave a bit, and will try harder for the purposes of this blog (assuming I try to keep it going), but so far his show has been pretty bad, painful to listen to, a real slog. I wish Dave was doing what he was put on earth to do: fronting Van Halen.

I will say that Howard has taken pains not to attack Dave - he has said it takes at least a year for a new radio host to get into the swing of things. Of course, Howard being Howard, he also likes to say he "doesn't care" about what happens on FM radio anymore (although he mentioned on the first day on Sirius how much he misses "hitting the button" in his old K-Rock studio to being heard instantaneously by his many more millions of fans on the FM band).

Which is part of the fun of being a Stern fan: seeing through and psychoanalyzing the grotesque narcissism of a mean little pornography-addicted freak... our mean little pornography-addicted freak.

What's On? Essential NYC Radio Resources

Before we go on much further, I wanted to post a few important links for fans (or aspiring fans) of New York City radio:

The New York Radio Guide
The New York Radio Message Board
The NY Daily News Entertainment pages (look for David Hinckley's column)

Firstly: the essential-est resource is the New York Radio Guide, which cheerfully presents itself as a one-stop shop for all things New York Radio. You’ll see news briefs on the main page, weekly highlights, plus – coolest of all – a “What’s On The Radio?” page. Go there, click on the time of day, and find out what’s going on on every NYC metro area frequency RIGHT NOW. Way cool. (If only the recommendations were guided and/or opinionated…)

Speaking of opinions: another fantastic site is the New York Radio Message Board. This won’t really appeal to the casual listener, but if you care (or come to care) about NYC radio and the business of NYC radio, this is the place to be. There’s a lot of “inside baseball” here, plus more than a little “radio-sucks-but-it-used-to-be-great”-ism, but I ain't gonna lie: I will lean heavily on this message board for news of the scene.

Speaking of nostalgia: it's no accident that the oft-grumpy New York Radio Message Board is hosted by the Musicradio 77 WABC nostalgia pages. This is an incredibly fun site that's dedicated to memorializing the good old days of WABC-AM, the quintessential classic Top 40 radio station. (Check out this Real Audio clip of the great Ron Lundy doing his thing on June 27, 1970.)

An interesting thing about radio fandom is that it's so rife with nostalgia... it seems that those who care more than a bit about the medium usually assume its best days are behind it. Hell, I feel that way sometimes. When I started to get interested in radio - in the mid-'70s, when there was an upsurge in appreciation of the "Golden Age of Radio" - I was fascinated by the great past too. (I now think that my interest with OTR - the hobby of Old-Time Radio - was, in part, a way I was trying to bond with my Dad, who lived through and loved that era. But more about that later.)

I don't know if I can posit that radio's best days are actually ahead of it (despite what Howard Stern's publicity machine says). Certainly the medium today is a lean mean money-making machine, leaner and meaner than ever, which makes creativity and imagination and passion often hard to come by on the airwaves. I certainly love, and will discuss frequently, the "good ol'' days" of Radio here. With that said, I hope this blog will help turn you on to great radio that's being made now, and show you that the medium - which is now being distributed via AM, FM, satellite, internet AND podcasts - is very much alive.

One final link: by far the best reporter of New York radio news is the New York Daily News's indefatigable David Hinckey: you can find his almost-daily columns in the paper's Entertainment section. Newsday, the Post and the Times also report on the radio scene, but more sporadically. David - a sharp, concise, and humane writer - is there, day after day, serving as the main and most reliable source of what's going on on the local airwaves. Thank God.

I Love Radio.

I Love Radio.

Hola amigos. My name is Alec Cumming, and welcome to my new experiment, this here blog, which I am calling (for now at least) The Radio Gazette. The initial purpose for this blog is to revive an idea I had a couple of years ago - to create a sort-of Entertainment Weekly for Radio. There's alot of great radio out there, yet few ways to find out about it.

What inspired me to try this blog now is the happy fact I got a Christmas present of a Sirius Satellite Radio a couple of weeks ago - yes, I am a Howard Stern fan - and have fallen in love with the damn thing. Listening to the fascinating start-up of Howard 100, along with discovering dozens of other intriguing and cool and life-affirming radio channels, has gotten me thinking again about the medium, about how much I like it and think it has a future and a tremendous amount of value, and about how little it gets written about intelligently.

So this blog will initially talk alot about (a) Sirius Satellite radio programming and (b) over-the-airwaves radio programming one can hear in the New York City metroplitan area, although I think I will also talk about podcasts and Internet radio streams (which would be a neat way to have anybody listen in to these shows, not just New Yorkers). I hope to review and recommend radio shows that I like, ones that maybe you'll like too. If this lil' blog takes off, I will consider taking the radio recommendations and getting them onto a website of its own, to make the results easier to search and find. We'll see about that.

Meanwhile, I may write about other stuff - stuff that fascinates me - like the future of media, music-making and music-listening, being a single divorced dad, maybe even the occasional political opinion. Again, we'll see. A voice inside of me says "who the hell would want to read what a mook like me thinks" but then I remember it's fine, it's just a damn blog, read it if you'd like, I ain't charging.

And so it begins.