Yet another repurposed comment I thought enough of you CF Lifers would find interesting, informative, and/or arcane enough to be promoted up to main-page status. First, the conversation-starter, courtesy of hhluce.
I think most “classic rock” stations are simply the digital version of a 24 hour tape loop without any human intervention, utterly soulless and boring, you can tell what time it is by what song is playing, day after day.
That triggered my response, which quickly outgrew its comment-section knickers and right on into a pair of Big Boy pants, before I ever even thought of hitting the “Post comment” button.
Oh, that is definitely the case, HH, has been for years and years. Mr Bill—a dear friend of mine who plied his On-Air Personality trade in unforgettable fashion for many years at WRFX in Charlotte (99.7 FM), after which extended star-turn he made his escape to the Florida beaches—used to gripe to me about the new radio-station production process all the time; he positively HATES it, as do all the other DJs I know. There’s a very good reason for their disgruntlement, one I can readily understand and sympathize with completely.
These guys (and several gals, too), without exception, grew up listening obsessively to radio, moved so much by the spell cast over them by the sound of those disembodied voices—cracking wise, spinning records, unleashing ad lib and in-the-moment a rock-steady flow of frenzied, improvisational platter chatter without a single stutter, stumble, or moment’s uncertain pause to give the more reflective and organized side of his DJ brain a chance to catch up—that a sweet, sweet dream took form deep in their hearts.
For all those kids who, like Mr Bill, got swept away in radio’s powerful thrall, the more they heard of this fresh new necromancy, the more adamant and implacable their resolution to somehow, someday, some way become a part of it themselves, no matter how lowly, thankless, and unheralded their first paid position in the business might be.
Nothing under Heaven would prevent or dissuade them from working their way up the radio ladder to the one place they so desperately wanted to be: all alone at the console in a dimly lit late-night broadcast booth, headphones on, waiting for the red “ON AIR” sign to light up, cueing him to start his spiel. In those anticipatory moments, the fearful pressure of being The Man On The Spot suddenly felt less intimidating and more exciting to The Man In The Booth.
These DJs were passionate about broadcast radio, deeply proud of the essential role they played in its continuation and development. This bewitchment was a heady, intoxicating blend which, over time, gave birth to something we might think of as a beast with three heads: the Music Historian, the Raconteur, and the Keeper of the Rock and Roll Flame. In the form’s glorious heyday, the DJ was the life of the radio party.
In certain well-known cases—Alan Freed, Bill Randle, Murray the K, Mad Daddy Giggle, Jack Spector, to name but a few—the DJ’s impact on rock and roll history was as profound and meaningful as that of the artists themselves. The contributions of these gifted radio icons can’t be overstated, and ought never to be forgotten.
So naturally, when their once-exalted, multifaceted role was reduced by the empty suits at Corporate to the ignominious one of mere talking robots blessed with an unusually mellifluous speaking voice, it hurt. It hurt a LOT. After being admired for their unique and irreplaceable talent, the poor saps were suddenly no more than hired hands. The Suits hadn’t just taken a job, a piffling (if well-compensated) livelihood, from them; they had taken the love of their lives. No wonder they’re pissed off about it; far as I’m concerned, they damned well oughta be. Hell, who wouldn’t?
And from what Bill tells me, a talking robot is exactly what a DJ is nowadays. He goes into the studio— no longer a broadcast studio, but a recording studio—no more than one day each week to spend a few hours laying down his between-songs chatter, which the tech-heads will then splice into place alongside the ads, announcements, and other such. When that labor of (something well-removed from) love is done, the station will have an entire week’s worth of dreary, inanimate pap securely in the can, as the tech-heads like to say—”the product” (as the tech-heads also like to say) carefully primped, manicured, and emasculated, to then be pumped out to touch-screen automobile receivers. This manufacturing process concludes with “the product” droning at modest volume from factory-installed Blaupunkt speakers, to the benumbed disregard of zombified commuters stuck in freeway traffic everywhere.
Annnnd SUCCESS! WE DID IT! High fives all around! Don’t leave me hangin’, bra!!
Sadly, even tragically, rock and roll radio is no longer a creative enterprise or artistic endeavor. It’s a fucking soul-blighting assembly line. This is decidedly NOT an improvement. Y’know, in case you were wondering about that.
No spontaneity; no creativity; no nothin’, really. Provocatively clever witticisms, raucous innuendo, or off-the-cuff flights of rhetorical fancy will NOT be permitted. No wandering off-script; all lines are to be rigorously toed, all rules strictly obeyed. Anyone caught thinking for themselves or attempting honest, uncensored communication with the listening audience will be caned.
Having glommed total control over broad regional swaths of broadcast facilities, the besuited Grey Entities of Big Radio Consolidated Inc™ have surgically excised any sign of life, warmth, or humanity from the jivin’ and thrivin’ medium they so brutally murdered. Those passionate DJs who once soared untrammeled to gleeful heights of rock and roll glory are now permanently ground-bound—their once-mighty wings clipped, their voices effectively neutered, their freewheeling creativity leashed and chained.
They loved radio, but radio didn’t love them back. Which isn’t just their personal loss, it’s everybody’s.
And there you have it, folks. I just called my homeboy Bill, a solid CF fan of long standing, to let him know about this post, and will text him a link to it when he gets back to me (Bill keeps busy enough that the first call is usually just the opening gambit of the process; after a day or so’s wait, he’ll call back). Let’s see if he shows up here to enlighten us further on this whole mess, and perhaps correct any errors or clear up any misconceptions on my part, both of which are always a possibility. I do hope he will. Bill, your thoughts will be most welcome, buddy.
Update! Remarkably enough, there are exceptions to the above depressing rule still extant here and there. One such is Greenville’s The Planet, WTPT 93.3 on your FM dial. Their morning drive-time program, The Rise Guys show (“The Saviors Of Morning Radio” or, as the hosts sometimes refer to it in jocular self-deprecation, The Rise Guys Tragedy), is a stellar example of the sort of thing rock radio was once known for, and in a better, more just world would be still.
The Rise Guys show prominently features not one, not two, but four (4) hosts: three funny, smart-alecky redneck dudes, along with newsreader chick Page And Her Great Big Hoo-Ha’s, who occupies her own solo time-slot right after the other Rise Guys cease hostilities and go home for a nice, refreshing nap. The team members—yes, even Page and her justly-celebrated fun bags—all proudly flaunt deep Southern accents, in unapologetic traducement of the industry’s ubiquitous insistence on a flat, nondescript, lukewarm universality of on-air speech patterns—a carefully-considered calculation intended to soothe, never to agitate; to lull, never to arouse; to Seem, never to Be.
The Rise Guys team incautiously skates right up to the very edge of the censorship line, reveling in a riotous rejection of every dogmatic requirement of the PC/Wokester catechism. Their schtick—which is likely not schtick at all, but their own natural personalities, not something anybody could just put on and take off like a cloak, not easily anyway—revolves around defiant, brash individualism, free will, and an innate unwillingness to bend the knee to anybody, any time, for any reason. Southerners were once renowned for their doggedly inflexible pride in possessing these very qualities, habits of mind which have gradually been subsumed in most of us. But not all of us, by God.
The Rise Guys show-topic list (partial):
- Broad sexual suggestiveness, all strictly hetero-oriented? Yep
- Devil-may-care celebrations of drunkenness and nonspecific, good-natured, non-destructive civic misbehavior? Gotcha covered
- Fast cars, fast women, fast times? You bet your sweet bippy
- Outrageous flirting with random female callers whose physical attractiveness is unknown, but who come off as pretty cool people on the phone? Hey, why not?
- Stinging jokes insulting “transgenders,” Pride Week/Month/Summer/Year/Decade/Epoch, BLM, Green Weenie-ism, Crypt Keeper Pelosi, Stumblin’ Jaux “Pedo Pete” Biden? Check, check, check, check, check, and emphatically check
- Sincere-sounding compliments, snickers, and shameless pleas imploring Page to just pleasepleasepleasePLEASE bare them Great Big Hoo-Ha’s of hers and let ‘em breathe, an act of selfless generosity sure to gratify and delight her fellow Morning Tragedy reprobates? Damn’ skippy
- Recounting of the previous weekend’s leisure-time activities, with especial emphasis on a slightly (if at all) exaggerated estimation of alcohol consumption, the resultant crippling hangover and morning-after remorse, and sundry other acts of stupefying debauchery, depravity, and self-defilement? Well, I mean, y’know, DUH
- Explicit, defamatory exhortations for invading Yankee carpetbaggers to turn their sorry asses right around and skedaddle on the fuck back to wherever they came from, rather than ruining things here? But of course
From the above sampling, one can readily discern that nothing whatsoever does this rowdy, blunt bunch consider off-limits or out of bounds: no controversy too red-hot; no subject too delicate or nuanced; no bridge too far; no cow too sacred; no personage too august to elude a well-deserved whacking with the bloody snow-seal club the Rise Guys wield with merry aplomb. Bless their blasphemous hearts, they’re willing, able, and eager to turn the Morning Tragedy blowtorch on all of ‘em.
The Rise Guys bunch don’t play a whole lot of music betwixt the raging torrent of ribaldry, lowbrow wit, and Dixie-fried brigandry, a nonstop cannonade that doesn’t leave time for much more than a bare minimum of tune-damage. Contra my usual aggravation with the cavalier approach of most modern DJs—particularly their egomaniacal penchant for mindlessly yapping over the instrumental intro of even the most hallowed classic-rock megahit, only shutting down the drivel-factory as the singer draws breath to sing the first syllable of the first verse—GOD, how that shit makes my fucking blood boil!—can this self-absorbed subgenius be so delusional that he seriously imagines that his disrespectful jackassery, his inane prattle, is what anybody not locked away in a lunatic asylum tuned in hoping to hear?—with the Rise Guys, you really don’t miss the music.
Even if you did, the rest of the day’s programming more than makes up for it, packing a knockout musical punch which intermingles several disparate R&R sub-genres: classic rock, early-2000 vintage grunge and hard rock, even a 1st-generation punk song from the Ramones now and then. At first glance, one might well be forgiven for thinking that those styles would go together about like oil and water do. For my money, though, the stylistic mix is downright ambrosial, balm to soothe the savage breast. I love it all to pieces, and am glad indeed that my ex-gf Wendy inadvertently* turned me on to The Planet a few years ago.
The Planet is Preset Numero Uno on my car-radio tuning buttons, my go-to radio choice whenever I’m forced to leave my shabby abode and get out and about, and with very good reason. Should you ever find yourself within range of WTPT 93.3’s broadcast signal and have a hankering for a solid dose of some harder-edged, guitar-driven rock—never have I heard any Beta-male, unreconstructed-hippie folksters; weepy, Men Without Chests© balladeers; headache-inducing dance-trance abominations; or testosterone-deficient MOR sneaked onto the playlist there, not one time—I simply can’t recommend The Planet highly enough.
*I was dropping her ride off at a shop I know for a few minor repairs and tweaks which required a computer-diagnostic machine I ain’t got, see, and her radio was tuned to WTPT; I listened enraptured all the way to the garage, checked the station ID numbers, and straightaway plugged ‘em into my own car radio once I got back to my pad. Been listening to ‘em ever since. And yes, I did thank Wendy, profusely, for that serendipitous main-vein strike later