Radio in Raleigh, in a word, sucks. Unless, of course, you like 24 hours of twangin’ country, metal-head, post-grunge, Metallica-meets-Pearl Jam hard rock, or total 90’s alternawannapop. And as for variety, forget it. In Raleigh, variety means three different songs by Britney Spears.
As a result, I swore off the radio in favor of CDs. At home, in the car, wherever I go, I usually have at least a half dozen with me, and since I own several hundred, I get plenty of variety. When it’s not CDs, it’s one of the 32 digital music channels on cable. I have become almost totally a radio-free zone. Almost.
Occasionally, when the mood struck me just so, and the light was just soft enough, and I had just had one of those kind of days, I would tune in to 102.9 The Wind, the local smooth jazz station. Not the greatest station in the world, but just different enough, and funky enough, and un-cool enough to make a radio worth having for more than just weather reports.
And so, of course, they killed it. The gods of bad radio reached out and coldly, swiftly, cruelly, smote.
Saturday morning at 6am, I climbed shivering into my truck, started the engine, flipped the radio to 102.9 and heard “The new home of the Super Stars of the 80’s and beyond!” Without warning they had destroyed my last, best hope for decent radio in Raleigh. And in my despair, I listened.
I’ve listened to it for the past 3 days out of a combination of perverse curiosity, and a desperate hope that I might actually hear a really cool, obscure 80’s gem…something like Lene Lovitch, Lucky Number, or Missing Persons Mental Hopscotch. Needless to say, I have been disappointed. Very disappointed.
What did we get? The Police, but not the cool Police. Not the Regatta de Blanc Police. Not even the Zenyatta MondattaPolice. We’re talking Synchronicity, and worse yet, the dark, brooding,adult-contemporary-angst musings of Sting, solo. But at least there’s Genesis. Or is there? Sorry, we’re talking Invisible Touch here. Nothing to get excited about. Unless of course, you get excited about the smooth pop sensibilities of Phil Collins – then you’re in luck! This station has managed to dredge up every sappy love song, duet or movie ballad the man ever recorded. (Not that I can really tell them apart, I just figure they wouldn’t play the exact same song that many times in a day.)
I was hoping for the bands and songs that created the wave, not the ones that rode it. But I suppose that’s what “superstars” means. The biggest, not the best.
I give them 3 months. Tops. And believe it or not, I don’t say that because of the totally unimaginative choice of music, or even because I’m bitter. I say that because they have no target audience. Who wants to hear all 80’s music all the time?
I look back at my friends. Some of them, like myself, enjoyed the eighties for what it was and let that creativity and energy take us on to new types of music – alternative and beyond. Others became settled in rut, with music becoming merely a background track to their new lives as soccer moms and tax attorneys. But none of us wants 24 hours of Peter Cetera, Aaron Neville, and El Debarge. None of us.
You see, here’s the thing: If you ask me if I want to hear more 80’s music, I’ll say Yes. Meaning: Yes to intelligently chosen tracks, sprinkled throughout my listening experience. I admit it, hearing the right song takes me back to carefree times in smoky bars with good friends and few responsibilities. It’s called reminiscing, and it’s where the fun is. It feels good to take a break and peak back at where you’ve been.
But all 80’s music, all the time? That’s not reminiscing. That’s living in the past. And as with everything else, too much is, well, too much. We need a shot of the past to warm us up, not a liter to numb us.
Anyway, a word to the wise. If you’re considering a trip to Raleigh, bring some CDs. And don’t panic; that enormous sucking sound is just your radio.