The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

23 February 2005

Minimal rotation

Bobby Darin had forty Billboard chart hits, which doesn't mean a thing to your average radio station, says Jeff Brokaw:

Even oldies stations seem to only play "Mack the Knife," and in that radio-hack, obligatory back-handed compliment sort of way: "here's a great record, but he's so great we donít want to wear him out, so we only play this one song". Thanks, asswipes. Which reminds me; why is it that supposedly eclectic and super-fantastic rock radio stations like WXRT-FM can't get a B.B. King record on once in a while? Besides "The Thrill is Gone", I mean. Yes, B.B. King recorded like hundreds and hundreds of songs before that one, and believe it or not, hundreds and hundreds of them were great. Imagine the odds.

Or how about Al Green? Sly Stone? Isley Brothers? Taken a listen to "Who's That Lady" lately? The album cut, with the Ernie Isley guitar all over it? Don't even start to TELL me that a rock radio station that pretends to worship all things rock, and all things guitar, has no place on its playlist for a classic like "Who's That Lady."

Memo to rock radio: put a little soul into your lineup. It wonít hurt, I promise.

Ernie was still working through his Hendrix fixation when the Isleys recut "That Lady" in 1973 — the original version, full of soul boilerplate, dates back to 1964 and didn't chart — but there's at least as much in the way of guitar heroics here as there is in your average Skynyrd track, and it's a hell of a lot less annoying than "Free Bird."

The whole "classic-rock" format, though, is based upon the presumed forklift-operator notion (doesn't sound like any forklift operators I know, but then I'm not in the radio biz) that anything worth doing musically in the last four decades was done by white guys, the Wilson sisters, or Stevie Nicks. (The newer "classic hits" format is similar, but with even more playlist restrictions.) And God forbid you should point out that, say, a revered power ballad like Boston's "More Than a Feeling" is basically just a rewrite of "Louie, Louie."

Bobby Darin is less neglected these days, thanks largely to Kevin Spacey's biopic, but still: forty chart records. And around here, you're more likely to catch "Laugh, Laugh," a Beau Brummels single Sly Stone produced, than anything Sly put out himself.

Posted at 6:31 AM to Overmodulation , Tongue and Groove


Don't get me started... oop, too late.

One of the things (out of many) that made the mid-to-late 60s such a productive time was its genuine eclectic spirit. A willingness to accept anything led to a lot of self-indulgent crapola, but it also led to some wonderful synergies. By the early 70s catagorization had once again prevailed.

"Catagorization" being in part a synonym for musical apartheid. Even on free-form radio stations like WNEW-FM in NYC, not many of the DJs played a lot of black music outside of cross-overs like Hendrix, Sly, "Time Has Come Today" or "Dock of the Bay". Even Top 40 played more Booker T. and Bar-Kays than WNEW.

So even then, in the words of a song you also don't hear much any more, you had to shop around.

Posted by: The Prop at 7:05 AM on 23 February 2005

I didn't know sound waves *had* a color, but then again, I've never understood what actually makes a *hit* on the radio.

Terkish Payne, which is more than likely why I never listen to radio, and prefer streaming 'net audio.

(If you don't listen to K-POP, the Commodore 64 old-school, or other non-standard (for the US, anyway) music audio streams, then I don't understand *you* either. :) )

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 8:27 AM on 23 February 2005

Most of the Internet radio I have heard is just as prone to catagories as broadcast or satellite. ("All Zepplin All The Time, Man!") In part because we are probably dealing with obsession here, and in part because the indexing services... um... list you by catagory.

One of my "win the lottery" fantasies is starting an Internet radio station that would minimize catagories. Real Soon Now...

Posted by: The Prop at 12:56 PM on 23 February 2005

Every couple of weeks, the local "Music Of Your Life" station will play "Artificial Flowers" or "Clementine." It's not much, but it's something.

Posted by: David at 10:17 PM on 23 February 2005

Forty chart records -- wow. He had the goods. I need to get another 3 or 4 Bobby Darin CDs, I think.

The Isleys album that has "That Lady" on it, called "3 + 3", is awesome. It's worth buying for "Summer Breeze" alone. One of the high points of R&B/soul music, for my money.

Here in Chicago, WXRT is an FM station that has a rep for being progressive. I guess it's a decent enough station, and I listened to it off and on for like 20+ years. But hey, XRT, don't play a mediocre record by, say, Procol Harum, and expect props, when you won't play any B.B. King record other than "Thrill is Gone". In other words, they play up the whole "blues had a baby and named it rock and roll" angle, and Eric Clapton gets plenty of airtime, which is fine, but where's B.B.? Or Albert King? He was a huge influence on Clapton. Anyway, I got sick of the patting themselves on the back, yet hardly playing any black music. Bleh.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at 11:23 PM on 23 February 2005

Jeff,

Was going to mention "Summer Breeze," but you beat me to it. :-)

Posted by: Juliette at 3:24 PM on 25 February 2005