Oh what a sunny day
When they carried the radio home
Bringing him in off of the truck
And the dogs wouldn't leave us alone
Mr. Radio, written by Roderick Taylor (Falconer)Come down here to keep us company
Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area during the 50's and 60's, music became a big part of my life. I still remember buying my first 45 records, Telstar, by the Ventures, then The Monster Mash, by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett. When the Beatles hit the stage, we listened with great anticipation, and wonder, and grew our hair down to our collars (or tried to at any rate). Then the floodgates opened, and Rock n' Roll thundered out of the speakers non-stop.
Three things prompted me to write this piece: the recent death of Reiner Schwarz; turning on the radio in my car a couple of days ago; getting cable TV (Telus actually) again after a 16-year hiatus.
To explain further, Reiner Schwarz was a DJ on CHUM-FM in the late 60s. During this time, FM radio was very different than it is today. It was, in fact, commercial-free! Reiner's playlist for any particular evening might have featured Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, followed by Bizet's Farandole, then Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale, which segued into Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. It was, eclectic, exciting, and extraordinarily educational. Schwarz was also a very erudite man and was able to inform his audience of facts about the music to which they were listening.
And with no commercials, FM radio was simply a pleasure to listen to as it afforded the listener an uninterrupted flow of current and classic music that defined the purpose of "music radio".
Not so anymore. The dreaded specter of advertising barged in and began supplanting rhythm and melody with crass commercialism. Now, we have an endless stream of loud, annoying, and mostly inane commercials, followed every once in a while with a snippet of music.
Worse still, is the rise and proliferation of a breed of DJs that apparently feel that it is they that are the prime source of entertainment, and not the music. They jabber on importantly about about unimportant things, well into the song (when one is finally played) and then again before the music ends properly, there they are again, spouting inanities and nonsense.
Worse yet again is that this dreaded breed seem to congregate into packs. You often have two or three of them all talking over one another, bouncing their mediocrities off each other as they strive to get the most airtime between increasingly lengthy blocks of commercials, before a dram of music is squeezed in. Can we not legislate this behavior solely to all-talk radio? Could we please get back to actually hearing some music on radio? And would it be too much to ask that we hear the entire songs from beginning to end without it being stepped on by some loud-mouthed fool whose goal in life is to listen to their own voice?
You may point out, Dear Reader, that there are indeed avenues for us to listen to just music, such as satellite radio, or the umpteen channels of music available over the Cable/DSL networks. Yes, that is true, but as far as I can see, they are mostly relegated to only one genre at a time. Gone is the eclectic mix with the occasional well-mannered intro or post set discussion about the music itself. Discussion about the odd bit of music that occasionally leaks through now on the radio seems relegated to drivel such as what Beiber was just arrested for (again), or who hit whose spouse etc. Enough. Enough, I say!
And it's miles at the careless touch
Of a tired hand in time
When evening fell I heard a stranger sell
Dreams that were never mine
Come down here to keep us company
Come down here to keep us company
I long for the days of old. I long for the simple company that was radio.