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Friday, May 29, 2009

How Radio Rocked My Morning

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 10:04 AM

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Day in day out all week long
Things go better with rock
The only time I turn it down
Is when I'm sleepin it off

Turn up the radio
I need the music, gimmie some more
Turn up the radio
I wanna feel it got to gimmie some more

-"Turn Up the Radio" by Autograph

At one time American radio had the kind of prescient magic that people now associate with their iPods. On a summer evening, as you cruised through the city on your way to a barbecue, or sat on your stoop drinking a beer, it was as if the DJ knew exactly what to play to enhance the mood.

Okay, so maybe I’ve romanticized an era of radio that never existed, but I can tell you that when I was a kid, the radio was always on and the programming was rarely a disappointment, no matter where I spun the dial.

Now I search the dial (yes, I still have a dial) like a safe cracker trying to find that magic click that will give him access to the riches of sound and memory. But either I’ve grown older or radio got dumb, because it’s rare that I can stay on a station for more than a half hour before they’ve completely lost me.

This morning it was different. When I turned on the car radio at the start of my commute, I decided I’d let Def Leppard’s “Autograph" "Photograph” ride, just because it was a warm gorgeous day and the soaring butt-rock harmonies and bright rock guitar seemed to go pretty well with the coffee and sun and light traffic over the Ross Island bridge. The next track, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” ensured the station would not be changed.

I was surprised when the robo-announcer came on to tell me that the station I was so thoroughly enjoying was 105.9, now known as the Brew, and that they were in the middle of playing 10,000 songs in a row, commercial free, save for their annoying self promotion. I have no idea why the radio was tuned into 105.9, the perennially changing frequency that in my 9 years in Portland has featured classic rock (the River), light jazz (the Suck), and a mélange of toothless pap (the Kool). I’d happily given up on 105.9 when they dropped the classic rock format for soul destroying mellow jaZzzzz—hey I like a little Chuck Mangione as much of the next guy, but not ALL THE TIME!

The commute continued thus: “Patience” by Guns n’ Roses, ACDC’s “Highway to Hell,” which is probably the best morning commute song ever, and to bookend the whole thing “Turn Up the Radio” by Autograph, a demand that I’d already acceded to during the ACDC, surely annoying the polite neighborhood where my commute ends at 7:30 am with the pounding of the distorted chorus.

Could 105.9 become my new summer go-to station? It’s possible. If they continue spinning playlists like the one I heard this morning, I might just give my poor, over-worked iPod a rest. This kind of pop-rock—just barely holding on to the late seventies blues, glomming on to prog-rock’s use of the keyboard (though not necessarily at the same time)—just says summer to me. And when it’s played over car speakers, or boom box, into the warm open air of the city… so much the better.

I’m not sure how long this 10,000 song thing is going to last (my guess is that it started last weekend and will continue to the end of the week) but I’m ready to give 105.9 another shot.

So, who else in Blogtown is listening to commercial radio these days? What’s your frequency?

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