Saturday, June 23, 2012

Listening with friends

The world of an audiophile can be a solitary existance, for myriad reasons. For one, differing tastes in music can be isolating. In fact, differing opinions over which of 47 different flavors of alternative rock one could/should appreciate can be divisive, let alone a listener that likes a particular genre over others. A classical fan might not be able or willing to sit through a session featuring Type O Negative, and by the same token, someone who shaves their eyebrows and listens to Marilyn Manson everyday might not listen to too much Brahms, for example. They might appreciate the aesthetics of certain baroque stylings, but it's more likely that someone who's into country might like Wilco as well.

It's always good when two musical minds can merge over a listening session if that action can have some greater purpose. I have a friend who spends a goodly amount of time hanging out at a local radio station that has a somewhat open mind about what they term air-ready rock music. They are actually a commercial entity, but although they rely on ad revenue as a means of support, as do all commercial concerns, radio or not, their programming style is a bit looser than most local rock stations. To characterize their stylings would be to place them just left of center on the socio-political radio dial. Their programming ideas falls just to the right of public radio's scale.

My friend has an in at this station and attemps to sway their programming angle to one that's in tune with his tastes for obscurer, off-center music, stuff I like to call "collectible unknowns". The artists in this category would have had their run in the late 60's/early-to-mid-70's when bands and artists could get major record contracts on suggestion from other musicians and producers who recognize a spark of talent and drive to put out, say, a whole LP's worth of tunes at least. They would have been recognized to have the potential for more, but in truth, some of these artists only ever had an LP's worth of songs in their repertoire, albeit supplanted by covers. These groups could, for a short time at least, support themselves on this income, as hard to believe as that may be. At least they could garner tour support, as they set out to promote their latest release at that time.

My friend Todd, of late, has gotten very serious about collecting these artists on vinyl. Finding these not-necessarily-too-popular groups on 33 1/3 RPM is still fairly easy (garage sales and second hand stores being prime targets) given the fact that they had been signed to fairly large labels (comparatively speaking). Although the records are (by and large) out-of-print, they surface often. There's still quite a bit of vinyl out there that falls under this category, simply because some of the music is admittedly marginally listenable (barely collectible?), and he manages to find it at a big, well-known local flea market as well.

His mission? To infiltrate this local station and ply their programming standards by making CD rips of these obscure artists and particularly, songs that might fit a certain show's main theme. This notion, even in commercial radio, to have themes in itself is fairly rare! Most stations are pretty generic with regards to songs, formats, themes, and any kind of variety per se. Advertisers don't go in for too much of, in their vernacular (not mine, necessarily), "old rock crap", but to see someone, let alone a whole station espousing this programming philosophy, is refreshing. I'll support it in moral terms, and my task is to help him on the tech side by ripping his rare LP's to CD for airplay and to supply some material as well. In the CD format the DJ's are more likely to actually cue up a compact disc, as the radio station has surely removed their tape decks and turntables long ago!

We've found that the Sony RCW-D500C CD recorder (reviewed previously in these pages) has a knack for treating an old scratchy record as if it was a bit higher-grade copy, by way of simple listening tests conducted to judge whether a particular rip might be of acceptable sound quality for broadcast purposes. It tended to gloss over small imperfections well, and while it couldn't perform the supernatural and correct skips and the like, it was pretty kind to most records, including some pretty rough 45's that he chose to include. That was the big surprise! I explained to him that he'll yet again get added benefit from the radio station's playback gear, complete with filters that will further clean up these archaic gems as they go out-to-air.

It was fun to listen to the good (mostly) music, fun to get together to have a good listening session with a good friend in music and records who shares my tastes and passion (hence the title of today's blog), and to be able to contribute to the gestalt of altering the programming (and the audiences' perceptions with this uncommon practice as well) of a once-static medium, that of local commercial radio. Even if it was just a small local station, it was still cool to know that my efforts altered the mentality of a once-totally-static audience! I've programmed and produced programming for commercial-free community radio to great effect (lots of phone calls thanking me for innovative shows and such), but never was I able to affect programming on this particular level. This virtually NEVER happens on commercial radio, for fear of offending an advertiser or a member of the listening public. I see it as a coup to a degree, and I'll always be up for this level of gestalt at any given time! I love to f with the forces that be!

The above picture is of pirate radio station Radio Caroline in the 60's. They illegally broadcasted in England, although their facilities were located technically in international waters. They were moored in the Thames River, a few miles offshore, to provide alternative programming to the staid BBC fodder that was neither innovative nor very frequent, allowing only an hour or two of pop music per day amongst its mostly classical/jazz/talk repertoire. They were hugely popular in their heyday, and the fact that they were illegal was largely ignored for a time by the authorities till it was obvious that they were in violation of federal laws concerning the BBC and their monopoly over the airwaves in Britain. It was very much an us vs. them situation, one which was unanimously in favor of the pirates... This was the means by which many pop groups garnered airplay that might have been denied by the BBC for various sundry reasons, mostly censorsip and arbitrarily-applied logic. I equate the gestalt of de-programming local commercial radio with this business standard, just not quite on this level and scale! This would be equal to having your own high-quality, high-power FM transmitter and saying "f you" to the FCC!

Tomorrow we'll be up for further gestalt actiivities, so keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

No comments:

Post a Comment