Still Tuning In After All These Years: Why I Love Radio

Published on July 30th, 2009 in: Issues, Music, Radio, Retrovirus |

By Jesse Roth

On an otherwise normal Sunday night a couple months back, I found myself sitting alone in my car, mourning the loss of what can best be described as a fair-weather friend. 94.7 The Globe, a mediocre but mostly listenable attempt to resurrect the hallowed progressive rock station WHFS , was echoing its long-departed cousin by playing Jeff Buckey’s “Last Goodbye.” Following a minute of dead air, the station would transition to yet another bland adult contemporary wasteland, a now-familiar occurrence on the radio dial.

car radio dial

Though The Globe was more disappointment than must-listen, it was one of the few stations left in the Washington/Baltimore area that ever dared to play anything other than the uninspired mix of legendary but overplayed 70s and 80s rock acts. Though these moments of brilliance were always sandwiched between the usual fare, it was the hope of hearing one of the rarities that kept the station on my pre-programmed setting in the car. 94.7’s death made me question once again whether or not I should give in and switch to the commercial-free, wider-variety landscape of satellite radio, or just beef up my iPod with more tracks to get me through the long drives to work. After all, I’ve always hated the endless array of annoying ads and I find radio DJs to be more of a distraction than gatekeepers to new favorites. Why keep listening to radio when there is little left to tune into?

Listening to the radio has always been a part of my life. I still cherish the early days of my driving career, taking joy rides in my father’s Volkswagen Beetle convertible around town, listening to the radio, and receiving an early introduction to music history. I recall many times lost in the worlds of 90s dance and pop as I danced in my room, or the times I stayed up all night during my lonely teenage years discovering previously unknown bands from the 80s and 90s alternative and indie scenes.

Over the years, the stations changed and yet I always managed to find a new love when the old one let me down. Whether WKZQ or Surf 107, Mix 97.7, 106.5 The End, or WRBK, these stations were part of my broader music education. Even as a card-carrying member of the MTV generation and infrequent Internet downloader, I still turned to the radio to hear what new genre or random, yet perfectly-crafted three-minute song might capture my ears. My somewhat short attention span simply enjoyed the lack of commitment to one artist or one type, and my love of constantly flipping and mixing genres likely programmed me for eventual adoration of the shuffle feature on the iPod.

My tastes these days are fairly at home in what is known as the “adult album alternative” (or AAA) genre of radio. I consider myself fortunate to live in an area that carries not one by two stations that adhere to this exciting and eclectic format: WRNR and WTMD. Playing everything from classic rock and soul hits to the latest trendy “indie” act, I feel as if some radio programmer out there has finally answered my prayers. I still have to put up with occasionally annoying DJs and commercial interruptions (or in the case of WTMD, pledge drives) but those seem a minor price to pay for quality entertainment.

Of course, I know the realities of the situation in radio. The industry is based on revenues and my tastes rarely pay the bills. I shouldn’t be shocked if one day I flip on WRNR and find Lady GaGa and Flo-Rida instead of Vampire Weekend, The Replacements, or “Little Steven’s Underground Garage.” I know at that moment I should just abandon radio and switch over to the “future.” But I know myself too well. I will simply turn the dial left or right, adjusting for static and personal taste, until I land on my new love.

Some habits simply don’t die.

Leave a Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.