Music has been a significant part of my life since I was 8. I remember when my dad brought home Pink Floyd's The Wall, and he sat me down and told me how wondrous my world was about to become. Since then, music has made me happy and it's made me cry. Sometimes I can’t wait to hear something new and sometimes I can’t believe how bad it is...I mean, really, people?!
I can’t imagine a day without music. I wake up to it, I listen to it most of the day, I make playlists for special occasions such as birthdays, trips, block parties, cleaning the house. It’s hard for me to comprehend that there are people who don’t like music or don't care enough about it and only listen to the hits. With the options on internet radio, why on god’s earth would you want to listen to Top 40 (apologies to all my radio friends). There is a plethora of music out there that’s not getting it’s fair share of ear time. And too many Justin Bieber’s winning frickin' Grammy awards.
Okay, so let me step back and make a few confessions.
Bless me readers and all musicians, for I have sinned.
At one time, I was young, and naive, and didn’t know any better.
Growing up I was raised on Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Eagles, REO Speedwagon. My childhood was classic rock before it was classic. I’d lay on the floor in front of the stereo with the record albums spread out in front of me. I’d read the liner notes, sing along, and get lost. When my dad took me to my very first concert November of 1981 when I was 11 years old, tickets were, hold onto your hats, $11.50! Beer costs that much these days. My dad had a sheriff’s badge in one pocket (he was not a sheriff) and a one hitter in his other. I’m sure it was like: he gets busted with the weed, he pulls out the badge, “no, see, it’s cool man, cuz I’m the fuzz.” Anyway, we’re sitting in the back of the arena and Genesis is playing the shit out of the Duke album -- still my favorite Genesis album of all time. The opening song can still gives me goosebumps because that is some anthem-f**king-music at its finest, my friends -- and I am hooked. The live experience of seeing a band play the songs you love? Sign me up. Incidentally, decades later, I took my dad to see the Genesis reunion tour, where they opened the show with the first song on the Duke album. Again goosebumps. Again, dad had weed in his pocket.
So, early on, there were the heartthrob years. Sixth grade through high school when I added pop music to my listening repertoire. Rick Springfield, Duran Duran, Wham, Billy Idol. Posters were tacked and taped, covering the walls and ceiling of my bedroom. Those were the years of bad neon clothing decisions, parachute pants and a Michael Jackson jacket. Again, dad took me to see some of these bands. What a trooper. But he enjoyed the music too. Especially Duran Duran, because at that point, bands were starting to use big video screens behind the stage, and my dad loved the ladies in the Girls on Film music video.
And can I just say three little words that got me through this era and intensified my love for music? Friday Night Videos. I couldn’t wait to watch it every week and my parents were too cheap and scared of this new fangled television system called cable TV, so Friday Night Videos was the poor man’s MTV. These images will forever be instilled in my brain: David Lee Roth in his mesh tank top high-kicking to “Jump”, John Cougar Mellencamp in all his Indiana-hometown coolness singing about “Jack and Diane”, and Lionel Ritchie in his red shirt and black leather pants surrounded by the cast of Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo telling us we’re going to “party, karamu, fiesta, forever, all night long”. These are the songs I knew every word to, knew by the first note of the song what it was, made mix tapes of on my stereo.
Soon came college and the alternative years: my ears first heard The Sugarcubes, fronted by that weird little swan-dress wearing Bjork, on the college radio station of my school and I thought what is this? It’s so...alternative. I signed up and was recruited to become a DJ. Wait, you mean I can play the music I love over the air and thus turn on thousands of other college students to bands they’ve never heard of? Well, maybe not thousands. Maybe a handful. That included my mom, who often called the studio requesting that I stop playing that nerve-grating “Stigmata” song by Ministry. I learned there was music beyond the popular hits on commercial Chicago radio. And I decided that music was going to be my career, and whatever it took, I would work in radio.
Meanwhile, sadly, there were some dark years. New Kids, N’sync, shit, I’ll just say it...Hanson. What can I tell you. I’m a sucker for young boys, singing harmonies, dancing in unison. Still am.
My mid-twenties brought along hair band years: Poison, White Lion, Tesla, Whitesnake, Warrant. Yes, I owned a leather jacket with fringe hanging from the arms just like Bon Jovi. I even had the long leather trench coat with a pack of marlboros in the pocket. I wore the black eyeliner. I was...tough. No, not really. But I thought so. Our weekend hangouts were the Thirsty Whale and Toto’s. I got a vanity plate that said Wildside after my favorite band, known for their songs “So Many Lies”, “Hang on Lucy”, and “Lad in Sin”. I listened to The Blaze 1035 and I blasted the music as I drove around town with the windows down in my black (of course) Chevy Cavalier.
Years later, I would get hired for a position at The Blaze, which became The Rock, which became The Beat, which is now Kiss FM. I learned fast that radio was a business. It was about advertising, not promoting bands or turning the audience onto new songs. It was about repetition and cume; average quarterly hour share and time spent listening.
It was like finding out Santa wasn’t real.
No one cared about the music. It was...heartbreaking. I worked in radio for 14 years, resolved to the fact that I would never find an outlet where music was what mattered.
Then internet radio came along. The choices were endless, the genres varied, and many were commercial-free. Among all of them, I'm faithful to RadioParadise, a listener-sponsored station that I stream on my phone, iPad, and home devices. The programming is not limited to a specific genre, and the couple that run it out of their California home play rock, pop, jazz, classical, electronic, and world music. Thanks to RP, I have been turned onto so many more bands, and have spent a lot of dough on bands that no one I know has heard of and songs that have caught my ear.
Not that I would change a thing about the music I listened to back when I was an ignorant little pup. And despite the recurring instances where I am standing either behind the tallest person on earth or next to the loudest douche bag at a concert, we still go to quite a few shows. As long as we can sit and there’s only one opening band.
BTW, there are only 69 number of days until Lollapalooza.