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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Perfect Pop Radio


FAIR WARNINGThis may look like a blog post...well, actually it is a blog post.  But it's also an appeal for donations to SPARK SYRACUSE, the near-future FM radio home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl.  Spark Syracuse will be the culmination of Syracuse Community Radio's decades of efforts to get a community radio station on the FM dial in Syracuse.  The FCC has approved the station, which will broadcast as WSPJ 93.5 and 103.3 FMThe station is listener supported, and will need a big ol' passel o' tax-deductible donations to get on the air and stay there.  Say!  You look like a debonair patron of the arts!  You smell good, too!  Please consider a generous tithe to this worthy cause at http://sparksyracuse.org/support/.  While you're on the Spark web site, you can read all about the project that will bring This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio to terrestrial radios throughout the Syracuse area.  Tell 'em Dana & Carl sent you!

Honestly, I don't know when it started.  The feeling probably doesn't date back as far as it seems; it likely didn't really begin until I was a teenager in the '70s, and may not even have fully gelled until I was a freshman in college and fell hard for punk rock.  But it does seem like the feeling has always been there. And from the flashpoint at which it took hold, whenever that was, it has never left me:

I know what perfect pop radio should sound like.  I know.

I won't ask forgiveness for the sin of hubris.  You may well have your own competing vision of pop radio's ideal, and you may have equal confidence in that vision.  This blog ain't about you, wonderful (and attractive, and well-groomed) as you may be.  It's not even really about me, though; it's about my opinions, sure, with my ruminations on rock 'n' roll records, Plastic Man comic books, The Monkees, writing, growing up (whenever I do get around to growing up), and Suzi Quatro.  But the intent, whether realized or not, is to pursue an ideal, a vision, and to convey the value of that vision.

(Wait.  I guess all that means is I'm trying to convince you my opinions can beat up your opinions. Maybe it is all about me.  Doesn't mean the ongoing debate can't be fun.)

And that ideal is easy to imagine:  a radio format devoted to hit singles--or, rather, to tracks that sound like they should be hit singles, regardless of format or actual, y'know, popularity.  My preferred shorthand is "radio-ready," and it encompasses a variety of rockin' pop records from across decades, even occasionally (if infrequently) including records that predate the rock 'n' roll era (like, f'rexample, Amos Milburn's "Down The Road Apiece," which can sound pretty damned good within a six-song set of Ramones, Kinks, Prince, Chuck Berry, and KISS, or Wanda Jackson, The Sex Pistols, The Monkees, OutKast, and P.P. Arnold).  It's all pop music.

Our show, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, is described as a power pop format.  But, over the course of more than 800 shows, a quick scan of nearly any one of our playlists indicates that we clearly are not really a power pop show.  We just aren't, and we don't want to be.  Now, I love power pop--it's my favorite genre--but I have a very specific idea of what power pop is, and I don't think The Velvet Underground and Wilson Pickett and ABBA fall into that category.  But, used as a broader buzz-phrase, "power pop" does kinda fit whatever it is we're trying to do on TIRnRR, that pursuit of Perfect Pop Radio, which includes actual power pop from The Raspberries and The Flashcubes, plus irresistible nuggets from Paul Revere & the Raiders, Warren Zevon, Little Richard, The Archies, Tavares, Bowie, and a plethora of other artists, past and present, famous and obscure.

I think this is a commercial radio format. But I'm crazy, I guess.  The fine folks who run American radio certainly think this is a silly, silly notion.  That's why we do our show on the internet, and take pains not to sully the precious airwaves with our amateur, unprocessed notions.

But you know what?  I'm starting to think it's time we took the damned radio back.

Dana and I have been involved with local community radio projects in Syracuse since January of 1992.  We were founding members of Syracuse Community Radio, which used to broadcast on a piddling little almost-frequency in the tiny town of Fenner.  Hoping to reach an audience somewhat larger than a couple of cows in the farms of Fenner, SCR began a webcast, which eventually went off on its own to become Westcott Radio. But the dream has always been to get Westcott Radio programming on the terrestrial airwaves as well.  With the new WSPJ Spark Syracuse, that dream is now within reach.

We're gonna need some money for that.

Donations to Spark Syracuse are tax-deductible, and that's what will fund this mission to diversify the airwaves in Syracuse.  Listen:  there are a lot of good, talented, dedicated people working in commercial radio in Syracuse right now, and they're doing all they can within the framework they're allowed.  But there is only so much they can do.  Spark Syracuse wants to help, because building better radio helps everyone.  Different music, across genres, with TIRnRR's Perfect Pop Radio but one tile in a mosaic of sound.  Different viewpoints. A community radio station gives a voice to the unheard, and the ripple effect of viable alternative media can even help commercial entities broaden their own scope.  If that can happen in Syracuse, then it can happen anywhere. With your help, it can start by happening here.

I'll be posting more appeals for a piece of your hard-earned cash in due time, but here's your chance to beat the crowd.  It's the philanthropic equivalent of "I saw this band before they were famous."  Perfect pop radio depends on you.  Operators are standing by....