- 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.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
HYPE! (and not from me this time)
I was listening to Michael Des Barre's show on Sirius/XM's Underground Garage channel yesterday. And, right in the middle of just enjoying the hell out of most of what he was playing, I was struck by one odd bit of hype. Michael introduced a song by saying something along the lines of "Here's something you literally won't hear anywhere else!"
And then Michael played a Beatles track.
It was not a rare Beatles track. It was not an alternate take, or an unreleased live performance, or the secret reunion of John, Paul, George, and Ringo when they all met up at Saturday Night Live in 1976. It was "Baby's In Black," a regular album track that appeared on Beatles '65 in the U.S. and on Beatles For Sale in the U.K. Granted, it wasn't ever a hit record, so it's not in heavy rotation on oldies radio. But something we literally won't hear anywhere else? Even if the word literally is indeed being dumbed-down to become a synonym stupid people use in place of figuratively, the statement still doesn't make any sense.
This is not a put-down of Michael, or of Michael's show (which, frankly, is terrific). I don't get to listen to Underground Garage as often as I'd like, but every show I've heard on that channel is indeed wonderful, and usually does contain a lot of material we're unlikely to hear very often (if ever) on commercial radio. A lot of it you might hear on [ahem] This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, but also on a number of other internet radio shows, or on fab Syracuse commercial radio shows like The Wax Museum with Ronnie Dark and Soulshine with Dave Frisina. But a Beatles song? I wouldn't be all that surprised to hear "Baby's In Black" on a regular oldies station, hit record or not, because it's The freaking Beatles!
Hype me if you can, I'm feeling down. As one who coined the phrase The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet! just to describe a weekly shindig that I co-host, I understand the sweet, seductive allure of hype. You can't undertake any creative endeavor--even being a DJ--without investing belief in the value of what you're doing; an artist can't afford the luxury of doubt. If you don't believe in what you're doing, neither will your audience. But let's try to play our games in a real-world setting.
Listen: I'm fine with Michael playing "Baby's In Black;" I've loved that song since I was a kid, it's from my all-time favorite body of work in pop music (i.e., everything The Beatles released from 1963 through 1966), and it sounds sublime on the radio. I just can't see how anyone can ever hype a Beatles song as something you won't hear anywhere else. The incongruity of that claim made me literally...um, notice it, I guess. Can't think of any other literal comparison, so I suppose it literally wasn't any big deal. Tell me, oh, what can I do?
Wait. Maybe he was kidding? Well, then...never mind.