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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.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Turn It Up, Or Turn It OFF?

I enjoy listening to music in my car. The car in question is a 2006 Ford Focus, an intrepid vehicle that has served me well, even as it nears the end of its tenure. Alas, the car's CD player is, in the popular parlance, busted; the radio's not working all that well either, but I can occasionally get it to accept a transmitted signal from my iPod, allowing me the chance to hear some music of my own choosing. When the iPod's not an option, either because I'm in a hurry or because I don't feel like fussing with it, I'm left with commercial radio as my only automotive music source.

Fortunately, Syracuse is home to two stations that might play music I like: Classic Top 40 on The Dinosaur, and Classic Rock on 105.9 The Rebel. Other than Sunday nights, when I try to tune in the elusive signal of The Wax Museum with Ronnie Dark on 88.7 WVOA while I'm driving in to do This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl on Westcott Radio, The Dinosaur and The Rebel are the only terrestrial stations I ever listen to. There is no current radio format that really suits me, but both of these two stations play enough of My Music to make me willing to give 'em a chance when I'm cruisin' down the highway and in need of some tunes. I'm particularly impressed that The Rebel's Dave Frisina has added The Smithereens and Talking Heads to his station's regular mix--yeah, man! Both stations play The Beatles and The Kinks, and one or the other may serve up The Monkees, The Clash, The Pretenders, or one of a few dozen other favored (by me) artists. Both play local music. Neither really plays The Ramones (though The Rebel has, at least). I give credit to each station for giving me an option of something to listen to in the car, 'cuz I'm for damned sure not gonna be listening to country, hip hop, contemporary hits, heavy rock, or talk radio.

Inevitably, both stations also play some popular stuff that I can't stand. I don't blame them for trying to reach an audience a bit broader than the Carl demographic. Sometimes a song choice on one station prompts me to switch to the other station; sometime song choices on both stations prompt me to turn the radio off and just hum the melody from Final Jeopardy! instead. I mean no disrespect to either station when I say this; hell, I think Frisina's a freakin' radio superhero, given his decades-long record of trying to improve and enhance the Central New York airwaves.

But I like what I like, and I don't like what I despise. Listeners don't have to be fair; we're listeners! With that in mind, I want to take a look at a list of artists (and a few specific songs) one might hear on these stations, and just say whether their appearance on my car speakers would cause me to turn it up, or turn it off. Your mileage may vary. Especially if you don't drive at the appropriate speed. And we proceed with the presumption that one turns up The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Monkees, and one would certainly turn up The Ramones if one had one's chance.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD: Turn it off. Every time.

PINK FLOYD: This used to be an automatic turn-off, except in the unlikely event a station played a Syd Barrett-era gem like "Arnold Layne" or "See Emily Play." But my opinion on the Floyd has evolved, and I'm more like to turn it up when "Comfortably Numb" or "Wish You Were Here" comes on.

HALL & OATES: While the fact that "Rich Girl" was playing as soundtrack the first time I saw a stripper remove her excess clothing gives me a specific pleasant memory of that song, I really have no use for Hall & Oates. Turn it off.

VAN HALEN: Turn it off. Might make an exception for "Dance The Night Away."

THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Are ya kiddin'? Turn it up!

THE BEE GEES: If it's from 1970 or before, right up to "Lonely Days," then I'll probably turn it up; if it's disco Bee Gees, from "Jive Talkin'" onward, I'm turning it off.

THE ROLLING STONES: Mostly a turn it up band, right? But there are exceptions. I'm all for the Stones' '60s hits--pretty much anything on those two Big Hits LPs released on London Records--and I'm a sucker for Keith Richards warblin' "Happy." I'm generally bored by "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I'm sick to death of "Start Me Up." And I actively loathe "Brown Sugar." Turn those off.

THE EAGLES: Turn it off. My dislike of The Eagles is no secret. On the other hand, I'll make exceptions for "Take It Easy" and "Already Gone," two ace pop tunes that transcend my enmity for the band; those, I'll turn up, at least sometimes.

BOB SEGER: I've successfully created a radio persona that screams out my distaste for Seger, but I don't really hate him as much as my press claims I do. The thing is, I do hate most of the Seger stuff that's likely to get the most airplay, particularly "We've Got Tonight" and "Old Time Rock And Roll"--those are nails on razzafrazzin' chalkboard to me. Same for "Turn The Page," "Against The Wind," and that respect-her-butt-watch-her-strut monstrosity. All of those are immediate turn offs. I'm more tolerant of "Hollywood Nights." I love "Get Out Of Denver." Wish that would get more airplay, and I wish Seger's '60s sides would get some attention.

ERIC CLAPTON: Turn it off. Note exception for "Let It Rain," which I'll probably turn up. "Bell Bottom Blues" by Derek & the Dominoes is likewise usually welcome on my speakers. Cream could go either way.

ROD STEWART: Turn it off. Occasional exceptions, but I'm usually not in the mood for even The Faces (who were great, but I've become detached from their appeal. That pendulum may yet swing back.)

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: In between, really. I used to love CCR, but "Fortunate Son" is the only track I'm likely to turn up. I don't dislike the others, but I may switch the station to see what else is on.

THE HOLLIES: Turn it up, except when I turn down "The Air That I Breathe."

CHUCK BERRY: Actually, is Chuck getting any airplay? If so, it ain't near enough, man. Turn off "My Ding-A-Ling," and turn up everything else.

PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS: Turn it up. The only split decision would be "Indian Reservation," but I'd likely let that one play loud, too.



LED ZEPPELIN: Usually off, though I would stick with "Communication Breakdown," and maybe some others if caught in a receptive mood.

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: My college-era hatred of the Dead has diminished and nearly disappeared. I would turn up "Uncle John's Band" and "Touch Of Grey," and probably also leave the dial untouched during other Dead tracks. I do wish someone would play some of the garage psychedlia from the group's debut album.

STYX: Off, except for turning "Lorelei" up. No one plays my favorite Styx song "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye."

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Up, except maybe "Over And Over," "Because," and "Can't You See That She's Mine."






YES: Useta be off, but now sometimes up.

JOURNEY: Lordy, I've done stopped believing. Off.

THE WHO: The Who's '60s catalog rates a resounding up. I'm borderline burned out on Who's Next, so it's a game-time decision for tracks from that album (except "Won't Get Fooled Again," which is almost always up). Don't hear a lot of Quadrophenia or The Who By Numbers, would be fine with not hearing much from Who Are You, and have no use whatsoever for any of The Who's stuff after that. "Eminence Front," in particular, is an emphatic off.


THE ALLMAN BROTHERS: Off, except "Ramblin' Man," which is up.

REO SPEEDWAGON: God! Off. OffOffOFF!! I can't fight this retching anymore.


TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: Early stuff up, later stuff off.

SUZI QUATRO: On! Wait, that wasn't the question, was it?

Don't touch that dial, you say? That's not how I roll, friends; not how I roll.

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