28 July 2010

The '80s Is The New Oldies

{A faulty iPod leads one man back to radio and a sobering discovery.}

The quick death of an iPod isn't nearly as bad as a slow death.

A few weeks ago, my trusty 30GB iPod developed a faulty audio jack and now sound only comes out of the left channel. Now, I fancy myself a bit of an audiophile and I certainly fancy myself a great lover of music. Therefore, faulty audio jacks are absolutely unacceptable.

Nearly every recording that you hear is in stereo, so if you're if you're listening to, say, The Beatles and their album Revolver you're going to essentially lose half the song. Thank goodness for the mono versions.

The Beatles - "Got To Get You Into My Life" (Mono version)

The part to fix the iPod is less than ten dollars but the manual dexterity required to fix such a device is a bit time consuming and, to be frank, daunting. Of course, I could take it my local iPodsmith but then I'm paying a premium for something that I could do myself.

It's amazing how attached dependent I've become to this little device especially since I used to hate the very idea of such a device from both a fiscal and moral perspective.

At the time, nothing about the iPod seemed right. Its dependence on iTunes and poor quality MP3s was not appealing. And, of course, the iPod seemed to pretty much trumpet the death of the long-playing record and bring us back to a '50s and '60s sort of singles culture (still true but the album is making a comeback).

But, well, I've grown to love this little thing that lets me carry a bucket-load of albums in my pocket.

Anyway, long story short, the iPod remains at odds with its owner and its crippled nature has left a music-listening power vacuum in my world.

So what's an avid music-consumer to do?

Well, I've spent a lot of time listening to podcasts (where listening out of just one ear is slightly more acceptable) and using the services on The Hype Machine. Also, my dusty stereo and my dusty CDs (what few CDs that remain after the Great Digital Transfer) have gotten more work.

Then there is my return to the FM side of the radio.

Now, Radio (no, not this guy) and I have had a long-standing love affair.

I started listening to talk radio much earlier than I think I really should have and spent countless hours listening to KROQ, KIIS FM, KLOS, K-EARTH, KOLA, et al.

I look fondly upon the days when I had a blank tape in my stereo with one ear trained on the radio, ready to spring from my books and my bed to un-pause the stereo and record songs to make compilation tapes for myself  friends girls.

Boy, those were the days.

Our Lady Peace - "Clumsy"

Oh and, if I was ambitious enough, I'd use a cheap microphone and my best radio voice to act as a DJ and introduce songs. Not surprisingly, K-JOE were the radio call letters. Somewhat surprisingly, I can use the power of this magical series of tubes to start my own internet radio station or podcast (coming soon!).

(By the way, Ryan over at Pigs & Spiders has a great opening paragraph about mixtapes in this post that took me down Memory Lane, Anytown, USA)

I listened to a great deal of radio through out high school and college but fell out of practice when the ol' iPod came into my life.

So, for years, radio and I have barely kept in touch. But my handicapped - most definitely not handicapable - iPod has brought me crawling back to radio with my tail between my legs, flowers, and an apology.

Thankfully KCRW welcomed me back with open arms and new stations like Jack FM and The Sound have been more than serviceable.

Then I looked towards trusty ol' K-EARTH.

Trusty ol' K-EARTH 101 whose trustworthy tag line - "Good times, great oldies" - has served as my own personal tag line on more than one occasion.

Here's where I can hear the hits of my childhood. Well, technically the childhood of my parents but I listened to a lot of quote-unquote oldies in my day and certainly devoured more of the sounds of the '50s and '60s in my more advanced years.

So, I was prepared to walk fondly down memory lane and talk about the good old days with K-EARTH 101.

But K-EARTH 101 turned out to be that ex-girlfriend that you reconnect with and think, "Wait, what happened? You used to be cool."

Sure, K-EARTH still plays the old hits. But, man, things are different.

Turns out (according to the always reliable and highly accurate (Ha!) Wikipedia) K-EARTH 101 has slowly been shifting their format from those "golden oldies" to accommodate a newer generation of listeners. So, in the early 2000s, K-EARTH (and many other oldies radio stations) started to add more songs of the '70s to their playlists.

Fair enough. I can deal with some '70s-era Rolling Stones and Elton John. Nothing wrong with that.

But a distinctive line (it's drawn right between 11:59 PM on 31 December 1979 and 12:00 AM on 1 January 1980) was crossed.

Coming off the heels of something like "Homeward Bound" by Simon & Garfunkel, I was subjected to "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson. A hit from Nineteen-eighty-fucking-seven!


I'm not kidding. Try following "Homeward Bound" with "The Way You Make Me Feel" and then tell me how you feel! The feeling should be anger.

Simon & Garfunkel - "Homeward Bound"

Michael Jackson - "The Way You Make Me Feel"

Now, I have no problem at all with post-Jackson 5 Michael Jackson but just get his '80s hits out of my beloved K-EARTH 101!

Turns out back in 2007 (while I was still carousing with my iPod), K-EARTH has added songs from the '80s. So now I can expect to hear more Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Hall & Oates. Again, nothing wrong with these guys, but - wannabe-purist that I am - these artists have no business on K-EARTH 101, the home of these so-called "good times" and alleged "great oldies."

But that's just it isn't it?

It's a business.

I totally get it. People barely listen to radio anymore. Ratings are dropping. Radio stations have to attract a younger demographic. Blah, blah, blah.

The sobering reality is that the '80s is increasingly becoming the new oldies and I just have to deal with it.

Hell, I need to accept the fact that, at the rate they are going, someday there will be some '90s hits creeping into the playlists of K-EARTH 101.

I suppose this is why satellite radio is so popular. I can switch to a dedicated '50s and '60s station on XM and get my fill there.

Of course, I do have this moral objection to paying for radio.

Maybe these so-called terrestrial radio stations should act more like satellite radio.

I should be able to tune into K-EARTH and get my '50s and '60s hits while KLOS can give me my "classic rock" fix from the '60s and '70s and while KUSC gives me all the hits from the 1700s, so on and so forth.

In a day and age where things (literature, films, popular music, politics, etc.) are carefully cataloged (pigeon-holed?) and applied labels and sub-labels and sub-sub-labels and sub-sub-sub-labels, it's crucial for radio to stick to specific genres and not shock their beloved listeners me.

Then again, I could just get my iPod fixed.

Derek and the Dominos - "Layla"

"I am a complete curmudgeon and proud of it." ~ Eric Clapton