I’ve been putting this one off, as I’ve been somewhat unmotivated of late, but recent events have got me going again. As you may well have realised, music is, and always has been an important part of my life. It has helped my through some pretty rough times, and made the good times even better. All you need to do is take a look at my post titles to work out that music is a constant thread running through my life, but it goes a bit deeper than simply looking for appropriate titles.
I grew up listening to the truly great John Peel and his impish, young sidekick Andy Kershaw on BBC Radio One. Peel is pretty much single-handedly responsible for bringing non-top thirty music to the BBC. As far back as 1977 I can remember him playing the Buzzcocks’ “Spiral Scratch” EP in it’s entirety when no one else at Broadcasting House had even heard of them. He kept on finding great bands and bringing them to the fore, and I can’t even begin to imagine how many tapes I filled over the years as I tuned in from 10 pm to midnight four days a week.
I would go as far as to say that Peelie was responsible for around 90% of my music collection. The bands he turned me towards led to other bands, and so on, in a situation that can only be described as rabbit holes all the way down. Kershaw was very much in the same vein, but with a different approach, and his contribution is not to be dismissed lightly.
Fast forward to 2014. I had finally gotten around to listening to KEXP on a regular basis. I know: I arrived here in 1992 and it took me this long to get round to listening to the only radio station that matters. This is due to a combination of pretty much ignoring new music during the whole of the 90’s and having an iPod. However, my sweetie convinced me to give the station a try, and I was hooked pretty much straight away. Not long afterwards, I awaited with great antici ……………………….pation ( I had to throw in that reference) the arrival of “International Clash Day #3”. I could only listen to the first hour on my way to work, and I was hooked. I heard some more on my way home and determined to preserve the day. This is where a touch of Aspergers helps, in that I copied the playlist into Word and then recreated as much of the playlist as I could – IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Yep. It helped that I had many of the tracks already and found many, many more without having to spend a fortune, and now the playlist sits on my iPod ready whenever I need a blast of great, great music.
It goes beyond that, though. KEXP seem to be imbued with the spirit of John Peel, playing great music, regardless of age or provenance. I will admit that I’ve picked up on so many great acts just by tuning in whenever I get the chance – Tacocat, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Phantogram, Underworld, Los Campesinos, to name but a few. One thing that really helps is that the D.J.s have total control over their shows, so they have the opportunity to react to events without having to get clearance from management or advertisers. This really makes them stand out. For example, in response to news of the Little Orange One’s Muslim ban, they played music from the seven countries affected. They devoted a whole day to the healing effects of music, playing tracks that had meaning to cancer patients and their families, A day given over to LGBTQ artists in support of Gay Pride, a whole day dedicated to the Beastie Boys’ album “Paul’s Boutique”, playing not just each track, but each track sampled for the album, in the correct order. Can you imagine the amount of work involved in tracking down each sample and the track from which it came? They even played “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” followed by “Safe European Home” to kick off an afternoon devoted to British artists the day after the Brexit vote – totally spontaneously and much appreciated by yours truly
This kind of dedication really pays off: Every D.J. really cares about the music, and you can’t help but pick up on the enthusiasm. I’m not a Rockabilly fan by any means, but as “Shake The Shack” is on on Friday evenings, I get to hear quite a bit of the show as I run my daughter to and from her horse riding lessons. I’m never going to splash out on tickets for a concert, but I’ve really come to enjoy the genre – it’s always uplifting, fast paced and often quite humourous. I can see why some people are devoted to it, and I certainly wouldn’t turn the show off.
Being publically funded, they have regular spring and autumn pledge drives – a phrase that strikes dread into the hearts of most pubic radio and T.V. fans. However, not so this year. You see, last autumn I could afford to donate to the station, and felt very happy about it, not least because of the awesome tee shirt and hoodie I received as gifts in return for my donation. Of course, if I can afford it, I will re-up this autumn, and this meant that I didn’t turn the radio off during the pledge breaks.
Considering that the Toxic Revenger has pledged to end all funding for public broadcasting, this makes the pledge drives all the more important, especially for those of us who want to hear more than just cool jazz, young country, oldies or classic rock when we press the ‘on’ button. I mean, where else can you hear Norwegian Rockabilly, Chilean Rap, Portuguese Hip Hop or Mexican Punk? Did you even know those genres exist? You do now!