Way back when we had a thing called radio and it was good despite the odd Anka incursion

There is absolutely no point in decrying the horror that radio has become in contemporary times. That AM radio is a banal travesty compared to what it was in my youth in the greater Vancouver area, goes without saying.

That was back in the day when we had our favorite deejays and stations, and we’d trot down to Woodward’s department store on a Saturday to get the new Top-40 list so we could note that Del Shannon’s Runaway was still numero-uno as it had been for about 7,000 weeks, or so it seemed. And while we thought it was good, most of us felt it wasn’t ‘that’ good.

Favorite local stations in the day were LG and C-FUN, but the cosmopolites with R&R taste eschewed those in favor of Seattle’s KJR.

That was then.

It was followed by FM on which you could hear the long version of the Doors’ Light My Fire with the ‘Lizard King’ singing the line that got them booted by Ed Sullivan. That’s not to mention Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray. We of pseudo-‘sophisti-cat’ pretensions could also tune into some fine jazz and other worthy offerings.

And then FM went down certain tubes as listener-worthy and even once reliable CBC Radio screwed around with its lineup, became a little too obnoxiously politicized and ultimately less worthy, which is a pity. Gone were the mornings when a serialized version of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would accompany my trip to work each morning.

Yes, I know there’s satellite radio and it’s great and we used it a lot when we were in Europe, but I can’t access it in my car.

So, latterly I find myself playing a lot of CDs in the car. There’s a further reason for that, and that is because, despite the other areas of radio-decline, there is such a thing as ‘Canadian Content’ rules.

Nothing wrong with that in essence. There are Canadian musicians I cherish and so do a lot of people internationally. I’m always up for hearing Neil Young, k.d. lang, The Band, Bryan Adams, Jann Arden, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Colin James, Ronnie Hawkins, Rufus Wainwright, the Guess Who, Barenaked Ladies (for all you BBT aficionados, Leonard Cohen, and others too numerous to mention.

But what do they give us on radio? Virtually never any of the above, but Gordon Lightfoot (has done some great stuff, but we never get anything from Canadian Railroad Trilogy), Ann Murray (lovely lass but a little goes a long way), bloody Joni Mitchell (I like Big Yellow Taxi, and that’s about it, but whenever I hear that little giggle at the end I wanna scream and basically she sings the same song over and over again with different lyrics) and bloody (ptui) Paul Anka, the Canuck Neil Sedaka and about as inspiring. The guy who penned the repulsive She’s Having My Baby, and the anthem of egotists everywhere, I Did It My Way.

Come on, radio. You want to fulfill your Canadian Content obligations, how about a little variety? How about a little good stuff?

Well, at least they rarely impose bloody Celine on us, which is testament to the fact that they at least nod towards decorum and moderately good taste.

PS. The happy and wholesome family pictured above is not precisely my family of origin. I never parted my hair down the middle, I didn’t have a sister, and the Dad figure has much too pleasant an expression on his face. Otherwise we were exactly the same.


3 responses to “Way back when we had a thing called radio and it was good despite the odd Anka incursion

  1. Dad looks like he has a stick up his ass. But hey, what do I know, I’m too young to have gathered around the radio.

  2. I believe he does. And I also believe he likes it. Actually when I was very young and we didn’t yet have TV we gathered around the radio.

  3. We have some pretty good stations here. The other day I was sitting outdoors and heard “Baker Street” followed by “Dock of the Bay.” Then just a bit later they played a great old George Benson tune. Good stuff.

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