Monday, November 03, 2008

The Best Song That Begins With A Radio Tuning In.

11/4: Update: I realized I'd screwed up putting in the videos here when I first posted it; it's corrected now.

Does anyone even tune a radio anymore?

Does anyone even listen to the radio anymore?

I'm not sure of these things. Just as I'm not sure whether it was illegal for me, back in the way-way olden days (before 2002), to tape songs off the radio while I was sitting around doing homework and/or generally wasting my twenties. Was it? I mean, if I can't download songs off the Internet just because someone put them on a website, was it legal to tape-record songs off the radio? I used to, when I'd do my homework during law school, put in whatever mix-tape I was working on making, and I'd have the "Record" and "Play" Buttons pre-pressed, with "Pause" hit, and then when I heard a song I liked, I'd hit the "Pause" button and record the song -- stretching my music dollar, because I liked music but I had no money to always buy music.

To all the bands that were hoping, during those days, that they would hit it big because their music was on the radio and that would lead their fans to buy their CDs... I'm sorry. You at least got the first part, right?

Here's another question that you'd think I'd know the answer to: If I bought a cassette tape of an album in the 80s, and then 20 years later I've still got that tape but now music is all digital, can I just borrow the CD from someone who has it and copy the CD onto my computer because technically I did buy the album originally? Or is that copyright infringement?

I would like to know the answer to that question because I have three big boxes of old cassette tapes and I don't want to have to go buy the CDs just to convert them to digital music. I think what should happen is that each time there's a format change for pre-recorded art (movies, books, music) a fan who bought the previous version can upgrade for free to the new method of displaying it. Why should I have to buy it twice, or more? Seriously: I have already bought the Violent Femmes' first album three times on cassette, and then it came out on CD and I've got to buy that, too, to convert it to an mp3 file to play it on my iPod?

If it's unfair for me to tape a song off the radio because it deprives the artist of royalties, why is it not unfair for the artist to charge me twice for the same product simply because the method of displaying it changed?

Anyway, having gotten completely off track, let me return to the original question: Does anyone even tune a radio anymore? Radios, so far as I can tell, are all-digital affairs now, excepting only the two radios I routinely listen to, the one in my bathroom at home and the one at my office, both early-90s-era boom boxes that I bought off the kids when they upgraded to CD players, and both of which feature analog radios that need to be tuned in, radios that can't really be tuned in, because it's terrifically difficult to make little bar that shows what frequency I'm listening to hone in on the exact frequency I want, and so I get tired of it and just leave it on a radio station for months at a time; currently, the office radio is set on a news-talk radio station, and when I get tired of being informed and/or hearing people call in to make arguments about local political issues, arguments that are supported by stories that always sound fake...

... if you ever listen to radio shows where people call in to talk about the issues, listen to the stories they tell of something that they think is related to the topic, and listen to how many of them sound so fake. They really do. People are always calling in when the topic is raising the bus fare and saying things like "I had to ride the bus for a while in college and it was expensive even then, so expensive that my roommate had to sell both crack cocaine and her kidneys just to get to school to take her final exam in cosmetology, which she was taking because she had to support her three kids after a bus driver deliberately ran over their father, so I say they should NEVER raise the bus fare" and I'm listening to that and thinking yeah, right... like they have exams in cosmetology.

... when I get tired of hearing that stuff I finally switch over to sports radio, but that's usually focused on basketball, even, oddly, when it's not basketball season, so I generally end up going to Youtube to look up songs I kind-of-vaguely remember from the 1980s, songs that are somewhere on one of the many probably-legal-I'm-sure mix tapes in my garage but which I can't get on CD because I spend all my money on new CDs and don't want to re-buy old CDs that I already bought, in cassette tape form, in the 1980s and 1990s.



That's what I was talking about, right?

Nobody, I think, ever tunes in the radio anymore. Tuning in a radio has gone the way of leaded gasoline, phones with cords on them (I have one of those, too, because the kids kept losing our phone) and static on TV stations at night, all these relics of a civilization that no longer exists.

You can tell that nobody ever tunes in the radio anymore because nobody is making any new songs that begin with the sound of a radio tuning in -- hey, I got back to the topic-- since kids today wouldn't understand why their song is beginning with that staticky hum that they don't recognize.

Then again, did anyone's songs ever begin with that staticky sound of a radio tuning in? I remember way way back when (pre-2002) when I had an argument with my brother about whether it made more sense to listen to one radio station that generally played the most music you liked, or flip around to try to find a song; we defined "more sense" as "hearing the most songs you liked, from start to finish."

It turned out even, by the way -- it turns out that you hear about as many songs you like, complete songs, when flipping through the stations, as you would if you just picked a station that played some, but not all, music you like.

But the point of that, in relation to today's nominee, is this: even if you did flip around a lot, and even if you had an analog radio with one of those big dials that you have to turn to find a new station, giving you that "radio tuning in" sound, even if both of those are true, that you're twisting and turning the dial around trying to find a song you like, how often would you turn the dial and hear the radio tuning sound and then have it just so happen that you'd tuned to the station just microseconds before your song started?

Because isn't that what has to happen for the songs-that-begin-with-the-radio-tuning-in to be accurate? Wouldn't you have to be sitting there, doing your law school homework, say, and think I'm going to change the station, and then you would start tuning that big old dial, and hear the staticky-tuning-sound, and then as the staticky-tuning-sound faded out because you were getting to the new station, at that precise moment the new song started?

Highly unlikely.

So what is it, then, that was to be conveyed by the "staticky-tuning-sound-turning-into-music?"

To be honest, I don't know, and I don't even have any very good theories. Maybe it was to convey some nostalgia -- as though the listener was cast back in time to a day when tuning radios was more common. Or maybe I'm right that it's very unlikely to happen and so the message was You, the Listener, have been incredibly lucky to have tuned in at this precise moment to hear this great song...

Or, I don't know, maybe they were just being pretentious.

Here's the nominees, then, finally.

First up is "Mr E's Beautiful Blues," by Eels, and I'm thinking that just being pretentious is the reason for the radio part in the beginning, because Eels is sort of a pretentious band, isn't he? Isn't that why Eels would pretend to be a band when it's really just one guy, and also isn't that why Eels wouldn't be, say "The Eels?"

And the other nominee, then, is "Mr. Blue Sky," by ELO, and really, pretentious has to be the reason, right, because what was ELO, if not pretentious all 70s-ified?

So who wins? I'm going to say ELO's "Mr Blue Sky," for two reasons:

1. The radio tuning part begins the song and the hypothetical-radio-listener has managed to tune in not only just at the start of the song, but also just at the exact right moment for a weather forecaster to scraggily say that the forecast calls for "blue skies," and then fade away, so how lucky is that? I've tuned in right at the start of this cool song, just as the DJ is finishing up his weather forecast, for some reason, by saying what today's forecast is, or else maybe he's giving a really short forecast, but, either way, what luck!

2. In "Mr E's Beautiful Blues," they singer says "God damn right it's a beautiful day" which is awkward for me when I'm driving Mr F and Mr Bunches around and that song's on and I want to sing along but I don't want to swear. In my younger days (pre-2002), you could be god-damn right it was a beautiful day. But nowadays (2008), I'm mellowing and I'd appreciate it if people would be "Gosh-Darn" right it was a beautiful day.

So, on that basis, Mr. Blue Sky by ELO, you are awarded the title of The Best Song That Begins With A Radio Tuning In.


Like the Violent Femmes? I do -- especially because they captured exactly what it was like to be the kind of teenager I was...

Talk about pretentious... what about people who wear glasses just to look smart -- sexy, but still smart?

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Mass Produced:

Rachel's not sure where she came from or what she's supposed to do, unless she really is trying to take over the world with a little help from her Octopus, a Valkyrie, and her lover Brigitte. Read Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!

No comments: