Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brain Damage Part 2

Thinking a little further about yesterday's post (and thank you Mr. Crabb for commenting on it). . . .

Alright, so I'm bitching about corporate radio stations and the litany of same old same old. Fair enough.

But why DO the corporate stations structure things in the way that they do? Or, to penetrate one of the sheerest veils, what is it about the same old same old that makes these companies money?

Melanie is something of a foodie, and she is fond of using the term "comfort food." The meaning is a little nebulous (or maybe it's just that my understanding of the term is nebulous), but examples are things like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes.

These are high-carbohydrate foods, yes, but more to the point, they are also things your mom might have made you when you were a kid. Most of us like the carbs, but what's most important to these foods and to this concept is that they remind us as adults of the simpler times we had when were children.

So what I'm guessing is that the Classic Rock format functions as comfort music. Now, the magic period being evoked moves up a few years, from childhood to adolescence, but if you're in that 30 - 50 demographic that these stations seem to target, and your contracting business is in the shitter and you've got three more years of child support to pay, and they just raised the rent on your duplex another 75 bucks, I can definitely understand if you'd rather listen to something that reminds you of yourself when you were a bit more piss and vinegar.

It's why music like Dust or Sir Lord Baltimore or Nick Drake or Matching Mole or Can or anything else semi-obscure like that, though all of it is properly of and belongs to the quote-unquote classic rock era, won't get played on Classic Rock radio.

They didn't play this stuff back then, so there's a void where the memory-trigger is supposed to be now. The Clear Channel programmers understand that nobody is going to be comforted by an obscure 7-minute track from some band they've never heard of. People for the most part want what's easy, and if you don't make their music easy, you've given them no reason to return to your small slice of the radio spectrum over and over again. And return visits are what radio advertising is all about.

It's all well and good if people like me and Mr. R Smith and Tad and all the other likeminded music geeks on the freaking internet wanna go out (actually, in my case that should read 'wanna force themselves to go out') and challenge themselves with something new or something buzzsaw or something progressive or something obscure.

But I'm guessing most people (and most people who listen to Classic Rock stations) don't need any additional challenges. They've got enough already, courtesy of their government or their boss or their ex-spouse.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pink Floyd - "Brain Damage" from the Album Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the YawnOne of my favorite things in the whole world is when I go on over to RS Crabb's Top Ten site and he's written another rant about how terrible Classic Rock radio is.

"Fucking radio kills me," he says.

Such purity of emotion, you know? Some Clear Channel automaton plays "Margaritaville," and Crabby's near suicide. Then if an enlightened DJ plays Eddie and the Hot Rods, his faith in humanity is restored.

You need to be wary of such wild mood swings, Crabby, my friend. Not that I don't think that mass market rock radio sucks, I'm sure it does. Every now and then I'm even reminded.

But because of the iPods I've owned and put into usage, very little of the time I spend listening to music is spent listening to the radio. The concept of Classic Rock radio's suckitude is not actually transmitted to me all that often.

I mean, Christ, if III's shuffle plays the same Dust song over successive sessions, I get annoyed. If it serves up a couple of Maiden covers back to back I'm wondering how come the Shuffle ain't Shuffling. So I truly can't imagine what it must be like to listen to commercial radio on a regular basis. I do imagine tortuous alternate universes, like the one in which my boss brings a radio into the office to increase some vaguely defined concept of "workplace spirit," and I thereafter have to listen to "Rhiannon" four times a day, every day.

No thanks. Fortunately the boss in real life is so unhip that he's hip, know what I mean? I'd rather slit my wrists than listen to the kind of music you can play in an office. No thanks, well-wishers, I'll just go back and forth up and down Blogspot in the blessed silence broken only by the ringing phone like I'm oh so happy doing.

So, what I'm trying to say is I do understand that it must be fucking horrible, listening to that stuff the way they hurl it at you, over and over and over and over, til you're sick of what you might have once liked. But I so rarely feel it as viscerally as Mr. Smith does.

Got a taste today of how he must be feeling, though.

A quick but savage lightning bolt overwhelmed my backup as it so often gets overwhelmed on Sunday. And for some reason programs on a certain drive don't come back after a restart, so to make a long story short, III was all confused as I undocked this morning; he never came on, I flip the switch, see the green, but no music for the hour long commute in.

And no music for the hourlong commute home, either. Even should I in desperation turn to it for music, FM radio would not be an option in the morning, 'cause all anybody ever does is talk. So I dunno, I just go into this zenlike state and focus on the various roadways' thermoplastic dividing lines.

But coming home, I figured, well, what the hell, it's better than silence, let's just bite the bullet and throw Big 106 on.

And it started off OK. "Don't Bring Me Down" is a little too popular, a little too poppy, for inclusion on my iPod. But I DO listen to ELO, "10538 Overture"'s a fave, and so is "Fire On High." Plus when I was a kid we knew this guy Bruce, and I think it was Steven Singer who always sang, "Dont Bring me Down, Bruuuuuce," it was hilarious, and good to remember that, actually.

Then they did the 5:30 funnies and it was some black dude talking about Viagara, I didn't get it, but no harm done either. And then--at 5:40 in the afternoon, mind you--they played "Brain Damage" by Pink Floyd.

I'm pretty sure they've overplayed "Stairway to Heaven" more severely. But you know, "Stairway to Heaven" heard during a traffic jam actually kind of works. "Stairway to Heaven" has a majesty that they've tried to kill but that dies hard.

Whereas "Brain Damage," heard anytime with the sun shining is just kind of stupid.

Heard anytime sober it's kind of stupid as well, I'm guessing. "Brain Damage" might have been alright once, but its bell-like peals can't take a punch the way "Stairway" can.

But mostly, I'm just feeling a numbness where my opinion of "Brain Damage" used to be.

I remember back in the day, when I was delivering The Herald, there used to be this guy who called into one of the morning shows every day, requesting "Careful With That Axe Eugene."

I don't know if I should be that guy, I don't know if I could be that guy, but someone sure as hell should.

At this late date, I can't remember what it was like when "Brain Damage" was new to me, when it hadn't been bludgeoned to death. I kind of suspect it's not that special a tune in actuality, that it is probably comfortably nestled into its little nook, dwarfed by the monumental constructions that are tunes by the Floyd like "Sheep" or "Echoes."

But I don't know that for a fact, and this numbness where an emotional reaction to a song used to be inside kind of pisses me off, now that I'm thinking about it, this evening, now that I'm *really* feeling what Crabby's been feeling.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon - "Brain Damage"

I really don't see any reason to post this, because if you really want to hear it, they're probably playing it right now on some nearby Classic Rock station. Or perhaps Roger Waters has commenced yet another Dark Side of the Moon anniversary tour at a venue near you, tickets won't be cheap but they should be available.

File Under: Overplayed, Underdone