Wednesday, December 15, 2010

798 Mantovani, Where Art Thou?

798 Mantovani, Where Art Thou?

Pal Joey calls up the other day and announces, in his usual delicate manner, "I'm (censored) through with talk (censored) radio and news (censored) radio. From now on, Beet (censored) hoven and that's that! Pal Joey is also pals with the owner of the talk radio trade magazine, but probably won't spread his new policy that far. Joe's not a kid, but he's not and old guy yet. And he cares. He cares about people, he teaches kids who've been branded "unteachable," and he cares about politics and politicians. So, while he's less conservative than the run-of-the-mill talking head, he's not what you'd call a flaming liberal. Tough New York guy who can get into a bar fight, but looks after his 90 year old mother, who needs no looking after.

He's also a man of his word and if he says he's not going to listen, he's not going to listen. Too aggravating, too repetitive, too shrill. So the question is how many other Pal Joeys are out there making the same decision? Radio in general has become a mechanized, automated homogeneous shrieking un-melodious ooze. And that's just the music stations.

Rock radio? Someone took the rock a long time back and hammered it into a thousand splinters. It's so full of niches there's nothing left. Country music has become what rock used to be, but with whining twangs instead of whining northeast and west coast accents. So maybe it's time to revive a format that's by its nature mechanical, vapid, bland and ultimately listenable. Beautiful Music/Easy Listening. Heavy on instrumentals, limited talk, limited commercials and potentially unlimited audience.

What killed this way of broadcasting was the music industry. A format that's heavily instrumental relies on melody, now a lost art. So there's little to no new material to replace the outdated 40s, 50s 60s and even some 70s stuff that was the stock in trade. But some of the old material remains relevant. Show tunes by big-string orchestras, pop standards coated with aural maple syrup, even some country tunes. There's no reason older songs can't be updated or re-recorded.

One of the things people liked about us at WRFM was that we were a good second choice. Second choice turned into big ratings. When they got tired of Brahms, the classical people went down market by listening to us. The rock listeners went upmarket by listening to us. Plus at certain times of the day, we were "music to seduce by." Never a bad thing, though our ownership would have shuddered in horror to hear such an analysis. At least publicly.

Spin your dial and see if you don't agree: it's all the same stuff and it's not worth listening. Some yutz in San Antonio is dictating music choices and whipping air "personalities" into trying to make it all sound local. Doesn't work. Local personalities with PERSONALITY and music with real melodies. That works.

Paolo Mantovani died in 1980. But his music shouldn't have.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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