Friday, December 4, 2015

Like a Telegraph to Your Soul

This woman knows how to wear out a CD player.

I went through the original one in my car in about four years. Its superior replacement died last week. Given all the CD playing I've done in that car, it's amazing it hung on that long. Yes, smartypants, I'm aware that the rest of the world has moved beyond playing CDs in cars, but not me.

This new state of affairs isn't exactly dire when I'm in town because I can listen to WNRN and occasionally WRIR while I'm tooling around town. But neither station does me a bit of good once I hit the road.

Because I never have to listen to commercial radio, I find it insufferable. Commercials? Corny and overly talkative hosts? Endless repetition of the same 30 songs? Spare me.

But here I was, on the road again, where my usual M.O. is to take time to select CDs based on the weather, my mood and the destination and instead, I was reduced to endlessly pushing the seek button to find something I could bear to leave on.

It's hard.

Naturally, the first station I stopped on was playing Adele's "Hello." While that wasn't surprising, it was particularly hilarious because I'd just seen a video mocking the song, with a guy in his car hitting each radio button, only to find "Hello" being played on every single one. Eventually he stops and buys a Britney CD - "Baby, One More Time," natch - to escape Adele on the radio.

My karma must be better than his because I only hit on it twice today and a Britney CD would have done me no good.

I didn't recognize the next song but lyrics such as, "You been creepin' round my Instagram" immediately signaled that it was of no interest to me. Turns out it was Chris Brown's new song "Zero," which was about what it rated in my opinion.

My goal for the drive was simple yet challenging: avoid Christmas, country and obvious auto-tune. Good luck with that.

One fact about present-day radio was soon apparent: you're going to hear far more '70s than '80s.

With the exception of U2 (three different songs), for every Wham! ("Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go") or Human League ("Only Human"), I had to put up with loads of the likes of "Hotel California," "Rocky Mountain Way," "The Wall," and "Burning Down the House."

How about we just burn down these radio stations?

That said, I had no problem with Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman," while Gino Vannelli's "I Just Want to Stop" took me straight back to 1978 in the first three notes and "Just What I Needed" is actually my favorite Cars song.

So much successive button pushing resulted in some interesting juxtapositions. When I heard the DJ announce Joan Jett's "Little Drummer Boy," I quickly moved on, only to hit on Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" a few clicks down. Clearly I was meant to commune with Joan.

Hardest to find, it seems, was anything soulful beyond George Benson's "Turn Your Love Around", the Commodores' "Lady" and Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'" and, let's be real here, not one of those is an especially strong example of R & B.

It's not like I didn't occasionally hit on something I might have actually heard on my preferred station, say, Greg Lazwell's "New Morning" or Elle King's "Ex's and Oh's" or The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face."

Sadly, it was always short-lived.

I take my river crossings seriously, always rolling down the window and cranking the tune-age, so I was thrilled when the music gods delivered me John Waite's "I Ain't Missing You" just after I hit a bridge.

Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath
And I'm still standing here and you're miles away
And I'm wondering why you left

There were some absolute delights, totally unexpected gems I hadn't heard in eons, songs such as Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" or Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," along with guilty pleasures like "You Give Love a Bad Name" at top volume.

But for every Temper Trap, there was something cringe-worthy (Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now"), occasional grunge (Soundgarden) and always, the cliched ("Anyway You Want It"). I heard a DJ gushing about winning tickets to see Queensryche and who even knew they were still a band?

Granted, I would no more play a Scorpions CD than put a red-hot poker in my eye, but when I'm sailing along and "Rock You Like a Hurricane" comes on, I don't even try to fight the flashbacks to 1984.

Difficult as it may be not to get to choose my traveling soundtrack, it was amusing to allow the universe to provide a random one.

CD player, with or without you, I will have music for my road trips. I'm only human, after all.


  1. will drive off a bridge to avoid Chicago.... anything Chicago.

  2. Not that I'm saying that the radio playlists in my youth were better but they were certainly more diverse:

  3. I'll say! Steve and Eydie to the Beatles to Pete Seeger is quite the range. Any personal favorites on this list?

  4. Several, but the top 3 makes for quite a trifecta!

  5. Fell in love with "You Don't Own Me" and her early albums when my girlfriends and I discovered it in the early '70s. But how can you go wrong with Quincy Jones producing?