Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Radio Is in the Hands of Such a Lot of Fools

All this past week I have been driving my seven-year-old son Mark to camp just after lunch, and we have been listening to a noontime show on one of the radio stations called Barrel of Monkeys, wherein listeners call in and recommend a song that starts with the last letter of the previous song played, e.g., if the DJ spins America's "You Can Do Magic," you can call in and request "Crosseyed and Painless," then "Something Stupid," then "Drivin' on 9," etc.

Mark got really into this show for some reason, waiting and waiting for a chance for us to call in and request one of his favorite songs, like "You're So Vain" or "Should I Stay or Should I Go." But he doesn't know that many songs, so the conversation would go something like this:

"They need a D song. Do you know any D songs?"
"How about 'Dandelion' by the Rolling Stones?"
"OK, call up and say that one."
"Now they need an R song. Do you know any R songs?"
"How about 'Rip It Up' by Little Richard?"
"OK, call up and say that one."

So I would call, and occasionally get through, but they never played one of our selections until Friday, when, during Eric Clapton's "Running on Faith," I called up and suggested "Hi, Hi, Hi" by Paul McCartney, which has the added benefit of opening up the airwaves to an I song, which doesn't happen too often. I mentioned this to the DJ in hopes of selling the song, and he bought it. Unfortunately, he didn't play it until after Mark got out of the car to go to camp, so he didn't hear me on the radio.

Up to this point, the story has mostly been uninteresting and solipsistic, which has never stopped me before, but is also not what I like to do with OPC. But what was interesting about this is that I spoke with the DJ on my cell phone, he said he'd play the song, then he hung up. I figured that meant he was going to listen to a few more callers, and whoever had the best offer, he'd put on the air. But when he came back from commercial, he pretended to pick up the phone and talk to me, and there I was, on tape, recommending "Hi, Hi, Hi." He pretended to have a little conversation with my prerecorded voice, then played some McCartney.

It was fun, although a little disappointing that Mark didn't get to hear it -- yet also skeevy in a way. Nobody warned me I was being taped, and obviously no one ever said on the air that the callers were prerecorded. I understand that the DJ needs a few seconds to dig out the requested CDs, and once in a while I've heard him chat with a caller, and assumed that was when some assistant was running down the hall to dust off a Hot Tuna record. But I guess he was just making small talk.

A couple of weeks earlier I had been listening to this show when some joker got through and actually appeared on the air to request a song by Ambrosia, and not even one of Ambrosia's hits. I don't even want to think about how bad a song has to be to be worse than one of Ambrosia's hits. I actually turned off the station at that point, out of embarrassment for the DJ, who clearly did not want to spin some Ambrosia; I don't know what would have been more painful to listen to, having the DJ tell this guy that no, they weren't playing anything that makes Lobo sound like Iggy Pop, or having him play an Ambrosia non-hit. Neither is preferable to silence, that's for sure.

I wonder if that's when they went to the strategy of putting the callers on a delay. If so, I can't say I blame them.

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