Saturday, June 24, 2006

Top 5: Canon Fodder

I missed my customary Friday post yesterday--as it turns out, I've worked a lot more radio this week than I planned to, filling in for the night jock at The Lake on Thursday and Friday.

As I wrote earlier this week, being on the air is like riding a bicycle--you don't forget how even if you haven't done it for a while--although this bicycle is a lot different than the last one I rode. For one thing, I've been voice-tracking the shows instead of doing them live. This gives me a chance to get comfortable--or, to put it another way, to screw up in ways that facilitate learning--without the pressure of being live on the air. (It also gives the PD a chance to hear what I'm doing in detail without having to listen for five hours.) Since getting out of radio, I haven't had much good to say about voice-tracking, although the way its done at The Lake minimizes its evils. It's rarely done more than a day in advance (we can't do it much further out, because the music logs aren't generated that far ahead), and we don't try to fake being live, particularly in ways that could render us stupid. For example, if you're voice-tracking on Friday for a show on Sunday, you don't talk about the weather unless you know it's going to be perfect. Of course, if Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney should drop dead between Friday and Sunday, you'd have a problem, but the odds of that are less than the odds that it might unexpectedly rain.

Another thing that's different about this gig is that it's the purest album-rock format I've done since college, and so it requires a different sort of presentation than I'm used to. At most of the gigs I had during my career, even at the classic rock station that was my final stop in the 90s, I did essentially the same sort of presentation no matter what the format--gregarious semi-uptempo guy. I need to dial that back now, and it hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. I've been surprised that nine years away haven't erased some of the habits that annoyed the hell out of me back in the day, so I'm working on getting rid of those. That, and just trying to fit in with the rest of the people on the air, so I don't sound radically different.

There's no denying that The Lake, which calls its format "timeless rock," has based its library on the standard classic-rock canon: "Magic Man," "Carry On Wayward Son," "Rocky Mountain Way," "Radar Love," etc. But I've already played a few interesting tunes and artists from outside that canon, and here are five of them:

"Sneaking Sally Through the Alley"/Robert Palmer. If a classic rock station is going to play Palmer, it usually starts with "Bad Case of Loving You" and ends with "Addicted to Love." That we'd play the best track from Palmer's most R&B album is a signal that we're not in Kansas anymore.

"Rose of Cimarron"/Poco.
There's a load of country rock in The Lake's library--the Skynryd you'd expect, but also this gorgeous obscurity. There's also plenty of Marshall Tucker Band and Outlaws, some of which is starting to sound dated to me. Until you go a few years without hearing it, you don't realize how much "Fire on the Mountain" twangs.

Three Dog Night, generally. It's largely forgotten now that Three Dog Night was considered a legitimate rock band for the first two or three years of its existence. "Eli's Coming" and "Liar" sound just fine alongside the staples of the library (and a lot better than "Fire on the Mountain" does), but it's still surprising to find them there, since they've been off the classic-rock radar screen for so long.

Tommy James and the Shondells, generally. I was driving back from Iowa last week, on the fringe of The Lake's signal in southwestern Wisconsin, when I heard "Crimson and Clover" amidst the static. I thought it must be a competing signal, but it wasn't. I played it myself last night, and "Mony Mony" the night before. I've argued previously that James' late-period hits, "Crystal Blue Persuasion," "Sweet Cherry Wine," and "Crimson and Clover," are rock records every bit as serious as whatever the Grateful Dead was doing in 1969, and now I consider that opinion vindicated. Good for me.

"Lake Shore Drive"/Aliotta Haynes and Jeremiah.
OK, this is a ringer--I haven't played it yet, but I know it's in the library, and it will come up on my show eventually. It's a shadowy lost legend of Top 40 radio, a record beloved by radio geeks and record collectors, and may be one of the most popular singles never to make the Hot 100. As such, it's a good indicator of the depth and breadth of The Lake's library, and the ethos that drives the place. The canon is made up of important, necessary stuff--that's why they call it "the canon"--but it's not all there is, and it's not all everyone wants to hear.

One Other Thing: Last night at Best of the Blogs, I put up a post about Bruce Springsteen's encounter with a CNN talking head who wanted him to admit his politics are wrong. If you're interested, click here. And also, if you haven't done so yet, please vote in the poll.


At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lake also presents two things I really like...Lunch with Little during the noon hour and "Live on the Lake" on Saturday nights. The Lake sounds much like the old WIBA back in the mid-70's. ---Shark


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