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Jake’s Take: One Big Infomercial……


The consolidation of radio programming across the entire broadband has slowly moved us towards conformity and uniform dissemination of information. Not just in spoken word but in the language of music.

Every time I'm in the cozy confines of Arizona Public Media I walk past shelves of records that have been dormant for years. These records get no airplay because much of the music programming has become syndicated meaning that you could be in Tucson or Tuscaloosa or Terrytown and chances are your going to be hearing some anonymous DJ in Chicago playing a repetitive list of songs broadcast out into the ether with no hint of regional or even local warmth. At one time they did, evidenced by the rectangular note cards taped onto the front of the jacket which displays the song titles and the dates they were played.

This may not seem like a big deal but it is. The openness of the radio dial is one of the major factors that led to the explosion of sonic musical expansion nearly 50 years ago. Labels were not nearly as relevant compared to the artist themselves. Michael Cuscuna, one of the most prolific producers and curators of music was a radio DJ in both Philadelphia and New York back in the late sixties and early seventies. In my interview with Michael he talks about what was and why he walked away:

I was born in 1948 and came of age in the late sixties. We were a very eclectic generation. Before us people were either jazz or blues or square or classical- one thing or another. We were simultaneously feeding off of Coltrane, Miles, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Buddy Guy and Captain Beefheart and Jefferson Airplane. We were definitely a generation unto ourselves. My initial experience was meeting a lot of guys through radio. Being initially based in New York and then Philadelphia a lot of people came through and I made a lot of friends. The interesting thing about that time was that there were a lot of guys who were in to what they were doing and not so much what other people were doing but for the most part people were very open to all kinds of music. I mean Howard Johnson The Baritone and Tuba Player at the same time he was playing with Taj Mahal and Archie Shepp. A lot of the blues guys were very impressed by what Jack Cassady and Jorma Kakounen from JA were doing. A lot of jazz guys like Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea were checking out both extremes. The 20th century avant garde classical composers on one side and the emerging rock underground on the other side. Hundreds of different little equations were bring formulated throughout the country. It was a great and exciting time to be around. There was no clear channel. There was mass media but things were spreading by word of mouth. Things were discovered in the by-ways and the back alleys of the world you lived in. Everyone had their own sense of self discovery. I came into music listening to Little Richard. Scared the sh** out of my parents. Other people came through Elvis or Bill Haley. The road you went down led you to different tributaries. Everyone had their own paths of self discovery and I think that's what made people individuals. All these great currents of creativity and iconoclastic behavior that was going on at that time. Everybody went their own way but they knew they would meet up @ the next intersection. Radio is so important and Clear Channel is such a threat because its swallowing up radio in the sense that What radio always was, was immediate and local. You knew about everything locally from your radio station. Now it's all format and delivered through networking. It's like one horrible unending infomercial. There were certain clear signal AM stations like WOWO in Ft. Wayne Indiana. Which I remember listening to as a kid. I could pick it up after Midnight and I was deep into doo-wop and R&B and the first night I stumbled on to WOWO their whole top 40 playlist was completely different then what we had in New York. Harry Abramson had an all night jazz show in Rochester, NY and his reach was just incredible To me radio is instant programming. If your not the programmer what the hell are you doing. Chatting? It makes no sense to me @ all. I got into radio by accident, I did it in college and all I wanted to do was produce records. Philadelphia is like the biggest "hick town" in America. It's an hour an a half from New York and most people have never even been to NY. So when I got the offer to do morning talk/free form with WPLJ I took it. Ridiculously over paid and having fun working no more then 4 1/2 hours a day. Still the day I got a playlist I put in for my two weeks. I wanted no part of that because to me it's like going from a creative think tank to a lobotomy. Why am I going to play somebody else's choices repeatedly. You become a parrot and its completely mind numbing.

That's Jake take, but I want to know your take. Leave a message, let your inspiration flow.