Hand-Mixed Radio: Not Dead Yet

I am still a Sirius/XM subscriber in my car, although it’s been hanging by a thread lately. I went better than a month this fall without turning it on at all. Effective the first of the year, the service is raising its rate from $12.95 a month to $14.49. I listen mostly to the Deep Tracks classic rock channel and occasionally to NFL Radio, and it strikes me that $180 a year is a lot to spend for 15-minute snippets of radio here and there.

But just when I’m ready to make the call and bag the thing, Deep Tracks proves its worth again. Sirius/XM announced last week that legendary Los Angeles jock Jim Ladd, turfed in the recent Cumulus Media layoffs, will be bringing his nighttime show to Deep Tracks in January. He says he’ll do the same free-form show he’s done for years, featuring his rock-star friends as guests. Collecting strong personalities (most famously, Howard Stern) hasn’t proven to be the subscription bonanza satellite radio supposed it would be, but Deep Tracks is a fitting last refuge for “the last DJ.”

Also: I have recently caught a couple of editions of All Hand-Mixed Vinyl, a show hosted by Bill Fitzhugh. He explains his show’s mission this way: “Finding ways to put songs together in ways that make you smile or shake your head or look at the radio to see if the station changed on its own—and on the beat no less.” One of the shows I heard involved this, again in Bill’s words: “It’s the ‘I know I’m losing you’ set with the Rare Earth version chopped into 4 parts and Rod Stewart’s version mixed in with 2 parts and The Temptations version and a side bar into a cool segue between Deep Purple and Joe Walsh that sounds weird in writing but sounds good to the ears . . .” (He’s right—it did.) Learn more Fitzhugh’s show here.

But if Deep Tracks is going to justify its demands on my credit card every month, it will be because of the serendipitous moments of musical discovery, songs that make me go, “Dang, what’s that?” I’ve had two memorable instances of this recently.

I have been one of those people whose knowledge of Thin Lizzy begins and ends with “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak.” But every time I hear something else by them, I think it’s time I got to know them better. Like “Fight or Fall,” a superb track from Jailbreak. It proves conclusively that Thin Lizzy was about more than just the big riffage on their most famous songs.

Earlier this year I wrote a little about the Gary Wright album Footprint, released in 1972, on which his friend George Harrison appears as a sideman. I got the whole album and listened to it back then, but I must have been distracted when “Stand for Our Rights” came on, otherwise I’d have written about it then. How itmissed becoming a gigantic hit single I cannot imagine. It’s AM-radio perfect, easy to sing along with—and 40 years later, its lyrics are still relevant.

Now is the time to live up to your ends
State the opinion that you know you can defend
Speak out on what you think is right or wrong
Don’t be afraid to show where you belong

If you don’t click the YouTube link and listen to it right now, you’re missing something fabulous. And if you can listen to it only once without wanting to hear it again right away, you’re made of tougher stuff than I am.

5 responses

  1. I need to delve into Deep Tracks, especially Fitzhugh’s show. This passage on his own site hit home:

    You can’t raise the hair on anyone’s neck with [tightly playlisted] radio. But if you play the right songs in the right order, you can make people move. Or smile or laugh or shake their heads, thinking, “That sounded cool!”

    That’s exactly what I try to achieve with Sound Awake, doubly so for the Classic Club Hour, where my segues (all CD) are done live, fly or fall. I’m hoping I’ll have found a new regular listen (beyond AT40) to justify the rate hike; even a staunch Depeche Mode fan like myself can only take the same two
    songs ad infinitum on 1st Wave before blood boils.

    Off to scope the Gary Wright.

  2. Per Lizzy, I’ll nominate this nugget as worthy of consideration—

  3. Great track from Gary Wright. And if the music doesn’t give a listener goosebumps, maybe the credits for the album might: http://www.allmusic.com/album/footprint-r22312/credits

  4. I’ll second w/ Thin Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Moonlight (it’s got me in its spotlight)” an album cut from 77-78

  5. Porky—kudos to ‘Moonlight’ reference with Lizzy. Hadn’t heard it in probably thirty-plus years. Phil Lynott’s tonal delivery of a line like ‘I always get chocolate stains on my pants’ is a signature statement, like many others on TL tunes. Delivered with half sneer/half snarl. Have hit playback on this beauty dozens of times recent days—

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