Is This the Real Life?

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(Pictured: Queen in 1976.)

This is not the post I was planning for today. I wrote something a few weeks ago, scheduled it, took it down, rewrote it, scheduled it again, and got up this morning thinking nah, I ain’t doing that. So here’s a rundown of some stuff that has recently passed through my Twitter feed instead.

—The movie Bohemian Rhapsody opens in the States on Friday. The handful of reviews I have read suggest that Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury is impressive, but the movie itself is only just OK. A piece in The Guardian suggests that the film sanitizes Mercury, depicting his sexuality as a problem rather than an animating force behind his art and his life.

—Tonight at my house we’ll watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as we’ve done around Halloween since God was a boy. The show inspired our man Kurt Blumenau to state five reasons why he likes it. In a Twitter exchange, Kurt pointed out that in the title of my post about The Great Pumpkin last week, I misquoted Linus’ anguished line after Lucy stabs the pumpkin, which is actually, “You didn’t tell me you were gonna kill it!” I have resisted changing the title, but it’s gonna drive me nuts every October until the end of time. (During my recent trip to the East Coast, I had the opportunity to hang out with Kurt for a couple of hours over beers and pizza. It was the best part of the trip by a long shot.)

—You may recall that I’m a Rosanne Cash fan. We’ve seen her live three times (with a likely fourth in Madison next spring), and her albums are an instant buy. Her latest, She Remembers Everything, will be out on Friday. You can still stream it at NPR, and you should.

—Also out on Friday is a new album by J. D. McPherson. I know precious little about him beyond what a quick Internet search turns up—a fortysomething rocker inspired by Buddy Holly and other 50s rock and R&B acts. But a headline on Paste‘s Twitter feed grabbed my attention: “JD McPherson Is Planning a Retro-Rock Christmas With Holiday Album Socks.” “Retro-rock Christmas” is in my wheelhouse, even when it’s rushing the season—and holy smokes, the two tracks previewed with the story, “Socks,” and “Hey Skinny Santa,” are fabulous. Socks is gonna be an instant buy on Friday as well.

—I have written here many times before that my parents were (and are) devoted radio listeners. So in addition to memories of hearing my own music on my own stations, I remember hearing their music on their stations. And it was on their stations that I first heard Freddie Hart, because while his crossover hit “Easy Loving” made #17 on the Hot 100, WLS didn’t chart it. “Easy Loving” was the first of Hart’s six straight #1 country singles in Billboard, a streak that also included the very fine My Hang-Up Is You,” which sounds like a reboot of “Easy Loving” and was #1 for six weeks where “Easy Loving” did only three. This past Saturday, Freddie Hart died at the age of 91. He had just finished a gospel album, which hasn’t been released yet.

—After Hurricane Michael hit Florida, a radio station in Panama City Beach was shut down by its owner after suffering storm damage. But two of the station’s DJs, Tiffany Dunning and Sean Streeter, weren’t ready to stop operating in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. One of them had evacuated to Birmingham and another to Nashville, but they kept updating emergency information on the station’s Facebook page even after the station was off the air. Streeter says, “This is what we signed up for as broadcasters.” Damn straight, sir, and well done.

Raise All Kinds of Candy to the Stars is discussing every song to peak at #2 on the Hot 100. Last spring, with the feature up to 1974, writer Marcello Carlin had to suspend it because of some medical issues. But after six months, he’s back and coming in hot with this spectacular essay tying Sylvia Plath and the Titanic to 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” If I could write like that, I would, and so would you.

And one more thing: my post on Monday about the badly run station in the nowhere town prompted reader Mike to respond with one of the craziest radio stories I’ve heard in a long time. Read it here.

3 thoughts on “Is This the Real Life?

  1. Gary

    “…operating in the public interest, convenience, and necessity”

    I wonder if people below a certain age have ever heard that expression, if today’s owners ever think about it, and if the FCC any longer cares?

    1. The phrase goes back to the Communications Act of 1934, which consolidated existing broadcast regulations and basically created the modern broadcasting infrastructure, in addition to creating the FCC. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 changed a lot of that infrastructure, brought an end to the Fairness Doctrine (freeing stations from the need to present opposing viewpoints and thereby creating right-wing broadcast media), permitted the massive consolidation of the industry, and basically rendered the concept of operation to benefit the public interest, convenience, and necessity obsolete in favor of operating to benefit the private interest of licensees and broadcast company stockholders.

      So no, I suspect a lot of people in and out of the industry have never heard the phrase and no, the FCC doesn’t care about it anymore.

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