Turn On

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(Pictured: Marvin Gaye at work, 1973.)

It’s been awhile since I did one of these Links and Notes things, so here:

—Up first, a radio story from Florida, in which a veteran broadcaster was fired by a new manager at his non-commercial station for reasons including “not paying enough attention to social media.” Public outcry saved the guy’s job, but the idea that a broadcaster could be fired for inattention to social media is a bizarre misplacing of priorities. As I wrote on Twitter, if you’re more concerned about your station’s social media than what you’re putting on your air, you should turn in the license. Social media should always—always—be a secondary concern. To rate it any higher than that is to take your eye off the ball.

(Digression: I once heard a young jock who fancied himself a social-media savant tease an interview he was going to do on the air by saying, “To find out what time it will be on, follow me on Twitter.” Yeah no, kid, that ain’t how we do.)

—Here in Madison, Wisconsin, where I live, a local radio legend is going out on her terms, more or less.

—For a couple of years in the middle of the 1970s, the Sunday night broadcast of the King Biscuit Flower Hour was appointment radio for me. Consultant Fred Jacobs recently wondered whatever happened to appointment radio, and whether a show like King Biscuit could survive today.

—I have written a fair amount over the years about the flaws of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Chief among them is that an artist’s historical impact and influence is far less important than their long-term popularity. The annual inductions to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry should be a much bigger deal. From the news release about this year’s inductees: “The sound recordings recently named to the registry showcase works across multiple genres, including blues, children’s recordings, classical, comedy, country, radio, jazz, pop, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, Latin and Broadway.” You’ll get a much better understanding of the history of American pop from the Registry than you’ll ever get from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And I say that as somebody who A) enjoyed a visit to the Hall and thinks that being a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame librarian is a very cool job.

—In 1972, Marvin Gaye worked on the followup to What’s Going On, but his first attempt got shelved. Nearly 50 years later it’s been released, and its social relevance to the world of 2019 is fairly strong. In 1985, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” became an anthem, albeit a misunderstood one. The story of how it was made (from a forthcoming book of stories behind Springsteen’s songs) is fascinating.

—Seventy years ago this spring, the 45RPM record first appeared in stores. Music formats have evolved since 1949, but as we look back, the social impact of the 45 may have ended up greater than that of the LP or the CD. On the subject of anniversaries, all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C., is celebrating its 50th this spring. Even if you’ve never heard the station, some of the stories from its history are great. It has also been 50 years since TV producer George Schlatter’s ill-fated experimental comedy Turn On lasted one episode, and in some cities, less than one.

Los Angeles magazine’s story about rejected vanity license plates in California was quite entertaining. It came to me via Strong Language, which is a feed you should be following. On the occasion of the Twilight Zone reboot at CBS All Access, Paste ranked all of the original Twilight Zone episodes from worst to first. I admire that sort of list-making because A) I like to read them and B) I don’t have the work ethic required to do them. A piece from The Atlantic about the college admissions scandal was infuriating. Among the many, many reasons our society is in deep trouble is the fact that people who have the money to do anything they want believe that anything they want to do is permissible.

That gets us back nearly a month. If you find any of these links worthwhile and you do not yet follow me on Twitter, please do so. My feed also features lots of half-assed jokes and pictures of beer, but you can probably figure out how to mute that stuff.

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