Lost my patience with the commentators at Pandagon again, getting too too old for this. Amanda’s done 2 recent posts in defense of the Insufferable Music Snob, and has gotten pushback from shaming libruls who don’t recognize the playful irony in those who brand themselves insufferable.
My own concern is what you’d expect from an old-school aging hipster; no appreciation for the personal sacrifice of pioneers who fought hard for things the kids now take for granted. So when the menopausal punk shows up and lectures from her dull dead framework out of step with modern times, she’s going to come off like a crank. Guilty as charged.
I still enjoyed those threads enough to dig up my first interview in the mainstream press, and ask your indulgence:
AM Jock Brings New Music to Middle America
by Moira McCormick
August 8, 1983
CHICAGO– Downstate Illinois, a collection of fields, farms, and sleepy college towns, is a typical slice of middle America. Radio-wise, it’s a bastion of country, top 40 and adult contemporary–with the exception of the twin university burgs of Bloomington and Normal. There, previously strait-laced 1,000 watt AM top-40 station WRBA has been steadily gaining listeners via a daily new music show, which bills itself variously as “The Hardcore Sesame Street” and “The Radio Revolution Where We All Come to Dance.”
Hosted by Robin Plan, a 25 year-old graduate of Minneapolis’ Brown Institute, the 1-6 P.M. program regularly features the likes of the Dead Kennedys, the Lords of the New Church, the Virgin Prunes and Millions of Dead Cops, in addition to what Plan terms “pretty mainstream” artists like Killing Joke, the Buzzcocks and Big Star.
“I was a little reluctant about the program in the beginning,” admits station owner Bob Bivans, “because it was quite a different format from what it has been the past 15 years.” WRBA still features top 40 and album rock mornings and evenings respectively. “But,” he continues, “Robin kept assuring me she was doing the right thing, and she proved herself correct.
“It took me about six months to change my mind–it didn’t seem right for an AM station to be programming new wave,” Bivans says. “But the response from the beginning has been fantastic. This type of music doesn’t fit into the station’s format, but if it continues to grow, we might air new wave around the clock.”
Plan has been working at WRBA since August 1981, playing the formatted top 40 and Album Oriented Rock music for about a year. “And hating it,” she says. Exasperated, Plan sneaked in Talking Heads’ You Pulled Me Up into her mainstream lineup one day last September, “figuring I’d be back stacking cans at Kroger’s once they heard it.” Instead, her new music infusion continued to increase a cut at a time. Now, her entire show consists of artists who would make most programmers shudder.
A typical hour includes two hardcore songs (“real hardcore, not the Dead Kennedys”) two Reggae cuts (“real reggae, not the English Beat”), two dance tunes, two psychedelic selections and two rockabilly tracks (“real rockabilly, not the Stray Cats”). Indie bands comprise the overall programming, with the exception of an oldies show, called the Rock-n-Roll Menace, which takes over the lunch hour.
All this is served with a tight, top 40 delivery, albeit a tad “goofy” in Plan’s own words. “It takes listeners a while to get used to my approach,” she admits. “There’s a lot of silliness, and I utilize the sound effects library throughout.”
Plan’s new music program has had some effect on area stores. According to Phil Strong, co-owner and ad manager of the four store Record Service retail chain and distributer based in Champaign and Bloomington/Normal, “Robin is creating an awareness of different kinds of music. There are at least five requests a week at our Normal store for avant-garde groups–and that’s not counting how many requests per title–that are definitely a result of Robin’s show. There’s the beginning of an important market here now, where previously there was none.”
Then, as today, the airwaves belong not to the conglomerates, but the people. That’s the law. Young folks who believe in the myth of progress should understand there are reasons they don’t bother listening to the radio, and it’s not about the merits of the iPod, that symbol of isolation, abdication and individualism. So keep driving off the passionate people, but never lose sight of the fact that even now, you own the airwaves, and yes, they suck.