Transmissions From the Satellite Heart
I don't have a vehicle of my own. A majority of my friends in the Lower Mainland do, but I do not. This is a reverse from where things stood when we were in our twenties. *Sigh*. I use my Dad's when I am able. My Dad bought a new truck recently and I took it out on Friday and just tonight to ferry some stuff between his place and the storage locker. Anyhow, he went for the option with Sirius satellite radio.
In some ways satellite radio is in the same state as satellite television: X number of channels and nothing worth listening to. The Jazz stations suck. The Soul stations simply need to find theirs. No Al Green, no Isaac Hayes, no James Carr, no WAR. There isn't much choice in the way of Classical/Orchestral/Choral music. There are all Sinatra and all Elvis stations. As of yet there is no all Led Zeppelin station. Really, a lot of what is out there is just the same old same old, just without the commercials.
Driving with my Dad we usually settle on stations we both like or can tolerate like CBC, BBC World and Bluegrass and the old time Country station that will play stuff Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. But driving on my own gave me the chance to check out some of the stations that he would not be able to tolerate.
One station, Faction, is irritating. It should just be renamed Tool, because that is all they seem to play along with Tool's legion of clones. (well, and Nas too) The DJs seem like pretty typical L.A. space cadets. Hard Attack is pretty much just Grindcore and Death Metal, it seems. Some of it is interesting, but it gets repetitive. Left of Center seems like a true Alternative station and I like some of what I hear, but it doesn't hold me for long. Garage can be pretty cool, bouncing between the 1960's and today. Plus it is hosted by music geeks, which scores high ratings from this music geek. There is a 90's Alternative station that has yet to play anything truly alternative from the 90's. Buzzsaw is mostly classic metal and hard rock like Zeppelin, Sabbath, Iron Maiden. Octane falls somewhere between Buzzsaw and Faction. Yes, there is an all Hair Metal station and no I do not listen to it. I have only ever liked one Motley Crue song in my life and it was from their first album.
There is a Station called Spectrum - yawn. One called Jam On, double yawn. Classic Rewind, which is everything I ever hated about the 1980's with a few true gems thrown in to throw me off. Classic vinyl is fairly standard classic rock fare. But then there is The Vault, a station that is anything but your typical classic rock station.
The Vault pulls out the oddities, the tracks from albums that you like but would never dare dream of hearing on regular rock radio. Live versions of David Bowie's "Station to Station" and songs from Lodger. Van Morrison songs, interesting Van Morrison songs, that regular radio would never think to play. Jethro Tull that isn't "Aqualung" or "Bungle in the Jungle". King Crimson's "Sartori in Tangier". They actually played Pink Floyd's "Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up" from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack. (a reworking of "Careful with That Axe, Eugene") My biggest complaint about The Vault is that I have yet to hear any Soul, Funk or R&B and that is a huge oversight if that is the case.
The other stations could take a page out of the The Vault's book, as far as I am concerned. Play stuff that isn't par for the course. Play stuff that actually sounds different from the rest of your play lists. Branch out, explore. There is a lot that stations like Buzzsaw, Octane, Hard Attack, 90's Alternative, Faction, Left of Center and even Classic Rewind and Classic vinyl could do to diversify their play lists and be better stations - be the kind of stations that could never exist on regular radio. (apart from community and college radio, that is)