Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is that you Quicksilver??

In talking with some friends last evening, one mentioned that he had been listening to NPR earlier that day and it struck him how similar all the announcers/hosts/news readers all sounded. What he was expressing in so many words was the signature sound for that particular venue – smooth, articulate spokespeople whose professional training dictates that their on-air voices are interesting (hopefully), but not too expressive of emotion. Fairly measured, hit the center of the bell-shaped tonal curve. Got it. This is how all FM radio announcers sounded to me when I grew up in the era of static-filled AM radio blaring out those wild, independent rock & roll stations. Their domain was the AM band, classic music and such claimed the FM band.

So I found myself on another business trip to Vermont this week, driving along and twirling the (FM) radio dial to sample what the state had to offer (I can only do this when I’m alone as the spouse hates this as much as when I flip through TV channels). I came across a calm, FM/NPR type voice coming from one Burlington stations but the gentleman was speaking a rock & roll dialect. Intriguing. Not just that, in this era of gooey American Idol/Top Pop pabulum, the guy was broadcasting album cuts from Savoy Brown, Jeff Beck Group, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Couldn’t remember the last time I heard some of those. Turns out I was listening to WZXP FM, a unique station even by crunchy Burlington standards. WZXP is the labor of love of Russ Kinsley, an aging hippy type, but with a (close-to) NPR voice. Album play is their passion. I don’t know if they’re making money these days, but I was glad to catch a sampling of their output. I applaud independent stations. Check these guys out at WZXP.


Dubbahdee said...

WDET (NPR) in Detroit played lots of amazing music in the 80's and 90's. You were as likely to hear Bulgarian Women's choirs, Coltrane, Lyle Lovett, Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground, or what have you. You really just never knew. And this was weekday daytime programming. They would even dedicate one day per year to all Hendrix all day. This does not do justice to the beauty and power of their eclectic programming. Til this day I hold it as an icon of how radio should be done.
Several of their DJs had roots came from early underground FM station WABX.
Sometime after I left in 1996, WDET changed over to all news and talk. In my estimation, a great loss to the city.
I consider most radio formatting today to be the sound of just so many embalmed corpses. No local flavor. No mindful mixing. Just demographically targeted playlists. Zombie radio. Too bad.

Michael said...

I've given up on station flipping (used to do it all the time) and started listening to podcasts. It does away with the commercials and bad reception!

But in my flipping days, the station you found would have been a great find for me!

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

Sometime in the not-too-far future I was planning to do a longer post on independent radio and especially the AM era. Still collecting thoughts at this point.