Saturday, October 13, 2018

On The Dial

On the radio, that's where I heard the Beatles the first time. It is also the appliance that gave me comfort for decades with that little feature called "sleep." As I drifted off, all those songs from my youth formed my lullaby. The first time I heard The Police singing about Roxanne was at the breakfast table in my parents' house as I prepared to go out and face another day. On most evenings I could count on a quiet, relaxing dose of classical music as my mother filled the house with KVOD, and on Saturdays there was opera from the Met. At those moments when I felt the need to retreat to the rock and roll of my generation, I would head to my room and close the door where I could listen to the way the world was lining up pop culture for me. This was when I was listening to AM. These were also the frequencies that could reach our mountain cabin. The batteries we used to power that radio were a point of survival for us all. Whether it was news or weather or music, that was the machine that filled those tranquil hours of too much wilderness solitude.
That radio had an FM dial, but it amounted to nothing. No transmissions of that wavelength were going to climb up the hill into our cabin. Not without some enormous antenna. My love affair with FM radio began when I got my first real receiver. Something that could bring in those nineties and hundreds. KBPI and KAZY lived at the end of that span, and on any given night, you might find me in my room, headphones on, "studying." What I was really doing was listening to the radio. Lots of it. Pretty soon, my clock radio was waking me up to those same sounds, and once I had a car I had a mobile listening station for all the tunes that rocked the Rockies.
By a stroke of luck, the stations I listened to in Colorado had rather easily transferable formats. Hard rock, modern rock, and the inevitable Album Oriented Rock. They made it easier to feel at home when I moved to the Bay Area. And now, my radio listening time has diminished to about half an hour on weekday mornings. In the car, I tend to surrender to whatever the driver, my wife, has selected. The rest of the time, I am programming my own show: iTunes, Spotify, and so forth. The notion of calling up a DJ on the request line to beg for my favorite song has long since passed me by. But I can remember dialing and dialing the studio at KIMN and pleading with them to play Yellow Submarine one more time.
Now I just ask Google, who seems more than happy to fulfill my request.

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