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The Column

Three Stations and Nothing On
10/26/03

It's official. The radio really sucks.

For a long time, people have joked that radio stations play the same ten songs. They're wrong. It's actually about one hundred. But when you realize that there are, say, millions of songs to choose from, one hundred isn't that many. Especially when fifty of them, well, really suck.

Since the first week of September, I've been in a car roughly 170 hours. That's the equivalent of being in a car for a week straight. All this car time has given me ample time to listen to the radio. Which was a lot of fun, at first. I even commented, "you know, we've been pretty lucky with the radio so far." And Josh, my traveling companion, agreed. But that's because the radio hadn't yet run out of songs.

Whenever a song comes on that we don't want to hear, we hit the scan button. At first, we'd have to scan through a station or two before we found something. Then we'd have to search most of the dial. Now we let it scan for twenty minutes at a time because that's more entertaining than hearing the same damn song again.

Neither of us listen to country. Afternoon talk radio is the one thing worse than a song you've already heard eight times. And us both being Jewish, the Jesus rock found in most parts of the country isn't an option.

So we start with the local hard rock station. Limp Bizkit. Eminem. Kid Rock. Lincoln Park. Josh doesn't like Lincoln Park so we scan.

Hip Hop. Nelly. 50 Cent. Missy Elliot. Black Eyed Peas and that song everyone thinks is so original because they're too young to remember "We Are the World." This time, I scan.

We stop at Classic Rock. ACDC. ZZ Top. Led Zeppelin. Then one of those slow rock songs that sucked the first time it was released, and it's no better thirty years later. Both of us scan.

Slow rock. Goo Goo Dolls. Foo Fighters. Goo Goo Dolls again. Everclear. Kid Rock? What the heck is he doing here? So we scan again. Quickly.

Sometimes a station will have Outkast, Greenday, Metallica, Creedence, or Rage. Both of us can listen to any songs from any of those groups several hundred times. And we're forced to, because here comes one of Kid Rock's new slow songs again. Like we're supposed to believe that a walking mullet who bangs Pamela Anderson has feelings? Scan, scan!

After we passed Madonna's "Borderline" once, I went back to it. I had no desire to hear it, I just wanted to see what Josh would do. He changed it within two seconds, with a quick, "what were you thinking?" I burst out laughing, and that passed the time until the next Goo Goo Dolls song.

Every six hours, we hear two to three songs we haven't yet heard. Like this morning, when the Steve Miller Band's "Joker" came on. Which was great, until we scanned through it ten minutes later, and again before the scan stopped. So now that song is useless to us for the next week.

Occasionally, there'll be a game on that we want to listen to. Okay, once. Sometimes we just land on something random and leave it. Classical music, jazz, high school football, the Spanish station - whatever isn't Good Charlotte or the latest Good Charlotte clone.

I do a lot of morning radio call-in, and I've done some in studio, too. And I like the stations I work with a lot, but no station can keep you entertained for six hours straight - especially when they only have a driving range of an hour and a half.

There was one exception. While driving through the Texas Panhandle, we picked up a college station from Amarillo. It was the best thing to happen to us musically since we left. A full hour of good songs we hadn't yet heard. And they weren't any of this unpolished Indy Rock stuff that a lot of school stations play. The station played good songs with which we were already familiar, yet had not heard eight times earlier that day. And that just made things tougher on us - because now we know that those songs exist, and we're just not hearing them.

The reason record companies have to sue 13-year-old kids for downloading MP3s is because radios don't play enough decent music to hold their interest. In fact, we just past an afternoon talk radio station where they were discussing just such an issue.

Scan, scan!

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