I Do Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio, or at Least I Want To

Does anyone have the fond memory from childhood of listening to the radio late at night under the covers? This habit seems to be common among the record collecting breed. The Ramones song "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?"celebrates it. For me, it was as ubiquitous as hiding under the covers reading an old superhero comic book, or staying up late watching old horror movies with the subtitles on. Although I can't say that I listened to the same stuff the Ramones did. There was no Murray the K coming out of the speakers in my quiet northern Wisconsin town. In fact, the frequency from the local Top 40 station often drowned out the other stations with a constant buzz of mainstream static.

But the nights that I could get other stations in, I found some interesting music. One of the local public radio stations would play a mix of Native American music, indie folk, and rock 'n' roll. The station regularly blew my mind -- you just didn't hear such variety on any other station. I also pulled in stations on the am dial that broadened my horizons even farther. I first experienced the ambient soundscapes of Hearts of Space and the ironically upbeat storytelling of This American Life, exploring different cultures from underneath my Dukes of Hazzard sheets. As I grew older, I stopped listening to the radio as much. I immersed myself in records and ideas that were far from the airwaves. I would return now and then to these stations. I listened to them as I played pool in my basement, the clack of the cue ball interrupting a far gone flute solo or an extended jam session bubbling up from some far away city. I also returned as a delivery driver, listening late at night to a BBC news story or, more commonly, a Cleveland sports broadcast. Sometimes I would even tune into the latest Ley line Bigfoot mashup on Coast to Coast AM. Yet I always wanted to revisit that earlier discovery of a musical and cultural world that lay beyond my sheets.

As a musical searcher always looking for new bands, I have scoured liner notes and the am dial for information. I have listened to WFMU and KALX on the internet, discovering music far beyond what I heard as a kid, but I have never felt that spark of discovery. The world was fresh and there were new vistas. I was no jaded traveler, but a young kid facing a world far more interesting than what I saw on the dreary streets of my hometown.


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