Column 80 — A peek inside the mailbag; His Name Is Alive tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 11:49 am June 8, 2006

Mail Call! A bit of clarification: These letters were sent to The Reader, as opposed to all the correspondence I receive via the e-mail address posted on this site or on my webboard. Unlike The Reader, I yearn for your feedback, whether it be bouquets or roses or fistfuls of dung.

Column 80: Special Delivery
A peek inside the ol’ mailbag.
Believe it or not, The Reader does get letters. They just don’t print them. I have no idea why. I’m sure they have their reasons that involve “ad space” or “page count” or some inconvenience involving the phases of the moon. That said, in these days of the interweb, the fact that someone has gone to the trouble to sit down and compose a comment in response to something published in your paper deserves not only acknowledgment but proper presentation in those pages. It’s called giving your readers a voice.

Readers like a local celebrity of old, responding to the May 11 column about how “vintage” music has taken over the airwaves:

… As someone maybe 10 years older than you, let me assure you that Styx, Foreigner and the 70s incarnation of Steve Miller sucked then, suck now, and will still suck 30 years from now. Boston — not so bad.

Meanwhile, I agree completely with your premise. Let me add this for your consideration: Radio is ruining memory, sucking the sweetness out of nostalgia. In c. 1979, if I heard “Windy” by the Association, it took me back to high school, reminded me of the friends I hung out with at the pool that summer, put me in a specific place and time. And it was bittersweet because it took me directly from age 30 to age 17, skipping the intervening years in a sort of “time travel for the emotions.” But now when I hear Windy, it reminds me merely of when I heard it last week. Or maybe the week before, or the week before that, or …

Come to think of it, maybe you can’t share my regret at this turn of events, since there never was a temporal gap between spins of “More Than A Feeling” and the like — it’s been played every week since its release.

Your points about the fragmentation of today’s music audience are also true. Do you know that the fragmentation was deliberate, brought about by consultants, radio stations and (of course) advertisers? Anyway, one upshot is that these kids will never have the bittersweet experience of a shared nostalgic moment.

Not the most pressing problem in the world, I know. Just kind of a little sweetener that isn’t available any more.

Signed: D.D. Doomey

“DD” as in Diver Dan as in half of the team of Otis XII and Diver Dan Doomey that owned local morning radio on Z-92 when I was a tot growing up in Omaha (and later, Ft. Calhoun). I won’t wax nostalgic about Space Commander Wack (and Stupid Larry) or Lance Stallion Radio Detective other than to say Otis and Diver’s unbridled creativity hasn’t been heard on local radio since they left it sometime in the ’90s, unless you consider misinformed, opinionated blather and fart jokes “creativity.” Some do. Actually, most do, judging by the Arbitron numbers.

Reader Robin Tills also wrote in about radio’s nostalgia boom: “I am not a musician, but I wonder since there are only so many musical notes to write from, and a lot of great songs have already been written and sung from groups like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Boston, John Cougar, Cheap Trick, Survivor, and on and on, it’s gotta be hard to come up with something new. … I don’t know if today’s musicians really make an honest commitment to create great music…”

The problem isn’t that today’s music isn’t as good, the problem is that the good music isn’t getting heard. Tooling ’round town the other day with my iPod, Low’s “California,” Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins’ “Rise Up with Fists!!” and Sufjan Stevens’ “Jacksonville” came up on the shuffle back-to-back-to-back and I thought to myself all of these songs could be hits as big as any hit from the ’70s or ’80s if they only got picked up by Clear Channel or whatever music conglomerate owns the radio waves, because, folks, we certainly don’t own them anymore. Judging from D.D.’s comments, maybe we never did.

Omahan Ed Perini commented on the May 25 column about wearing hearing protection at rock shows: “…I agree that the myth that wearing earplugs ‘ruins the experience’ is ridiculous. In fact, I have found that wearing them cuts out a lot of the distortion, and eliminates some of the background noise – like, say, people who insist on talking loudly while a band is playing.”

They also protect from people who insist on talking — or rather screaming — at you during the set. Conversations like: “WANT ANOTHER BEER?” “WHAT?” “I SAID DO. YOU. WANT. ANOTHER. BEER?” “WHAT?”… Full throttle, directly into the ol’ ear canal. Much more damaging than that guitar solo you just missed. And completely unintelligible unless you’re wearing ear plugs. Just sayin’, do yourself a favor.

Keep those cards and letters coming, folks.

One last reminder: Tonight at O’Leaver’s, His Name Is Alive and NOMO. $7, 9:30 p.m. It should be nothing less than spectacular.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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