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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Champ of the airwaves

FM radio is so bad these days. The rich cornucopia known as music is now choked off by a half dozen or so formats, designed more to get listeners to stick around for ads than anything else. Even noncommercial stations are full of station promos, "underwriting announcements" that are indistinguishable from ads, and interminable, amateurish traffic reports that repeat the same things a couple of times an hour every weekday morning and afternoon. It's downright depressing.

Of course, with push buttons on the car radio (and the home stereo remote), a frustrated listener in a place like Portland can maintain his or her sanity by programming in a dozen stations, and hitting the buttons the very second that the music stops and the bad announcers and inane commercial shouting begin.

I was in just such a mode the other day as I tooled around the east side of town running errands. And in the course of that day of short-hop driving, I discovered who is today's true king of Portland commercial radio.

First I was tuned to KISN, the feel-good oldies station, which tends to play the same 100 songs over and over, except during request times when a smart caller may force the DJ to stretch out a bit. Coming through loud and clear was a funky little number called "Here Comes the Night."

When the traffic report came on, it was time to switch over to KINK, the sensitive adult station that's not ashamed to latch onto an artist and play his or her music 'til you can't stand it any more. I remember the '80s, when every other song on this one was by Steely Dan. Now it alternates between the Bonnie Raitt set and the more modern 20-something whiney guys like Coldplay -- boring! On the day in question, they played a track from a forthcoming new album called "What's Wrong with This Picture."

When the ads resumed over there, I punched in KGON, the preferred classic rock station of bikers and roofers statewide. There they were having a regular festival devoted to the fellow I'm talking about, including "Wild Night" and some other middle-aged chestnuts.

And so it dawned on me who is the master of today's commercial radio formats -- now appearing on at least three of them. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy than:

Van the Man.

Comments (7)

oh yeah! King of the set lists for all Geezer rock cover bands playing in a bar near you... (not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Can you get KRVM in Portland? Once in a while, when saturn is in the sixth house and the wind is blowing at 13 mph in a northeasterly manner, and the sun is shining, we can pull it in from Eugene way down here, and its sooo worth it.

I just wonder... it seems everyone i know hates the way radio has turned out. So why is radio continuing to suck if everyone hates it so much? You'd think someone, somewhere, might get a clue?

yeah, Portland radio is bottom of the barrel. It's appalling really, though I'm not sure if many cities have a whole lot better options. I finally gave up and subscribed to Sirius (like XM but not owned by Clear Channel...one who is partly responsible for teh reprehensible state of our airwaves today. We need to take back the airwaves. They are owned by the people.

I had the misfortune to go see a concert last Saturday at the White River Amphitheater, which is owned by your friend and mine, Clear Channel. For starters, the place was locked down tighter than a maximum security prision, and that was in the parking lot. Once you got inside everything was geared to get you to buy outrageously priced adult beverages which had to stay within the confines of the beer garden. To make matters worse, the beer garden was the only place you could buy ANYTHING, so if you happened to be under 21 you were s.o.l. Did I mention that the concert got over at 11 but they closed the beer garden down at 9? For the last two hours of the show, no one could get anything to drink, including water. And don't get me started on the security inside the show.

After this experience I am beginning to think that we don't need to worry about how big clear channel gets. They will manage to implode due to their own ineptitude once people realize that they don't need to stand for that kind of crap.

Van the Man is looking a litle long in the tooth in the picture you posted. In fact he looks like Truman Capote.

He's also purported to be more than a bit of an asshole in real life - at least that's what the rock media was saying 20-25 years ago.

He's also produced an awful lot of great music, which goes way beyond the endless renditions of "Brown Eyed Girl" on both KISN and KGON. "Wavelength," "Into the Music," and "Poetic Champions Compose" are three of my favorite albums.

So much to respond to, where does one start?

Clearchannel is evil, and I can say that with a straight face as an employee of Entercom. Really.

Programming KISN has nothing to do with the songs and everything to do with the non-song content.

I don't know what they smoke over at KINK, but I wish they'd stop. I used to /like/ that station, to the point of having it on as my wake-up radio in the mornings. (Let me stop down a moment and say that I don't generally like having /any/ radio station on, not even in the background. Been in the biz too long, ya know?) But. Coldplay? Every morning at the same time? Feh. Nevermind that the morning show's gone to Helena Handbasket, as it were. They need to wake up to the gentle hammering of my friend Lil's cluebat.

KGON. Ah. Well, it's where I've worked (in one minor capacity or another) for a decade or so. I'm a bit too close to the old beast to have the required perspective from which to carp and snipe. Sorry. =)

Why is radio continuing to suck? Because they aren't programming for discerning, intelligent types such as you and me and he and she. "You'll never go broke underestimating the tastes of the American public."

I feel compelled to add... Van Morrison drives me batty. Can't stand his stuff, sorry.

Portland isn't the only place with lousy radio.

I submit for your listening displeasure... San Francisco.

Nothing but corporate playlists, syndicated morning shows and over-produced, over-compressed annoying commercials. when a :60 commercial consists of :28 seconds of sped up lawyer-speak.. it's time to change your approach to advertising campaigns....

Thank God for the iPod.

"Side effects are similar to sugar pill, including dry mouth, wet mouth, diarrhea, heart attack and stroke. Ask your doctor."


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