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Radio Free Easton

"It's the same old story, same old song and dance." You said it, Steven Tyler. In Easton, rock radio is nothing but same old, same old.

Easton isn’t as cool New York City or Philadelphia.

It’s not as hip. Not as sophisticated. Not as important.


That’s what they're trying to tell us, right? That’s why they’re doing this to us?

I’ve always wanted to work in radio. Even as I got to college and realized it’s a dying industry and the people I met who work in it are beyond disappointed, I still wanted to have something to do with the radio.

I had no desire to succeed in a bigger market like New York or Philly, I wanted to work right here in Easton or at least in the Lehigh Valley.

But I had a pretty big problem; I didn’t like any of our radio stations. I always felt they were devastatingly bland. I would get excited with each new rock station that popped up but they all began to sound so alike.

I know these are common complaints about stations in every town but I think the ones we have here are especially guilty. They certainly aren’t saying that in New York or Philadelphia. Not like this they’re not.


MOE, LARRY, AND CURLY NEVER CHANGED EITHER

Okay, by now you know I’m talking about “95.1 WZZO” (boring us from Allentown), “107.1 - The Bone” (laughably named in Stroudsburg) and “99.9 - The Hawk” (tailspinning out of Easton). In a time when there is so much variety out there, these jokers continue to belabor us with the same 30 songs over and over again.

Radio doesn’t exist to pummel us with songs we already know by heart. Sure, familiar music keeps us comfortable but too much of the same thing keeps one from growing (unless they’re growing bored). I am equally confused by the number of songs they choose to ignore (both old and new) and the songs they continue to play far beyond their expiration date.

“Cult Of Personality” by one-hit wonders Living Colour reached number 13 on the Billboard charts back in 1989. Is that enough of a reason for WZZO to play it every day for 20 years? If “Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays on my way to work tomorrow, I will not be held accountable for my actions. And it’s not bad enough I hear “Sweet Home Alabama”  in every movie, commercial and neighborhood bar - its got to be on “The Hawk” once every 12 hours as well. (Side note: Let the record show Lynyrd Skynyrd is from Florida.)

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying those songs are bad or that I don’t like them and that you shouldn’t either. I’m saying that listening to our local radio stations is like listening to the same CD over and over. Except you can’t take the CD out for 30 years.

Things are good in moderation, even Collective Soul. I mean, I used to like “Burnin‘ For You” by Blue Oyster Cult but if I ever hear it again I’m going to cut my ears off and send them to Michaels and Layne. What we’re dealing with here is really an issue of civic responsibility. They’ve force fed Easton the same dreck for so long new generations of young people actually crave it.

They’re locked in a sick chicken-or-the-egg scenario. It’s not even that they’re appreciative of older music or that they‘re well rounded kids. They simply don’t know any better. They listen to AC/DC, Def Leppard and Rod Stewart like they’re all at the height of their popularity.

I recently met a 19 year old girl whose favorite performer is Billy Joel. That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Young adults listening to the radio at work or in their cars are being poisoned by the fuzzy thinking, old businessmen who control our airwaves. Stick with what works, right? When in doubt: play “Welcome To The Jungle.” Again. A typical afternoon WZZO play list from 2011 is identical to one from 1997, I guarantee it.

LIBERATION FREQUENCY

If you’re ever driving through New York or Philly and start searching for a clear radio signal, you‘ll find they don‘t sound like Easton‘s. I’m always surprised when I hear The White Stripes, Elvis Costello or Beck. I shouldn’t be though - those groups have hit singles and popular albums.

And who decides which rock bands make the cut in Easton anyway? How come “The Bone” will play Queen but not Roxy Music? Black Sabbath but not UFO? U2 but not The Smiths? Who decided we’re allowed to hear Disturbed and Nickelback but not Life Of Agony or The Libertines? You know, we’re only maybe two hours away from those big, important cities.

That’s not very far. So, none of that excitement makes it this way down I-78? How come their rock radio stations are so much more progressive and have better long term memories than ours? Why don’t famous musicians stop by “The Hawk” when they’re going to play Crocodile Rock Café or Musikfest? Why are we letting them get away with keeping Easton’s airwaves so dull and stagnant?

Gosh, no wonder people have turned to the Internet and satellite radio. I should probably do something I should have done a long time ago and shut the damn thing off already, go get a real job. Because I don’t think I have it in me to sit back and listen to “Come Sail Away” one more time ….

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Lauren Warner May 04, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Great column, Drew. Why don't you look into getting a show at Lafayette College radio, or I think there is one other station where you can DJ. That would be a fun couple of hours.
J. Drew Stefancin May 05, 2011 at 11:53 AM
I did that for a couple of years. College radio can be a fun thing but it doesn't fix commercial radio which doesn't HAVE to be so boring.
Jon Geeting June 16, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Awesome post! Here's the public policy angle to this. It doesn't have to be so bad! http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/7919-live-transmission/
Tom Coombe June 22, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Thanks for the link, Jon. I haven't been a regular Pitchfork reader in years.

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