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The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 886: 100 years of radio, part 1

This episode begins shortly after 9 am on the Saturday I turned six. For reasons that will forever remain mysterious, I received a Lloyds transistor radio from my grandmother, model TR-62.

This thing revealed the world to me. I grew up in a small town with three TV stations (one of which was in French) and the only radio I’d heard up until that time is what mom and dad played from the kitchen counter or in the car.

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But now that I had my own radio, I discovered that there were many, many, many other stations out there–and they all sounded different. In the wintertime, when the upper atmosphere thickened and turn into a giant reflector for distant AM signals, I began to listen to stations from Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Louisville, and many others. Some were even in Spanish. Where did they come from?

At some point, I decided that I wanted to be part of this world of news, information, entertainment, and music. Long story short, here I am.

You may end up listening to this program as an internet stream or a podcast, but the original construction of this show was for traditional, over-the-air terrestrial FM radio, the most ubiquitous of all electronic media.

Radio is everywhere: the clock radio, the kitchen, the stereo/home theatre in the living room, the office, the gym, the car. In fact, there are so many radios that they outnumber people in North America. And there are thousands of FM and AM stations broadcasting.

But because radio has that ubiquity, most people don’t give it much thought. It’s always been there and it’s always been free and so easy to use. Radio has become so tightly integrated into our lives over the decades that we don’t notice or appreciate it as perhaps as much as we should.

Of course, there are those who maintain that radio is dead and that no one listens anymore. Right. That’s rubbish. I could cit you all kinds of statistics proving that radio is still very popular, powerful, and profitable. Anywhere from 80 to 90 per cent of the population tunes in every week.

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Yes, radio is in a period of disruption and technological transition, but we on this side of the microphone are very aware of what’s going on. We’ll manage. Take my word for it.

These are all reasons why I want to talk about radio. Plus it’ll give me an excuse to play some great songs about the medium.

Oh, and did I mention that commercial radio as we know it has now been officially with us for 100 years? Yes, it has–and this is it’s story.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Joy Division, Transmission (Peel Session)
  • Pukka Orchestra, Listen to the Radio
  • Everclear, AM Radio
  • Dar Williams, FM Radio
  • Elvis Costello, Radio Radio
  • REM, Radio Free Europe
  • David Bowie, DJ
  • Ramones, Do You Remember Rock’n’Roll Radio

Eric Wilhite has this playlist.

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The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

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If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.