“Methodology?” On this show? HA! As if!
The thing is…I wrote the above opening line in January of 2020. At the time, I had no idea that our approach to programming This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio was so close to a change, a change which is likely permanent. In March of 2020, the pandemic shut us down.
But we only missed a week. For the week after that, we were already scheduled to do an on-air record release party for Factory Settings, the then-forthcoming new album from our friends Pop Co-Op. Their tech guru and marketing maven Laura Sessions Tinnel set us up to do the show as a Zoom meeting with the members of the band, chatting with them in between spinning tracks from the new album. It was my first experience with Zoom. Doesn’t that seem quaint now?
The week after our Pop Co-Op Zoom (and inspired by our pals Michael McCartney [host of The Time Machine in Maui] and Rich Firestone [now the host of Radio Deer Camp right here on SPARK!]), we made a last-minute decision to try recording a new TIRnRR from home. We had a playlist I’d previously set up as a blog post about isolating at home, so I gathered those tracks, barked some commentary into my phone, and sent the files to Dana for processing and alchemy. Dana raced the clock, beat the clock, and got the show on the air on April 5, 2020. We’ve been back in our weekly time slot ever since then. We have not returned to the studio, and I can’t guarantee that we ever will. But the show goes on. Only our method has changed.
The original, abandoned-after-its-opening-line January 2020 version of this post was intended in response to a listener’s question. A fan was curious about how Dana and I picked the songs for our playlists; he also wondered why we didn’t play more garage, and more R & B-influenced ’60s rock like the Animals. It was a good-natured inquiry, so I figured it deserved an answer.
Still, some basics remain unchanged. Dana and I pursue a mix of old and new, balancing minty-fresh releases with classics, the familiar with the obscure. We have never really been a power pop show, even though that is our stated format. The actual show blends rock ‘n’ roll, pop. soul, bubblegum, punk, R & B, and whatever else flits into our wandering focus. Oh, and power pop. Of course. We’ve played a lot of the ’60s garage and blues-based rock our listener was curious about us playing, including Wimple Winch on this week’s show, and the Small Faces are playlist perennials; the Animals made our year-end countdown just a few years back, and a track by the Rolling Stones was in the original plan for last week’s show, cut because we needed to find room for something else in its place.
“Plan.” Yeah, I guess that’s the difference now. The off-the-cuff playlist-building that always characterized whatever the hell it is we do here has evolved into something with a little bit more premeditation.
Or has it? We still assemble the playlist on the fly, a task accomplished in a back-and-forth phone call on Tuesday nights. Whether it was the old method of live programming or the current method of tele-programming, we’ve almost always had some specific tracks in mind when slappin’ this thing together. What has mutated is our ability to edit our selections, to decide after the fact (but before airtime) that some other track or tracks work better in context than something else we’d intended to play instead. The resulting show is still the product of Dana and I playing off each other’s song picks, building better radio through better radio.
I concede that we’ve sacrificed some of our spontaneity. A new track that reaches us after we record the show on Wednesday can’t be programmed until the next show following. We can’t respond to listener requests in real time. And we can’t simulate the live banter between Dana and I; that’s the only important thing I think is missing, and it’s gotta be that way. Otherwise, I do think we do a pretty good job of creating an appealing and convincing approximation of TIRnRR‘s combustible charm.
In fact, I’m confident that This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio is still The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin’ Planet. Forgive the hubris, but when it comes to programming a rockin’ pop radio show, we are damned near infallible. It’s our method. And it works for us.
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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.
I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl