- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

The D.C. area is notorious for its appalling lack of consistently decent FM-radio programming. Amazingly for a metropolitan area that boasts a bevy of colleges and universities, there’s not one student-run show of note. And the format swap last year of WHFS-FM (99.1) from alternative rock to Latin/salsa seemed to throw salt not so much on an open wound but, rather, an old scar.

I’m on record as a non-hater of Clear Channel and was roundly (as bloggers like to say) “fisked” for my contrarianism.

I stand by the piece, and yet I’ll be the first to admit I leapfrog the dial in continual frustration.

But then I think: frustrated about what? That I don’t hear enough new, interesting bands? That’s certainly not the case. I do, all the time. I read about — and listen to — them on audioblogs. I’m under no illusions that terrestrial radio will ever again become the go-to medium for breakout artists.

I guess what frustrates me is that (again terrestrial) radio does a poor job of playing OLD, interesting bands, a task that has more or less become the exclusive preserve of satellite radio.

Locally, Clear Channel-owned Big 100.3’s makeover from 1960s and ‘70s bubblegum pop to a thin gruel of tired classic rock puzzles me to no end. Before the change, Big 100 was a great place to hear forgotten semi-classics such as, for instance, Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy” and Tavares‘ “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel.”

Now the station has basically become indistinguishable from WARW-FM (94.1) and its relentless bombardment of such flogged-to-death post-Beatles-breakup pabulum as the Eagles, Journey, Boston and Jackson Browne.

There’s never a time I love the convenient steering-wheel “Seek” button more than when I hear a voiceover announcing “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll of All Time,” followed by — O, I cringe as I type! — “Carry On Wayward Son” or “Take It On The Run.”

I’m sure I’ve just offended a few Kansas and REO Speedwagon buffs out there — exactly the kind of snobbery I railed against in my anti-anti-Clear Channel story. The truth of the matter is that not everyone is an intense music lover. Some people like music merely for its background-noise utility. Some cherish it for its nostalgic power. I’m fine with that — which is precisely where I think I part with Clear Channel haters. When I hear (to use another local example) the WRQZ-FM (107.3) slogan “The Best Mix of Everything,” I don’t assume for a minute that it could possibly mean a playlist that shuffles furiously between Benny Goodman, Gang of Four and Rob Thomas.

Few would tune into such a miscellaneous mess.

Not even the snobs.

They hate Rob Thomas.

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