Monday, July 31, 2006

THE BASEBALL TRAVELOGUE

Big weekend for Baseball. Because we’re tied to the hip with the Major Leagues, great seats are relatively easy to acquire. So, took full advantage of that and on Saturday went with Kurt Gilchrist (Decades Sr. Programmer), Bill Evans (Program Director Program Director of Café) and Bart Taylor one of our Production aces, to see The White Sox play the Orioles at Camden Yards. Interesting game. 36 hits as my Sox won 13-11. It was also Latin Day, celebrating Latin culture. I don’t think they did a very good job of that as you’d hear “Latin” songs like Papa does Mambo by Dean Martin between innings. I believe while Dino worked that 50’s “Latin Lover” thing, he’s about as Latin as Sinatra. Then you’d hear “Oye Como Va” quite a bit. In all, the most Latin thing about the game was the great Hispanic ballplayers that dominate both teams. Camden Yards though, has a real baseball feel to it, just blue collar enough to have character. That's what I never liked about the Cubs (other than the fact they are from the wrong side of Chicago--The SOUTH side is where it's at)! Cubs fans seemed to be in it because it's cool to like the Cubs, whereas the Sox were more about the working man's history of Chicago. The walls of the old Comiskey park smelled like Al Capone's cigars...it was REAL Chicago. Anyways, this Cubs/Sox thing is going nowhere, so let's move on...

So Sunday morning took Joe Verbrugge, one of our corporate guys in my Cirrus down to Atlanta to see the Braves play the Mets. Joe’s an interesting guy. He used to focus on the “business” side of our Exclusive Music programming like Artist Confidential. We almost had him (He’s not an MBA—He’s DOCTOR of Business…no shit) converted to the Rock n Roll side. A few dinners with Don Henley and Bob weir almost had him converted. Then, he went to work exclusively with Hugh Panero on more traditional business matters and he slipped back into his World. Great guy and definitely a closet rocker. He brought his neighbor who’s a Government guy. He had NO idea what we were talking about when we’d veer toward XM conversations. Nice flight down to Atlanta. We went to the Varsity a 50’s style Drive In, to soak up local culture. I can only imagine what that place grosses. 10:30am and it was PACKED. Then off to Turner Field. Met up with Dave Dannheiser, and old friend who used to be the Warners AOR guy, and still lives in Atlanta. We talked a lot about the state of music and Atlanta radio. Having lived in Atlanta from 74-88, it was good to see him and briefly check out the city again. Radio was pretty unlistenable, though I found WSB AM pretty together and V103 was viby and pretty cool once you got past the ads. Speaking of ads, Turner Field struck me as one big Ad. They must be doing something right because there were 40,000+ on hand, but it’s more like Disneyland than a baseball stadium. Camden had a baseball buzz, Turner had a commercial buzz. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear “Now batting Carlos Beltran…brought to you by Home Depot”.

I really wanted to root for the Braves, but couldn’t. Firstly, when I lived in Atlanta, they sucked. Phil Neikro and Dale Murphy. That was it. Then the second I left, they became a major contender. But the real reason is that abound 1990 I did a dinner presentation at Brown University. I was opening act for Ted Turner. He didn’t like that. They told me I’d have 40 minutes, but 10 minutes into it I kept getting these “Mr. Turner is upset…end now” messages. I didn’t. After about 30 minutes he was going to “walk out”…so I ended it. Then he goes on and does a tirade. I ASSUME it was the alcohol or medication talking because he didn’t make much sense…rambling about how WTBS is so good for America and so quality driven. Then a Brown student calmly asked him why, if they are all about quality, is WTBS all about Andy Griffith and the Beverly Hillbillies in prime time. He did another tirade. He also bashed Morley Safer and some others who were on hand. I certainly respect what he has done…and he’s outrageously successful and obviously talented, but that night he sure was pretty nasty. Then he goes and marries Hanoi Jane Fonda who I never cared for, so it was hard to like the Braves. OK—Time Warner owns them now, but what really put me over the top other than the brash over commercialization, was that damn “Chop”…the tomahawk thing they do whenever there’s a rally threatening. To me, it’s more obnoxious than The Wave.

But anyways, despite my over sensitivities, it was a great weekend for baseball. After the Braves game, we flew to some VERY small airport in Georgia to pick up Eric Logan who’s family has a nice spread down there. It takes Eric a few hours to drive to Atlanta to take a Delta flight home, so this was an easy way for him to get back to DC without that hassle. There were 4 big guys in the plane, a lot of fuel and Eric’s golf bags and other crap (he DOESN'T pack light)in the luggage compartment. It was also 98 degrees and the runway is short, so with our best “Flight of the Phoenix” impersonation we limped into the air for an uneventful flight to DC with Eric constantly plugging his PSP audio into the sound system so we could hear how his simulated Yankees games were coming along from the back seat. Whenever we complained, he’d chime in the stats on how the gaming industry is growing faster than any medium. OK…we put up with it and his simulated Yankees took another game from Toronto.

Back to music, our BLISTERING LICKS CD is out. We have a deal with Concord records to create different CD’s. This one is distributed at Starbucks. The concept is “mind boggling virtuosity”. in other words the fastest most complicated playing possible. Like the stuff you’d hear on Music Lab (which I hope we bring back sooner than later). The kinda thing that the Jazz fan will “get” but also something that a Rocker who thinks Jeff Beck can wail, will be blown away by. Sales are brisk. It’s a cool package..

Last week we recorded Artist Confidential with Gamble & Huff. Man, those guys have some stories! BK Kirkland, who handles The Groove for us, took the hosting reins as BK is closer to the R&B scene than George Taylor Morris the regular Artist Confidential host. BK did great. G&H rolled through their stories and performed workshop style on the Steinway. Earlier in the week we had Amy Grant who was wonderful to work with. It’s so nice to run into wonderful artists who are professional and flexible. They don’t HAVE to be and many aren’t. Her set and her stories were just great.

Getting close to debuting SongStories with Graham Nash. Another wonderful person and artist. He’ll be discussing the greatest songs of all time with the writers. Real artist to artist stuff without any goofy “interview”…two artists talking music. Modeled after his book. We also had Stephen Stills in for an Artist Confidential a few weeks ago. That was interesting.

Nice visit from Janet Jackson. I have to credit our guys with getting her HERE. It would have been easy to accept the cattle call with 150 other local stations and get in line for a 5 minute “interview” but instead we hosted her for a few hours and really got some amazing stuff that SHE liked and her fans will drool over.

Had Pink in for an Artist Confidential. Didn’t know what to expect. She was cool. And our pal Marty Stuart is hosting the International Bluegrass awards in late September. This is what I love about Satellite radio. The diversity. Yeah I know we’ve had more than a few issues with bandwidth, losing channels, a “XM is going FM” perception. I hear about it. I know it. We all know it. It’s a sleep loser. I can talk til I’m green in the face trying to convince some people that that ain’t the case, so I’ll just say that ain’t the case. If XM is like FM, why would ANYONE pay for it??!! Plus—FM kinda sucks…why emulate that? Anyways, I ‘get” the comments and I think one of the reasons I’m here is to guard against that….and I’m not alone. There are things out of our control that have forced some decisions, but looking forward the LAST place we want to go is BACKWARDS toward the old FM M.O.


Then there’s Bob Dylan. That show IS amazing. His baseball show he did was inducted to the Hall of Fame…and his shows just get better and better. Besides the magic of him being Bob Dylan, he has NO preconceived notions about play lists and how radio is “supposed to be done”…so the result is not only his musical point of view, but is totally free of any clichés. It might not be for everyone but anyone who is an explorer will certainly be more than satisfied with what he delivers. On September 2, he’s playing at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown NY at the Hall of Fame. THAT should be pretty cool. Me, Jim Mc Bean and Dan Turner are flying up for that one. In mid August I’m going up to see Yo-Yo Ma at Tanglewood up in Massachusetts with Paul Bachmann, who along with Martin Goldsmith run our Classical channels. Yo-Yo is a guy we’d love to do something with.

Carried the WHO press conference on Deep Tracks. For a first generation Who fans like me, this is exciting stuff. The downside is that XM’s Lou Brutus is even a bigger fan than I am and calls me at 3am to see if there’s an update on the tour. Who Sell Out was THE Who album for me. EVERY track is so brilliant. It might have been that it just caught me at a time when I was ready for this kind of magic, but whatever it was, it still holds true today. It was SO damn “clever”...and honestly done clever usually works.

7 Comments:

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lee, As a radiophile since I was 14 (back in 1988) and a new XM sub, I am happy to see your posts and fully your support your vision for XM. Do not be rattled by any temporary successes your competitor may achieve right now. Your intelligent listeners savor and appreciate your intelligent music programming. Hope you enjoyed the rest of Atlanta, I wish I would have known you were at the Varsisty - I would have loved to stop by and talk radio. Yes, the FM here is still as bad as the Braves were under Murphy and Neikro.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Jason Birzer said...

Since you have guys in Atlanta, you may want to have someone check out ProgPower in September at Earthlink Live (or Center Stage Atlanta as it seems to be known now as.) A good lineup of power and progressive metal for the weekend.

www.progpowerusa.com

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, XM is far from FM--and the sheer variety of XM, makes it a silly argument--but decisions like bringing Steve Kingston on board leave many scratching their heads; he is the antithesis of everything that is good about XM--he just doesn't get XM, and never will. Moves like this do chip away at XM's brand image, and will take its toll over time--

Honestly Lee, were you gagged, and thrown in the closet when this decision was made?

 
At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, I always enjoy reading your blog.

I see you mentioned bringing MusicLab back. Please, please, please split it into separate prog rock and jam band stations first!

Thanks, a big XM Fan

 
At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello my friend! I have to fully agree, the Braves 'Chop' is completely obnoxious! (Same goes for Fla State) Glad to see the Mets kick their sorry asses! F the Braves!
There's no way XM is like FM. Just listen to XM40! I love George and Earle. You rock! The problem is, I know most of that stuff and can get it in less than 5 notes! But that says more about me, loser! Who else knows Blodwin Pig in 3?
I invite readers to check out and sign up for www.TheMusicFile.com it's new and I hope you like it. It's all about the music...man!
Ted Utz

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Hey Lee. Great blog you have here! I'll admit that it was the MLB deal that got me to XM Radio so I can here my team on the radio! The only thing I would change, and I don't know if it's possible, is to include Home and Away radio feeds. Frankly, when I'm listening to my team, I don't really want to hear someone else's Homer announcers calling the game.

I'll admit that I love the music stations. The 70s on 7, 80s on 8, along with Fred, Ethel and Lucy are my most listened to. Keep it up! I can honestly say I never thought I would be so happy paying for Radio.

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to second the notion to split the music lab in two seperate channels.. one for progressive rock (the way it was originally) and a second channel for jam bands.. and bring back the live channel... did I ask that before?? yes, just about every time I enter a comment here...

 

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