SALUTING A POP RADIO PIONEER…GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES AND THE NEXT XM CHANNEL
SALUTING A POP RADIO PIONEER…GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES AND THE NEXT XM CHANNEL
One of my early all time favorite Deejays retired recently. Miami’s Rick Shaw. Been in Miami radio for almost 50 years! I first heard him in about ’63 when our family took vacations to Florida each winter. WQAM had tried an early experiment with automation in the early 60’s—a dismal failure, but bounced back to full and VERY live by ’63. Rick Shaw was the night DJ, and I thought he was amazing. He and that station manufactured magic. It was truly an emotional experience far beyond just songs coming out of a speaker! Not just for me, a kid radio freak, but to just about everyone under 30 in Miami at that time. I think he had about a 70 share of the market. By today’s standards, it was all hokey and corny, but in the mid 60’s—it was electric. ANY CHR programmer who studied those tapes and could put what Rick and WQAM did into 2007 terms would win in about 10 seconds. All of the TIMELESS ingredients were there---When Rick talked about a new song---you were sold. The phone interaction…the street slang and despite like all DJ’s back then, being a bit pukey, he was believable. He was “one of us” even though he was an old fart of about 26 at the time. Beyond WQAM, Rick pioneered SO much stuff—had his own Club called “the World”...had a teen newspaper...a TV show and actually hosted what I believe was the FIRST music video show called “Now Explosion” in 1970. He and I, along with Dan Chandler actually started a consulting company in 1968. We each invested $50 (!). Predictably, nothing happened, but at 15 or 16 I got to be “in business” with a radio hero. In fact, Rick, and the late Jim Dunlap (then PD of WQAM) took me under their wing. I got to hang out at Dunlap’s house while he’d drink beer and tell war stories. Occasionally we’d go to Rick’s house. He had a Cadillac and his Wife was an ex Playboy Bunny. Man—I was feeling big time, hangin’ with these guys---and actually talking radio WITH them. If Rick was in NYC or LA, there’d be statues built for him…but Miami being a growing but still not Mega market, he never got that recognition outside of South Florida. But anyone who grew up down there in the 60’s, knows exactly what I’m talking about. Most citities had a Rick Shaw, burning the night airwaves with the sound that defined youth.I was just luck enough to have experienced one of the best.
I grew up in Chicago and listened to WLS—loved it. By the mid 60’s, it got a little tired until John Rook came in a evolved it. Funny thing is that looking back, many of these “great” Top 40 stations really only had a 5-7 year run of brilliance. QAM ran out of creative gas by 70 aided greatly by the FM revolution…but it underscores the ONE thing that sets programmers, jocks and operators apart—staying in sync. Longevity. Anyone can have a 5 year run---
Last week we had the Smashing Pumpkins in for Artist Confidential. Billy Corgan was the classic brooding, punished rocker, and the show was remarkable as they demonstrated songwriting, performed and answered questions from the dangerously overfilled XM Performance Theater with total attitude and spirit. I think he’s into a lot of Government conspiracy stuff which reminded me that I’m seeing a trend toward the popularization of Government conspiracies, thanks to the internet and a troubled world conducive to this mode of thinking. Troubled world wise: There’s a tendency to Escape (reality shows and junk culture); to be frustrated (at the dumbing down and gross homogenization of traditionally reliable and respectable news sources); or to search for answers (this is where the overly imaginative conspiracy theories emanates). The big media hit is in serving the frustrated, selling the junk and most importantly—blowing up the homogenized so-safe-it’s painfully dull media. The problem with conspiracies is that they’re like UFO’s—It always stays in the “what if” zone.
Personally, I find the conspiracies generally laughable. In ’56, Elvis was a conspiracy from Communists to poison America’s youth. In 1970, the Moon Landing was staged. Nowadays, you hear that 9/11 was staged by Bush and Israel to gain oil access…and that Bin Laden DOES NOT exist (the reason he hasn’t been caught) and that he’s a made up Bush figure to “blame” the War on. I really doubt if Bush, or ANYONE was brilliant enough to pull off a global scam like this. I’ve also heard where Bush is no longer alive and that Cheney had the CIA create a fake Bush to carry out his policies. In fact, most conspiracies may be vaguely plausible, but to pull them off and fool most of the World on this level would be genius beyond the abilities of any known human. Then again, there’s always “Governent” bullshit---When I was growing up, you needed 8 glasses of milk a day to be strong. Hell, 8 glasses of milk a day will kill you. Then there was “smoke pot” and your chromosomes are destroyed. I would love to consult the Government on messaging. Some of the messages are hilarious—my all time favorite is Nancy Reagan telling kids “Just Say No” followed by the “brains on drug” frying pan thing. Does this resonate with American youth? Yes! As a great comedy routine. In fact, Dan Turner ordered a series of Government films from the 50’s---incredibly funny and lethal. “Yes, in case of a nuclear attack, don a set of strong sunglasses to protect your eyes, cover yourself with a blanket and tune in your local Conelrad station on your AM Radio”…it goes hilariously downhill from there. Can’t wait to watch the Government anti drug films of the 90’s in about 30 years. But “Bin Laden is a Hollywood creation” type conspiracies? Nah…I don’t think so. Weird stuff and secret stuff—absolutely! But My POV is that it’s a scary place out there and junk culture and conspiracy theories just sugar coat and junk culturize the bigger issues. Good for TV ratings and movie plots…but does nothing more than dumbs down our culture instead of understanding what’s REALLY going on….and it ain’t the extremes of government propaganda or Hollywood meets Washington conspiracies. Serving the frustrated is where it’s at. --- But that’s a tough call as most big media companies are in my opinion, SO behind the curve, that’s scary in itself. Too many buttoned up deal guys and not enough smart mavericks with dangerous ideas.
On a much lighter note---Flew to the Outer banks with Stepanie Mantelmacher and her husband Howard. It has taken 5 years to get Stephanie in my plane---classic” We ARE going to crash and die” thing---Hugh Panero was helpful in convincing here it was OK. Years back, Hugh actually tested me by sending up his assistant as well as Jack Wormington, a retired Brigadier General in the Air Force, and the guy who built our statellites, to be guinea pigs. I passed the test and flew Hugh up to Long Island with me. He assured Stephanie it was OK. She loved the trip. I asked Dan Turner, an Outer Banks regular where to go for lunch and he said for the ultimate cheesy tourist experience, go to Awful Arthurs. We did. It was great...in a tourist way. Flew back afterwards and Stepahie was converted. It’s a good thing; she’s one of the #1 “go to” people here at XM…makes things happen.
The new XMX channel is rolling along for an upcoming launch. We’re really focused on doing this complex…make that REAL complex channel RIGHT. Paul Bachmann is “Program Director” so to speak, Dan Turner is the master logistics captain, Sandy Girard is den mother (You’d know what I mean if you know this TCB lady)and Jim Mc Bean is looking over the production. Eric Logan has no shortage of massive input too of course, though we've been able to keep Eric's Oklahoma Football off the channel. In many respects, we’re keeping this close to the vest. Everyone company wide is involved and informed, but the actual design and execution is tightly held. The thinking is that the more people that get involved—the higher chance it’ll be compromised—that’s the reality. I have two functions: One—I oversee or am intimately involved with much of the content on the channel—Dylan, Artist Confidential, Tom Petty etc…and I gotta make sure that it stays smart. I’m not saying I’m smart or anyone else is dumb--—I’m saying the channel needs to be smart! It’s too easy to hype n cheese these things up. It would be insulting to the integrity of the artists that make up the channel to do so. Especially in the age of Junk Culture. I have no reason to think that the team putting XMX together will create anything less than a stunningly smart, appealing and cool channel. This channel is the anti junk culture---we’re doing our part here! I’m pretty stoked about the channel. FINALLY—a place to properly display some of the truly revolutionary and intelligent, but never too hip for the room, programming.
Next trip is to the Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown. Going up with Eric Logan and his Wife in the plane. Staying at a crummy hotel that’s charging about $400 a night for a room that usually costs $45 a night, but going to the exclusive Major League Dinner and events. Then later in the week we are doing a Baseball Confidential with Derek Jeter---sorta like Artist Confidential, but no music, unless Derek decides to sing a few numbers..Then, flying two winners in an XM Silent auction to Yankee Stadium for a game. Now...if I only liked the Yankees.