Friday, June 28, 2013

Aural Fixation: Why Radio Still Matters

Aural Fixation:

Why Radio Still Matters

Aural Fixation” is a music-themed column I wrote for from 2011-2013. They are no longer online there, but I have reformatted them here at the DMDB blog with additional videos, photos, and links, such as where to buy referenced albums. I have also used the title “Aural Fixation” for any essays I have written outside of as well. To see the essays, check out the Dave’s Music Database Aural Fixation page.

The essays from have been gathered in book form as Aural Fixation: Essays from a Music Obsessive. Essays written from 2009 to 2011 have been gathered in the book No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”. You can purchase the essays in book format here.

My kids roused me out of bed on Father’s Day morning to come eat breakfast. I suspect my wife did all the cooking, but the handmade cards stuffed in the donut box were original work. Among my gifts was a book called The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. Nary a holiday slips by without me shredding the wrapping paper from some music-related book. My family knows me well.

My history with radio began in the 1970s in my pre-teen years. Walt Bodine, a staple of Kansas City radio for more than 70 years before his death just a few months ago, did a call-in show on various topics. One night focused on left-handedness. I dialed in to share my earth-shattering talent for capably manipulating right-handed scissors despite being a Southpaw.

Before you scratch your head too much over why a kid was listening to an AM talk radio call-in show hosted by a guy more than four decades his senior, I blame my father. He faithfully listened to sports and talk radio. As a kid, I could have rattled off the entire rosters of the Royals late-‘70s and early ‘80s baseball teams. I still watch televised Chiefs football games with the sound turned down. Why? I subscribe to Dad’s philosophy of listening to the local (and biased) radio announcers instead of the national television broadcasters.

Radio was a staple of my dad’s young life in rural Georgia in the 1930s and ’40s. When my brother and I took him out for a barbeque dinner to celebrate Father’s Day, I asked him about his memories of radio. He recalled his mom listening to farm reports while he followed adventure-oriented serials like Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Adventures of Superman. At night he could pick up AM stations as far away as Chicago. Even today he follows University of Georgia football games via internet radio and webcasts.

While Walt Bodine made for my earliest radio memory, my focus shifted away from the talk, sports, weather, and news of AM radio. Before I made it to high school, I was a devotee of Q-104, the local top 40 FM station. My listening habits moved to my bedroom instead of the family’s living room. Now I could privately listen to whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In an era when radio is regularly proclaimed deceased, Terry O’Reilly of CBC argues that it is the ultimate survivor (, “Radio Is Dead. Long Live Radio.” 26 January 2013). It was the first-ever broadcast medium, launched in the United States in the 1920s. It has survived through competition from motion pictures, television, VCRs, and the Internet. Even as it now faces threats from streaming and satellite radio, traditional terrestrial radio offers what those other mediums can’t – an intimate experience listening to music spun by a local DJ.

As blogger Mark Edwards says, “Local matters. While customers may enjoy…creating custom music channels on Pandora, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in what’s happening next door, down the street, and in the heart of where they live” (, “Is Local Radio Dead? In Some Ways It Is, But Owners Don’t Know It Yet”, 7 November 2011).

Brett Moss, the gear & technology editor at Radio World, discusses how “stations where the content changes every day…can’t be replicated by a Pandora” (, “The Inside Debate: Is Radio Dead?”, 18 April 2011).

While his comments refer more to talk, sports, and news formats, they have relevancy for music-related stations as well. Even as stations are gobbled up by conglomerates like Cumulus and Clear Channel, their real flavor comes from local personalities. Companies like Pandora and I Heart Radio bank on the notion that people only listen to radio for the music. Another voice in the Radio World article notes that such thinking ignores what happens between songs. While streaming and satellite radio allow a listener to tailor song choices, they can’t deliver the local angle. The DJ on a music station serves as the ultimate party host, promoting and appearing at the hot upcoming events.

More than thirty years after my first radio appearance, I got another invite to the party. Last summer Slacker, the morning DJ at KCFX 101 The Fox, interviewed me (hear it here!) about my book, The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era. I’d be hard-pressed to find a station more local. It is walking distance from my house.

Click to play my interview with Slacker at 101 The Fox

I enjoyed the off-air chatter more than the interview. We discussed the state of radio and how it has changed over the years. He confessed to being less than enthused at playing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” ad infinitum, but acknowledged the importance in giving listeners what they want.

How successful radio meets listeners’ needs is ultimately what will determine its fate. However, before people are too hasty to declare radio’s demise, it should be noted that a Hollywood Reporter article from last August (“CBS Radio Chief Exec: Sorry, Radio Is Far From Dead”, 23 August 2013) cited that over 92% of the U.S. population still regularly listens to broadcast radio. Ryan Matthew Pierson reported at that in 2011 radio listenership had increased by 2% in the UK (“Is Local Radio Dead?”, 3 November 2011).

The key is to use modern technology to enhance listeners’ interactive experience with traditional radio. Edwards reported that 60% of Pandora’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Local radio must recognize that its survival depends on providing customers access via iPods and iPads as well as the AM and FM dials. That also means enhancing a radio station’s social media presence, both for the overall brand and the individual personalities.

While it sounds contradictory, the idea is that a fan should be able to access the local station from anywhere in the world. That means a Kansas Citian uprooted from his native Georgia half a century ago better still be able listen to radio broadcasts of the Bulldogs college football games. It means that a Walt Bodine fan in Tokyo better have had a chance to hear the beloved radio personality’s final broadcast on KCUR last April.

The local radio station can form a lifelong bond with its listener. After Slacker interviewed me, I joked about how my nine-year-old son had begged me to bring him. “You should have!” Slacker responded.

A week later, I loaded my sons in the car one morning under the pretense that we were going out for breakfast. When we pulled into the radio station parking lot, their eyes lit up. Once inside, Slacker showed them the studio and then did something I hadn’t expected – he put my boys on the air. Levi shared that he would be seven in a week and Slacker jokingly asked if he was married and had kids. Evan got to talk about how he was going to the Olympics at summer’s end and then gave a shout out to his friends. Who knows, Slacker. Maybe forty years from now one of my sons will write an article where he references the time he was on the local radio station and talked to one of the city’s most cherished DJ’s. Top that, Pandora.

Click to play my kids' interview with Slacker

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First posted 6/28/2013; updated 10/28/2023.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ultimate Classic Rock’s “Top 100 Classic Rock Songs”

Ultimate Classic Rock:

Top 100 Songs has a list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs. There’s no indication how this list was compiled, but they adhere to an absurd rule of restricting each artist to only one entry. It invites immediate argument not just about where a song ranks, but why this is the one chosen to represent the band? If you only get one Van Halen song, is “Everybody Wants Some” the way to go? How much validity should one give a list which doesn’t have classic rock staples like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part II,” The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and – most shockingly of all – the song which consistently tops classic rock lists: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”? All of these appear in the DMDB’s list of The Top 100 Classic Rock Songs of All Time.

Still, the songs that are included make for a pretty good starting point for any beginner’s classic rock library. There’s also some nice commentaries to accompany the songs.

Click here to see other lists from publications and/or organizations.

1. Aerosmith “Sweet Emotion” (1975)
2. Led Zeppelin “Kashmir” (1975)
3. The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” (1969)
4. AC/DC “Back in Black” (1980)
5. The Beatles “A Day in the Life” (1967)
6. The Jimi Hendrix Experience “All Along the Watchtower” (1968)
7. Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
8. Van Halen “Everybody Wants Some” (1980)
9. Pink Floyd “Comfortably Numb” (1979)
10. Black Sabbath “Paranoid” (1970)

11. The Who “Baba O’Riley” (1971)
12. Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (1987)
13. Journey “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)
14. Lynyrd Skynrd “Sweet Home Alabama” (1974)
15. Creedence Clearwater Revival “Fortunate Son” (1969)
16. Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” (1975)
17. Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” (1980)
18. The Doors “L.A. Woman” (1971)
19. ZZ Top “La Grange” (1973)
20. Eagles “Hotel California” (1976)

21. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
22. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band “Turn the Page” (live, 1976)
23. John Lennon “Imagine” (1971)
24. Ted Nugent “Stranglehold” (1975)
25. Tom Petty “Free Fallin’” (1989)
26. Kiss “Rock and Roll All Nite” (live, 1975)
27. Derek & the Dominos “Layla” (1970)
28. Boston “More Than a Feeling” (1976)
29. David Bowie “Space Oddity” (1969)
30. Crosby, Stills, & Nash “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (1969)

31. Metallica “Enter Sandman” (1991)
32. Deep Purple “Smoke on the Water” (1972)
33. Cream “Sunshine of Your Love” (1967)
34. Neil Young “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989)
35. The Cars “Just What I Needed” (1978)
36. The Allman Brothers Band “Ramblin’ Man” (1973)
37. Elton John “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna Be a Long Time)” (1972)
38. Paul McCartney & Wings “Live and Let Die” (1973)
39. Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” (1978)
40. Fleetwood Mac “Go Your Own Way” (1976)

41. Heart “Barracuda” (1977)
42. Bad Company “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (1975)
43. Eric Clapton “Cocaine” (1977)
44. Cheap Trick “I Want You to Want Me” (live, 1979)
45. Alice Cooper “School’s Out” (1972)
46. Judas Priest “Living after Midnight” (1980)
47. Thin Lizzy “The Boys Are Back in Town” (1976)
48. Rush “Tom Sawyer” (1981)
49. The Doobie Brothers “Black Water” (1974)
50. Peter Frampton “Show Me the Way” (live, 1976)

51. The Police “Roxanne” (1978)
52. The Guess Who “American Woman” (1970)
53. Blue Öyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (1976)
54. Free “All Right Now” (1970)
55. Def Leppard “Photograph” (1983)
56. George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” (1970)
57. Joe Walsh “Rocky Mountain Way” (1973)
58. Steve Miller Band “The Joker” (1973)
59. The Kinks “You Really Got Me” (1964)
60. Foghat “Slow Ride” (1975)

61. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble “Pride and Joy” (1983)
62. Golden Earring “Radar Love” (1973)
63. Billy Joel “Piano Man” (1973)
64. Stevie Nicks “Edge of Seventeen” (1981)
65. Bachman-Turner Overdrive “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (1974)
66. Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” (1981)
67. Mötley Crüe “Home Sweet Home” (1985)
68. Don Henley “The Boys of Summer” (1984)
69. Rod Stewart “Maggie May” (1971)
70. Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” (1983)

71. Big Brother & The Holding Company “Piece of My Heart” (1968)
72. Foreigner “Juke Box Hero” (1981)
73. Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” (1972)
74. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “Blinded by the Light” (1976)
75. Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” (1966)
76. Nazareth “Hair of the Dog” (1975)
77. Mountain “Mississippi Queen” (1970)
78. America “A Horse with No Name” (1971)
79. Pete Townshend “Let My Love Open the Door” (1980)
80. Jefferson Airplane “Somebody to Love” (1967)

81. T-Rex “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” (1971)
82. The Animals “The House of the Rising Sun” (1964)
83. The Pretenders “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” (1979)
84. The James Gang “Funk #49” (1970)
85. The Marshall Tucker Band “Can’t You See” (1973)
86. Steppenwolf “Born to Be Wild” (1968)
87. War “Low Rider” (1975)
88. Yes “Roundabout” (1971)
89. John Cougar Mellencamp “Jack and Diane” (1982)
90. Ram Jam “Black Betty” (1977)

91. .38 Special “Hold on Loosely” (1981)
92. Grand Funk Railroad “We’re an American Band” (1973)
93. George Thorogood & the Destroyers “Bad to the Bone” (1982)
94. Blind Faith “Can’t Find My Way Home” (1969)
95. Styx “Renegade” (1978)
96. Molly Hatchet “Flirtin’ with Disaster” (1979)
97. Electric Light Orchestra “Don’t Bring Me Down” (1979)
98. The Scorpions “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (1984)
99. Kansas “Carry on Wayward Son” (1976)
100. Sammy Hagar “I Can’t Drive 55” (1984)

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First posted 6/20/2013; last updated 8/3/2022.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” released

Wake Me Up!

Avicii with Aloe Blacc

Writer(s): Avicii, Aloe Blacc, Mike Einziger (see lyrics here)

Released: June 17, 2013

First Charted: July 13, 2013

Peak: 4 US, 13 RR, 114 A40, 14 AA, 12 MR, 13 UK, 2 CN, 16 AU, 7 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.97 UK, 12.12 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1880.0 video, 1960.93 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” wasn’t the usual EDM music with its blend of country and folk. The introduction of the song at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami has been compared to the legendary 1965 Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan went electric, angering purists. SF When introduced on BBC Radio 1, the Swedish DJ described it as a “complete change in style” from his past singles. SF He told MTV News “really wanted to make sure to do something different than what anyone else is doing.” SF

Avicii and Mike Einziger, a multi-instrumentalist from the rock band Incubus, came up with the chord progression and melody with Avicii on keyboards and Einziger on acoustic guitar. They had no lyrics and neither could sing, so Avicii reached out to Aloe Blacc, the only person he knew who lived in Los Angeles. WK The American rapper-turned-soul singer, who peaked at #2 on the UK charts with “I Need a Dollar,” provided vocals and lyrics for the song, writing the words on an airplane on a trip back from Switzerland. WKBlacc would later release his own acoustic version of the song on his solo EP Wake Me Up. WK

“The fusion elements make the song perfect as a dance-floor filler, while introspective lyrics can adapt the song for more personal listening.” SF Digital Spy’s Robert Copsey said, “As chart-friendly EDM continues to reach the furthest corners of the globe, staying ahead of the pack can prove a tricky task…Kudos to Avicii then, who has dared to try something a little different.” WK

It definitely proved the right mix, topping 27 charts worldwide SF and was the first song to reach 200 million streams on Spotify. SF The song is also the most searched on the Shazam app with more than 23 million as of February 2018. WK It was the first dance/electronic song to stay on the Billboard Hot 100 for more than a year and the first to seel over four million copies in the U.S. WK


Last updated 7/19/2023.

Friday, June 14, 2013

One Republic released “Counting Stars”

Counting Stars

One Republic

Writer(s): Ryan Tedder (see lyrics here)

Released: June 14, 2013

First Charted: June 29, 2013

Peak: 2 US, 14 BA, 11 RR, 12 AC, 17 A40, 4 AA, 12 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 7 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.64 UK, 12.93 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2880.0 video, 2000.43 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

One Republic emerged in 2007 with their #2 US hit “Apologize.” It put Ryan Tedder, the song’s singer and writer, on the music world’s radar and led to him working with Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson (“Already Gone”), Elle Goulding (“Burn”), Leona Lewis (“Bleeding Love”), and others. 2013 found him and his band back in familiar chart territory when “Counting Stars” matched the chart success of “Apologize” and stayed on the charts for 68 weeks, fifth most in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. WK The song was the third single from the band’s third studio album, Native. It hit #1 in multiple countries, including Canada and the UK, and went top ten in 20 countries. WK In Canada, it took a record-setting 34 weeks to reach #1. WK

Tedder came up with the genesis of the song while working with Beyoncé on her follow-up to 2011’s 4. While waiting for her in her studio one morning, he discovered a little-known folk song. He reached out to the writer to collaborate, but when he was rebuffed he did his own interpretation which was heavier on piano and acoustic guitar and took on a more soulful, gospel sound. SF The band explained the song is about “Laying in bed awake at night…thinking ‘How are we gonna make ends meet? How are we gonna pay the bills?’…So instead of counting sheep, we’re counting stars.” WK

Tedder told Billboard magazine he felt a band should create meaningful, uplifting songs. He talked about U2 as a band “who sings about things other than just boy-girl troubles” SF and said he “felt a responsibility to actually write and sing about things that have a level of human gravity to them.” SF He said he’d rather have a song that’s “embedded in the cultural framework…than a #1 song that explodes for five seconds, becomes the dance hit of the summer, then goes away.” SF

While it may not have been a dance hit, it has been called a “folk pop song with a disco beat.” WK The Denver Post’s Ricardo Baca said it was “an extremely effective and infectious song.” WK


Last updated 7/23/2023.