Rock ‘N’ Soul Ichiban!

by Steve

Guys spinning the hits at a radio station

I know we now have huge-memoried mp3 players and Spotify and iTunes and downloads and pretty-much-immediate access to vast catalogues of music and that it is wonderful and all, but sometimes I like to hear something new, or different, or something I wouldn’t chance upon naturally through those aforementioned technical innovations that offer so much choice that I end up just a little bit overwhelmed and so curate myself into a cosy, familiar, safe corner. Sometimes I need someone else to choose what I’m listening to, to point my ears in an interesting direction. In short, I still love (and need) radio.

I’m aware that most radio is awful, lowest common denominator stuff, but when it is done right, I think it is still the ultimate listening experience. The format still works beautifully, even if the means of delivery are changing. My beat-up transistor radio doesn’t offer too many delights anymore. Really, it just indulges my illicit sport talk radio cravings. If I want to listen to a good music show, then it is digital radio, or internet streams.

I guess how you get yr radio fix is less important than the programming itself. I think the fact that radio as a format will outlive its original modes of delivery shows just how strong, how important, and how well-loved the format is. Music radio, by introducing us to something new, or reintroducing us to something forgotten, helps us avoid forming stagnant and moribund listening habits. I guess this is particularly the case when we find ourselves cutting down our record-buying habits, or realising we’re not keeping up with all the Next Big Things as well as we once did.

There is also that human element. Just as a song can make us feel less alone, so can a well-picked set. Randomising a hard drive full of mp3s just ain’t the same.

Anyway, onto a particular recommendation. I’ve loved WFMU for some time now, but it is only recently I’ve come across their Rock ‘N’ Soul Ichiban stream. Right now, I think this is quite possibly my ideal radio station made real. They play a load of old, super-obscure 50s and 60s soul and rock ‘n’ roll, and intersperse it with brilliantly evocative vintage radio spots, so that is feels like a real radio show, rather that just a series of zeroes and ones transmitted with little human involvement. Even though it is not a real human sat behind a set of decks, there is still a tangible human handprint on the stream. The old radio spots are a great little trick to make it all sound a little more real. The fuzziness of the recordings doesn’t hurt either. I’m not sure radio if radio should be clean and crisp and clear. I like a little grit and fuzz.

So, when I’m stuck for something to listen to, or when I want to be surprised, I’ll head straight for the Rock ‘N’ Soul Ichiban. But where else should I head for my radio fix? Recommendations most welcome…

Direct link to stream here.

Image from Duke Yearlook, via Flickr

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