Category Archives: opie and anthony

Art Bell, Again

Yes. Again. Seriously. I don’t believe it, but then again, yeah, I do. Because he’s done it before.

This past week legendary radio host Art Bell quit his radio show. Again. The current incarnation, “Dark Matter,” broadcast on satellite radio by Sirius XM, is over. Bell cited technical concerns, as well as a small audience. In other words, it was hard.

And it’s not like he hasn’t done it before either. He’s quit before, or left under mysterious, sometimes highly suspect, circumstances, with little advance warning, or concern for his audience – no matter how big or small. As a matter of fact, he may well be more remembered for his vanishing acts than his radio act when history is done with him. He quits so often, it’s almost an industry joke.

The way he has left, and the reasons he’s given, all indicate one thing. Art Bell was doing this show for himself – not his audience, his fans, his loyal listeners. This was about him, not us. We would have listened without guests, without callers, and without a clear signal. Surely I’m not the only one who listened years ago with crappy reception from an AM station two cities ago, am I? It was hard for him. Again. So he quit.

Yeah, I’m angry, but that doesn’t dispel the man’s talent as a broadcaster, talk radio host, and interviewer. I would rather listen to bad Art Bell reruns than the best George Noory interview on Coast to Coast AM. At least Art would study up on his guest, ask intelligent questions, and not nap during the interview.

But now, not only is Art gone, but Coast to Coast AM has left Sirius XM as well. I am forced to rethink my satellite radio subscription once again. I love Opie & Anthony and Radio Classics, EW Radio, and I’m digging the sadly temporary David Bowie station, but really the only time I have dependably to listen is late at night, the former realm of Art and Coast.

Art has left me high and dry once again. I should have seen it coming. I hope Sirius XM saw it coming, and wrote that contract appropriately. I hope the quitter pays. Thanks, Art, for six weeks at least.

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Satellite Radio Reshuffling

A couple weeks ago one of my favorite satellite radio channels, Book Radio, disappeared, replaced with something called Rural Radio.

Here’s the official word from SiriusXM Radio: “As of July 15, SiriusXM Book Radio is no longer available on SiriusXM, but our commitment to books and authors remains high across many channels. Classic radio theater and stories continue on RadioClassics (SiriusXM channel 82), and audiobooks air on our “Late Night Read” show at night on SiriusXM Stars (SiriusXM channel 106).”

I would much rather have had a 24/7 channel dedicated to audiobooks, but at least something of what once was still exists in some form. Of course, that’s not the only worry I have had of late about satellite radio.

Those of you who know me, or are regular readers here, know that I am a huge Coast to Coast AM fan. Or at least a huge fan of some of the show’s content and some of its hosts. Due to ClearChannel and SiriusXM parting ways, C2CAM will be leaving satellite some time in August. Despite my problems with its content, it is, along with Opie & Anthony and Radio Classics, among others, one of the major reasons I subscribed to satellite radio to begin with.

My worries are over. This week, Art Bell, the original host of Coast, and innovator of that now much-copied radio format, has announced his return from retirement. Not only that, he will be returning to the microphone on SiriusXM Indie Talk Channel 104. Outside of C2CAM actually returning to its glory days, original programming, and hosts, this is a win-win situation for me. The show begins September 16th.

I’m happy, and I won’t miss George Noory falling asleep, doing crossword puzzles, or just not paying attention to a guest on air at all.

Ted

Ted ~ The Bride and I watch Seth McFarlane’s “Family Guy” every week, and enjoy it quite a bit. That said, about every two to three weeks we have a discussion about how maybe we’re not going to watch it any more. I’m a fan of ‘cringe humor,’ which McFarlane excels at, heck, I listen to Opie and Anthony every day, but The Bride isn’t, and doesn’t. Sometimes “Family Guy” just goes too far for her.

When I first heard of Ted, McFarlane’s jump to big screens, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I knew The Bride wouldn’t be coming with me to see it. All that said, I laughed out loud at this movie. I don’t do that all that often. I did it at The Three Stooges, but before that? We’re talking maybe years.

The concept is one of a little boy with no friends who wishes his teddy bear was real, and lo and behold, the wish comes true. This is the tale of what happens when said boy, and bear, grow up. Mark Wahlberg makes a fine comedic turn as the boy, grown to drug and alcohol induced irresponsibility with his bear Ted, voiced by writer/director McFarlane. “Family Guy” alumnus Mila Kunis plays Wahlberg’s long suffering and patient girlfriend of four years. All involved are quite good.

Ted is funny, dirty, cringe worthy, and yes, believe it or not, even heartwarming. Speaking of laughing out loud, in a semi-full theater, it was only me and two women up front who were doing so. I felt a little dirty about it, but maybe everyone else was from the PTA or they just couldn’t get into the latest chick flick.

If you’re a “Family Guy” fan or if you liked movies like The Hangover or Bridesmaids, you will love Ted, recommended. And if you liked Airplane, or especially 1980’s Flash Gordon, this is must see. No ifs, ands or buts, must see.

The End of an Era

Yesterday WYSP-FM changed their format and call letters to all sports and WIP-FM. I’m not a big sports fan other than Wings lacrosse and sometimes the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys (you know where to send the hate mail), I think it’s unfair for me to ask why we need another sports station in Philly, but there it is, ya know? It’s not the first time WYSP has changed formats, but never so drastic a change before.

I grew up with WYSP, from when I first became aware of FM radio in the mid-seventies to when I fell away from terrestrial radio a few years back and discovered the more eclectic satellite radio. In the radio wasteland of Philadelphia, WYSP was always the cooler, hipper choice when compared to direct rival WMMR and distant competitor WIOQ. I envisioned stoned ex-hippies at the former and future NPR listeners at the latter, whereas WYSP listeners seemed like either myself, or folks I wanted to hang out with. WYSP always had the new, newer and newest music and trends.

WYSP was originally the FM version of AM pop/rock station WIBG, and its call letters stood for “Your Station in Philadelphia.” It started rocking in the early 1970s and quickly became WMMR’s biggest competition. As I mentioned, WYSP always seemed to have newer music and harder rock than WMMR. Those that listened could usually tell the difference with hearing a DJ or a station ID. WYSP was the first place I heard DEVO, Adam and the Ants, the Sex Pistols, Joan Armatrading, and even Rick Springfield.

When WYSP had news, it was cool news, same with the talk. I remember the Source days with Cyndy Drue, the Dr. Demento show and the Comedy Hour on Sunday nights. I remember the engineer who did the dead-on Mr. Rogers imitation and recorded versions of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Iron Man.” I remember Ask Anita. I remember listening to “Innerview” with Jim Ladd, as he talked with Roger Waters about what “The Wall” was really about, and when he interviewed Ray Manzarek telling apocryphal tales of the late Jim Morrison. I remember learning of John Lennon’s death from WYSP.

I remember the Howard Stern years, along with the Opie and Anthony years. I remember the two weeks after 9/11 when WYSP was all talk, taking calls from listeners twenty-four hours a day and letting them vent, grieve or just talk. This is not as sad as that, but it like losing a lifetime friend. Even if I haven’t seen you in a while, you were a friend. I will miss you, WYSP, and so will all of Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Goodbye, old friend…

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The Price of Satellite Radio

I love my satellite radio. I love it so much that I rarely listen to terrestrial radio any more. Maybe some WXPN and maybe some NJ 101.5 FM, but let’s face it, my favorite terrestrial programs like Coast to Coast AM and some of the NPR stuff are all on satellite now. Not much reason to turn on the old fashioned radio any more.

Just got a notice from XM (yeah, they merged with Sirius, but they’ll always be XM to me) that my subscription rates are going up. The reasons cited are as follows:

”Music royalty rights were established by the U.S. Congress as part of the Copyright Act. This Act requires payment of copyright music royalties to recording artists, musicians and recording companies who hold copyrights in sound recordings.

“These royalties have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings. Beginning on July 29, 2009, a “U.S. Music Royalty Fee” of $1.98/month* for primary subscriptions and $.97/month* for multi-receiver subscriptions will be effective upon your next renewal. This fee will be used directly to offset increased payments from XM to the recording industry.”

Now really, that’s fine. As a writer, I’m not someone who’s ever going to begrudge anyone royalties, that’s just how things work, and furthermore should work. I don’t have a real problem with the price hike, as long as my favorite stuff remains on the XM. What irked me was what I found when I went to the XM website and took a survey.

The survey was about my listening preferences, but seemed to mention little of what I actually listen to on XM. I stopped finding Howard Stern funny some time before he left terrestrial radio, so that’s not for me. I can count on one hand the number of times in three years I’ve listened to any of the nearly hundred sports channels, and Oprah barely amuses me even when she’s on TV. The big guns don’t interest me.

Most of what I listen to is talk radio. I’m addicted to Coast to Coast AM, which while occupying nearly eleven hours of programming per day, was not mentioned by the survey. Opie and Anthony get a brief mention, probably because they bitch on air about Sirius’ prejudice mercilessly. But nowhere did I see other things I listen to faithfully like the old time radio shows on Radio Classics and the wonderful audiobook variety at Book Radio. All there was in the survey was the rather vague description of ‘talk entertainment.’ That covers a lot of ground, and a lot of stuff I really don’t like. How can this survey really tell them anything?

The XM world has been getting smaller and smaller since the Sirius merge – mostly because it was more of a takeover than a merge. The mega-powered Sirius, with the ratings powerhouse (apparently) Stern behind it appeared to change everything on the XM dial as if they and they alone were calling the shots. We lost truly entertaining music stations in favor of the inferior Sirius versions of them.

My point is that for the price increase, how about some verification we’ll keep the programming we enjoy? How about it, XM? Sorry, I mean, how about it, Sirius?

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The Rock Is Back

The rock is back.

Um, yeah.

*yawn*

Just in time. ‘Cause I just got XM Radio for my birthday.

At 5 PM today WYSP 94 FM in Philadelphia changed its format. Again. Now we’re back to rock, progressive hard rock from all indications, and away from talk as it had been for a few months. Two hours into the the Kidd Chris Show, with guests Opie & Anthony in town for a special event, the format changed. The first three songs played were “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses, “Back in Black” by AC/DC and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana as if to strengthen the point. Most notably, Kidd Chris did not come back to finish his show.

Now I’m a talk radio fan just as much as I’m a radio fan. I love music and I love radio.

I was the kid in high school who carried a boombox with me everywhere. I was the kid who knew all the new music, sometimes before the radio played it. I knew and listened to every station on the dial FM and AM. I bought everything and made mix-tapes on an almost daily basis. In college I embarked on dual careers in radio and in music journalism. I have several thousands of songs on my iTunes and reload my iPod almost daily. Nothing makes me happier than my music. So another decent music station in the normally dead zone of Philadelphia radio is a good thing, right?

Maybe.

As I said I’m also a talk radio fan. I’ve been one since the mid-1970s listening to Larry King and then WWDB-FM with their all-talk format. I know talk show hosts as well as I know music. I have as many fond memories of Irv Homer and Richard Hayes as I do of Kate Bush and David Bowie. Over the years, talk radio flourished and changed, mostly in part to the wildly successful efforts of Howard Stern, along with his imitators and innovators. Stern at WYSP soon led to Opie & Anthony coming there as well. My tastes soon followed, more in line with O&A than Stern.

When Stern left for Sirius satellite radio, some said that was the end of terrestrial radio. Having listened to David Lee Roth, who replaced Howard here in Philly, I would tend to agree. Fortunately O&A returned to replace Roth, and suddenly I didn’t miss Stern all that much anymore, if at all.

The part that excited me was that along with the return of O&A, WYSP seemed to be making a stand as a talk station. The Barsky Show that followed O&A was certainly better than the immature tripe going on over at NJ 101.5 FM and had a fun quality to it, always enjoyable to have on. Even Matt & Huggy had an endearing quality. My real faves though had to be Loveline and John and Jeff shows that covered overnights.

I love Loveline, not just for the information given or the entertainment value of the hosts and guests, but for the callers. Callers to these types of shows are demented. The same appeal holds for me with both Drs. Joy and laura, neither host do I like, but their callers provide me with hours of entertainment. I’ll also miss John and Jeff who were an intriguing second choice when Coast to Coast AM had an uninteresting topic that night.

Of course all of this is a shame. I highly doubt WYSP’s new rock format will be enough to regain the ratings edge they may have lost, and no matter how good the music is, it won’t anywhere near as interesting as any talk program could be. I wish them luck, because other than listening to an Eagles game in the car I probably won’t be listening to WYSP again in the near future.

As I said, I recent got XM satellite radio. With that I can listen to Opie and Anthony (as well as full broadcasts of Coast to Coast – damn you 1210 AM) so I don’t see much use any longer in WYSP. And besides, there’s so much programming I’d rather listen to on the XM, I don’t need many terrestrial stations that much anymore.

Shame. Good luck, WYSP.

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