Category Archives: xm

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.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #27

This has happened before. Even though I lived through the New Wave era, the 1980s give or take, there are still songs that eluded me. This is another.

I knew the name Robyn Hitchcock, and I had seen it dozens upon dozens of times flipping through albums while shopping or browsing (or filing albums when I worked in a record store). But oddly enough, I don’t actually recall ever hearing any of his music. At least not when it was current.

“Balloon Man” by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians

Now I hear the tune quite often on the First Wave channel on SiriusXM. Robyn Hitchcock continues to make music today. Check out his website here.

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.

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 Triumphant Return of R.E.M.

I used to be huge REM fan, but that was a long time ago. Way back in the innocent 1980s I thought they were cool. I had all their tapes, and waited at record stores to buy new ones when they would come out. When a fire destroyed my wardrobe, my REM t-shirt was one of the first things I replaced. Still to this day, “Can’t Get There from Here,” “Orange Crush,” “Driver 8” and “So. Central Rain” are among my absolute favorite tunes.

Right around the time of “Everybody Hurts” and “Man on the Moon” when they were at their highest MTV saturation point and Michael Stipe was at his most talkiness about politics and such, I lost interest. For me, the flavor of the band, as well as their music, just got to be too… cliché, maybe? All the songs began to sound alike, REM-like. When I heard Corky and Juice Pigs do their REM parody, “REMember,” it just felt so on target, and ruined any recent music by the band for me. They were a joke and over time I became a rabid anti-REM fan.

And eventually they faded away.

Then suddenly in the last few months I started hearing new REM music on my XM, and more troubling than that, new excitement about REM. The album is called Accelerate, and unfortunately the songs that being played on the radio, most notably “Hollow Man” and “Until the Day Is Done,” sound just like the same old REM that drove me away. But it’s not all like that.
This album is a rocker, yes, peppered with a few old annoying REM-like tunes, but for the most part a rocker. Mostly due in part to the additions of Bill Rieflin formerly of Ministry and Scott McCaughey formerly of the Young Fresh Fellows, also two of my favorite bands of days gone by. These guys seem to be the boost that REM needed.

Tunes like “I’m Gonna DJ,” “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” and the title track rock hard and also seem to channel a long lost sound as well as lyrical fuel from old albums Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction. Don’t listen to your radio, listen to me and get the CD. The real REM songs aren’t being played. This one rocks. REM is back.

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