Listened to some of an interview/guest DJ spot with Ray Davies on All Songs Considered over breakfast this morning. (Great interview, btw) He recounted radio in the UK back in the 50’s, how there were just 2 stations in the UK proper, then the US Armed forces stuff and radio Luxembourg. Got me thinking, reminiscing of my own days in the 60’s of twisting the dial on my little AM transistor radio, looking for new music. The mystical, magical activity of twisting the dial slowly back and forth late at night, hearing something great, but fuzzy, trying to tune it in, only to have it disappear into the cosmos again. The local stations were strong and dependable, but finding even them was not completely scientific – the dial just swept across an arc of 160 degrees, there were no presets, you had to listen for what you want.
Fast forward to today, and there are new ways to find new music, or, to put it more precisely, music you haven’t heard before. iTunes, iLike, Lastfm. They work, kind of. My favorite so far is Goombah. They really do seem to lead me to new stuff that I haven’t heard before. I have my tastes, just like anyone, but I want to be surprised. They seem to deliver.
But I wonder if Goombah, or anyone else out there, could devise a device that simulates an AM or a short wave radio. You sweep the dial, and you hear snatches of music. When you hear something you like, you try to tune it in. Boy, that would be heaven! Perhaps its appeal would only be to a nostalgic older generation. But I think its appeal would go deeper.
Playlists, as they currently are, are intended to be turned on and left alone. Yes, you can skip past songs you don’t care for, but the interaction is sporadic. With a radio dial, the interaction is in the moment, intense. You are concentrating on finding something, and only when you find a station that you like do you sit back and see what comes next. It becomes a moment of concentrated musical discovery.
If someone develops this idea, let me know. I don’t need credit, I just want to use it!