Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Opiate Of The Masses - Radio, Radio

I totally hate overseas English Language radio stations, like the one I'm forced to endure in Cairo, whose name I shall not mention. At one time for me, it was Capitol Radio, in Abu Dhabi, a copy of Radio 1 or something like that from London. That would be the (fake) "rock" station your hotel provides for you, when you're staying in London.

Friday the station had a loose musical mix or played a recording of the worst play list in history. For instance, Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel followed by the Global Deejays - "The Sound of San Francisco" (a raunchy mix of an old song that had, in its original form, always moved me); an old Dusty Springfield, "Windmills of Your Mind" (60's) then some crappy club romp. At one point I felt taken back in time by a hazy melody from my younger years, only to be slammed back to the scatological present by some funky and offensive club mix. The club mixes all sound alike - just a lot of bump and grind garbage. It's nothing near the beat Marvin Gaye describes in "The Double Clutch" (or even "Let's Get It On,") nor is it anywhere near James Brown's funk, Luther Vandross' totally intimate and sexually soothing voice, or even "Give Up The Funk" by Parliament. What we have here is an adulterated version of some international dance beat desperate to be like a "Popsicle" (of Love, by The Talking Heads) - "something sweet and sticky".

When I came back, I was dumbfounded by the club mix of "Walk This Way" which has to be the worst version I've ever heard, of anything! When I actually saw the video...well, calling it trash would be applauding it. Who listens to, watches, and buys this music and the videos? And who are these people? The videos couldn't be any more lewd, particularly "The Sound Of San Francisco." One of my favorite songs, a concept of love, an ideal and a different era all diminished to a tits and ass rendition of Abercrombie boys and Girls Gone Wild, rubbing themselves and displaying bits of nudity. I wasn't in San Francisco at the time Scott McKenzie wrote the song, but I do think there was more love, a lot less raunch than displayed in the Global Deejay delusional video, and less ass shakin' in your face. Oh yeah, and the Global Deejays plan on doing that in Baghdad too. That, my guess is, "a must see."

Thank you Apple for the iPOD!

If I had to listen to this crap all day, every day, I'd be more outraged than I already am. For me, this radio station has turned out to be just background noise, when I'm cleaning the house, especially since the maid quit. Thanks or filling the quiet void I used to have, with meaningless music mixes. I applaud you you for your tasteless discography. I applaud you for giving people an empty satisfaction; for trading significant issues for sex; for being so bland and out of touch that you are what Elvis Costello describes as: "the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anesthetize the way you feel."

So does that make sex the anesthesia, the opiate of today? Whatever happened to songs that had messages in them for peace, an end to war? Or have we gotten to the point where we only live for today? If so, that thought is a depressing one - that, today is all that matters; that we are powerless, except in our personal (sexual) relationships; we are a society of indifference, egoism(?) or exactly as Elvis says: implying that radio is the opiate of the masses (take a look at all the di*do Heads that follow Rush Limbaugh.) Is that us?

Censorship is a mighty thing, whether it is in the hands of a few or the many.

Last night was double feature night at the Vagabondblogger household. Boss Man and I watched, The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Shut Up and Sing, both documentaries, with similarities. John Lennon was being hounded by the FBI and immigration authorities because his voice / music had evolved from just rock to one of a famous person using his influence to speak out about injustice and the war. There was never an angle with Lennon. His acts came purely from his heart and as a result, he evolved as well. Whereas with the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up and Sing, their problems stemmed from Natalie Maines (big mowhawk hair headed mouth) proclaiming loudly at a London concert that they were embarrassed that George Bush was from Texas. (Hey! We are all embarrassed and the fact that he hails from Texas has nothing to do with it!)

With the Dixie Chicks you actually see people destroying and burning their CD's, much like the Nazi book burnings of WWII. They were physically threatened and shut out of the country music scene altogether. So for them, the movie shows not only what happened during this period, but also how, as a band they had to evolve into a non-country group - crossing over (and Natalie Maines mohawk styles too.) They were pretty successful as demonstrated by all their wins at this past year's Grammy Awards. Their politics didn't evolve, they didn't go to bat for others, as John Lennon did, they just basically took advantage of the situation to change their audience. They garnered a lot of support though, from bloggers who'd post announcements on the Daily Kos, etc., for people to vote for them every week on VH1 for best video. They were a top 20 video for at least 20 weeks for their song Not Ready To Make Nice. In some ways I dislike the Dixie Chicks for taking advantage of the situation and not being honorable about it all, like Lennon was. On the other hand, times have changed, the almighty dollar speaks loudly and the battlefield's scenario has changed from one of grace to a trump. From platonic, idealistic love, to raunch and explicit sex; from loud proclamations to censorship vis-à-vis a placebo of T&A; from freedom of speech to the exaltation of "patriotism."

From Shut Up and Sing:
Natalie Maines: [after reading that George Bush thinks they had their feelings hurt] They shouldn't have their feelings hurt? What a dumb fuck.
[looks into camera]
Natalie Maines: You're a dumb fuck.

From The U.S. vs. John Lennon:
Gore Vidal: "John Lennon was a born enemy of those who control the United States, which I always say was admirable. Lennon came to represent life, while Mr. Nixon... and Mr. Bush... represent death."

I know I'm living in an Islamic country. Bloggers are being arrested and jailed. Censorship reigns supreme, some sensibilities need to be employed here. It doesn't mean that we should feed everyone "something sweet and sticky." I'm not asking for censorship, but just a bit of good taste. What ever happened to jazz, the blues and folk music? Or are they not "sweet and sticky" enough? What ever happened to music with a message, other than carnal? Or just some plain commonsense in the playback sequence - possibly, huh? Maybe junk music is as bad for us as as junk food. The radio has become the opiate of the masses regardless of which station you listen to - it's all a sedative. And, for me, in Cairo, the radio is just a pestilence.

Don Imus made a mistake with his comment about the Rutgers girls' basketball team, but...he was essentially practicing his "freedom of speech" regardless of how abhorrent it was. And that my friends, the permission to speak, regardless of the message, is a powerful thing; a thing many of us Americans, take for granted. I never listened to Imus, but I did listen to Rush for a good laugh and to see what the enemy was up to. If you don't like it, change the channel, they say. Well, I can't really do that here in Cairo. I'm stuck with the "sweet and sticky" shit.

Here - The real Message:
Elvis Costello - Radio, Radio, on SNL


  1. This is the first time in 7 years that we have been able to pick up a radio station in the UAE. The 'waves just never seemed to get as far as Fujairah and Al Ain. For me it was bliss. To actually listen to someone while I'm doing the ironing, driving the car etc. Luckily I like what I'm listening too.. Radio 2. They have a good mix takes me right back to high school and I like the presenters.

  2. We actually bought a satellite and started listening to satellite radio in Abu Dhabi and Baku. We don't have it here, but we have iPOD hook ups all over the place, one connceted to the stereo system (it's an add on you can buy.) And I listen to the different playlists, but I also like to listen to local radio, but not when it's full of club music. Btw, I hate ironing and avoid it at all costs!