Please join me for my Cool Tunes radio show Saturdays from 10PM to Midnight (Eastern) through the airwaves (91.3) in the Cleveland/Akron area, or for the rest of the world, via the WAPS web site. I play modern rock, punk, electronica, jazz, reggae, ska, roots rock, Americana, blues, world, funk, hip hop, avant garde, and a fair amount of whatever.
It is the greatest pleasure to have a radio home where my eccentricities are not only tolerated but appreciated. PD Bill Gruber is one of the last of the real radio men in an era of soulless, formulaic programming by vast media corporations that have sucked the imagination and individuality out of commercial radio, rendering the national airwaves into a monolithic, homogenized cloud of conformity.
Though greatly facilitated by FCC deregulation over the last 10 years, the process has been under way since the mid-’70s when someone realized that money was to be made from the static-free, stereo, music-friendly FM bandwidth. A perfect synecdoche of this entire process is Cleveland’s own WMMS. The legendary “Buzzard” has evolved from a free-form “progressive” station in the early-’70s, through various forward-looking rock-oriented formats, scandals, and revolutions, living off a reputation for breaking new music matched progressively less and less by reality, arriving at the cookie cutter ACDC-Metallica-Linkin Park agg-rock mess that it is today. Adding insult to injury, the station is only manned by local (utterly generic) jocks from 3PM to 6AM, relying on syndicated Clear Channel ciphers for the key morning and afternoon slots.
This from the station whose reputation and clout (along with free lakefront property from the city) literally brought the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland. When you ask someone why the Rock Hall should be in Cleveland, they mutter something about Alan Freed inventing rock and roll radio on WJW here in the early-’50s (his Moondog Coronation Ball in ’52 is believed to be the first rock and roll concert), but of course Freed came to real prominence (and eventually shame, degradation, and death) after moving to WINS in New York (establishing a pattern of chronic talent drain that is the area’s bane to this day), which they don’t mention. They also mention WMMS’ importance in breaking Bruce Springsteen out of his NY-area stronghold, giving David Bowie a foothold in the US, before they finally mention something about Cleveland historically having higher-than-average record sales figures. They attribute this last dubious claim even more dubiously to WMMS’ reputation for breaking new talent, helping establish the Cleveland public’s “voracious” hunger for new and adventuresome music.
Even these weak claims to rock and roll importance are crap – the last major bands Cleveland help break in the US were probably Roxy Music and Queen in the EARLY-FREAKING-’70s, talk about living on faded glory; I won’t even go into the scandal involving ‘MMS stuffing the ballot box in the Rolling Stone radio poll every year they won it. Cleveland’s “voracious” appetite for new music is better reflected by the fact that it didn’t even have a commercial modern/alternative rock station – WENZ “The End” – until 1992. My grandmother had an alt rock station before that.
The defenders of the Rock Hall in Cleveland don’t bother to claim that Cleveland is a spawning ground of major artists. Other than Freed, no one inducted into the Rock Hall has any strong connection to Cleveland unless you include Joe Walsh as a member of the Eagles. Walsh isn’t even from Cleveland, he’s from New Jersey. He went to Kent State and formed the James Gang there. He didn’t even join the Eagles until they were already established – he was basically brought in as a hired guitar gun for Hotel California.
In fact, it can be argued that Cleveland is abnormally devoid of important musical talent. Hometown Heroes include Nine Inch Nails James Gang, Raspberries, Michael Stanley, Devo, Pere Ubu, Dead Boys (can be found on the Straight Outta Cleveland collection I put together in 1995 which is now outta print), Levert, Bone Thuggs n Harmony – all well and good, but this is the best you can do??
Current connections include Macy Gray and Marilyn Manson, but neither made it until they went elsewhere, and they’re both from Canton, 60 miles south of Cleveland. Cleveland is, in fact, among the very least important major cities in pop/rock history. You could do an It’s a Wonderful Life, wipe Cleveland from the history of the world, and music history would look about the same.
Imagine popular music without New York, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Memphis, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Miami, Austin, Chapel Hill, Athens (Georgia), the Mississippi Delta, and on and on.
Cleveland isn’t even the most important musical city in OHIO. Godforsaken Cincinnati is more important than Cleveland, if only for Syd Nathan’s King Records. Cleveland didn’t get the Rock Hall because it is the home of great artists, great fans, or great radio (it was good in the ’70s); it got the Rock Hall because it wanted it the most as a centerpiece of a rebuilt downtown (mission accomplished with new Indians and Browns stadiums; Cavs arena; three entertainment areas in the Flats, Warehouse District, and Playhouse Square; Science Center) and demonstrated it with precious free land right on Lake Erie. The rest is smoke screen.
So anyway, back to radio: it sucks, so it is really great to have a place where I can do my thing, have a great time, and be appreciated for it. Check out the show Saturdays, why don’t you.
Cool Tunes 8/24/02
artist “song” album, label;
The Agenda “50,000 Watts of Love” Start the Panic, Kindercore;
The Hives “Aka IDIOT” Barely Legal, Gearhead;
Oxymoron “Black Cats” Best Before 2000, GMM;
Clinic “The Equaliser” Walking With Thee, Domino;
The High Fidelity “Lazy B” Demonstration, Freedom In Exile;
Tommy Keene “All Your Love Will Stay” The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, SpinArt;
Spoon “Jonathon Fisk” Kill the Moonlight, Merge;
Pulp “Weeds” We Love Life, Sanctuary;
Live “Pain Lies On the Riverside” Mental Jewelry, Radioactive;
Brad “Revolution” Welcome to Discovery Park, Redline;
Frank Black “Black Letter Day” Black Letter Days, SpinArt;
Beck “Paper Tiger” Sea Change sampler, DGC;
Moogue “China Girl” 80’s Energy, MCA;
Crystal Method/Orbital “Funny Break” Community Service, Ultra;
DJ Shadow “You Can’t Go Home Again” The Private Press, MCA;
Future Bible Heroes “1000 Lovers In a Day” Eternal Youth, Instinct;
Mum “Green Grass of Tunnel” Finally We Are No One, Fat Cat;
Mood Phase 5ive “Rhymedrop” (19) Super Deluxe Mode, African Dope;
Spinners “It’s a Shame” The Very Best Of, Rebound;
Solomon Burke “The Other Side of the Coin” Don’t Give Up On Me, Fat Possum;
Maytones “Money Worries” Rockers soundtrack, Island;
Burning Spear “Marcus Garvey” The Best Of, Island;
Black Uhuru “Guess Who’s Coming to..” The Best Of, Island;
Bunny Wailer “Dreamland” Blackheart Man, Island;
The Tragically Hip “The Darkest One” In Violet Light, Zoe;
Steve Earle “Shadowland” Jerusalem, E2/Artemis;
Monty Alexander “Hallelujah I Love Her So” My America, Telarc;
Julie London “Light My Fire” Jazz Chillout, Blue Note;
Art Pepper “The Shadow Of Your Smile” Art Standards, Galaxy;