Little Steven's Underground Garage
Brothers and sisters, there was once a time when radio was cool. Just flick the switch, and rock and roll--your audio salvation--would come through. And this music was good.
And this music would bring comfort, joy, excitement, anger. This music was made by anyone--black, white, self-taught musicians, classically-trained adults, Americans, Brits, it didn't matter.
But something happened along the way. Now, money was always a part of the equasion--Elvis was signed for being a white boy who sounded black, and Sam Phillips knew he could make money on that. Brian Epstein had a hunch that some speedfreaks in an industrial wasteland could make the girls scream. And plenty of good music has languished on the sidelines due to being too "unprofitable."
But one day, radio stopped being cool. You didn't turn on the radio and hear rock and roll. Not real rock and roll. Oh, there's the occasional classic rock station or oldies station that, if they are local enough, give the DJs a certain amount of freedom to make their own playlists, but this is unusual. For the most part, DJs are given a playlist, dictated to the program director by the station owners. These days, that station owner is usually Clear Channel Communications, who, if the FCC aides them with furthering deregulation, will go on to own more than their already-1200+ number of radio stations and 37 television stations (their closest competetor owns something around 250-300). Even in college radion (where I was a DJ), you were handed playlists from the College Music Journal--songs you had to play at least once an hour. (I ignored this, which may have contributed to why I had the most popular show at the station.)
Payola is back.
Payola brought down rock and roll in the late 1950s. Pat Boone and his ilk was pennance for this. And so, brothers and sisters, we are in an age when the radio isn't cool. We are back to square one. We are feed pablum, we listen to Creed and NSYNC and Christina Aguilara, while lesser known bands--or, in the cases of better known bands and artists like Radiohead and Elliot Smith--are shoved off the radio in favor of what business thinks the kids want. And you know what? Kids do seem to eat it up. For now.
Except for once a week, for two hours at a pop, when Steven Van Zandt--yes, he of the E Street Band, he of the Sopranos, he of the bandana--takes over the airwaves on a station near you, usually on a Saturday or Sunday night. Little Steven plays the well-known British Invasion (early Beatles, early Stones), 60 garage rock (the Standels), girl groups (the Ronettes), psychedelia (13th Floor Elevators), punk (the Clash), hardcore (Husker Du), post-punk/roots (the Replacements), and newer garage/punk/roots bands. Music is music--doesn't matter how obscure it is (sometimes that's even better). Doesn't need to be American or British--he plays Swedish bands, Australian, French. Hell, he may even start playing some of the Brazilian garage bands I've heard about.
And he talks. He talks about the old days, when radio was cool, when radio fell, when the British came to save rock and roll, and how it became bloated again, only to be punctured by a safety pin--and the cycle that seems to continue, on and on. He's a wonder to listen to. To sit and hear a song you've known for years but never hear on the radio, and suddenly, he pushes a few buttons, and now "Bastards of Young" or "Waiting for the Man" comes out of your speakers. It's a wonder. And it's a shame it's only two hours a week.
Little Steven's website is:
. You can find whether a station near you carries his show.