Returning to Radio: Getting to Know an Old Friend


By Jackson Twilling

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to get to know my grandparents’ 1998 Ford Ranger pickup truck while doing some work on it in the Tam auto shop. I swapped cars with them for a few days to make some repairs. After doing an oil change and putting on new tires, I spent a while driving the truck before delivering it back to my grandparents and picking up Trixie, my VW Beetle. Driving that old Ford was a blast from the past. There were hand-crank windows, no power locks, no alarm system, and perhaps most significantly: no CD player, just a radio and a cassette deck. For all you freshmen, a cassette is a nifty little thing that we used before iPods and CDs. Now I know that it’s possible to buy a special adapter to hook up an iPhone/Pod/Pad/whatever to a cassette player, but I wasn’t about to go spend 20 bucks on that. For the first time in a long time, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend: FM Radio. To some of you, this practice might sound normal, to others, unbearable, to others still, unimaginable. For me, though, it was an eye (and ear) opening experience.

I started out my nostalgic journey by tuning the radio to one of my go-to stations, 102.1: KFOX. As those of you who read my piece on Maroon 5 two months ago are already aware, I’m a fan of classic rock. Among many artists, KFOX features everything from AC/DC and Metallica to Heart, Tom Petty, and The Who. Admittedly, the DJs and radio show hosts on KFOX are not exactly of “my generation,” but the gap there is an easy one to bridge if you know some background info on the genre.

As much as I like the classics, the truth is, I’m usually not the only one in the car, no matter what I’m driving, and I like to try to tickle everyone’s musical fancy. While my tastes do have quite a broad range, from Moby to Blink-182 and Gnarls Barkley, I need to make the occasional compromise. I take at least one of my two sisters to school every morning, and their tastes in music tend towards Ellie Goulding, Bruno Mars, and Pink. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell all of you my feelings towards that music. I’ve also got a girlfriend whose favorite artists include the likes of The Shins, Ingrid Michaelson, and Snow Patrol. Her stuff is more or less hit-or-miss with me. Sometimes, I’m totally in to it, but other times, I’ve just got to sit down, shut up, and be a good boyfriend by putting a smile on my face when The Killers come on (my apologies to fans of the band). What all of this means is that for the time being, a universal acoustic paradise of Maroon 5, Led Zeppelin, a dash of country here, and a splash of alternative there will have to wait. This is generally an issue when I’m driving Trixie, as my iPhone is about 70 percent my music, 10 percent that of my girlfriend and sisters, and 20 percent 80’s music of origins unknown. However, when driving the truck, I found that between a mere three radio stations I could play music that everyone, myself included, enjoyed.

I’ve already mentioned KFOX, so let me briefly acknowledge another station that served me reasonably well. According to their website, [email protected] plays “Hot AC” (Hot Adult Contemporary). As far as I’m concerned, it’s pop, but with exceptions here and there, it is good pop. My sisters dig it, anyways.

The third and most surprising station was one that I re-discovered: 104.5. Many of you will probably recognize the frequency as that of the world-famous KFOG. It’s difficult to describe this station as anything other than eclectic. I’ve heard everything from Jack White to Pearl Jam to Dutch techno music. It was KFOG that initially inspired this topic, and here’s why. They give you more than just music, and by that I don’t mean advertising (although it is one of the unfortunate trade-offs to listening to radio). Their hosts each bring a unique personality and flavor of music to the station, and provide interesting and insightful commentary on their tunes.

I think that a good playlist is like a work of art. A well-arranged compilation of music can take you on a trip through memories, emotions, and sheer pleasure. A bad one can leave you feeling empty and dissatisfied. Just as I can draw a recognizable picture of an airplane, I’m okay at making mixes for myself and others. I don’t consider myself particularly gifted at it though. Sure, it’s possible to have Pandora or Genius create mixes for me, and I’ll concede that some do come out quite nicely. However, it just isn’t the same as having a real person, who picks out great music for a living, sitting in a room somewhere making up the playlist of your day. I also have a major issue with this obsession with automated technology that is currently sweeping through, well, all of society. Google, I respect that you’ve created a self-driving car, that’s really cool. But, if you want to put that technology inside of my vehicle (Trixie, or any other car I ever own), you can do it when you remove my stiff, lifeless body from the driver’s seat.

My point here is that radio stations add a human element that no computer can match. People understand what other people want and like better than any machine can, and obviously, produce art infinitely better than a computer. Tam is a place that appreciates good artwork, so I encourage all of you to take just a few minutes to tune in to a local station and get a taste of what’s to be had. Who knows? You might just discover a new favorite artist.