Thursday, August 23, 2012
And at one time that was a highly respected skill… among radio people. I don’t think listeners really gave a shit. If I was funny and identified the artist they were happy. But fellow disc jockeys appreciated the timing. I’m sure Benihana chefs bow to the one who can flip discarded shrimp tails into his pocket.
Radio did teach me brevity. When you’ve got a funny concept but only a :16 second intro, there’s no wiggle room. You’ve got to construct the joke to fit :16 seconds exactly. And you learn to really polish your delivery. If you have too many words you wind up rushing and the comedy goes away. If you have too few words you finish your punch line early and then there’s four seconds you’re just standing out there with your whistle in your hand. You develop pace, tailoring your rap to the groove of the song. All of this is great training for a comedy writer.
But forget it because it’s all dead. Stations don’t have disc jockeys anymore. And if they do they’re generally not live or they’re Ryan fucking Seacrest (as part of his mission to take the job of as many workers in as many fields as he can).
Their “shows” are a series of pre-recorded voice tracks. There’s no call for talking up to vocals anymore. It’s like being a newspaper typesetter or Kathleen Turner’s body double.
But terrestrial radio, as we know it today, has changed the music scene. The absence of disc jockeys also means there’s no one to tell you who sang what. You hear a new song you like, you don’t know who sings it. That’s problematic for the artists too. Listeners can’t buy your song if they don’t know whose name to type in. You can’t expect people to whip out their Shazam app every time you get an airplay.
I miss being able to talk up records. I worked hard to perfect that skill. And it’s a shame to just let that very special gift go to waste. So anybody in the West Los Angeles area, if you have a Springsteen cover band, please let me jam with you – and by jam I mean talk over the intro of Hungry Heart. I’ll get your name in, the bowling alley we’re playing in, and even a plug for Fall League sign-ups – all in :19 seconds. Trust me – it will MAKE the song!
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM