I keep my alarm clock set to one of New York's many abysmal radio stations. As is the case in most urban areas, call letters and programming formats change frequently, so I'm not actually sure what its frequency is, but the station's oft-repeated slogan has been forever burned into my conscience: New York's Rock Experience.
I've reluctantly acclimated to their middle-of-the-road programming and the blustery chowderhead who hosts the weekday morning airslot. But today, they really sank to new depths of banality by devoting a significant amount of time to making fun of Captain and Tennille. The DJ and his ubiquitous female co-host (she might just be there to give traffic or weather reports) even cued up "Love Will Keep Us Together" [YouTube], and then guffawed loudly on-mic as it played.
Seriously, way to have your finger on the pulse, oh Great Bringers Of The Rock! Because if there's one thing I know about the discerning taste of New Yorkers bold enough to enjoy Kings of Leon and Led Zeppelin, it's that they've got no tolerance for... Captain and Tennille?
I can only imagine what sort of venom they must reserve for Pablo Cruise.
Realizing that it's pointless to get my knickers in a twist over some wank on a radio station that's clearly programmed by marketing executives, I still can't help regarding the idea of an all-rock radio station as utterly absurd, especially in 2009 and in a place like New York City. I might even argue that the legacies of other forms of popular music (disco and hip-hop, for starters) far outweigh the city's associations with rock and roll. Although I'm a few years beyond that 18-35 male demographic which most rock radio is geared towards, I can't help wondering why none of the industry's hotshots have figured out that other genres are at least as important to people my age and younger. The fact is that no commercial radio station in memory has made a serious bid to capture the nuanced musical taste of me and my Very Eclectic Broheims. (Hereafter referred to as "VEBs".)
The general freakiness of my WFMU playlists aside, I do happen to like a lot of very mainstream and accessible music, so don't mistake this as an argument that commercial radio ought to be playing the Sun City Girls or Einstürzende Neubauten. They shouldn't, they won't, and I am OK with this. But having been born in the early 70s, I know I'm not alone in regarding the first three Run DMC records with the same awe I apply to Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. Similarly, De la Soul and Gang Starr hold just as exalted a place in my mind as do Nirvana and the Doors. I also own (and actively enjoy) very mainstream records by Madonna, Hall & Oates, the Hollies, Duffy, the Streets, Michael Jackson, and the NYC Peech Boys. And I don't believe that makes me a weirdo, much less an anomaly in whatever research defines adventurous radio as Beatles>Offspring>The Cars>make fun of Captain and Tennille.
A couple of years ago, during one of WFMU's fundraising marathons, one of the station's DJs made a similar blunder by deploying a few uncomplimentary remarks about the band Spandau Ballet while he was on-mic. The DJ was immediately reprimanded by his co-host, and it became something of an in-joke among a few other staffers. Far be it from me to compare Captain and Tennille to Spandau Ballet, but are songs like "Do that to me One More Time" any more tiresome than the other soft rock hits of the same era? Are guys who mistake Beavis and Butthead reruns for their own reflections the true demographic this station is reaching for? Sorry, but when you burst out of the gates by ragging on a guy who always wanted to be a ship's captain (but who instead plays music with his wife of more than 30 years), you come off as sort of a douchebag. Congratulations, rock and roll! For all of your self-aggrandizing as such a revolutionary artform, you're probably the least forward-thinking style of music I maintain even a marginal interest in. Nostalgia eats at your bloated carcass like a cruel cancer, and the radio stations that dedicate themselves to you (as opposed to those who maintain genre-specific playlists for dance, jazz, or hip-hop) are among the most unlistenable on the dial.
And somehow, it took the gentle, vegetarian popsmiths known as the Captain and Tennille to make this point clear to me.