• Bobo Coen

Turn off the Radio, I wan't to listen to Music

Social Media is top heavy with touchy feely slogans that sound like advice Dr. Phil pulled out of his ass. In among the slushy "International hug a f**king sibling day"   I spotted this

"Art is what we use to decorate space, Music is what we use to decorate Time"

This actually made me wonder. Think of a time when you don't remember music? I can't....

Irish Mothers are not known for being sentimental (unless they have a few drinks!!) A perfect example is the last time My wife & I came home at Christmas to surprise my parents the first words out of my Mother's mouth, directed at me were

"Feck you, you Fecking Fecker!!!"

In a rare nostalgic & sentimental mood She once told me about when she was first married & I was a baby. She had a tiny transistor radio she used to put in bottom of pram when she was going anywhere with me. She said every time she switched off the radio I would wake up & cry. I would doze off when she switched it on. That's how far back music started to become part of my life. Now I can't remember this but for years I needed music on when I was about to sleep...

The point is all of our memories are interwoven with music & for most our first introduction to music is the Radio & chart shows on T.V..

Irish Radio is as bland as you could ever imagine so for me it meant nothing. There was no Irish equivalent to John Peel or Annie Nightingale. We heard the charts or Country music... & that's all.

Radio could shape you & inform your music taste. It did for me in both good & bad ways.  I know every word of every 80's chart song not through any love of them but because when there is only a handful of stations & it's on everywhere from the kitchen, to the supermarket, to my neighbors bedroom (which unfortunately was next to my Brother's & mine) Until I discovered pirate radio I was bombarded with chart music.

So I set sail on the choppy seas off Pirate Radio.

Pirate Radio in Ireland had been in operation for many years, for instance Mayo man Jack Sean McNeela in 1940 died on Hunger strike in Arbour Hill Military Detention Barracks after 55 days protesting his arrest for operating a pro IRA pirate radio station. 

There were hundreds of stations in operation countrywide due to lax enforcement & lack of commercial radio until 1989. The national broadcaster R.T.E. took a dim view of it & carried out actions such as radio jamming which isn’t surprising as the core audience of listeners were tuned in to the pirates rather than the national stations. All you had to do was find them


We had old battered radio/tape combo & I used to just tune in to any signal I could get on it. It had Ariel that was broken off so I had jammed coat hanger in to stub that was left. I had to put it on top of wardrobe and angle it just so; I would lie back on bunk & just let it do its thing. I remember one wonderful Saturday afternoon listening to Jeff Wanes war of the worlds being played from start to finish.

I then discovered Tom Hayes. Tom Hayes had started working as a D.J. for Ballymun Community Radio around 1981. This station renamed itself Dublin Community Radio in around 1982. It was pure accident I came across his rock show. I was introduced to bands like Anthrax, Megadeth, Exodus, & Celtic Frost & loads more that made up the Thrash Metal movement. I became aware of a whole history to this movement & metal in general through the records Tom was playing. He played demo tapes by local bands. What there are metal bands in Dublin? This meant there was other people who loved this music as much as much as my brother & I. This radio show was a huge part of the jig-saw in my musical evolution & suddenly a show like top of the pops meant less than nothing to me

Now we live in in a world of Satellite Radio, a world of massive choice.  I honestly have no Idea what Dua Lipa (isn't that a rare tropical disease?) or Post Malone are or what mumble rap(????) sounds like....yet strangely I know exactly what they sound like. Bland,  "I love you forever girl" or I am so Street" " lyrics. of course this music isn't aimed at me but at young girls & good looking boys like this have excised from the birth of contemporary music. That's fine as we have more rock & alternative shows than we can ever need & we only have to listen to the music we like right? Everyone's taste is represented right?

Hmm....You would think the more radio stations the more Variety. In fact it's the opposite . In America which is still the biggest market in the world for music sales, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) own 850 stations reach more than 110 million listeners every week, and 245 million every month. So from an office in San Antonio, Texas (a state known for it's Conservative views) It is decided what music millions of Americans can hear.

Well that doesn't effect us on this side of pond does it? In U.K. We have planet Rock. Yes it's a decent station but it too is owned by a bigger company called the Bauer Media Group. which  is a large European-based media company, head quartered in Hamburg, Germany that manages a portfolio of more than 600 magazines, over 400 digital products and 50 radio and TV stations around the world. The portfolio extends to include print shops, postal, distribution and marketing services. Bauer Media Group has a workforce of approximately 11,000 employees in 17 countries.

In the U.K it owns 46 Regional Stations & seven national stations (the Absolute Group)

Ian McKaye the founder of Discord Records & musician with Minor Threat & Fugazi has said " There may be People who own record company's who like music, they may even care about music but I can assure you all they really care about is money"

So it's not too far a stretch to say These huge company's running radio only care about advertising revenue & to achieve that you have as conservative a playlist as possible.

So where does that leave us?

I say thank you Radio, no really I do

I never listen to you & my days of making mix tapes are long gone but this industrialized homogenization you have gone through has actually shaped me again...in a good way believe it or not

It has made me work harder, I have to search harder to find alternative music & in doing so has made me go further underground. Has made not only  me but lots of people turn back to their Indie Record Store. Made people turn to tiny labels or but direct from the bands. It has in it's own way played a part in the Vinyl Revival as people (myself included) look for something more substantial than streaming & the latest chart rundown,

Now when I discover or am Introduced to some new music I get the same buzz I had when I first heard Tom Haye's Rock Show.  & when I get that album through the post (a real buzz in itself) or I pick it up in my local Indie Record Store it goes beyond mere music & becomes an item of real value.

An artifact of the age.

I will decorate my time with this music

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