As a kid I loved radio shows of all sorts, mostly having to do with music but the occasional radio play also wowed my fancy. Over the last decade or so, radio has become seemingly a dying art form. Some of it has to do with the for-profit nature and over commercialization of the medium (but let’s be honest this was always underneath the surface), the rise of DIY DJ-ing and the increased access to new music via the internet, and the inevitable transformation in cultural and entertainment preferences. However, if there is one place where radio is alive, thriving, and still inspiring it’s definitely at the public radio level and through the growth of podcasting. On a number of occasions, I have mentioned my absolute obsession with NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast and the exquisite taste and impressive insights of its hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton. Their ability to cull through the hundreds of songs and records being released on a monthly level and highlight artists and albums from a wide breadth of mediums and genres is impressive. Unlike many DJs and musical curators, I find their taste refreshing and inclusive, often turning to other fellow radio employees for their own deeper knowledge of mediums like electronic music, hip hop and rap, and (for a lack of a better term) world music.
One segment that always excites me is the recurring guest DJ segments because it allows the listeners (and fans) to get an insight into the taste of legends or artists currently in the limelight. Last week, Bob brought the Welsh-born, John Cale, into the “studio” to shed some light on his newest album, his astounding work with the Velvet Underground, and his own personal “education” in the realm of music both past and present. The songs he chose and his rationale blew me away. Often I’ve found that artists aren’t always great at vocalizing or explaining themselves and their history, not that this sort of thing is easy to do. But Cale was impressively candid, forthright, and amusing in discussing (spoiler alert) his fascination with Snoop Dog’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” as well as what it was like to make popular music in the wake of totalitarian regimes that co-opted artists and their composition for nefarious ends. Even if you are not a fan of the Velvet Underground, I think the 45 minute discussion by this brilliant septuagenarian and music lifer is worth a listen.
If you are intrigued (and I hope you are), download or stream the All Songs Considered: Guest DJ John Cale podcast here.