There's very little I despise more than the commercial FM radio scene. It’s gag-inducing, anger sparking. It’s all blah, blah, blah, repeat, repeat, repeat. You know the score. You also know one needs to really dig (or get really lucky) to find the sweet spot your music-loving heart desires. Every major city, heck, any mid-sized city has some pocket on the AM or FM dials which holds a fantastic radio station. Thanks to the Internet, those pockets have been easier to search as Internet Radio has kicked open the doors of availability. What was once an entertainment and educational source confined to your surrounding area is now only confined to how much time and interests you have to spare. While I could list off the number of hero stations out there which requires investigation (and there are plenty), I’m just going to highlight the best.
It should come as no surprise it’s WFMU out of Jersey City. They have a lauded history which has been blabbed about in such fancy-pants rags such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, (NYT’s persistent runt of a little brother) Rolling Stone, The Village Voice blah, blah, blah. There’s even a bunch of whoop-dee-do famous people who’ve gone on record and named the station as a fave. Yeah, WFMU is that good: even the Hollywood types enjoy it! So, what's all the fuss? Before they hit the web, WFMU was already amazing with their fierce independence and brilliant DJ’s; this has been going on since 1958, mind you. Not a bad track record. After they went live on the web, their stature climbed even further. One of the corner stones here is their free music archive which hosts roughly 45,000 songs available free as streaming or download and challenges those neer-do-wells over at Archive.org as best free music dumping ground. According to the station, it’s “a social music website built around a curated library of free, legal audio.” In other words, you’re not going to get popped by the Feds for digging into their database.
But you’ll need to do that on your own time. What I want you to do right now is investigate one of their web satellite stations; they have three apparently (which, including their terrestrial stream, means they have four available stations, each different, each amazing in their own right…no, they’re not paying me to write this tripe…hell, the WFMU folks are so staunchly independent, they won’t take any underwriting); the one I want you to dial up and dive into is their “Rock ‘n Soul Ichiban” station. Why? Because it’s 24/7 obscure rockabilly, 60’s garage rock and soul. Not interesting enough? Well, hows about they toss in vintage commercials (movies, soft drinks, various concert adverts) and air checks from around the country. You can make believe it’s 1966 in your own living room or wherever the hell you’re hearing it. I mean, shucks, where else are you going to hear Johnny Ray Harris sing “Alligator Meat” or The Jay Jay’s pumpin' out “Shake It Some More” or the wonderful Nocturnals crying their pretty little eyes out in “Because You’re Gone”?
Mix it all together and you have a nice stream of gold flowing from the speakers straight into that membrane which separates your inner ear from your outer ear and which will slowly bleed for a good 36 hours if you accidentally jab it with a Q-tip or chopstick or twig or what have you.
So, there you go: one long-winded screed about a radio station which you may or may not enjoy. What with the Holidays approaching, you're gonna want some kinda distraction, something to do while avoiding your ex-spouse or friends or fruitcake-bearing neighbors at your windswept door who want to know if you'd like to hear a carol or two. Well, you don't. You want to listen to WFMU.