Satellite Radio

Turn it on.

Every casual listener I know is canceling his subscription. Then there are those who are diehards, who wouldn’t THINK of switching on FM, never mind AM, and don’t want to listen to iPods, because they never play anything you don’t KNOW!

For a long time, I only listened to XM. But I’ve become hooked on Sirius 60/New Country. Oh, there’s too much jive terrestrial bullshit, but the song selection is GOOD! And right up the dial, for a respite when they play a loser, is 63/Outlaw Country.

How to describe Outlaw Country?

You know all those acts that only wear denim, and wouldn’t fit in in Nashville because they don’t believe in God and don’t think President Bush is doing a good job? They’re all on Outlaw Country.

Mojo Nixon is funny. But the best deejay on Outlaw Country is Steve Earle.

So, I’m driving to pick up a buddy to go hiking last night, and I’m on 5th Street, just shy of Wilshire, and there’s this drum intro akin to the Boss’ "Streets Of Philadelphia", and then there’s a GROOVE! You know, the kind you lock onto when work is done, you’re in the bar, thinking how life sucks, but right now, you feel fucking GREAT! Like not only are you as important as anybody, but that ANYBODY would want to fuck you, you’re just that cool at this moment.

That’s the power of music. It invades your body. Makes you move from the inside out. Makes you feel all powerful. Remember that Fabulous Poodles’ song "Mirror Star"?

I’m figuring this must be his theme song. Since it’s Steve Earle’s show. But the song doesn’t end after a callout-length snippet, it just keeps going on. I don’t want it to ever END!

Do you own "Guitar Town"? Steve Earle’s debut?

If you’re into alt country, if you like your singer/songwriters with a bit of twang, stop reading this and start stealing/buying this album IMMEDIATELY!

Start with the title track, the album’s opener. And then check out the rip-roaring "Hillbilly Highway". And the tracks Shawn Colvin covered, "Someday" and "Fearless Heart". And the intimate "Little Rock ‘N’ Roller", not quite as good as Seger’s "Turn The Page", but one of the great road songs.

But, Mr. Earle has never done anything quite this good AGAIN!

Oh, he’s someone to be admired. He cleaned himself up. Doesn’t limit himself to narrow genres. It’s just that he hasn’t made MUST LISTEN music since. Until now.

One of the worst ways to make music is with the thought of a hit in mind. That’s too much pressure. Want to make something great? Do it when you’re inspired, when you feel your muse. Or under deadline for something irrelevant. A song for a friend’s wedding. Something that’s not meant to be ubiquitous. THEN you might come up with something great.

And "Satellite Radio" is great.

Top of my shift-frog in my throat-sleep in my eyes
Startin’ to drift-cuppa hot joe–checkin’ the sky
Never can tell-makin’ my list-checkin’ it twice
Fasten my belt- flippin’ my switch-checkin’ my mic

It’s a story song. He didn’t have to invent the lyrics out of thin air, they were already THERE! And you don’t have to be a deejay to relate to what he’s saying. Getting ready for work. But, the concept of making a list… We always wonder, do the deejays CARE?

That’s what’s wrong with Sirius. They’re stars, not deejays. XM has pros. There are too many amateurs on Sirius. The unknown king of New Country, Scott Lindy, is better than most of the names on Outlaw Country, he picks ’em better, because this is his one and only life, it’s not a sideline.

But it’s not a sideline for Steve Earle either. He must remember when radio was king. Because he’s taking this deadly SERIOUSLY! Hell, he played Leon Russell’s "Stranger In A Strange Land", only a FAN would spin that!

And that’s what makes US a fan. When the deejay reaches deep into his memory and pulls out a song that only we thought was special.

Turns out "Satellite Radio" is on Steve Earle’s soon to be released album, "Washington Square Serenade". But you can’t hear it online, not anywhere I searched. Hell, I had a tough time FINDING his MySpace page. And it only had one track, and it wasn’t "Satellite Radio".

Is there anybody out there? One-two-three on the satellite radio?
Big daddy on the air, are you listenin’ to me? On the satellite radio
At the galaxy’s end where the stars burn bright are you tunin’ in and turnin’ on?
Is there anybody listenin’ to earth tonight on the satellite radio?

Nobody’s listening. There are two services, and over 100 channels on each. Sure, they’re gonna merge, but the result will be worse, it’ll be more like Sirius. Tight playlists, not enough pros. It won’t be like it used to be. Now.

You need satellite radio. To enrich your life. If you can’t find a channel or two or five that hooks you, you’re DEAD!

If you can only get one, go for XM, playlists are broader and you can GET IT! Sirius drops out. But there are bright spots on the New York service too, like Scott Lindy and Steve Earle.

And not only is nobody listening to satellite radio, they’re not listening to Steve Earle. He’s positively cult. After reading this, you might be inspired to fire up your browser and check "Satellite Radio" out. But you can’t, because those in charge seem to be lost in the 1990s.

Now the album is just the invitation, to the artist’s world. And once someone ventures in, after finding what they like, they’ll give you ALL their money. But you’ve got to get them in first. By letting them hear your music.

One of these nights-play the right song-telephone rings
Stone in the sea-shot in the dark-splittin’ the air
Listen to me-kindle the spark-answer my prayer

P.S. You can steal "Satellite Radio" P2P. I got a great version ripped at 192 kbps – BETTER than iTunes is gonna sell it!

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.