Good days and bad days, says Hesiod, forgetting that all days are alike—Herakleitos
I finally got around to seeing a doctor for a long-overdue check-up. While going down the mental-health checklist—depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, despair—the croaker looked up from her clipboard and said, “But do you have any symptoms, you know, aside from the general malaise that goes with being alive right now?” The good doctor’s comment came back to me as Tuesday succumbed to Wednesday and I’m in my usual spot in the kitchen, trying to knead jumbled text into prose just like Angry Sal at Spumoni Heaven down on Avenue U when he smooshes his fist into that pizza dough to get the pan of squares in order.
So there I am, and right around Midnight, WKCR is playing James Brown’s “Night Train,” followed nicely by Lightning Hopkins. We’re in Tuesday’s Just as Bad, territory, a show technically devoted to blues. Like KCRS’s other main blues show, Something Inside of Me, Tuesday’s is also named for an Elmore James song. Things generally start on the acoustic side, and then ease into the heavier stuff (read: early Elmore James, Memphis-era Howlin Wolf). But like most programming on WKCR, the hosts aren’t shackled by neat categories, hence the inclusion of James Brown. So I was thinking of that trip to the doctor, and her prescient questions, and how we all, as a people, probably have a case of the goddamn blues. 89.9 FM, Tuesdays/Wednesdays 11:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
If you get your seasonal blues shot over at KCR, you don’t have to wait too long to get another taste: Matt Fiveash over at WFMU will hit you off with Weekly World Blues. WWB is billed as “An antidote to the moribund, corny and/or humorless blues programming generally found on the radio.” Excepting the abovementioned WKCR shows, that’s a pretty apt description. There’s much overlap between the playlists on Weekly World Blues and the KCR shows—Blind Willie McTell, Hopkins, etc. The WKCR and WFMU blues programming is alright by us. You could do a lot worse. You can’t do any better. 91.1 FM, Wednesdays 7 p.m.
John Coltrane Birthday Broadcast
By the time this post goes live, one of our favorite holidays will be underway. The John Coltrane Birthday Broadcast on WKCR is wall-to-wall Coltrane, including the modal years with Miles, the sessions with Cecil Taylor, the Monk recordings, and the way-out stuff no one plays anywhere. KCR also tends to have live archival recordings that don’t exist anywhere else. Late Coltrane biographer Eric Nisenson once wrote of Trane’s Crescent and A Love Supreme albums: “I don’t know what more to say about these two magnificent works of art, except that they are on that list of things that make life worth living.” That might sound a bit hyperbolic or maudlin to some, but I think it’s a pretty fair assessment of John Coltrane’s more powerful works. I actually feel stations like WKCR, in their finer moments, can contribute to your quality of life in a really important way, though that’s neither here nor there.
Out to Lunch, KCR’s daily jazz show pushes forward, still with Eric Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” as opening theme every weekday at noon.
Allison Stewart’s All of It (WNYC) is smart and still able to fluently discuss current arts and culture issues. Stewart’s recent coverage of the NY Film Festival was particularly interesting, with considerable focus on the dynamics of putting together a distanced, outdoor film festival. 93.9 FM/820 AM, Weekdays 12 p.m.
WNYC’s the Takeaway had a segment on the firing of Minnesota Public Radio’s only Black classical music DJ, Garrett McQueen. Terrence McKnight of New York’s WQXR also appeared on this show, giving a glimpse into a vital but under-covered part of the radio world. Weekdays 93.9 FM 3 p.m.; 820 AM 9 a.m.
Over on WFMU, we were happy to hear Jesse Dorris’s Polyglot show pop up in a weekday fill-in slot. Jesse’s show usually runs Tuesdays 3 – 6 a.m, so we usually associate it with being up either far too early or way too late. Polyglot worked well in a daytime slot, and Dorris brought us to a mellow, happier place where forget for a while what time or day it was. Check schedule.
Michele with one L plays some really good stuff on Feelings. She mixes songs together in a way that always seems to work. This week she played clips from one of those “How to Pick up Girls” guides, and soon after the blitzy-trippy Headroom, and she even fit Bad-Moon-era Sonic Youth in there somehow. You know that saying about writing about music being like dancing about architecture? Try writing about radio, it’s like shoplifting about arson. Take my word for it, this is a quality show. WFMU Thursdays 12 – 3 p.m.
Put the Needle on the Record is one of the better hip-hop shows still on the radio. This past week, I tuned in and heard Smif-N’-Wessun, and multiple Pete Rock tracks. DJ Billy Jam weaves a lot of interesting instrumentals together in a way that keeps things fresh. This show needs at least another hour or two to really allow the DJ to stretch out. WFMU Fridays 7 – 8 p.m.
Speaking of hip-hop, Hot 97 has been doing its 97 minutes of commercial-free music on weekdays. Aside from the station’s morning show, this is one of the only times the station is really worth listening to these days. The radio-edit of Cardi B’s “WAP” does some ingenious FCC-outmaneuvering by swapping an “s” for an “h,” to ensure the radio-listening public gets its helping of “pushy.” Occasionally the prurient interest is the public interest, you know.
Hot 97 Morning hosts Ebro, Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez have been having some deep discussions on issues like the Supreme Court, the Census and Kanye West’s role as political spoiler and all-around buffoon. You can get far better informed listening to Hot 97 than you can from taking in the MAGA mind rot taking up so much space on the AM dial.
The AM scene.
We’ve been laying off too much AM radio the past few days. Some things that we’ve heard follow.
Over at WSNR 620 AM, Nazi Hal Turner popped up briefly on Monday night, only to disappear after the 20-minute mark. Sources tell us Turner is no longer getting airtime from WSNR. Apparently the in-studio engineer cued the wrong feed.
Zev Brenner’s Talkline show featured an interview with the head of “Jewish Voices for Trump” this past week. Brenner offered to help set up a pro-Trump rally in NYC, in the name of promoting ideological diversity, of course.
Too much Heshy
Another right-wing Jewish show on WSNR is Just Enough Heshy. Readers might remember Heshy Tischler as the self-proclaimed “park buster.” This is the guy who, at the height of the lockdown, “liberated” playgrounds in ultra-orthodox areas with bolt cutters so the kids could spread what he calls “the fake corona” more quickly. Heshy, whose radio delivery is as smooth as a rusty playground swingset, is running for city council. He claims to be a “regular guy,” who is elected, will eliminate “Nazi pig” building inspectors (and isn’t that everyone’s top issue?). Heshy might not be much for radio; though it is entertaining to hear him try and figure out how to work his show’s phone lines. Heshy should get some credit for the recent spike in COVID cases in orthodox neighborhoods. Disgraced former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik is the scheduled guest for September 23. Wednesdays 9 p.m.
ABC Radio: Giuliani endorses QAnon; O’Reilly’s back.
Last week, Rudy Giuliani endorsed the insane QAnon conspiracy theory. After saying “I think some of their ideas are way out,” he launched into a tirade about the validity of the conspiranoid theory of the secret Deep State plot to unseat Trump. Giuliani then ranted about one of his favorite topics a Black Lives Matter “circular” that calls for the destruction of the nuclear family (9/16 episode). I’m pretty sure Black Lives Matter doesn’t have circulars like they do at the supermarket, but after having been forced to endure three decades of tabloid stories about the former mayor’s divorce proceedings and bad treatment of spouses, I think it’s pretty clear that Rudy has done his share to contribute to the destruction of the nuclear family.
Expert on female sexuality Ben Shapiro has been recently complaining that the New York Times won’t listen to him on COVID management. Shapiro wants to reopen everything in order to force a herd immunity, a response that would likely kill large numbers of people for an immunity that has yet to significantly emerge. This is even more arrogant to suggest as the US COVID death toll tops 200,000. The question isn’t why the New York Times won’t listen to Ben Shapiro, but why anyone would listen to this creaky pipsqueak.
Bill O’Reilly is back on the air. Your editor has not been fortunate enough to catch the Falafel King. Thankfully we’ve got a review up from Jim Rawls. Spoiler alert: he was unimpressed.
Billy O and Crazy Horse: Rust Always Creeps
Barf! barf! get the sick bags out, accused sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly is back on the air. Thankfully you won’t have to look at his face because he’s only on the radio this time. We just caught a few minutes of his new show on WABC this evening. O’Reilly is in good, make that bad company at WABC which is and has been home to some of the most odious right wing crackpot/zealots on NY radio over the years. By the sounds of it he’s broadcasting from home possibly from his bathroom, if the audio quality was anything to go by. In between the pro-Chump pep rally talking points and the predictable attacks on Joe Biden he’s also self-promoting his new book about Crazy Horse, exclaiming just as predictably about how incredibly well it is doing. Oddly enough we heard him on another AM station last week, not a NY market station but drifting in on the late night AM signal actually being interviewed about his new book, and he was not saying very nice things about Presidente Chump on there. Seems to have made a quick turnaround in a very short time. Is somebody waving a checkbook in his face?
In the brief time we were listening in this evening It didn’t sound like he was taking phone calls, instead he was reading out comments from listeners and then either agreeing or disagreeing with them. At 71 seems he has either lost a yard or is out of practice because that quick-fire verbal style that one usually associates with him was not in evidence tonight and his delivery sounded oddly amateurish and pedestrian. Maybe he’s just not that suited to radio. Either that or maybe he’s been advised to slow down his rapid fire delivery so the poor gullibles that believe his nonsense can get a grasp of this latest round of psycho babblery. Probably the former.—Jim Rawls