It is a warm summer day in Lipa City, a little past lunchtime, and you’re in your room. Your older brother has beat you to the punch, commandeering the bicycle to parts unknown. You know he won’t be back until early evening.
So, you help yourself to “his” radio. The dial reads 810KhZ, and Deep Purple’s “Speed King” erupts from the crackle and hiss of a poor signal.
Ritchie Blackmore’s intro guitar solo sounds violent and thrilling, alternating between fast licks and pure noise. You look at your brother’s battered/partially strung guitar (he was a natural on the thing until the bicycle and teen hormones took over). You grab it and want to learn it. NOW.
You spend the rest of the summer addicted to the radio: RJ810 on AM for all things rock (from prog to punk to heavy metal), and 99.5RT or 97.1WLS on FM for slick Top 40 pop (yes, LS had that format; in addition, they also played jazz in the evenings).
DJs sounded cool and good-looking
In between dial shifts, older brother teaches you how to hold down a “D” chord, and tells you to shut up whenever you complain about your fingertips being so sore that you can’t even muster the strength to engage in a necessary activity: acne-popping.
You fantasize about being friends with a radio DJ or dream about becoming one, even if your voice is in its creaky, adolescent phase. Every DJ sounded cool on the radio and you imagined them all to be really, really good-looking (oh, the deceptiveness of sound!).
It was the summer when you began your basic music education. The DJs were your tutors, the antenna your bridge. It became the summer of possibilities for you, the pimply teenage underweight awkward nerd that stared back from the mirror.
(Surprisingly, your dreams will come true though the path would be laden with embarrassing missteps. But somehow, you grow a radio voice, become a DJ, and then join a rock band, just as your heroes did.)
You turn me off, you’re my radio
These days, radio has shifted the emphasis away from the music. A song gets played and most FM DJs launch immediately into the next crass joke you’ve heard many times before from a malicious uncle, followed by canned staccato laughter.
It makes you wonder: does radio still inspire people to be aspirational, the way it made you feel all those summers ago in Lipa? Does it still make young pimply nerds believe that they can serve music, musicians, and music fans by being a musician or radio DJ?
You know by experience that you can’t blame, much less hang the DJ, so to speak. You know they’ve been employed to do as their bosses demand and it certainly is hard work. Imagine having a truly bad day, turning on the mike, revealing not one molecule of piss, and maintaining three hours of high-energy faux happiness and bad jokes. Now that’s work. That’s being a professional.
Barking out jokes has become the Philippine standard for commercially successful radio. It’s is not what you did or grew up with but there it is. You can’t argue with commerce, say the bosses.
After all, the term “radio industry” means that it IS a business… and business at its core is rarely altruistic.
Is the future of radio on the Internet?
Maybe you got it wrong.
Maybe you were wrong to hold onto your radio ideal, defined by one teenage summer.
Maybe you were just a romantic who naively believed that radio was a vehicle for service, for music and information, even if your own experience tells you otherwise.
Today, Internet radio seems to be coming on its own. You check it out and its possibilities (and, already, opportunists). Yes, it IS the future… but only when Internet services improve.
You hope it will inspire someone the way the old model did for you.
But then again, who knows?
Maybe it’s all just down to business.
Francis “Brew” Reyes wears many hats: guitarist, producer, arranger, music journalist, photographer and TV host. He once played guitar for the Dawn and was a DJ for NU107. In short, he is legendary. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his Tumblr.
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