Sep 24, 2011
FM Radio: Gateway to the Unknown!
When I was in 7th grade, my brother started having trouble falling asleep. Turned out that the local easy listening station, KJOY, could help him settle into slumber, so that’s what we, who shared a room, listened to at bedtime.
In addition to cultivating in me an enduring fondness for low-key and lushly arranged instrumental pop, this meant we in fact had a radio in our room.
I had been listening to the radio for a while at that point, of course, but had always listened to AM. In fact, the first time I consciously became a fan of any radio station, it was an AM station: KHJ. I remember listening to KHJ and, for some reason, distinctly remember hearing Coven’s “One Tin Soldier” on it.
So, I’m in 7th grade and nodding off every night to KJOY and my friend, Scott, asks me if I’ve ever listened to FM radio. I tell him I have not. He says that’s what he’s been doing and he likes this band called KISS. (As a direct result of this conversation, KISS Destroyer later became the first record I ever purchased.)
I was curious and thus, one morning, whilst lying in bed, I decided to check it out. I took the radio off the night table, flicked the switch from AM to FM, dialed around for a station, and heard this:
Having only listened to AM, having fairly square parents, and having no older siblings, I had never knowingly heard anything like the introduction to Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.” The phased guitar and futuristic chanting sounded so alien, so weird, I could only think to myself, “Man. FM really is different.”
This experience had at least two long-lasting effects.
First, my undying belief that Zeppelin rules and that Presence is an under-appreciated masterpiece. (A friend once told me, “I think you have to be from California to like that album.”)
Secondly, and more significantly, when I first heard FM radio, it dawned on me that there was a world out there of which I was entirely unaware. I had to wonder, “What else was I missing?” For good or ill, I have never stopped wondering that.