View on Vega
Vega, 93.5 on the FM dial, was launched in early August, 2005, with the logo ‘on your wavelength’. But it’s not on mine.
That isn’t to say I’m not a fan of Angela, Wendy and Tony. I love youse guys. It’s the music played in between the 2BL-style chat that’s getting me down. I don’t understand why music programmers feel that once you hit middle age, you’re only interested in the ‘top-of-the-pops’ from back in, as my nine-year-old daughter says, “the olden days”.
But like its opposition on the FM dial (except 2JJJ) Vega has played it safe and, as a result, the music is generally pedestrian. Here’s a sample of the songs played on the occasions I’ve tuned in: The Voice/John Farnham, Everybody Wants to Rule the World /Tears for Fears, Ring My Bell /Anita Ward, She Drives Me Crazy /The Fine Young Cannibals, that mournful James Bond movie theme song by Carly Simon, the gut-wrenchingly bad (I Just) Died In Your Arms from The Cutting Crew and It’s Not Unusual sung by Tom Jones.
So, where’s the point of difference? Where are those songs from the ‘dark ages’ that grab me by the… um, get my gnarly old toes tapping, have me singing out loud like a maniac in the car while driving to and from kids’ extra-curricular activities (much to the embarrassment of my captive adolescent audience)?
I can tune into 2MMM or Mix 106.5 (2SM or 2CH for the old Welsh sex-pot) and hear much the same 24/7.
My bits ache when I think about the excellent music from “my generation” that is archived because no one’s got the guts to give it the airing it deserves. I understand that commercial radio can’t afford to be too radical – after all, you don’t want to lose the guy who’s been hanging out all night to hear Dean Martin croon Quando Quando. But maybe there’s room, in-between the non-challenging stuff, to squeeze in some surprises.
The problem is that most music programmers (and here I am talking across the dial) forget that many baby boomers grew up listening to some pretty funky stuff. It wasn’t all American Top 40/Countdown dross. Some of us went to the pub every weekend (where we drank too much and passively smoked) to see our favourite bands. We watched Rage and read The Face. We listened to The Ramones and Velvet Underground and checked out ground-breaking local bands like Radio Birdman, The Saints and The Boys Next Door. Later on it was The Birthday Party, Sunny Boys, Hoodoo Gurus, The Triffids and The Go-Betweens.
Just because most baby boomers born at the tail end of the era have kids, a mortgage, bad-back problems and no time to nurture their stagnating relationships doesn’t mean they’ve lost their ‘lust for life’ (as Iggy Pop put it) nor their love of the kick-arse music that helped form their musical education.
And the present is just as important. Just because I’m over 40 doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the amazing music that’s been generated by bands such as Green Day, Thirsty Mercs, Jet or Grinspoon.
To be honest, I don’t care if I never hear John Farnham’s The Voice again or anything by Michael Buble.
Ultimately, it’s up to the music programmers to take the occasional risk, to pump up the volume, kick arse, make a bloody statement! I don’t agree that playing I Get A Kick Out Of You back-to-back with It’s A Long Way To The Top is innovative. It’s spreading the Vega – mite too thin! But put the AC/DC classic next to The Hoodoo Gurus belting out Want You Back or The Lemonheads upbeat version of Mrs Robinson and you’ll tickle my fancy.
Us baby boomers might be, as Vega breakfast announcer Angela Catterns said, getting “vaguer”, but we’re not dead yet.