Little Stevie tries to rescue Rock-n-Roll


“Why isn’t there any rock ‘n’ roll radio?”

That’s a question that we touched upon a few weeks ago. In a post titled Radio’s Wounded Business Model I noted that, strictly through their own fault, Radio executives have been driving listeners away in droves. Their increasingly narrow playlists and lack of local flavor sent music lovers to their P2P networks, iPods, and Satellite Radio.

That didn’t sit well with one man, according to a New York Times article I belatedly found this weekend.

This one particular person is not going to take this lying down. It doesn’t hurt that the man happens to be Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, little Stevie Van Zandt:

“To hear Steven Van Zandt tell it, he had no choice. He had simply wanted to do a two-hour radio show, no big deal, on which he could play some of the garage rock he loves and have some fun. But when he pitched the idea to syndicators, what they told him forced him to turn his hobby into a crusade.

“They said, ‘Stevie, baby, we love you,’ ” he said, his eyes wide in mock disbelief, “but we cannot get rock ‘n’ roll on the radio anymore.’ ”

“For more than two years now Mr. Van Zandt has been waging his garage-rock war. He began with his radio show, “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” for which he is host and programmer. When syndicators showed no interest, Mr. Van Zandt decided to distribute it himself; he employs a small staff for the purpose, and the show, which had its premiere on April 7, 2002, now plays on 136 stations around the country. He is also is the executive producer of three channels on Sirius satellite radio, including a garage rock channel.

Mr. Van Zandt’s self-styled crusade moves to a new level this weekend with a full-blown outdoor rock festival that is an unexpected highlight of the concert season. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Randalls Island, more than 40 bands will blast and grunt and groove their way across the stage, playing various interpretations of garage rock – loud and uncomplicated musings expressed with the help of guitars, drums and little else – in a spectacle that will mix the godfathers of the genre with the very latest descendants.”

I continue to be amazed by the lack of foresight, judgement — and just plain old good taste — throughout the music industry. This level of incompetence leads me to just one question: Why aren’t these people running for Congress?

UPDATE: You can read more about the Underground Garage Festival here.

For more on van Zandt’s media views, check out Renegade Nation, Revolution, and Q and A.

Little Steven’s Big Crusade
NYTimes, August 11, 2004

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Matt Stoller commented on Aug 14

    Because they don’t like suits (little ‘s’).

  2. Barry Ritholtz commented on Aug 14

    to wear? We know they like filing ’em!

  3. Marc Brazeau commented on Aug 17

    A few months back, here in Portland, OR the morning boneheads who did the morning drive time show on the fake alternative station made on assinine comment too many and got canned.

    KNRK promptly pulled all the DJ’s save two for two months. They conducted a well concieved and probing online poll asking listeners how to improve the station.

    The results have been remarkable.

    Less talk, but more flexibility for DJ’s. A playlist that mixes current alternative rock hits with about 66% “classic” alternative – Nirvana, Elvis Costello, the Cure, etc.

    It’s become a station that I can actually listen to for a full shift at work.

    It also gave rise to a new game.

    It made me realize that their is now a pantheon/cannon of alternative rock from the past 15 years that is equal to the 60’s/70’s pantheon/cannon.

    The game works like this:

    I name an alternative band and you tell me the classic rock analogue.

    Example: If I say Nirvana, you say the Rolling Stones.

    If I say Peal Jam, you say Creedance Clearwater Revival.

    If I say Dave Matthews, you say the Eagles

    Got it?

    Beastie Boys = ????? (hint: don’t get into a manic depression trying to figure it out.)

    Radiohead = ???? (hint: ask any major dude, they’ll tell you)

    Soundgarden = ?????

    Bjork = ????

    Beck = ????

    Alice in Chains = ?????

    Marilyn Manson = ?????

    Make up your own. Have fun at your next party. (Make sure that it’s a hip/egghead kind of party)

  4. Jim commented on Mar 8

    Anybody heard Weed, Wine, and Women by

    Edge City Outlaws? Good retro man. Tell Stevie.

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