Racing home to the Mexican National Anthem

While one can’t go home again, sometimes it’s nice to visit. My semi-annual return to Southern California this week was filled with great time with family, seeking out new experiences and reliving fond memories. Turning on the radio on my way home from the train station tonight sent me back to my college years, more than 14 years past.

I first tuned into KPBS, but after a minute of their evening classical programming, I spun the proverbial dial to 91X (XETRA 91.1). The last few minutes of their “Loudspeaker” program reminded me of San Diego’s local music scene, which I only was able to sample briefly after college before I moved away. I was a little surprised to hear what sounded like profanity during one of the songs, but I quickly reminded myself that 91X broadcasts from Tijuana into San Diego.

I was served another reminder of 91X’s cross-border origin when the disc jockey announced that regular programming would be interrupted for “The Mexican National Hour,” which typically airs on Sunday evenings.

I was surprised by what I heard. The Spanish-language “La Hora Nacional” sounded much better than it did 15 years ago. Back in the day, the show sounded like it was initially recorded in an empty gym and relayed to local station via shortwave before it was played back on 91X on a shoddy, beat-up tape. It sounded echo-y and awful, and I would quickly turn to another channel until the alternative music returned (or “Loveline,” but that was a different time).

Although I was only able to understand a portion of the show (show archive), the current “La Hora Nacional” sounded reasonably entertaining (for a 77-year-old government-produced program geared to promote national unity among other things). It featured an upbeat set of hosts discussing a variety of topics. It is something I may seek out and listen to later.

Hearing “La Hora Nacional” brought back other memories of listening to 91X in college. After studying late at the library, I would often be on the road home at midnight when the station was obligated to play the Mexican National Anthem (conveniently and simply named “Himno Nacional Mexicano”). I don’t why the station chose the version it did, but they would play an instrumental version of the song that lasted about four minutes. One of the TV stations broadcast a version that featured children singing, but the radio version was about four minutes of the anthem melody repeating over and over until you thought it was finished and then it would repeat a couple more times.

The song isn’t quite an earworm, but it was fascinating listening to it to see how many times the melody would repeat. It also became a bit of a challenge for me to see how far I could drive while the anthem played. I joked I could get home without speeding in the time it took for the song to play, but I never made it.

Since I moved away from San Diego, I would occasionally try to tune in for the Mexican National Anthem, but 91X only plays it over the air and not on their Internet streams. I was finally able to tune in for the nightly event about a year ago, but it was a bit different and shorter than in years past.

As someone who has loved radio for decades, I get a kick out of the tradition of U.S. stations playing a patriotic song as they signed off, or signed on, for the day. It is something that has definitely gone by the wayside (unless you’re Adult Swim and air an off-kilter sign-off).

While U.S. stations moved away from the sign-off tradition, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. still started and ended its broadcast day with “O Canada,” during the years I lived in Michigan. The CBC has since started broadcasting around the clock, so it too has ended this tradition.

The version of “O Canada” that I saw was an elaborate production with a bold orchestral arrangement of the song set against a wide array of images evoking the Great White North and its diverse population (YouTube video posted by eastest566). It’s something I still enjoy seeing and listening to years later — even the cheesy prelude segment about how essential the CBC is.

In the years since I’ve become a volunteer DJ, I taken to keeping the tradition alive in a small way. Since my weekly program ends at midnight, I nearly always end with a jazzy performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I certainly don’t do the specific jargon one uses when actually ending the broadcasting day (because I’m not), but I like to end with Duke Ellington’s take on the National Anthem although I sometimes switch to versions by Bonerama or Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby.

Who knows? Maybe there’s someone in a car listening to my show trying to see how far they can get by the time the song’s over.

Sing, sing a song … or 226 of them

Singing at Quackers

I sing a song at Quackers Bar in north Chico in October 2008. Photo by Olivia Drake.

I challenged myself to sing 200 different songs during karaoke in 2011. At the end of the year, I estimated I sang about 226 songs at karaoke — that’s about 14 hours of non-stop music. Here’s the list:

I think I did right by many of them, although some were challenging. I sang many of the songs by myself, even the duets, although I preferred a partner.

And, yes, all of them were love songs.

I’m planning to expand this later with thoughts about specific parts of my playlist, but it was a great year to have a song in my heart. I got to meet many new friends, and renew or expand current relationships. I sang in five Chico nightspots, plus locations in Paradise, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In Oroville, I had a live band backing me and performed on a giant ballroom stage.

Thanks to Spotify, I was able to keep track of the songs (based on my tweets, notes and other recollections). It’s not a complete list because I started it in September. Despite my best efforts, I don’t think I remembered all of the songs. Also, Spotify is pretty good, but not all of my songs were in their library (and sometimes I had to substitute a cover version of the preferred one).

I haven’t started a list for 2012, but if you have a song you’d like me to sing, please let me know in the comments.

Photo: I sing a song at Quackers Bar in north Chico in October 2008. Photo by Olivia Drake.


Is the party over for ’80s nights?

I recently attended ’80s night at LaSalles Bar, but it didn’t turn out as advertised when the DJ started mixing in dance hits from the ’90s and the aughts. Although that was fun in its own way, I was expecting ’80s music and didn’t appreciate the bait-and-switch (especially when there was another DJ out on the patio playing similar music). If there isn’t enough interest or desire to sustain an entire ’80s night, maybe it’s time to rethink the theme.

I’ll admit I don’t know exactly why the DJ started mixing in more recent music during a night ostensibly dedicated to Michael Jackson, Madonna and their pals. However, I found some possible insight in a Facebook item from a friend about the demise of a once-popular ’80s night in the Seattle area.

As the CHS Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported, the host of the 17-year-old Seattle event, DJ Trent Von, noted a diminishing audience in recent years. He observed that the audience for such music is still out there, but not necessarily at a nightclub on a Thursday night.

That sentiment was echoed by Seattle Gay Scene writer Michael Strangeways who observed that theme nights go away when the likely audience grows older and drifts on to other activities (like careers or families).

Perhaps we’re seeing something similar in Chico. While the 1980s were arguably one of the greatest periods of pop music, many of the people now going to LaSalles or most Chico nightspots were born in the mid-to-late ’80s and came of age in the 1990s (or later). While people still just wanna have fun when they go out, maybe they think more of Katy Perry instead of Cyndi Lauper.

So what should places like LaSalles do? I don’t particularly care for continuing an ” ’80s Night” event when there are fewer and fewer songs from that era. Maybe a refocusing of the evening would be appropriate.

Although it sometimes sounds silly and wishy washy, perhaps radio stations are on to something when they promote “playing the hits of the ’80s, ’90s and today.” The way it is now, the music of the 1980s are just a part of the Saturday entertainment at LaSalles and the marketing should reflect that.


On a related note: I loathe the bait-and-switch when it comes to publicized events. In addition to an ’80s night that kinda isn’t, LaSalles also hosts a sorta karaoke night Sundays. I say sorta because the disc jockey spins dance music in between singers.

Perhaps it may be sometimes necessary to play a tune or two while waiting for more singers, but it’s infuriating if you’re patiently waiting for your turn to sing. It essentially doubles the waiting time.

Some of the other bars in town are guilty of this practice too. I stopped trying to sing karaoke at Buck’s Crazy Horse Saloon because the DJ did the same thing — interspersing dance music with live singers. It’s not worthwhile for me.

The four stages of listening to Christmas music

It can be fun to deck the halls, roast chestnuts or go on sleigh rides, but when it comes to a-wassailing, I find that there are four stages to enjoying or singing Christmas music.
These stages could be circled on the calendar, just like the big day itself:

  1. Pre-Thanksgiving: Like holiday displays, it’s far too early to hear Christmas music in early November. A telling example — hearing tunes as early as the first week of November … at a Panda Express Chinese restaurant.
  2. Post-Thanksgiving: It’s all right to slowly ramp up the music. I hosted “Evening Jazz” during the first really cold night of the year (Dec. 7). It was appropriate to play winter-y tunes, but I stayed away from the more Christmas-themed songs until …
  3. Dec. 11: Two weeks before Christmas, it’s appropriate to crank up those favorite tunes. I played a few during my Friday radio show. It is strangely all right to have two radio stations in a small media market dedicated exclusively to holiday music.
  4. Post-Dec. 25: Enough’s enough. Christmas has come and gone. It’s time to put those albums back on the shelve until next year when we repeat the cycle again.

Get ready to geek out

Just in case people couldn’t get more obsessed with karaoke, Griffin Technologies has a new toy.

Meet iKaraoke

It’s a mic that plugs into the base of your iPod so you can fade the vocal track on your favorite songs and add your own voice when piping the whole thing to a stereo. It looks pretty cool although I’m curious how they’ll be able to “fade” the vocals.

Notice the product doesn’t have a firm release date (Winter 2006) and a price tag. Clearly, there’s more to come.

MySpace musing – 14 May

Animated greatnessAfter a brief hiatus, my animated profile image is back. It was down briefly because I wanted to look respectable. However, what’s more elegant than the inflated Garlic Dude from the Gilroy Garlic Festival? Nothing!

It’s interesting, but some people are impressed about how I animated the graphic. There’s nothing much to it — it’s an animated GIF. Somehow it adds an extra touch to the page without a lot of loud noises or videos.

Speaking of loud noises, how is everyone enjoying No Luck Club? I first heard them on the CBC Radio 3 podcast. They’re pretty good, but they’re no Dick Dale and His Deltones.

At the same time, No Luck Club hasn’t prompted my friends to say “Change the godawful music.” I guess that’s a good thing.

BTW, do you want to see the most information-rich MySpace profile I’ve ever seen? Check this guy out. For some reason he’s tracking my blog and I wanted to learn more about him. There’s a lot to learn about him it seems.

The cool thing is that he puts all the information together in a classy way. It’s a ton of information and photos, but it’s as readable as things get on this site. I do miss the animated fish that follows my mouse cursor, though.

Well, I guess that’s enough of the classic stream of consciousness writing that keeps so many people coming back to this blog.

Me and music

Last week, I replied to a bulletin about the songs in my iTunes library. I determined that I have nearly 1,600 songs. Since there’s a Smart Playlist for the 25 Most Played Song, I wanted to see what my least played songs were.

I quickly found that there are 909 songs that I’ve played five times or less. On the surface, I’ve barely listened to the songs in my library. It’s not wholly accurate — many of the songs I’ve had on another computer for years. Needless to say, I’m trying to remedy the situation.

Aside from podcasts, radio shows, audio books and the hour-long Beethoven concerts. I’m listening to those at least five times because it would be extremely trying.

Here’s the bulletin:

I (heart) iTunes Body: Open iTunes, go to your library, and supply the following: Answer, no matter how embarrasing it is!

  • How many songs: 1596 songs (6.9 days, 8.13 GB)
  • Sort by Song Title: First Song: ¿Donde Se Fueron? by Ozomatli Last Song: Zydeco Boogaloo by Buckwheat Zydeco
  • Sort by Time: Shortest Song: cnn_sting_5a_copy1 (:06) Longest Song: 61804 (an episode of the “American Who” radio show), 1:40:36 Longest Actual Song – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – BBC Philharmonic, 1:07:24
  • Sort by Artist: First Artist: 3Style Last Artist: Yoshikazu Iwamoto
  • Sort by Album: First Album: 1st Magic (D’Nell) Last Album: You’ll Disappear (Augustana)
  • Top Three Most Played Songs-BE HONEST: 1. Duel of the Fates (Star Wars Episode 1) – 100 times 2. The Breaking of the Fellowship (The Lord of the Rings) – 95 times 3. Theme from “Battlestar Galactica” (original) – Stu Philips – 93 times
  • First song that comes up on shuffle: Entire Library (No Party Shuffle): Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan Party Shuffle (Entire Library): Ballad of Ted Clampett – From “The Beverly Hillbillies”
  • Search for… “sex”: 2 out of 1596 “death”: 2 out of 1596 “love”: 43 out of 1596

Un-bear-able

Just another Monday at the Bear.

  • Hell – Squirrel Nut Zippers
  • Speak Softly Love (Theme from The Godfather) – Wow, I so didn’t know that song.
  • Beautiful Day – It was U2’s song, I only sang it.
  • This Love – From Maroon 5. I thought I didn’t know it, but it came through in the end.
  • Just the Way You Are – Much better this time out although I doubt it will ever become a crowd pleaser.
  • Good Morning Starshine – Nooby Nobby Low Low.
  • Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash sang it right the first time.
  • Take Me Home, County Roads – Mountain Momma.
  • Wanted – I took the lead after providing back-up for months.
  • Rawhide – Another song about a cowboy (but with real horses, not metal ones)

Destroying my belief system

Pluming the depths of MySpace, I rediscovered “The Gleib” — aka Ben Gleib (name seems shorter than I remember from college). Anyway, Gleib is a comedian and is responsible of dispelling two beliefs that I’ve held for a while — that Screech from “Saved by the Bell” is funny and that dating shows are real. Sadly, Screech (Dustin Diamond) was dreadful live a few years back and “Blind Date” seems capable of pulling fast ones over its audience. More on my random thoughts on TV and music, here.


Grrr, why is MySpace’s music utility so lame? Where can I mark that I’m listening to the deleted tracks from The Blues Brothers soundtrack — specifically their cover of Johnny Horton’s “Sink the Bismark”? (BTW, you can download the songs from The Digital Bits’ review of the movie). It’s true that they recently rediscovered the missing tracks (they were on a reel deleted from the final cut of the film), but there’s no Blues Brothers listing at all. It’s crazy lame (just like MySpace eating this post). I don’t think Tom is truly my friend. 🙁