Recently, I’ve found Pandora and it has me in its spell. Its like Napster all over again. I’m exploring new artists and new genres, and like the Napster days, I’m buying music because I like niche artists and narrow genres that I’d have little or no exposure to. Once again, the music industry has been presented with another goose laying golden eggs and is trying to find a way to kill it.
But then again, I’m trying to find a way to frustrate it. I’m pretty eclectic in my audio taste, and in 50-something years I’ve picked up a lot of strange knowledge, and I can’t resist trying to tweek Pandora with it. Its a little like entering Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park or Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at “What do the lyrics mean” websites.
So far, Pandora’s responded admirably. At Pandora, one can create stations based on an artist, or a song, or both. This information drives a big inference engine that suggests a whole range of songs. My first attempt was Spike Jones. Voila! Spike Jones radio, which proceeded to play Spike Jones selections I’ve not yet heard, and offer up other off-center performances. Ray Stevens, Sheb Wooley, Ben Colder (who looks remarkably like Mr. Wooley), and a host of great novelty one-hit wonders.
Tom Leherer? Absolutely. Which gravitated to Dr. Demento and all his craziness. Pico & Sepulveda still streams in my head. OK. how about dead genres. Let’s try Milton Brown. “And his Musical Brownies?” queries the Pandorabot. Curses. Foiled again.
Along the way, I learned and appreciated, and about that time my musical juggernaut was interrupted by a bulletin from Don Barrett at LAradio.com that Bill Drake had gone to that great music library in the sky, and my mind went to the Nickodell, now a parking lot on the Paramount Lot, where the Boss Jocks of KHJ drank away many happy hours. Background music?
So I started creating a station using the tools I’d discovered playing with the box (should that be a jar) that is Pandora, and soon, I had Last Round at Ciro’s. What might have been heard at the Nickodell in its heyday. Elegant music of the 50s and 60s with a twist of nostalgia. I was doing in minutes what used to take days even months; tweaking a radio format without even the need of a record library. Did Drake ever know this existed?
Before the Internet, there were specialized and scarce jobs that required multidisciplinary understanding, like the music director or program director of radio stations that were unapproachable by the masses. Today anybody with a little knowledge and a lot of passion can do them thanks to specialized websites like Pandora and last.fm.
And by the way, I finally beat Pandora at its own game. The Pasadena Roof Orchestra
“We’re always looking for great music to include, so we’ll check it out” said the Pandora-bot, its eyes downward. “Is there something else you’d like to listen to?”
[And thanks to Pete Handleman for the light. Bartender, another one for Mr. Morgan, Mr. Steele and Mr. Drake, on me.]