Radio Nerd Dog Whistles

May 18

You might have seen this post I did over at Zooglobble about how to introduce someone to the current world of music for families.  (And Dave Loftin did one too.)  That was based mostly on the playlists from the first couple of weeks on the air at KUTX, but obviously only the songs from people who were doing music for kids.

I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the rest of what we’ve played early in our tenure here on KUTX.  I sort of think of these as what political hacks call “dog whistles” — things with multiple meanings, except where in dog whistle politics the additional message tends to be “I think them gays are icky too but need not to say that out loud,” my additional message is more like “Hey, music nerds, you’re safe here.”

So far, the radio nerd dog whistle songs have included:

  • Brian Eno, I’ll Come Running – I still remember in the early fall of 2005, when we’d first launched, another volunteer at Valley Free Radio coming up to me and saying, “You know, I thought what you were doing was interesting and stuff, but it was when I heard Eno that I really got what you were doing.”  It’s no surprise that it was the third song we played on KUTX.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell, Lovely Day – Yes, this was on the Zooglobble list too, but it fits here too, because (a) it’s originally by Bill Withers, one of the finest songwriters and singers in history; (b) Elizabeth and Daniel have a long and amazing musical history outside of family music; and (c) I really wanted to also play Withers’s Lean On Me, but don’t think I can play that without crying yet (listen to this show and read this post for why).  I’ll get there soon.
  • The Ramones, Spider Man – It’s the Ramones.  No explanation really needed.  (As an aside, I filled in for my friend Elizabeth McQueen in doing an interview with John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants for her great podcast This Song.  His choice for the song to discuss was the original Batman theme.)
  • Asylum Street Spankers, Sliver – Again, this is on the Zooglobble list, but here because (a) the Spankers only did one (amazing) family record and (b) it’s a Nirvana cover, and a song that is not obviously something you’d play for kids.
  • Mates of State in-studio – I could have held onto this until later and gotten more songs in, but this seemed totally perfect to me.  I mean, sure, part of it is that I just adore MoS, and one of my great joys is that they did a Guided By Voices cover on the Science Fair CD (the end, with their kids singing? gets me every time).  But again, it signals something about our show that I don’t think any other show for families does (or if they do, I don’t know about it).  Those were two songs by a really well-respected internationally touring band that you cannot hear anywhere else in the world!
  • Prince, Starfish and Coffee – again, like the Ramones, probably doesn’t need much explanation, though I will also note that this is a bit of a shout-out to the many Minnesotans resident here in Austin.
  • Carrie Rodriguez in-studio – Carrie’s Sacred Heart Project is fascinating and gave us an opportunity to share some Mexican history — musical and otherwise — from someone whose music I think is accessible to kids without being aimed at them.  I’m also trying to be more intentional about having Spanish language songs in particular.  And again, her second song (“Lake Harriet”) was about one of Minneapolis’s lovely lakes.
  • WillieUnveiledWillie Nelson, Won’t You Ride in My Little Red Wagon? – It was frustrating not to get get Willie into the first week’s show, so he definitely was getting in the second.  He’s so fundamental to Austin music (there’s a statue of him!) that it was a necessary wave to the history of the town.  Plus, uh, he’s Willie Nelson.
  • The Pixies, Tony’s Theme – Same category as the Ramones, really.  I figure a lot of current parents grew up on the Pixies (and Nirvana, etc.), and the rest at least heard them on (sigh) “Alternative Classics” or whatnot.  This song (and Prince, too, I suppose) makes a particularly good example of us finding kid-friendly songs from bands that most do not do that, and not just songs that get contributed to kids’ compilations (though nothing’s wrong with that).
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – Ever since I heard this done on 89.3 the Current, I’ve felt like it’s one of the very best versions of a song with roughly 34 millions versions of it out there.  Sharon Jones, of course, also appears on the Baby Loves Jazz releases, and does a fine job there, but the Dap-Kings…well, they’re ridiculous.

I still feel like we’re in introduction mode and will be for quite a while.  This week, the nerd whistle songs will include Loretta Lynn, Dean Jones with the Felice Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Fugazi, Frank Turner, and Cornershop.  Should be fun!

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