What was that line by Death in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life? Something like, “You Englishmen…you’ve got no balls.” That’s how I feel, not so much about Englishmen at the moment, but about WXRT 93.1-FM, “Chicago’s Finest Classic Rock.” For those not from the Chicago area, this station, every April Fools’ Day, pulls a mostly unfunny prank on its aging listener base.

This year the station announced it would be playing its entire music catalogue from A to Z, a format that would take it through sometime around Memorial Day. Well they started to do it, but pulled the musical rug on its listeners about half-way through the day. I think they realized if they actually did go A to Z it meant only being able to play David Bowie’s “China Girl” once in a few months. It’s unfortunate ‘XRT didn’t have the sack to pull it off. During the brief time they teased us, I heard some good songs that rarely if ever get airplay on terrestial radio.

I read something from one media critic who said had they followed through with the A to Z it would have amounted to a (risky) format change. I don’t see how since these are songs that they’ve played at one time or another, if only once or twice.

I’m not going to get into ‘XRT’s lazy and tired (like some of its DJs?) format. I’ve done that before. And it depresses me. But why should it? My neighbor’s kid, Little Scotty, stopped by the other day while I was sitting on my flat’s porch pondering ‘XRT and unimaginative Chicago radio.

“But Liffey, why do you give a shit?”

Little Scotty is right. When I’m at home working and writing I always have 98.1-FM KABC “Radio Free Santa Fe” tuned in on my computers. They’ve got the playlist ‘XRT should have. I also have my Pandora settings, which include a Hooverphonic station. Unfortunately it doesn’t play a lot of Hooverphonic (damn licensing), but I’ve added and have discovered other great music on it.

Most of the people I know or talked with – those who enjoy quality, original music; those who attend local music festivals like Pitchfork – they don’t listen to terrestrial radio. But maybe they would if there was a station worth listening too.

In the latest Chicago radio ratings, WXRT wasn’t even in the top 17 in overall listeners. Several classic rock stations finished above them, and the fear is that ‘XRT will play more classic rock than it already does. I think they need to go the route of KABC, which doesn’t beat a listener over the ass with tired classic rock songs.

WXRT has its moments. This morning, for instance, they had Steve Earle in studio. Interestingly, however, is they don’t play a lot Earle songs (And I would have asked Earle about his role on Treme and the song he wrote for the show, “This City”).

To close out, our new favorite song is Harper Simon’s “Bonnie Brae.” Oh – and happy Record Store Day.

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