As a young boy, I remember NPR being broadcast from my mother’s portable radio daily. It was this droning voice talking about things I didn’t understand.
It felt like an extension of the television programs my parents would watch every night, like “Washington Week In Review,” “The McNeil/Leher Report” and “Frontline.” The people on these shows seemed so plain and boring. Everyone looked like my father and mother and and their academic friends. These were the people I saw in real life. Why would I want to watch them on TV?
Hard rock and heavy metal music was the opposite of everything that public broadcasting represented to me. When it came into my life, it provided an escape from everything that being a young child of much older, ultra serious academics entailed: was an open ticket into a world of fantasy, excitement and intensity. I was determined to make this world my life. If I could do that, I might never have to watch another public television news program or listen to NPR.
Thankfully, that all changed a few years later, when I realized that Public Broadcasting had a place for me too. It started when I discovered shows shows like Austin City Limits and Live At Lincoln Center (the ones which were never on in our house). These shows appealed to my expanding musical tastes and fed me musical inspiration. I even developed a taste for some of the news programs, finding them a refreshing alternative to the commercially driven frenzy of cable news and the major networks. It helped that I was getting older and some of the broadcasters were getting younger. It was no longer just my parents’ world.
Then a few months ago, the once unthinkable happened. My group, Alex Skolnick Trio, was featured by NPR, as part of Take 5: A Weekly Jazz Sampler
The story was entitled ‘Jazz Covers Rock: The New Standards.’ To be mentioned on NPR, along with these top jazz artists, including one of my favorite pianists and biggest inspirations, Brad Mehldau, was beyond an honor.
As turned out, the month before, we had been on the road with Judas Priest, the original artists who had recorded ‘Electric Eye,’ the song mentioned. I had given KK Downing, one of Judas Priest’s guitarists, a copy of our CD and we had kept in touch and he had recently e-mailed to tell me how much he enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to be able to write back and send him a link to the NPR story.
In addition to ‘Take 5: A Weekly Jazz Sampler,’ I love reading Carrie Brownstein’s blog: Monitor Mix. In this week’s post, I couldn’t agree with her more about how the internet is turning a lot of us into ‘musical tourists’ and tourism is “the laziest form of experienced because it is spoonfed and sold to us.” Brilliant quote. More of us need to ‘show up.’ Go to the concerts, own the albums (not just download or burn tracks) and experience it on a deeper level.
I also really liked her blog on 80’s music. “Was it really all that bad?” She’s coming from more of an indy rock perspective, but I would argue the same defense of the 80’s from a hard rock point of view. The 80’s gave us some of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest’s finest work, along with that of Metallica (pre 90’s), Van Halen (classic line up) and of course, Ozzy with Randy Rhoads. In the more mainstream department there was Peter Gabriel, The Police, Simple Minds, Run DMC and other great stuff (yes, I’ve always liked certain pop/mainstream artists as well, surprise, surprise).
In short, these days for me, NPR is everything but boring. I now find it to be a much needed dose of , to quote the title of one of it’s most popular programs,
‘ F resh A ir.’