Apr 8, 2010

Asheville NC

Friday 26th March - Day 46

After 46 days on the road I am tired of the radio. No, not tired... fucked off. We must have listened to nearly a thousand radio stations whilst we're on the road. Admittedly we don't stay with them long. But they don't stay with us long either. You have to turn that dial real often in America as the signal disappears so quickly. In Britain, radio is the king of the road. You can listen to Radio 4 from one end of the country to the other, or at least switch to Radio Scotland when you get north of the border. Other national stations are available, including Radio 1 to 5 and Talk Sport. But when we hit a good station here chances are it's going to be gone in 20 to 30 minutes of interstate driving. Radio seems to be a very local medium. Take today as we drove up through Georgia into South and then North Carolina. Our good friend Ward texted us a frequency to tune into. WNCW has a weekly half hour Zappa show and we caught the end of it. They were even playing San Bernardino. But the signal was weak and came and went. It was broadcasting out of Greenville but it just wasn't designed for road warriors. Swings and roundabouts I guess. With all these small stations you get some crazy stuff. You can always listen on the internet but that's no good in the car.

What has surprised me most about radio in America is that Country is king. It is by far and away the most common format for a radio station to follow. In some parts of the country it's damn near the only format you'll hear. The next most universally found format would be Christian radio. They vary a lot. In more metropolitan areas they play Contemporary Christian Music which I often find fascinating. In the more rural parts there's more focus on preaching and bible studies. One was seriously preaching that what lay at the root of most of the world's ills was a belief in Evolution. That sort of stuff is fascinating to listen to and does a disservice to the vast majority of card carrying church members. If you think all Christians are reactionary nutters then you really need to get out more. Or at least outside your own circle. I was also fascinated by how often the theme of the preaching was fighting pornography. Seriously and blimey. I wonder if there is a market for Christian porn? There is Christian heavy metal after all so why not? It would be for use by married couples obviously. We could set a lot of it in the courts of the kings of Israel. Watch this space, this time next year I'm going to be rich. In the south east we came across a few Christian community stations that had "Swap Shop" type shows. Guys would ring in and offer something like a trailer that they wanted to exchange for a pick up. Bafflingly, a lot of those callers wanted to swap guns. One of them was offering a sniper rifle with a scope. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.

No matter the format of the station you do hear the same songs again and again and again. All the songs on Guitar Hero II that Brits had never heard of and wondered why they made it onto the video game... they are all on the radio all the time. Stuff like Crazy On You by Heart or Jessica by The Allman Brothers Band (it's the Top Gear theme tune), these things get played daily somewhere in America. One thing that struck us was how seldomly we heard black music. The one track by an African American that we heard repeatedly was this one:

How many place names? A few. Anyway. Today was another sick day. I did hope to go see this place called Helen in Georgia which is the subject of this song by Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers.

In case you're too lazy to click the link, Helen is a fake Bavarian town set in the Georgia mountains. 35 years ago the good folk of the declining logging town (the population today is only 420) came up with the idea of changing the appearance of the all the buildings in the town so it looked like an alpine village. Brilliant. And now it's a little tourist hot spot. But I had my own fever and so we headed to Asheville, NC which, according to the Lonely Planet, has the highest per capita freak ratio of any town in the country. It's a college town of course, it has a food co-op and street kids with dreads drumming. It's a couple of thousand feet high, on the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains, so it's cold as well as cool. Not that we saw much of it. Still ill (did you spot that one?) I went to bed early. But at least it was in a motel that Richard Buckner stayed in. It also had a sign up in the foyer which said local people wern't allowed to check in. When I asked the woman behind the desk why, she said she didn't know. Weird.

Oh and Asheville was home to the 1930 Country act The Callhahan Brothers who had a song called Asheville Blues. This is them singing Springtime in Texas. The whores.

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