March 20, 2013
I have read pretty much the entire book of Revelations, a good chunk of the writings of Nostradamus, and bits and pieces of the end-of-times literature from a half-dozen other cranks and cultures, so it’s fair to say I’m versed in the signs of bad things to come. But nowhere do I recall reading about what is almost certainly the surest sign of the devil’s dealings in this world.
Styx is back on the radio.
Yes, I mean that Styx, the keyboard-crazed band from the late '70s and '80s that made rock ‘n’ roll safe and sterile for a generation of kids just weaning themselves off the Partridge Family. And no, I do not mean “new” Styx — if such an oxymoronic ideal can even be contemplated — I mean the original offenders, as in "Cornerstone," a schmaltz-filled tribute to syrup angst that we last heard in 1980 blasting from the three-inch speaker of Panasonic cassette recorder/players across the Midwest and tasteless points beyond.
Not all Styx is back on the radio; at least I pray that is the case. It appears to be just “Babe,” as in “Babe I’m leaving, I must be on my way…” If you are over the age of 45, you can’t help but know the rest. And I apologize for having planted it in your head just now.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I am in no way certain “Babe” is the name of the song. This may be one of those cases in which the actual title is something that has nothing to do with the main lyric, like the Who song “Baba O’Riley," which everyone thinks is actually called “Teenage Wasteland,” at least until they are set straight by their trivia-loving roommate in the college freshman dorms.
Only “Baba O’Riley” doesn’t suck. I was going to look the song title up, but I was afraid I might stumble across more Styx songs and end up with them lodged in my brain all day. I don’t get paid enough to live the next 24 hours with “Mr. Roboto” in my head.
I know that “Babe” (or whatever it’s called) is back on the radio because I’ve heard it twice in the past three days. That may not feel like concrete evidence to you, but I have enough knowledge of the evils of playlist radio to know it is.
As it happens, I was listening to one of those stations specifically programmed to attract women between the ages of 25 and 54. Programmers call that a "soft adult contemporary" format. This particular station plays what most of us would consider a tight SAC rotation, meaning a steady repetition of roughly 13 different songs by Adele and other soft adult contemporary artist played in continuous repetition. I suspect the station’s program director will tell you there are more than 13 songs in their rotations. Just know: Program directors are evil, and evil people lie.
The fact I heard “Babe” played twice in three days means some program director somewhere did some research and discovered the sort of women who are willing to spend their liquid income on fast food and laundry soap really like “Babe” and are less likely to change the channel when it comes on than if, say, “Baba O’Riley” came on that same channel.
Once that fact is discerned, the song is added to playlists around the country. Thanks to the robust concentration of radio ownership, there are now just about three companies in America owning all the radio stations, meaning the same playlist is shared in pretty much every market in the country, meaning there is a very good chance that, no matter where you go, you will be hearing “Babe” no less than 47 times each day, at least until that same radio programmer discovers the ladies like Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” better than “Babe.”
I suspect a program director will tell you I made up most of that last paragraph. But, as we’ve already established, program directors are evil.
After all, they put Styx back on the radio.