Radio Radio...
by Martin Lewis
Written May 21, 2005

“UNDERGROUND GARAGE” - BACKGROUND & PHILOSOPHY

During the 1990’s Little Steven became increasingly horrified by the lack of rock ‘n’ roll on radio. In 2002 he started his own weekly 2-hour rock ‘n’ roll show “Underground Garage.” He decided to break all the rules of radio and NOT segregate music by decades. He plays music from all five decades of rock. Jumbled up together. Rock ‘n’ roll as a continuum. From Bo Diddley to The Strokes. And everything in between. He started with only 30 US stations and with the radio industry expressing certainty that the show would die in 6 months. After 3 years the show is on 200 stations in 145 markets – being heard by over ONE MILLION listeners a week. He continues to write, produce and host the show. And he distributes it too.

In March 2005 he got the opportunity to extend his 2-hour weekly format into a 24-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week format. He was invited to create and produce a full-time version of the “Underground Garage” as a radio channel for Sirius Satellite Radio.

Sirius is one of the two satellite radio services in the US. The other is XM. Each offering roughly 120 channels of digital radio entertainment for a monthly subscription. Satellite radio is rapidly expanding and is perceived to have the same enormous growth potential as cable TV. In terms of subscriber base Sirius is currently behind XM – but next year is joined by Howard Stern – which is expected to help it challenge XM.

Little Steven programs all the music heard on the “Underground Garage” channel. It is an expanded version of his own radio show. He presents an extensive range of music. From the blues, rockabilly and R&B roots of rock ‘n’ roll through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to the present-day young indie garage bands.

The hosts on the channel range from rock svengalis and producers such as Andrew Loog Oldham and Kim Fowley to punk icons Joan Jett and Handsome Dick Manitoba (The Dictators); from contemporary garage singers Manfred Jones (The Woggles) and Ko Melina (Ko & The Knockouts) to FM pioneers such as Kid Leo and Bill Kelly. And humorist/producer/bon vivant Martin Lewis!

MY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON RADIO

I grew up on radio. The pop music crackling through the ether on Radios Luxembourg, London and Caroline. And the quintessentially British humor of the Goons, ‘Beyond Our Ken’ and ‘Round The Horne.’ As a 12-year-old I would set my alarm at 5.30am every day just so I could hear my favorite pirate radio DJ Kenny Everett - who blended my two passions by presenting great music using his genius for absurdist comedy.

Now - as I enter my dotage - my dear friend Little Steven has given me a wonderful gift. An opportunity to unleash my inner 12-year-old for four hours every weekday. I can indulge my love of rock ‘n’ roll – and present it using lessons I learned from my days working as a producer with Monty Python and Peter Cook. (And a fair bit I stole from them too!) If I can give some of today’s kids a fraction of the enjoyment that I derived as a kid from listening to radio – it won’t be worth it. A fraction just doesn’t do it for me.

In addition to playing records from Little Steven’s enormous playlist - I also have some of my own regular features. Every day I play a favorite record by my chosen artist of the week on “Martin’s Jukebox Ravers!” I discuss rock-related books in my ‘Paperback Reader’ segment - and rock-related DVDs in ‘Must-See DVD!’

I’m inspired by Kenny Everett and Peter Cook every day. I hope they’re setting their alarm clocks early up in heaven. And perhaps a few real 12-year-olds in America are too…


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