During the sixties in the United Kingdom, the record companies controlled the music that any disc jockey could play over the airwaves. Combine that with the monopoly of the BBC, and there was a need for some radio freedom. Irishman Ronan O’Rahilly gave listeners the answer, Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station that broadcasts from various ships in the Atlantic Ocean beyond any jurisdiction that operated from 1964 until 1990. Since then, it has been on satellite radio and since 2000 on the Internet. We listened to Radio Caroline the other night in Unison, streaming it from their website. Nowadays, its focus is “Album Oriented Rock”, which means classic rock and eighties music, generally, but sometimes really good contemporary tunes are played. I’m listening to it more and more and especially like the UK feed. It’s free and well worth the listen. More at radiocaroline.co.uk
Weird Band Names
The repertoire of rock music from the last half of the 20th century provides today’s musicians, usually busy writing their music, with a rich palate of material that they can interpret in their 21rst century way. I love listening to original music straight from the composer, but I still get a chill down my spine when a group of post-boomer musicians tears up a good cover like I Am the Walrus; give a soulful Dear Prudence; or make the concert one big sing along when they play Wish You Were Here or Breathe from Pink Floyd. Ever hear of the Brain Damaged Eggmen? I’ve got a show of theirs from a few years back playing pretty loud right now, and does it sound good. Last heard live in 2012, the Eggmen, brain-damaged as they might be, is a rarely heard combination of musicians from the Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee. The best place to find them is to do a YouTube search for some phone video, or there is one show hidden in archive.org at http://tinyurl.com/psvsnk9 . I have a few more shows, but they require some excellent web detective work to find more—worth the search.
Hype Sites
I’m always looking for that new music site, whether it’s a traditional website or social media feed. Here are a couple of sites that I check in with regularly. The music blog The Bluegrass Situation (www.thebluegrasssituation.com/) has mostly up to date news, videos, reviews, and show calendars that cover the wide world of Bluegrass. Hype Machine (hypem.com) is the polar opposite of Bluegrass Situation, serving up a Twitter-like feed of a wide variety of indy, rock, dance, techno, world… whatever is getting the hype at the time. There can be real treasures and some stinkers on the feed at any moment, but only you can be the judge.
I’m still formulating my favorite albums and performances for 2020, and one research site I find helpful is www.albumoftheyear.org. This fun site has lists from many of the best music blogs and an index by genre so that you can find the best and worst of 2013 lists from dubstep to alt-country, jazz to indie rock. Well worth a visit, especially with a Spotify window open, you can explore, discover, and listen to artists and cuts you never heard before, and that is always a good thing.
Xmas Fire Pits
Fire pits are popping up everywhere in our backyards. Not sure why it didn’t happen sooner– what can be better than sitting around the fire on a brisk starry night listening to a friend strum a guitar or playing your favorite tunes off the web. While you could use a cheap Bluetooth speaker off your iPhone, you need more fidelity. Sonos has been a high-quality networked music solution for years now, and they have a great portable speaker to add to your fire ring environment. The Sonos Move, at $399, is not cheap, but it brings you amazing sound that you can pull off your phone, using Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or your favorite boutique streaming service. You can connect with Bluetooth, through your WIFI network, or with Apple Airplay 2. A lithium battery supplies the power if you are too far from an outlet. See more info at sonos.com. If you are considering a firepit and don’t want to hire a mason, check out the Solo Stove firepits. The Bonfire and Yukon are amazing stainless steel firepits that minimize smoke with their amazing airflow design. They go on sale all of the time. See more at solostove.com. Both of these make great gifts for the holidaze.

Steve Chase is in Unison listening to Radio Caroline.