The Spirit of Radio feat. The Merrybeats

  → A ger­man ver­si­on of this arti­cle is avail­ab­le.

The­re is some­thing that I have been witnes­sing for some time now that is not­hing short of a far­ce. The­re is this bril­li­ant Beat band (and I am not just say­ing that becau­se their sin­ger is a good fri­end of mine) that have made a name for them­sel­ves through various live con­certs many of which were held in lar­ge venues. Con­tac­ts have been estab­lished, assuran­ces have been acqui­red, and final­ly a num­ber of tracks were recor­ded in order for the band to be able to empha­si­ze their qua­li­ty through their own arran­ge­ments and to rep­re­sent them­sel­ves. What came of that may be con­si­de­red as evi­dence for the inca­pa­ci­ty of the Ger­man music and cul­tu­re indus­try. Howe­ver, what came of that pro­ved that the­re is ano­t­her way of doing it.

»The Beat goes on today!«

This is the tit­le of the mis­si­on to which The Mer­ry­beats have dedi­ca­ted them­sel­ves. Howe­ver, this is not about the pho­ny con­ser­va­ti­on of a music gen­re or the arti­fi­ci­al respi­ra­ti­on of a coma­to­se long term pati­ent who­se high points date back to 40 years ago, but about the arri­val, rein­ter­pre­ta­ti­on and con­ti­nua­ti­on of that gen­re in the 21st cen­tu­ry. And this is what the sound of The Mer­ry­beats is like: sur­pri­sin­gly fresh, but also loy­al to the roots of the Beat! Fur­ther­mo­re, it is refres­hing to noti­ce how well the end-pro­duct fits in today’s music sce­ne: in a time who­se (pop) music is most­ly ble­mis­hed by unin­spi­red main­stream mate­ri­al and catchy, but easi­ly for­got­ten arran­ge­ments that are ratt­led off in the same sche­me over and over again, a band has to stand out by actual­ly dedi­ca­ting them­sel­ves to the music its­elf and not fol­lo­wing the trends crea­ted for and by the gene­ral lis­tener.1 This means taking the time to har­mo­ni­se the instru­men­ta­ti­on, tes­ting various arran­ge­ments of a song and not shy­ing away from pul­ling the lis­teners out of their easy lis­ten­ing posi­ti­on by con­fron­ting them with sounds over which their hea­ring, being dul­led by the main­stream, sim­ply has to trip, ther­e­by waking them up and ani­ma­ting them to reflect.


The Mer­ry­beats — used with fri­end­ly per­mis­si­on of the band

In the land of empty promises

It was appa­rent befo­re­hand that it would not be easy to bring a rein­ter­pre­ta­ti­on of Beat music to mar­ket. Alt­hough the­re was an active Ger­man Beat sce­ne with Ger­man clubs and bands – one of the most popu­lar being The Lords – after the Beat had made the trip from Gre­at Bri­tain to Ger­ma­ny in the ear­ly and mid-Six­ties, the fol­lo­wing of this gen­re is most­ly con­fi­ned to the older genera­ti­ons today, whe­re­as, as usu­al, the excep­ti­on pro­ves the rule. Most other peop­le would only remem­ber The Beat­les who, in fact, only remai­ned true to the ori­gi­nal Beat sound during the ear­ly Six­ties. Howe­ver, why be intimi­da­ted by dif­fi­cul­ties if one’s heart is tru­ly dedi­ca­ted to some­thing?

It all star­ted off with a coup­le of live con­certs, some of them direc­ted by Ger­man broad­cas­ting sta­ti­on SR3 who­se orga­nisers encou­ra­ged the band to do fur­ther steps. The­re­fo­re, the band invested a lot of time and effort, along with sacri­fices and devo­ti­on, in order to ful­ly rear­ran­ge a coup­le of songs and final­ly record them in the stu­dio. In the end the band had six tracks — two dif­fe­rent arran­ge­ments for each of the three songs that were recor­ded. The results were more than respec­ta­ble in every way and clear­ly worth all the effort.

Thus, the band had all the rea­son to hope for fur­ther sup­port on the part of the broad­cas­ting com­pa­nies. Ins­tead of indul­ging in a series of rants against the com­pa­nies in ques­ti­on, I choo­se to sim­ply sta­te at this point that appar­ent­ly many of the molochs of media who swal­low our fees do not even con­si­der it necessa­ry to post let­ters of refu­sal – and be it only stan­dar­di­sed, soul­less prin­ted forms (which would at least be in line with the broad­cast pro­gram­me).

Going International

This could have been the end of the sto­ry: The Mer­ry­beats would con­ti­nue to play occa­sio­nal live con­certs, dis­tri­bu­te their CDs and be refu­sed until the who­le issue would final­ly fizz­le out for lack of fur­ther suc­cess. Howe­ver, some­ti­mes it pays off to inten­si­fy one’s approa­ches and also to not shy away from a cer­tain level of bold­ness. Fur­ther­mo­re, if the­se efforts are then accom­pa­nied by a litt­le luck, one might just meet such won­der­ful and dedi­ca­ted peop­le as in this case. Howe­ver, first things first…

In the land of unlimited opportunities…

It all begins with the trans­mit­tal of the stu­dio record­ings. In con­trast to the Ger­man addres­sees who respon­ded eit­her with a let­ter of refu­sal or not at all, in the USA, the music of the band did not fall on deaf ears, but on such that appre­cia­ted the music and also the idea behind it. Moreo­ver, if the­se ears belong to none other than the legen­da­ry DJ Rod­ney Bin­gen­hei­mer at the world famous sta­ti­on KROQ in L.A., one is remin­ded of other cele­bri­ties of the music sce­ne who beca­me famous through the pre­sen­ta­ti­on of their music on Bingenheimer’s show Rod­ney on the ROQ.2

And so it came to pass that on 11th of Febru­a­ry 2013, not only the US pre­mie­re, but the world pre­mie­re of This Dia­mond Ring sound­ed through the Ame­ri­can air­wa­ves. This broad­cast was fol­lo­wed by many others, also of other songs from the band. Moreo­ver, the fact that the peop­le at KROQ rea­li­sed the poten­ti­al of the five musi­ci­ans promp­ted them to recom­mend their music to other radio per­so­na­li­ties, ther­e­by allo­wing the band to estab­lish con­tact with fur­ther poten­ti­al sup­por­ters.

To the other end of the world

Live on Stage

Live on Sta­ge — © Flo­ri­an­Ko

That, or more pre­cise­ly, Tokyo, was The Mer­ry­beats‹ desti­na­ti­on after they had met Mike Rogers who, tog­e­ther with two col­leagues, hosts the morning show What­The­Fri­day on 76.1 InterFM Tokyo – a radio sta­ti­on which, by the way, pro­mo­tes its­elf as being »Tokyo’s No. 1 Music Sta­ti­on«, a claim which even­tual­ly tur­ned out to be more than jus­ti­fia­ble. The music mix of the indi­vi­du­al shows is sim­ply bey­ond words, and the occa­sio­nal cra­zi­ness of the pro­gram­me only con­tri­bu­tes to the exci­te­ment and charm of the over­all con­cept.

On 7th of June 2013 Wis­hin‹ and Hopin‹ was play­ed on What­The­Fri­day, which only mar­ked the star­ting point for a who­le series of shows that fea­tured Mer­ry­beats songs. If I remem­ber cor­rec­t­ly, the cur­rent record is three Mer­ry­beats songs in one show. By now, the boys also have their own Jing­le over the­re and Mike Rogers final­ly –- and cer­tain­ly not wrong­ful­ly -– deci­ded to call The Mer­ry­beats »Germany’s finest Beat band«.

»Beat is coming Home«

From Japan the music of The Mer­ry­beats now moved to the United King­dom, the ori­gi­nal home coun­try of the Beat. Andy »Dukey« Duke had noti­ced the musi­ci­ans and during one of his Dukey Radio Shows on Croy­don RadioCroy­don Radio (Lon­don) he descri­bed The Mer­ry­beats as being »more Bri­tish than anything com­ing out of this part of the world at the moment«. This Dia­mond Ring and Wis­hin‹ and Hopin‹ pre­mie­red on 27th of June 2013, and sin­ce then the­re was hard­ly a week during which The Mer­ry­beats did not get inter­na­tio­nal air­play. If you want to check for yours­elf, feel free to look through the play­lists and lis­ten to the pod­casts of the shows in ques­ti­on.

The Spirit of Radio

If one pays atten­ti­on to for­eign radio sta­ti­ons such as the ones named here, it beco­mes quick­ly appa­rent what the Ger­man radio sce­ne is lacking. Due to the syn­chro­ni­sa­ti­on by the dic­ta­tes from the music indus­try3 and the media cor­po­ra­ti­ons4 the­re is litt­le room for one’s own musi­cal pro­filing. Some (pri­va­te) sta­ti­ons are even using ent­i­re­ly rea­dy-made »rota­ti­ons«, fed by sta­tis­tics and, in most cases, inter­rup­ted only by the pre­sen­ta­ti­on of litt­le game shows that threa­ten to redu­ce the job of a radio host to absur­di­ty.

If you have not alrea­dy made a name for yours­elf in the busi­ness that is eit­her a self-sel­ler or put on the mar­ket by a major record label stan­ding behind you, if you have not been voted to the top of irrele­van­ce in the cour­se of a cas­ting show as being the one-eyed among the blind, or if you have not, by sheer coin­ci­dence, been was­hed out of the rising tide of the Inter­net into the hearts of the main­stream, then you will hard­ly be able to get a foot in the door of any Ger­man broad­cas­ting com­pa­ny, be it pri­va­te or regu­la­ted by public law. Ger­man niche broad­cas­ters and Inter­net radio sta­ti­ons are hard­ly to be con­si­de­red as an alter­na­ti­ve.

What this coun­try is lacking are per­sons who take their job as a radio disc jockey serious­ly, who rely on their own tas­te when they are care­ful­ly com­pi­ling their play­lists wit­hout trus­ting in charts or sta­tis­tics, who take the time to actual­ly lis­ten to the mate­ri­al that they recei­ve, who actively search for some­thing new, who get invol­ved with the actu­al music and stick up for it.

Is the­re real­ly nobo­dy left in this coun­try who still belie­ves in the »Spi­rit of Radio«? Do even the radio hosts con­si­der the medi­um as a lan­guis­hing pati­ent that has no hope of healing? Is this why they con­stant­ly appe­ar to actual­ly con­tri­bu­te to the deple­ti­on of their own com­pe­tence? Con­si­de­ring all the impres­si­ons that I have gathe­red by lis­ten­ing to for­eign radio sta­ti­ons during the last coup­le of mon­ths, I was most sho­cked by rea­li­sing just how much good music, how many hid­den jewels are mis­sed by someo­ne who is con­stant­ly only pre­sen­ted with main­stream music that has been dis­hed up a mil­li­on times. I for mys­elf would like to thank Rod­ney Bin­gen­hei­mer, Andy »Dukey« Duke and Mike Rogers for giving me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to immer­se mys­elf in a won­der­ful world of clas­sic and new musi­cal trea­su­res. How nice it would be if this could also be done by lis­ten­ing to our own local chan­nels in the future…

(Trans­la­ti­on by Eric Ehr­hardt — Thank you very much!)

  1. Ok, yes, I admit that I wron­ged a lot of musi­ci­ans the­re and I have to apo­lo­gi­se for that. Howe­ver, con­si­de­ring the bulk of today’s music sce­ne I could not resist that impres­si­on. 

  2. For examp­le: Nir­va­na, Joan Jett, The Ramo­nes, Guns ›n‹ Roses, Bad Reli­gi­on and nume­rous others. 

  3. This may seem like a hor­ri­ble word for­ma­ti­on at first glance. Howe­ver, it is qui­te fit to descri­be a rea­li­ty in which crea­ti­vi­ty is indus­tria­li­sed in order to con­tri­bu­te to the mar­ke­ting of a soul­less main­stream pro­duct ins­tead of sup­por­ting indi­vi­du­al expres­si­ons of artis­tic crea­ti­on. 

  4. After all, once you’ve begun con­vin­cing the media to con­tri­bu­te to your fosterling’s rise to the »cas­ting thro­ne«, there’s no stop­ping any­mo­re. The fact that such pro­gram­mes, regard­less of the usual­ly short-lived suc­cess of the »win­ners«, are still able to attract audi­en­ces AND can­di­da­tes does not exac­t­ly attest to the intel­lect of the tar­get audi­ence, but rather to the immense desi­re for reco­gni­ti­on that so many egos are try­ing to assuage. 

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