3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

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[New Feature] Influential 3 Minute Records

As the Springsteen quote in the header above suggests we as listeners learn greatly from the lyrics included in our favorite songs. Many times these lyrics reference something different from what we're accustomed to and as curious human beings we tend to seek out new ideas. Many of these searches occur during our development years - adolescence or in the period just after - and tend to influence us for many years to come. For our first installment of Influential 3 Minute Records I present the classic song...

Cover of

The Replacements - "Left Of The Dial" from Tim (Sire Records, 1985). The term "Left of the Dial" refers to the area of the FM radio dial where college radio stations typically broadcast due to FCC rules.  These stations are lower power and have a D.I.Y. or underground aesthetic. Before the world got smaller with the advent of the internet these stations carried the news of the music scene (along with local underground newspapers and 'zines) and gave traveling underground or punk artists a safe haven. Paul Westerberg, the band's main songwriter, writes a classic song about road weariness and missing your friends while out on tour. Not only is this song a classic, but Tim is arguably The Replacements best album (others may suggest Let It Be or Pleased To Meet Me and on some days they'd be right). This song influenced me to seek out that scene and that there was more to what commercial radio or MTV fed to us .

Leave your suggestions for other influential records in the comments. Thoughts on this pick? Let's hear 'em!

Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. II [Album Review]

When Johnny Cash returned to the United States from Germany and his stint in the U.S. Air Force in Summer 1954 he could not have realized the changes that would happen in his life less than a year later. Within the next year he had married, started making records and had his first child. A life changing few months indeed. Before the decade was complete Cash had signed to Columbia Records in 1958 leaving his original label, Sun Records; he was only 26 years old. His career still in its developmental stage, Cash already had several hits on the Country charts including #1 singles with "I Walk The Line", "There You Go", "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" and "Guess Things Happen That Way." However, he wasn't a legend nor the "Man in Black" yet. A new compilation reveals part of the back story of the songs Cash wrote during this early stage and subsequent recordings made around the same time those hits were on radio.

Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. 2
Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. 2

Released by Columbia on February 22, just in time for what would have been Cash's seventy-ninth birthday today, From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. II documents Cash from local country artist with a 15 minute show on Memphis radio station KWEM to country star recording for Columbia Records with his band, The Tennessee Two, plus soon to be wife June Carter and the Carter Family on backing vocals. Honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 1954, Cash started his recording career in 1955 and by 1969 he was a major recording star; a legend.

From Memphis To Hollywood:Bootleg Vol. II doesn't focus on the hits although it does include some demos of some of his greatest songs including "I Walk The Line", "Get Rhythm" and "Big River". This compilation, however, unearths demos, rarities, singles, outtakes and B-sides. These intimate recordings look closely at Cash the songwriter and musician. Much like the previous Bootleg release, Personal File, many of these tracks are solo recordings of just Cash and his guitar.

On disc one Cash is a local artist in Memphis in the 1950s, playing radio shows, recording demos as reference for studio recordings and recording studio tracks for local independent label, Sun Records. First, Cash and the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass) play a 15 minute radio show for KWEM 990 at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 1955. The recording, their first radio show for the station, is raw as the AM radio it played through over 50 years ago. Cash and the Tennessee Two play 4 songs while Cash hawks commercials for his employer, Home Equipment Company, between songs. As perspective, three days later Cash became a father as his oldest daughter, Rosanne, was born.

Less raw, yet still containing a strong analog tape hiss, the compilation presents a group of 12 demos of Cash recording his own songs with just voice and guitar next. Though unknown when and where these demo recordings were made,  the songs feature a feel of Cash making home recordings as demos for his band, publishing or for Sun Records owner/producer Sam Phillips. Cash's voice is gentle and introspective. The artist at his most vulnerable.

While the radio show and demos provide the listener a glimpse into Cash's working life as a musician the first disc offers other highlights. One highlight from the first disc is "Wide Open Road," a song featured here twice, one a radio recording from the KWEM show and the other a solo Sun Studios recording from late 1954.  Reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's "Open All Night" from his acoustic album, Nebraska, but in reverse.  The narrator of Cash's song is upset and urging his girl to get out-of-town and hit the wide open road leaving him behind for good, while Springsteen's protagonist is pining for his girl and driving all night to see her. In a second highlight Cash gives a dark reading of the classic Leadbelly song "Goodnight Irene".

By the start of disc two, Cash is in Nashville recording for Columbia Records with producers Don Law and Bob Johnston. Cash had moved his family from Memphis to Hollywood in 1958 after signing the deal with Columbia Records. The sound of Cash's 1960s material is more polished, but still contains the stark qualities of his Sun Sessions. However, the music is recorded with better equipment in buildings built specifically as recording studios. With these songs, broad in scope and rich in imagery, Cash carries a heavier weight of the people on his shoulders. The lyrics offer less about Cash's personal experiences and more about overarching themes of the working man and issues for which he deeply cared.

Highlights from the second disc include the prisoner's last moments "Five Minutes To Live", the hard luck lament "The Losing Kind" and the "Locomotive Man". Cash gives his country take on Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings" and provides his negative thoughts on the general public's acceptance of the 1960s folk revival with "The Folk Singer".

Though now an American music legend with a large catalog of recorded work, Johnny Cash's stature continues to grow even after his death in 2003. In this compilation we meet Cash more as a man instead of legendary recording artist. A great way to reacquaint yourself with an artist you think you already know. Long live Johnny Cash!

Low Power FM Gets To Flip The Switch

The name Low Power FM is appropriate considering the other vote Congress took yesterday. With the news outlets focusing on the passing vote to repeal Don't Ask Dont Tell, it's no wonder the Local Community Radio Act, the legislation surrounding Low Power FM, flew so far under the radar. The Huffington Post reported that the Local Community Radio Act had passed both houses of Congress in less than 24 hours. Organizers in favor of the legislation passion had fought for approval against the lobbying efforts of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

The Local Community Radio Act passed the House of Representatives and Senate, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ). The bill now awaits President Obama's signature.

Controlled by large radio conglomerate, such as Clear Channel and Emmis Communications, the St. Louis radio airwaves offer few options to those wanting different formats. Local community radio station, KDHX 88.1 FM is a melting pot of diversity in an otherwise bland malaise of bad radio. St. Louis has long been stuck the 1970's for years. New music comes in the form of pop, hip hop, and country hits. St. Louis stalwart KSHE-95 plays some new Rock & Roll, but not much becomes part of the long running playlist instead filling in with harder edged Classic Rock. KPNT 105.7 plays Rock & Roll that they call "everything Alternative", but the station lacks a strong history with the genre as it began in 1993 and fails to play much 1980's underground Rock & Roll. KYKY 98.1 plays new Pop music as does KSLZ 107.7, Other stations like KIHT 96.3, KLOU 103.3, WARH 106.5, KEZK 102.5, each play a mix of older and newer Pop/Rock music mostly focused on the 1970's and 1980's AOR Rock. In the past decade, St. Louis even lost two FM radio stations to the normal AM dominated All Talk format in KFTK 97.1 (News/Politics) and WXOS 101.1 (Sports).

College stations like WSIE 88.7, KWMU 90.7, KWUR 90.3, and WLCA 89.9 do a good job of filling in the gaps in programming, but limited schedules and budgets do not allow representation for everyone. WSIE (Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville) provides a full-time schedule of Jazz music and reports news, weather, and SIUE sporting events. KWMU provides the local feed from NPR along with programs from American Public Radio, and Public Radio International. After the loss of long time classical music fixture KFUO 99.1 FM to a Christian contemporary music station, KWMU stepped up and started a digital radio channel devoted to Classical music. KWUR (Washington University) and WLCA (Lews And Clark Community College) both broadcast low power student run radio stations playing Punk and Indie Rock.

In a press release, the Future of Music Coalition said, "The addition of more Low Power FM (LPFM) stations will increase local civic engagement, diversify the airwaves, support local music and culture, assist during emergencies, expand religious expression, and provide a platform for the voices of underrepresented communities to be heard."

It's obviously too early to determine how much this new act will benefit the St. Louis area. There is a built-in protection for "full-power FM stations that are licensed in significantly populated States with more than 3,000,000 housing units and a population density greater than 1,000 per square mile," therefore the ability to acquire low-power stations in those areas may prove to be more difficult.

Forget the benefits to established commerical radio stations, starting a low power music station could still prove to be problematic. The biggest hurdle to cross is finding or creating a community organization to form the group needed to meet FCC guidelines and keep the station non-commerical. Buying equipment in anticipation of starting a station with no guarantee is risky and electricity costs money that some groups cannot raise. Religious organizations have the community organization to stay within the FCC guidelines and funding to keep the station running. However, Progressives will rejoice because this gives the voice of the people a chance to speak over the same airwaves as Republican blowhards Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh spew their Conservative rhetoric.

The Federal Communication Commission created the Low Power FM (LPFM) radio service in January 2000. These stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only (no commercial operation) and operate with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 100 watts (0.1 kilowatts) or less, with maximum facilities of 100 watts ERP at 30 meters (100 feet) antenna height above average terrain (HAAT). The approximate service range of a 100 watt LPFM station is 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles radius). LPFM stations are not protected from interference that may be received from other classes of FM stations. A construction permit is required before a LPFM station can be constructed or operated.

Find more information at the Prometheus Radio Project and expandlpfm.org