Studio 54 on Sirius XM

I haven’t really been a fan of Sirius XM.  I don’t travel often, and when I do I tend not to be in the car for a long enough time for me to get the radio and mount it in the Jeep.

I got Sirius about a year before Howard Stern was on the air there, and while Howard was a reason I got the service, I am not a steady listener. 

Actually why I got Sirius was that there was a promo at the time and I found that they had a good Disco channel, a good Trance Channel and a good Dance Channel that had very little chatter.  They also have a 40s music channel that is excellent and have the BBC World Service.

They don’t have BBC Radio 4 which would be an excellent addition since it is “Intelligent Talk” and one of the few places on radio that I know of that does actual game shows and has since the days of it’s infancy.  Radio 4 is how I learned how to speak English when the programming was actually on the World Service.

Through time, they gained Howard Stern and it was fascinating to see what this amazing entertainer and his side kicks would do if they were unleashed.  Having been able to speak your mind, freely, and not speak like a child which is required by the FCC was a freedom few broadcasters have.  They went through their period that there were many “rude words” on the station until they realized that it wasn’t fun anymore and went back to being one of the more intelligent and fascinating discussions on radio.

Yes, even though I don’t listen frequently, I still am a fan of their work.

On the other hand, the music channels began to resemble the pablum that you find on “terrestrial radio”.  It is amazingly difficult to keep a channel going with fresh music if you are broadcasting an older format of music that isn’t particularly popular any more.  If they aren’t making any new Glenn Miller music, you just won’t have it to play.  Their 40s channel does seem to manage that well though finding things that I have never heard before.

The problem was the Dance Channels.  Since I can’t listen to Country and Rock bores me, I can’t vouch for those formats.  The paid for service was getting way too “standard radio”.  Whoever was programming the channels first deleted the dance hits channel and morphed it into the BPM channel when Sirius and XM merged.  It became basically what was a “Hot Hits” format if you remember that.  Play a song, play a station ID and yell what that was and what’s next while talking over the song you just started to play.  Some of the worst offenders of that are the DJs Tim Bauman and “Geronimo”. 

The idea of a dance station is to bring the music to you and present it like a live event.  When is the last time you went to a dance club and heard the DJ babbling about something over top of the music?  There weren’t any announcements the last time I was in one, nor for the years before.  It’s rare that you hear that.  Originally there were two hits stations on Sirius and one was with announcements.  The one I listened to was without announcements and was deleted.

It was about that time when I tired of the recycled 20 songs they played on the old Strobe channel.  They brought in 80s dance music, usually called Big 80s, and it just got unlistenable.  The Sirius radio gathered dust and I’ve ranted about that before.

Last month they decided that it was time to bring back a Disco channel.  It’s almost there.  It still is rotating some of the same songs but not quite “over and over”.  I found myself listening to the channel for more than 5 hours a day and only changed it when they put on some specific artists.

To this day I still can’t listen to “Lady T”.  Blah.  Can’t do it.  Tried and didn’t like her in the 70s or the 80s.  But that’s just me, we all have our favorite artists in any given music format.

However, they did something that was “authentic”.  The old disco channels on radio were known for basically putting on two tracks an hour in the evening if they had a long format song.  The “Disco Mix” of a song could be 17 minutes long where the “Radio Edit” would be one side of a 45 and would last about 3:30.  If they play a short version of a song it’s a surprise. 

If they could kill the announcements about how some person brought a leopard into Studio 54 and the rest of the trivia, it would help.  They tend to do fewer announcements than they do on other channels which is a blessing, but still more than would be “authentic”.  When played, they’re not playing these announcements over top of the music which much better than on many of their other channels.

I even heard some of the tracks that aren’t generally heard in a Disco station.  Some of the more obscure artists that you’d hear mixed in as a chance to test the waters are still heard.  After all, there’s a reason why certain tracks “didn’t make it”, but it’s nice to hear them even still.  It helps to keep the channel from going stale.

So I have a reason now to listen again.  It also gave me a reason to explore what else Sirius has to offer.  I’m again listening to 40s, as well as the classical music I grew up with.  The Studio 54 has been left on for hours, but I’ll switch into Jimmy Buffet once in a while and visit Margaritaville. 

They also put on a good R and B station called the Groove.   In Philadelphia in the late 70s, we were lucky.  We had one of the best Disco stations (and scenes) in the nation on WCAU.  We also had a wonderful, locally owned R and B station on WDAS.  If you didn’t hear something good to listen to on one, you would switch to the other, and it seemed like the stations knew it and used that knowledge to build something better.  When Clear Channel got massive and finally bought up all the radio stations in Philadelphia, WDAS was one of the last to go.  It felt like something died.  RnB wasn’t quite as edgy any more and it felt much more corporate and “cleansed”. 

Sirius managed to capture a little of that edge in The Groove.  Well worth the listen if you want to hear some dance and a little RnB mixed in.   I know I do.

So it’s better.   I’ve got Sirius on now playing in the headphones on the iPhone player.  At least I can listen without having the parrot going crazy that way.

It’s not perfect but they’re on their way.  They managed to make the Trance Channel something less special where they’re mixing more formats in instead of sticking with the format.  Electric Area plays around 3 distinct formats of music in a seemingly random fashion, meshing together badly.  At least there is www.di.fm/trance when I need a good trance fix.

Now if only they could get rid of those annoying announcements and DJs on the other channels…

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