All we need is radio
- By Greg Rose -
- Apr 13, 2012
Is the idea that all we need is radio gaga? With most people adapting to a world where their music and news is on demand and in their hand, could you survive with nothing to entertain you but a radio?
Radios have a lot going for them. Like vinyl, they have a retro authenticity you can't achieve with anything with a lower case i in front of it. Opposingly, they are a gateway to the new, from current affairs to musical discoveries. For such a traditional activity, a few hours radio can jolt you from your usual habits and challenge you to experience something out of the ordinary.
Sometimes we don't want choice. Options surround us, which is empowering but also overwhelming. Putting on the radio is escapism, a happy passing of responsibility to men and women wearing big headphones in studios, who decide what to relay into your ears. You might like it, you might not, but at least it will be different.
Turning the dial when waking up can be a real pleasure too. Rather than loading a computer (and inevitably checking email and social media before even getting out of bed), flicking the switch to a radio feels gentler, more welcoming. It can be confusing though - I had no idea what was going on when the Today Show was taken over by barking dogs as I awoke, until realising the dial had skipped to some nonsense on 5Live by mistake.
Nevertheless, whatever you want to listen to, radios fill rooms. My girlfriend's mother has several running at once, with Radio 4 bathing the house in a glow of information and life you can take or leave, engage with or allow to wash over you. While far away from home they can be a corner of familiarity and a constant comforting tone.
One of the strongest suits of the radio is its distinct connection to childhood. For most young people it is easy to forget the days before the web was unavoidable and tv had four channels. Taping the charts and taking in the scores in frosty cars with crackly reception has been coated through time with romance that wi-fi and downloading cannot match.
Taking a radio down to the beach in Cornwall this past weekend had a similar nostalgic effect. Draped over some rocks with the tide coming in, there was a giddy joy in getting Final Score over the airwaves, just like on childhood trips to the seaside.
Similarly, since embracing radio I prefer to hear Test Match Special's incongruous combination of cricketing description, cake comparisons and bird watching than actually watch the sport itself. New band discoveries are just as likely to come from 6 Music as friend recommendations or blog browsing. Stories make more sense after a radio debate than passively skimming an article online.
As for my idea of solely listening to the radio? It just hasn't proved possible, from offices to houses, socialising to running, there is no escaping the everpresent itch for people to hear exactly what they fancy exactly when they feel like it. But there's no reason radios cannot continue to thrive alongside Apple and their rivals. As long a people are asking 'radio, what's new', the little box with the dial with have an answer or two.
Images by mafyoo