The geek that I am, when I found out we were invited to join our in-laws for a few days at a beach house rental on the Connecticut coast at the end of August, I wasn’t so much looking forward to sun and sand and seagulls. I was thinking more about the DXing possibilities.
Having a huge body of water at your backdoor is typically a fine place to set up a shortwave set to snatch wandering radio waves bouncing unobstructed from beyond the horizon. While this wasn’t exactly the open ocean, it was Long Island Sound, and it all seemed rather promising. However, from moment I powered up my Degen that first evening I began to realize that this quaint little cottage was NOT going to be the dream radio shack I had hoped it might be. Oh, the reception was pretty good, that is for the stations that were strong enough to overcome the WORST RF noise I’ve think I've ever had to deal with. I'm not kidding when I tell you that it was the worst chorus of buzzing and bleating across the shortwave dial that I’ve ever heard throughout an entire house. And the deck and yard were no better.
The problem? Technology of all sorts in every room. Every light in the house was on a dimmer switch, which are notoriously RF noisy. And entertainment gadgets were everywhere, even a TV (and video equipment) in the bathroom. Not only that, but these beach houses are crammed together on the sand, and I suspect most were loaded up with electronics and gizmos. Hell, from the deck I could see that the people next door had a monstrous billboard-size TV blasting living color chase scenes up on their wall.
Fortunately, the AM band wasn’t so rudely affected by the inadvertent roar of high frequency broadcasting. So, the dial scan I offer in this post is medium wave reception from my first night there (August 28, 2006). I was near Bridgeport, with a nice view of Long Island across the way and waves crashing just a few feet from the stilts supporting the deck. Actually, sitting right on the coast of a continent provides a lot of excess noise as well, but the roar of the sea can easily be overcome with a set of headphones and doesn't affect the recording.
I was determined to overcome my RF predicament without sitting out in a parked car again, and later that weekend I walked down the beach away from all the gadgetry and recreational housing and recorded a somewhat eventful shortwave scan or two. However, after a couple hours of having a sea wind of twenty miles an hour or so blast you in the fact gets a little tiring after a while, and eventually got a little impatient sorting out faint signals. If I have time I’ll sort through those recordings and see if they are worth offering here as well.
But I had mentioned that I’d like to get back to featuring some medium
radio broadcasts in this series. For the last five months all these
posts have focused on shortwave. So here we'll dig into the
original broadcast band, the one all of can easily hear yourself (but most
of you rarely do...)– AM radio. As you may know, I tune by night, when the
signals bounce off the sky and stations from hundreds of miles away can
be heard. This is a recorded scan of the lower end of the AM dial,
slowly crawling up the numbers and stopping to see if there’s anything
interesting to be heard at each stop along the dial. And again, I’m using
my Degen 1103. It’s all being heard on a late summer evening at the
bottom edge of New England. This recording starts at about 11:18 PM,
Eastern Daylight Time.
Segment 1 - Connecticut Coast AM Radio 08-28-06 - 530 to 750 AM (Download MP3)
530 - Radio Vision Cristiana, Turks & Caicos (W.Indies)
A saccharine Spanish musical selection, most likely something rather Jesus. This distant Carribean station blasts into the northeast most any given evening.
540 - WLIE Islip, NY - The Authority Radio Show
When I first came across this show I was kind of excited (not by the content, although that’s the intention) thinking this might be some AM pirate radio broadcast. I mean, the presentation is shamelessly amateur, the content is salacious and dopey... What else could it be?
Brokered programming, DIY style. While pirate radio is legally risky, just about anybody can do a radio show, if you’re willing to pay the rates charged by radio stations who sell air time. Typically people who are willing to spend money for radio time are either offering ethnic or religious programming for a specific community, or have a scam for selling plenty of ad time (And there’s always those infomercials). However, the Howard Stern wannabes who host “The Authority Radio Show” (authority??) every Thursday night have another type of community in mind-- horny and unsophisticated Long Island males.
You can look at the official Authority Show MySpace page here, and here’s another MySpace page which belongs to one of the guests on this program, Miss “Traci Islands." Apparently Miss Islands is promoting an upcoming Halloween fetish party, she's putting together, and one of the hosts has convinced Traci to participate in some future “erotic adult-oriented” event to fund cancer research. Is it my imagination, or is Long Island just kind of strange in general? And did I mention that some of these butt ugly MySpace pages are some of the worst dreck I've ever come across on the web?
And WLIE? It seems that this station has fallen on hard times. I imagine it wouldn’t cost a lotta dough to get a radio show there these days. (Wanna host your own fetish radio program?) Back in 2002, some folks invested a bunch of time and money to turn a low-budget nostalgia outlet into a news/talk station for Long Island, hoping that a more local focus might draw some listeners from similar New York City stations. They hired some second-string talk hosts who had been around for a while (Ed Tyll, Mike Siegel, etc), upgraded their signal and called themselves “Island Talk 540." Three years later, it's all come apart. Apparently Long Island listeners weren’t interested enough to switch from the NYC news/talk choices, and WLIE barely reaches most of the New York City market anyway. For now, WLIE offers their transmitter for rent out most hours. Their original website is gone, and all that’s left is this one page where the links are dead as well.
Anyway, this clip goes on for a while (as I was trying to figure out what I was listening to). If you find sophomoric discussions with loose young women as fascinating as I do, then you’ll be just as happy as I was shifting into the static of the next frequency.
550 - (Nothing intelligible)
This might be WGR, a sports station in Buffalo. In all the buzzy noise I do clearly hear the word “Buffalo” in there somewhere.
560 - (Nothing intelligible)
570 - WMCA New York, NY
580 - (Nothing intelligible)
Lots of talking, make and female...
590 - (Nothing intelligible)
Some distant talk and music, with lots of bleed over from WICC.
600 - WICC Bridgeport, CT
Mariners vs Yankees. The sound of the crowd, the meandering conversation in between each pitch. No digital swoosh effect, just voices, and a few thousand people outside making noise. While I’m not a sports fan, there’s still something comforting in a baseball radio broadcast.
610 - (Nothing intelligible)
Female host/announcer dominating this busy bit of radio backwash. I believe she mentions she’s on a “news/talk” station. Might be WSNG in Torrington, CT. Might be something else.
620 - WHEN Syracuse, NY or WVMT Colchester, VT?
At least these are the two stations in the northeast who broadcast Yankee baseball on this frequency. It’s a poor signal here, wherever it’s coming from.
630 - (Nothing intelligible)
Female announcer. Not in English...
640 - (Nothing intelligible)
650 - WSM Nashville, TN?
Well gosh, I was kind of excited when I first heard this clip on this recording. When I came across it, I head a couple of ads and just assumed it was WSM's clear channel signal during a break and kept moving on. But then when I listened closely I noticed that both of these commercials mentioned that their businesses serve Galveston? Then looking around online I discovered a station near Galveston (KIKK in Pasadena, Texas) which only broadcasts at 250 watts! Thought I had a real fluke DX catch there, until I realized that they are still a daytime only station. And even considering that KIKK is further west in the central time zone, that would still mean that they’d be signing off around 9 pm local time. Oh well. And I checked, there is no Galveston, Tennessee.
Still seems a little strange, but there’s not enough of this station here to help solve the mystery, if there is one.
660 - WFAN New York, NY
New York baseball nostalgia. It never ends. Apparently, the Mets are
the kings of New York. Sounds good to me. The Yankees always seemed kinda scary.
670 - Radio Rebelde, Cuba
A couple stations beneath this signal. I believe another one is speaking Spanish as well.
680 - (Nothing intelligible)
Several stations in this muddle, although I found the flute music of one intriguing, I don’t know what that might be, but it doesn’t sound like something you’d hear on a U.S. AM station.
690 - CINF Montreal, QC
Another ball game on the “Nation’s Station.” I must admit, just to hear the name "Felipe Alou" (I guess he’s now the manager of the San Francisco Giants) made me a little nostalgic. At some point in the late 60's I remember having baseball cards of all three the Dominican Alou brothers (Matty, Felipe and Jesus). And I don’t recall the pictures on those cards being particularly flattering either.
710 - WOR New York, NY
It’s the Lionel Show. Is survivor racist? That’s the question here. I had to look this up to find out why this might be a question at all, but apparently the Survivor series is going to pit “tribes” of different ethnic groups against each other in some reality TV scenario (How about the white people vs. the brown people?) . Sounds kinda stupid don'tcha think? And maybe just a desperate ploy for ratings, or press, or something?
As I’ve said in a number of earlier posts, I think Lionel is one of the best talk hosts on the national scene these days. However, now and then he gets on some pop culture/TV topic that I either know nothing about, or don’t care to know much about. This is one of those times.
I believe it’s a Cuban station burbling beneath WOR, possibly Radio Rebelde again.
720 - (Nothing intelligible)
Probably WGN in Chicago in there somewhere, and other voices.
730 - CKAC Montreal, QC
740 - CHWO Toronto, ON
It’s the Canadian AM powerhouse, AM 740 playing some white boogie-woogie thing, “Swing Your Blues Away,” and then with a turn of the radio (the antenna for AM is a ferrite bar built into the radio itself) and a Spanish broadcast appears.
My tendency is to figure the Spanish station is probably coming from Cuba, since much of what you hear booming Español under (or on top of) major North American stations is typically coming from there. They don’t follow the 50 kilowatt limit on medium wave that the U.S., Canada and Mexico stick to. However, looking online I haven’t found a prominent suspect for this frequency down that way.
750 - WSB Atlanta, GA
The news. Man, did anybody believe that skinny dork really offed JonBenet? Personally, I'm guessing it was Michael Jackson.
760 - WJR Detroit, Mi
Now it’s the end of the ABC News, and then the vile spew of Mark Levin. It’s a pre-recorded broadcast of the latest right-wing monstrosity that ABC/Disney has recently launched into national syndication (from WABC in New York).
However, this call is quite curious. The caller is a female baby-boomer-- Kathy in Tampa. She sounds like one of the typical chronically patriotic moms I hear calling Sean Hannity all the time. She comes up with some real wisdom here. There’s two things that “sicken” her. She honestly believes that politics has become nothing more than a business! And religion too! But just in the last twenty or thirty years. Wow. From there you’d think she’d be a upset with the Bush regime's rampant corporatism, or the ongoing theocracy movement. But no. While she's actually approaching some reasonable insights, she’s also a little confused. Apparently, she also believes that Mark Levin articulates those particular beliefs every day. And then the sneering forked-tongue of Levin sets her straight– he lectures that for the “hard left” politics isn’t a business at all, it’s an ongoing effort to destroy America. The military, the capitalist system, our health cars system, corporate America, and the “traditional family” are all under threat from wild freaky liberals like Hillary Clinton, or something like that.
What a fucking worm. You know, WJR used to be a great radio station, and now they're reduced to playing syndicated (and pre-recorded) garbage like this.
770 - WABC New York, NY
It’s the John Batchelor show, which I gather after looking online has since gone off the air (although it may return). ABC/Disney tried syndication with this program, and I guess it didn’t pan out. From what I've heard, Batchelor does a rather in-depth newsy program (which the NY Times once described as "NPR on drugs") from a center right perspective which is guest intensive. I don’t believe he took calls.
However, it’s not the shrill neo-con non-stop attack of Hannity or Levin. He has discussions. And this one is interesting. The author he's talking with has an ongoing theory that the U.S. has intervened in the Muslim world in such a way that we’ve given birth to (and empowered a new and broad Muslim consciousness that is going to be big trouble for the west. He talks about an “electric” and “palpable” sense within the Pentagon that we’ve already lost the Iraq War, and that by “staying the course” we’re “perpetuating our defeat.”
This few minutes is the biggest chunk of wisdom I’ve heard broadcast over WABC for a number of years. No wonder Batchelor’s off the air...
That’s it for now. Next week we’ll keep creeping up the AM dial from this particular recording. Other radio posts in this series can be found here. As always, comments, corrections and suggestions are welcome. I appreciate you reading these missives. And most of all, thanks for listening.