[Guest post from Ottawa-based music lover Mike Raine – great writing and great music-resource, we definitely recommend you check out this radio-show!]
Before beginning this piece I spent hours streaming episodes of Alan Cross’ Ongoing History of New Music from The Edge’s website, trying to find anything about it that I don’t like in an attempt to find an interesting angle from which tackle this subject. After those well spent hours I came to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing to dislike about OHNM. If there has ever been a more perfect radio program for music fans, I certainly have not found it. There may be one in London or New York but I doubt it.
Since OHNM began in 1993 on 102.1 The Edge, it has become the longest running radio documentary in Canada with a back catalogue of 500 one-hour episodes. At the heart of its appeal is Alan Cross and the way he imparts his unfathomable amount of music knowledge on his listeners. It really does not seem to matter what he is talking about, it still comes across as fascinating and important. He makes you truly listen to the music. He makes the music a time capsule of everything important about the time and place in which it was written. He comes across as one of those very rare university professors who seem to get such kicks out of sharing his knowledge. They can even make Aristotle`s Doctrine of the Mean seem interesting. As well, he can take a band like Megadeth, who I thought had less credibility than Sara Palin`s foreign policy credentials, and make them seem relevant.This is truly an amazing feat given the time in which the series became popular.The OHNM popularity soared through the nineties at time when guitar bands seemed more toxic than SARS, and Britney Spears was God.
Listen to a few episodes and it is not hard to see the appeal. You’ll never listen to ‘Polly’ by Nirvana the same way after Alan Cross tells you the sadistic story that inspired it. How about learning that Joy Division took their name from the morbidly ironic title given to the segment of a Nazi Concentration Camp where they kept sex slaves. Now this may not make their music any better or worse but it sure as hell is fascinating.
Can you name another radio program, let alone another music program, that has had a team of linguists to create a new word for the English language? On the episode of OHNM entitled Naming Your Band pt. 1, Alan Cross unveiled the term Bandomynology. This is the term given to the study of band names and their origins. My spell check does not think it is a word but if Alan Cross says it is a word, then I`ll take it.
If you need one more reason why Allan Cross and the OHNM is the greatest thing to ever happen to music radio programming, it is that Alan Cross is not a music snob. He knows everything under the sun about music but does not sound like he is looking down to his listeners through an eye, stylishly hidden behind his hair. He is the kind of music fan that will admit that Rush of Blood to the Head is a fantastic album even if Coldplay is the least cool and interesting band on the planet. However, if like to sound like a music snob, all you have to do is go online and stream the episode entitled How to Talk Like a Rock Snob (there are six episodes in order to ensure you don`t run out of snobbish sound bites).
All of this serves to explain why the OHNM is now syndicated on ten other stations across Canada and weak imitations have popped up on numerous another stations. As for me, I am off to listen to many more episodes.Who knows, I may find something I don`t like … but I severely doubt it.