You probably know all about this already, but: HD radio! I recently used a City CarShare car to run an errand—I could probably lash four new pillows to my bicycle with an assortment of bungee cords, but in this era of life find myself disinclined to—and, as usual, had the radio in scan mode in order to hear everything at once. Then my ear fell on something so pleasing that I stopped scanning to hear the rest of this song that was both surpassingly excellent and yet constructed of such simple lyrics that it has proved impossible to find by Duck Ducking the words (what one does now instead of Googling; between our government and Google, it’s getting to be a tossup as to who is more intrusive and rapacious when it comes to personal information; once they officially join forces, it’s all over; and furthermore, the first time I see some freak in Google Glass anywhere other than on the sidewalk, or even on the sidewalk, I’m going to—well, I haven’t decided quite what yet, but something). Yes, I am aware that this blog where I share all this personal information, and which is tied inextricably to my IP address, is owned by Google.
Anyway, where was I? Right, so I heard this really fantastic song, and then a song by Queens of the Stone Age, who I’ve never heard on the radio before, and there were no commercials, but periodically a fellow would share that he’d been invited to create an awesome rock station, and then, within the same 20-minute period, a second song came on that was so good I pulled over to write down the lyrics, which were also not findable by Duck Duck Go, and yet the whole time the dial showed a station I will call (not wishing to end up involved in a time-consuming lawsuit) 666.6 The Femur, which I well know to be a classic rock station and thus loathsome to me.
There was a time when I loved Led Zeppelin. I bought every studio album they produced, and I still have all of them, not to mention a turntable to play them on and a spare turntable in case something happens to that one. (Though neither turntable works right now. It’s on my list.) Even into the 1990s I loved Led Zeppelin, and then one day, while listening to KSJO, I hit the Lifetime Led Zeppelin Limit. I don’t know how many songs it took, but once the LLZL arrived, that was that. Someday, when one of my turntables works, I might get out those albums and listen with pleasure to an obscure track or two, but the four songs that they play over and over and over on classic rock radio stations—my god! How can anyone stand it?
So I could not figure this out. It was The Femur, but definitely not The Femur. I noticed something at the right end of the dial that said 2/2. Then I turned a corner—I mean, I literally turned a corner, using the steering wheel of the CarShare car—and voila! Led Zeppelin, and I noticed the thing said 1/2 instead of 2/2.
What was this mysterious and magical 2/2 station? I came home in a state of dazed euphoria: two splendid new songs and a thrilling cornucopia of superb music pouring right out of the radio, but only when it said 2/2. The joyous sentiment ebbed slightly once it became clear I was not going to figure out what those songs were, but an absorbing research project was soon underway. The first step was to email The Femur to ask what that station is that has the same frequency as theirs but actually plays good music. Haven’t heard back.
Well, it turns out it was HD radio! A station operating via the traditional radio frequency can have up to three of these digital stations; the frequency is the same for all. The original station is considered to be HD1, and the first digital station is HD2, and so forth. All this additional capacity allows the freedom to experiment with expanded formats, additional artists, commercial-free programming, etc. You need an HD radio to hear them; some cars, such as the Toyota Yaris I was in, now have HD radios. Some HD stations are available via online streaming and some are not. The Femur’s is not, at least not yet.
I decided to get an HD radio and, even if the sound quality wasn’t great (I was thinking of getting the one that costs $50 and not the one that costs—really—$7000), I’d be able to tell from the digital display the name of the song and the artist and then I could get the mp3 and hear it on my Logitech Squeezebox Boom. But then I remembered my vow not to acquire any further electronic devices I don’t strictly need. I already have, in a studio apartment, eight devices that can be used to listen to stuff, seven of which have no other purpose.
Also, once you have an HD radio, apparently if it can tune in the HD station, it plays that, but if it can’t, it plays the regular station. This was faintly worrisome, since I did hear both stations in the course of my short trip. Maybe one would come in near the fridge, but the other near the sink. I pictured myself walking about my kitchen: “Yeah, yeah, yeah! Wow! Ugh, Zeppelin! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Wow! Ugh, Zeppelin!”