I’m On The Mexican Radio

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“When I was young I’d listen to the radio
Waitin’ for my favorite songs

When they played I’d sing along, it made me smile.

Those were such happy times, and not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone

But they’re back again
Just like a long lost friend

All the songs I loved so well.”

Yesterday Once More” – Richard Carpenter and John Bettis

Richard Carpenter wasn’t wrong when he co-wrote Yesterday Once More.

Listening to the radio is something that practically everybody has done since the childhood.

It represents our first and better memories of our lives.

Though I don’t exactly relate with the “sha-la-la-la” or “shing-a-ling-a-ling” part, when Karen sings: 

“All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry. Just like before: It’s yesterday once more…”

It’s something undeniable.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I used to listen Stereorey.

It was a radio station created in Monterrey, Mexico in 1967, which was the first to be broadcasted in FM.

Its format was only English language music, with voice actor Ken Smith as its main announcer. Its slogan was “The Maximum Dimension In Radio”. We were born years later, so we always felt like this station was there since forever.

The music that we knew while growing up in the 80’s were mostly heard there. Although there were other stations in town, Stereorey was the one that we love the most. In the 90’s, they incorporated morning radio news into their daily schedule.

Every Saturday, we would listen to “Discotheque Stereorey”, a show that we really enjoyed, because that’s how we knew Disco songs that we never heard in our childhood.

The mixtapes were great, and sometimes my sister taped some of them to cassettes.

But sadly, the turn of the millennium brought changes.

In 2002 the name of the station changed to Best FM. It was still English language music, more oriented to current hits and some nostalgia, until 2005, when MVS Radio, the owners of those stations, made a radical makeover: the genre would be Mexican Regional, also known as Grupera Music. The name changed to La Mejor, a station that still remains.

In the past few years, there has been a sort of a revival for Stereorey. It has re-emerged as a webcast, a station in one Mexican city, and another station in a city in Argentina.

Another station that we used to listen to in the early 90’s was Éxtasis Digital (Digital Ecstasy), that in its early years was only English and retro. Somewhere through mid to late 90’s (or early 2000’s) they attempted to incorporate Spanish language music.

But thankfully, they returned to the original format, until it temporarily disappeared few years ago, because of problems among the owners of the station.

It finally returned last year with retro music only, and a local news broadcast at nights.

So, the 2000’s decade was strong for the Mexican Regional music.

Which led to a major switch in the listeners popular tastes. Even though during the previous decade there were few stations targeted to an specific and not so broad of an audience.

I live in an industrial city, and I’m embarrassed to say that most of the stations play Mexican Regional music (some of them even play reggaetón songs) along with (for my taste) awful morning shows full of nonsense and lousy senses of humor.

One of those stations broadcasts “El Show De Don Cheto”, a massively popular show from Los Angeles, created for Spanish speaking audiences in the U.S.

It may sound elitist at some point, but the people in my country who dislike this genre often refer to it as “agricultural music” or “farm music.”

(Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some of these songs, especially the older ones and among all their sub genres. But I prefer the Norteña music).

Months ago my coworker (the one that I mentioned in my previous article, who used to listen radio with “today’s hits”) switched her cubicle.

So I don’t have to listen to her music. But I only could play some of my music through apps, since my phone doesn’t have radio. So after another coworker got sick and was absent for a month, I decided to buy something for my cubicle:

I bought a radio with a retro appearance.

It’s not digital – for whatever reason, I wanted to switch stations in the “old way.”

After a week of exploring stations I found one that had played English language retro music.

Its slogan was “70’s, 80’s, 90’s and more”. It had changed its format to romantic music in Spanish.

The sad news is that before that, on Twitter I had found some statistics about what is heard in my city.

And well, now that I’m updating them…

the numbers are depressing for me:

In addition to this, as recently as last week, rumors about a new change of format in one station seemed to indicate that this station, with the current concept of today’s hits, now will be a Grupera station.

Which will leave a total of eight stations of MR music. A complete exaggeration!

I recently joined a Facebook group that is dedicated to the history of Mexican radio.

It also has news about changes in the stations throughout the country. Users get to share nostalgic facts, or past recordings.

Some users think that radio needs to evolve and adapt to new times. Others think that the owners and executives need to listen the audiences and really know what they want. And still others think that the radio as we know it is going to disappear eventually. 

I don’t think that the latter thought is going to happen.

Sometimes when I think that I’m perceiving a sort of involution in the contents and quality, I remember that there are specific occasions in which apps and internet radio can’t completely substitute the simple act of switching stations when you’re going on the road.

For many of us, the radio has been like a reliable friend that no matter how many times you can be away from it, you always come back to it.

It’s your time machine, your companion… and even your healer.

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Edith G

Single Hispanic female. I wish I’ve been a storyteller, but it is what it is.

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cstolliver
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cstolliver
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March 13, 2023 5:25 am

Co-signed, Edith! Thanks for helping us hear what your experience is like and remember what our experiences have been.

Phylum of Alexandria
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March 13, 2023 8:01 am

Great write-up, Edith. It’s sad what’s happened to radio.

In the US, the spiritual death of radio started in the early 00s, due to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed the complete takeover of local radio stations by multinational corporations.

Before I discovered the student stations of nearby universities, my favorite radio station was one for alternative rock in Philadelphia: Y100.

At the peak of their powers (93-97), they had the freedom to play whatever tickled their fancy. Sure, you’d get the hot new singles from Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins, but you’d also get more obscure stuff like Flaming Lips and Tripping Daisy. And they’d throw in some smoother stuff like Seal or Enigma as well.

Not to mention old, obscure novelties like this one!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8ffkDf0ol4

JJ Live At Leeds
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March 13, 2023 10:36 am

I was pretty sure first time round that he wouldn’t say that word and given its age I was thinking there’s no way he’s gonna swear but as it went on I couldn’t help wondering if he’d let rip at the end. Nicely done Benny Bell.

Virgindog
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March 13, 2023 10:38 am

This doesn’t apply to Mexico, of course, but you’re absolutely right about the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Radio might have gotten worse without it (I don’t really listen to radio with 30,000 songs on the iPod in my car) but corporate takeovers of local stations ruined their local feel. The connection to the audience lessened. It’s a shame, really.

thegue
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March 13, 2023 3:33 pm

Co-sign to what everyone’s said here, and i LOVE that someone enjoyed Y-100 as well, but until about 1995 WDRE was where alt rock was at!

I left the country in August of 1995, and when I returned there was no 103.9 DRE – everyone had ventured down the dial to Y100.

While I loved Y100 early on, I felt they really stopped trying to discover new music, and forgot some of the great 90s tunes. One weekend when they were doing a 90s retro, I called in and requested Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. For a 90s alt-rock station, it should’ve been a layup: Ned’s had a former #1 song “Not Sleeping Around”, and others charted as well.

DJ had never heard of them.

It wasn’t long after that they went off the air, and I switched off terrestrial radio.

While I agree the Telecommunications Act ruined local radio (and any chances of “discovering” new acts like Roxette et al), I’m not sure how they could compete in today’s world – satellite radio, internet radio, cable radio, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

Maybe their elimination sped up this process, but I do wonder what local radio stations would look like if that hadn’t happened…and if it would’ve been any different anyway.

For what it’s worth, I think Philly has 278 Urban/R&B stations, and one classic alternative rock station*

*all numbers approximate

dutchg8r
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March 13, 2023 4:00 pm
Reply to  thegue

Ah, WDRE. That was out of Wilmington, DE, wasn’t it? Great station. Never got to hear Y100, it was still Kiss 100 when I moved.

We did have Y102 in Reading….. never listened to it though except on mornings when it snowed. 😁 Nothing like waking up and hearing your district is the only one in the county closed that day because we were the most rural, groggily celebrating and rolling over back to sleep.

thegue
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March 13, 2023 4:52 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

WSTW was 93.7 out of Wilmington, DE…famous for being “stuck” between MMR and YSP, and unfortunately having the “no rap” rule.

Y100 still exists today as cable radio. A couple of former employees took it over and went online while acting as guest DJs on 88.5 WXPN one night a week. I won a LOT of tickets to see alt rock artists before 2009 for voting in their Weekly Top 11.

I believe they’ve been swallowed up by an internet behemoth as well.

cappiethedog
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March 13, 2023 5:05 pm
Reply to  thegue

When Bad Religion made the transition to a major, I thought that meant they were radio-ready. I requested “Infected”. The guy answered: “Oh, wow. That song rocks. But we can’t play that.”

“Infected” ruled. It should’ve turned Bad Religion into a major band.

Phylum of Alexandria
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March 13, 2023 6:34 pm
Reply to  thegue

Before Y100, I was really into Star 104.5, which was mostly 80s pop. But I was still pretty young at that point.

Afterward, I got into WDRE and later, WXPN. But it was to Drexel and UPenn’s stations that I pledged my love.

cappiethedog
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March 13, 2023 8:34 pm

Somebody, a booster, perhaps, scrubbed the video of Drexel losing to the University of the Sciences at the buzzer 54-52. Upsets happen all the time. It’s just the name of the Dragons’ opponent that made it memorable. I wasn’t expecting Devils as their nickname. Dragons beat the Devils.

cappiethedog
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March 13, 2023 4:59 pm

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 helps explain why I like Imagine Dragons.

Phylum of Alexandria
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March 13, 2023 7:02 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

I think that one requires more explanation!

Maybe a new tnocs series?

JJ Live At Leeds
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March 13, 2023 10:50 am

Interesting to hear your take on how the radio has changed. Do you think the move towards MR has come because that’s what people actually want to hear or has it pushed from elsewhere to promote Spanish language songs?

The British perspective seems similar to what Phylum has described in terms of regional radio. A lot of stations were swallowed up by bigger groups with programming becoming centralised. There are still regional stations but some will carry the same shows as the rest of the country for parts of the day.

The BBC is still the national broadcaster and has a range of stations covering current chart music through to classical to non music based current affairs and sport. In terms of Radio 1 it’s always had the scope to be more interesting, playing upto date chart music through the day but after 6pm and through the night it goes into all sorts of other territories.

The threat to the BBC and the way its funded through a national licence fee keeps getting ramped up so how long it survives in this way is another matter. The last week has seen an existential crisis and shitshow due to one of its highest paid TV presenters tweeting a critical comment of government policy resulting in him being taken off air before being reinstated this morning.

dutchg8r
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March 13, 2023 12:37 pm

Nicely done Edith! I’d never imagined English only stations would be so prevalent in Mexico; I guess my American-centric view point was that it would just be a small percentage, like Spanish stations are in major US cities. Now, is that more likely the closer you are to the US border in Mexico, and the English stations disappear the further south you get in the country? Or are the English stations just as prevalent by Guatamala?

I have always been a lifelong radio scanner. Too many options to listen to to get stuck in one station all the time. I could drive for hours in the car and never get tired of flipping through the radio the entire time. Back before they gave us SkyMaps on planes to track our flight movement, I’d figure out where we were by tuning in to radio stations on my Walkman. Especially fun if I was traveling west of the Mississippi River!

I am only really ever in the car now for errands around town or driving to the train station once a week, and I never turn on the radio when I’m home. I should, I’ve missed it the past few years, and Satellite radio just doesnt give me the same thrill. I have noticed the trend of stations going all encompassing now, with today’s Top 40 mixed in with 70s thru 00’s hits. The formats definitely are morphing to retain listeners and keep the variety up. Then again, that might just be the trend of the stations where I live, out here in a valley away from the big city of DC.

Pauly Steyreen
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March 14, 2023 10:42 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

I drive a lot through rural areas in the United States, and when you are in radio no-man’s-land, there are at least 3 stations you’ll always get:

1. Country music
2. Televangelist / Christian radio
3. Mexican Regional (usual banda)

Even rock or pop stations can be hit-or-miss, and NPR isn’t a guarantee. But the three formats above can be found EVERYWHERE in the US.

When I’m stuck with those 3 options, I’ll choose the banda. But I’ll keep searching for pop or classic rock or something else in the meantime.

thegue
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March 13, 2023 4:53 pm

C’mon, why hasn’t this appeared yet???

https://youtu.be/eyCEexG9xjw

mt58
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mt58
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March 13, 2023 5:45 pm
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I was waiting…
And waiting…
And waiting…

Virgindog
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March 13, 2023 6:19 pm
Reply to  thegue

There was no need. It was already my earworm for the day just based on this article’s title.

Phylum of Alexandria
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March 13, 2023 6:31 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Yeah, it was implied.

dutchg8r
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March 14, 2023 6:46 am
Reply to  Virgindog

That was my excuse as well. 😁

cappiethedog
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March 13, 2023 11:42 pm
Reply to  thegue

What makes me want to fling my body off the Pali Lookout like one of Kamehameha’s enemies as he was uniting the Hawaiian Islands is hearing a song like “Mexican Radio” being described as an oldie. Oldie? What are you talking about? And then you do the math. Oh, no. I’m no longer a part of the desired 18-34 demographic. Madison Avenue doesn’t care about me.

Stan Ridgway. Hello? Hello? Is this on? (taps mic) You know, the lead singer of Wall of Voodoo?

In other words, the radio doesn’t play music from the fifties anymore.

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