I’ve been having an on-again, off-again love affair with SiriusXM satellite radio for more than a decade. I first discovered XM when several of its channels appeared under the AOL Radio menu back before XM’s 2008 merger with Sirius. I was enchanted that there was a way for me to listen to all ‘70s music or all ‘80s music (the good stuff, as far as I was concerned) for free.
Alas, nothing good lasts, and this was no exception. This was a trial, or an enticement, or whatever you choose to call it. XM soon dropped off the menu, and then AOL itself slowly disappeared not long after, once piece at a time, like the Cheshire cat. About the time that only the smile remained, we purchased a new car that came with a trial subscription to Sirius. I had seen its dog logo around, which, with a wrinkled brow, I associated with Howard Stern.
Nevertheless, we soon figured out how to tune the radio buttons to SiriusXM and I was delighted to find the same stations I had enjoyed on AOL, plus more. Country? Oldies? Classic rock? Whatever I was in the mood for seemed to be available. I pulled a bucket seat up to the smorgasbord.
When the free trial ended, however, we did not subscribe. As fun as this was, we weren’t about to actually pay for it. After all, by this time we had iPods loaded with our favorite music that we could plug right into the dashboard anytime we headed out on the road.
Later, SiriusXM started sending us promotion after promotion in the mail. Most of these we threw in the trash, as they became nearly as ubiquitous as the AOL diskettes of a previous era. I suppose it pays to never give up, however. One day, SiriusXM called to offer us some free months of service. Free? We’ll take that, thank you. At that time, we lived out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where we able to pull in few radio stations. The timing was perfect, as we began to tire of the same music over and over from our iPods.
At one point, while my parents were visiting us, the service went out for some reason. I explained to my father that I just had to call a toll-free number and have them send a signal to the satellite. He seemed amazed. Back in the day, he told me, when you had to fix a car radio it was terribly hard work because you had to dismantle most of the dashboard to get at it.
After enjoying a few months of free service, we called to request an extension because I was out of work again and, sure enough, they gave us two more months free. Eventually, we ran out of luck. At one point, we nearly paid for service, but canceled immediately when we couldn’t seem to get access on all our devices.
However, it soon became apparent that we were spending a bit too much on iTunes in an effort to refresh the music on our phones. Every time I heard a song that struck my fancy, I’d add it to my wish list, which became quite lengthy. When SiriusXM sent us an offer with a reasonable rate for an entire year, we jumped at the chance.
I must say that my addiction can be a bit embarrassing. Why does it seem that every time my boss drops by my cubicle to talk to me, I have the ear buds in and I’m bopping away to the beat?
It looks like I’m in deep. First, SiriusXM brought back its all Billy Joel show on Channel 30 (yep, the same one that used to be on Channel 18 before they once again shuffled the numbers like a satellite deck of cards), a favorite that I’ve discussed in this space before. It brings me back to 1970s Saturdays hanging out in my parents’ rec room, burning up my Dad’s old turntable. Memories: Explaining references in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” to my younger sisters. Memories: Flipping my father’s car radio on and finding “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” while Dad ran into a convenience store on a freezing cold night to buy me a half-gallon of milk before dropping me off at the college dorm. Memories: Referencing the lyrics to “Allentown” in a college term paper and scanning the liner notes to The Nylon Curtain album in an effort to properly footnote the source. Thank you, SiriusXM, for reminding me of so many places I’ve been in what now seems like another life.
Oh, well (hanging head here), it gets even worse. I was flipping through the SiriusXM channels when I ran across an all-1940s show. Now, I don’t claim to be old enough to know this music firsthand, but it reminds me of the big band numbers introduced to me by my father while I was growing up. Later, after college, I worked the night shift and listened to the sounds of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s on Radio WNEW-AM (eleven three-oh in New Yooooork!) into the wee hours. I was thrilled when a familiar Glenn Miller Orchestra tune came on, but most of what I was hearing was new to me. And here it is again on Sirius XM Channel 73! Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Benny Goodman, even Sinatra. I have a tendency to get stuck here for several days before I sheepishly creep my way back to BJ the DJ.
We won’t talk about my foray into Sirius XM’s Christmas music stations during the holidays. (Anyone else here remember “Daddy, Please Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas?”)
But, alas, I am a truly fickle music fan, and it never takes more than a week or two before I start longing for the crazy, eclectic collection of tunes on my phone. I begin to crave Melissa Etheridge, Lee Brice, The Manhattan Transfer, Bob Seeger, George Strait, Pink Floyd and The Boss, one right after another… with maybe a little Joe Jackson, Katy Perry, John Lennon, Little Big Town and The Waitresses thrown in for good measure.
In the end, the category list and all those numbered channels on SiriusXM can never substitute for my own carefully curated playlist culled from the past sixty or so years of popular music. And, let’s face it, my SiriusXM subscription won’t last forever. Who knows whether I’ll be willing to pay to renew?
Um, what’s that you say? Three free months?
Well, now you’re talkin’.