He Wrote the Songs That Will Make Young Mexicans Cry

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A little birdy chirps up this terrifying story of cultural re/mis/appropriation gone horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. Or right, especially in you're really into "Mandy" (who, lest we forget, "came and gave without taking"):

Las Cruces radio station KXPZ 99.5-FM is playing…all Barry Manilow. All day and all night.

Barry 99 is dedicated to Barry Manilow, the prolific singer/songwriter who has produced 44 albums since his self-titled debut in 1973.

"This has never been done before. It's a totally unique format," said Mike McKay, executive vice president of Bravo Mic Communications, which in April purchased the station from Rio Grande Christian Broadcasting of El Paso for $1.4 million.

Whole story here.

My cynical take? Las Cruces is less than 50 miles from the border with Mexico. This is part of a psy-ops designed to circumvent concerns over building a physical fence between down there and up here: Instead build a series of Manilow-only stations across the Southwest, creating a sonic barrier every bit as punishing as the feds bombarding the Branch Davidians with repeated playings of "Achy-Breaky Heart" (where's the ACLU when you really need them?). Here's hoping that the all-Manilow station doesn't end in a fiery conflagration and the murder of children. But if it does, will it really surprise anyone?

My actual take? As the Las Cruces Sun story points out, Manilow is "the No. 1-selling adult contemporary artist– his record sales total 65 million worldwide" and he "scored another hit with 'The Greatest Songs of the Fifties,' released Jan. 31 on Arista Records," which topped the charts in February. Barry may not poll well with critics and rock fans, but in a robust cultural marketplace that makes space for more and more crap–big and small, good and bad, etc–more power to him and his all-Manilow radio station.

NEXT: All Guinness Will Now Be Served in Sippy Cups

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  1. We briefly had an all-Led Zeppelin station here in Tampa, back in the early 90s. Not sure which ethnic group that was meant to keep out, though.

  2. So if you’re working at an all Barry Manilow radio station in Las Cruces, New Mexico, does that mean you’ve hit rock bottom? Seems to me if you’ve hit that point, life has lost all meaning, and you’ve either got to throw yourself headlong into the madness forever, or kill yourself.

  3. Can this be considered the first real collateral damage in the War Against Brown People?

  4. in “Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon : Joe Queenan’s America” Joe Queenan did an exploration of the depths of pap culture. He was pleasantly surprised by Barry Manilow as a pleasant if bland entertainer with a rapport with his audience.

    Manilow had a trick where as a song went on he would build up an echo on his voice. Sometimes it worked, too. He also got a hold on some good songs, too, like “Ready to Take a Chance Again.”

  5. At least Manilow can sing. I grow tired of the usual trifecta of no vocal talent, no instrumental talent, and no writing talent that currently dominates the music scene.

    I hasten to add that I’m not a fan of Mr. Manilow’s music. Though I do really like a parody of one of his songs (“Copacabana”) called “The Star Wars Cantina”.

  6. Barry Manilow is to music as corn syrup is to food.

  7. EXT. SOUTHWEST DESERT – NIGHT

    An impoverished MEXICAN WOMAN, running northward across the border to make a better life for the newborn BABY nestled at her breast.

    MANILOW
    (over)

    Her name was Lola,
    She was a showgirl…

  8. Okay, it was wrong for me to refer to “Star Wars Cantina” without a link. Here’s a textual sample:

    (Leia: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”)
    (Artoo: Beeps)

    Her name was Leia, she was a princess,
    with a danish on each ear, and Darth Vader (Vader: Breath sounds/Davis SFX) drawing near.
    So Artoo Detoo, found Ben Kenobi. (Ben: “Obi-Wan”)
    He’d have to put the Death Star plans, into the Rebellion’s hands.
    So Luke and Obi-Wan, had to get to Alderaan,
    so they stopped into Mos Eisley, to have a drink with Han…

    chorus
    At the Star Wars, [Star Wars!], Star Wars Cantina, [Star Wars Cantina]
    The weirdest creatures you’ve ever seen-a!
    [Here, at the] Star Wars, [Star!], {Star Wars Cantina,
    Music, and blasters, and old Jedi Masters, at the Star Wars!…}

    If there’s anything funnier than “Music, and blasters, and old Jedi Masters”, I sure don’t know what it is.

  9. A couple months back I happened to scan the FM dial here in San Diego and came across a Mexican station playing Stairway to Heaven in a loop, punctuated only by the occasional canned station announcement(“Playing the greatest music of all time… maybe..”). It was wonderfully surreal. Too bad it only lasted about 3 days after that. Now I think it’s a Spanish language station.

  10. This won’t keep ’em out. Manilow may be huge wherever English is spoken, but he’s even huger wherever English is not spoken. Don’t expect Neil Diamond to keep the Mexicans at bay either. When Neil Diamond sang “They’re comin’ to America” he might as well have added: “to see me!”

  11. Pro-Libertate beat me to it, the all-Zep station in Tampa. It lasted about eight months before it folded. I remember that they started out by playing Stairway round-the-clock, non-stop, for 48 hours starting at midnight, January 1st. Nobody knew why until the next day when they announced their new all-Zepplin format.

  12. Elf M. Sternberg, that’s right. It was 98 Rock’s big format change, and it must’ve been the first such gimmick, because it made national news at the time. They went from all-Stairway, to all-Led Zep, to all-Led Zep and Floyd, and so on. I think they let people vote on groups to add, too. Unfortunately, the station sucks now. Tampa used to be such a good radio town, too 🙁

    By the way, I won money during the initial all-Stairway phase from a friend who didn’t know about it. “Betcha ten bucks that 98 Rock will ‘accidentally’ play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ again.” Heh, heh.

  13. A clear sign radio is so over. Time to reallocate the AM/FM radio bands for digital data.

  14. We had a station in Orlando that the changed format from a “Golden Oldies” station that played 50s and 60s tunes to an “I don’t know what exactly” but it was like they just advanced a decade and played 60s and 70s tunes*. During the three day transition they played Hey Jude over and over and over and over and over and over again.

    I really really really really really really really fucking hate that song now. That is more than I did before.

    *I think it was a change from geezer rock to junior geeezer rock:)

  15. Pro Liberate,

    If there has ever been a funnier Star Wars parody than this one, I would like to see it.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=yF7RrVuTz9E&search=adult%20swim%20star%20wars

  16. We briefly had an all-Led Zeppelin station here in Tampa, back in the early 90s.

    I remember the part where they played Stairway to Heaven over and over but I sure don’t remember that they stuck with Led Zeppelin for 8 months. Wasn’t that when Bubba originally showed up at 98Rock? I am not sure when Tampa was a great radio town but 95YNF had its moments.

    He was pleasantly surprised by Barry Manilow as a pleasant if bland entertainer with a rapport with his audience.

    Queenan called it scheissenbedaurn, shit regret, the disappointment one feels when exposed to things that are not as bad as originally hoped.

  17. “Queenan called it scheissenbedaurn, shit regret, the disappointment one feels when exposed to things that are not as bad as originally hoped.”

    I once sat through a Lional Riche set as the opening act to a Tina Turner concert. It was shockingly good.

  18. I hear (tee hee) that Lionel Ritchie, of all people, is currently big in Germany. hee.

    Ya know, I bet a station could format itself as all-Frank Zappa, all-the-time, and repeat its programming less than most commercial radio stations and probably even some college radio stations.

  19. Yeah, all-Manilow is weird all right but you probably haven’t heard the Mexican version of ‘Karma Chameleon’ that I keep hearing by accident when I’m scanning for stations on my radio here in Phoenix, Mexico. It’s actually kind of a deconstruction of that tune into a really cheezy campesino/norteno form, if you can fathom that.

  20. A good friend once memorably told me that after a Manilow concert, his fiancee became an animal in bed that night.

    Check one for Manilow.

  21. I am not surprised about Mr. Ritchie being big in Germany. The Europeans for all of their pretensions at sophistications have the worst taste in popular music imagineable. Ever listen to Robby Williams? He is a God in Europe. After you listen to his music for a bit you start thinking, “wow, made that Justin Timberlake is pretty talented guy afterall.” Pop music in Europe is just awful.

  22. I am not surprised about Mr. Ritchie being big in Germany. The Europeans for all of their pretensions at being sophisticated have the worst taste in popular music imagineable. Ever listen to Robby Williams? He is a God in Europe. After you listen to his music for a bit you start thinking, “wow, made that Justin Timberlake is pretty talented guy afterall.” Pop music in Europe is just awful.

  23. I am not surprised about Mr. Ritchie being big in Germany. The Europeans for all of their pretensions at sophistications have the worst taste in popular music imagineable. Ever listen to Robby Williams? He is a God in Europe. After you listen to his music for a bit you start thinking, “wow, made that Justin Timberlake is pretty talented guy afterall.” Pop music in Europe is just awful.

  24. Pretty funny, John. But my favorite has got to be the Star Wars Gangsta Rap.

  25. Ahh, Las Cruces.. the town in which I was born and raised. Or should I say “done whelped in”.

    Cruces (as we natives call it) has a very, very small radio market, normally dominated by the El Paso market right over the border in Texas.

    My guess is, even for Cruces this is going to be a temporary gimmick to get listeners, all three of them.

  26. TFA contained the most brow-furrowing comment I’ve read in a while: “You always hear other people singing his songs – Mandy, Copacabana – Copa really set the tone for what became known as the funk era.” Yes, in much the same fashion that Kenny G and John Tesh set the tone for hard bop & gospel, respectively.

  27. A sonic barrier at the border – what a concept! Look for stores on the Mexican side to run out of earplugs.


  28. I hear (tee hee) that Lionel Ritchie, of all people, is currently big in Germany.

    He’s big in Libya, too. Qaddafi likes him.

  29. I wonder if Manilow knows about the high school principal who raids his wardrobe.

  30. Now I’m wondering if Fonzie knows Nick Gillespie raids his wardrobe.

  31. I just returned from a trip to El Paso, and going through Las Cruces I heard 99.5 FM in Las Cruces, all Manilow, all the time. I thought it was refreshing hearing his old stuff, until I started hearing his lesser-known stuff. With no commercials, I can’t figure out how the station will make any money.

  32. Hi my name is Laura Bernstein. And I would like to have some information about Berry Manilow. And I would like some information of emailing him a email. And also I would like to be in his fan club. So I would like some information. Can you find me any information about me being with berry Manilow please. Your truely Laura Bernstein. Thank-you.

  33. Hi my name is Laura Bernstein. And I would like to have some information about Berry Manilow. And I would like some information of emailing him a email. And also I would like to be in his fan club. So I would like some information. Can you find me any information about me being with berry Manilow please. Your truely Laura Bernstein. Thank-you.

  34. Hi my name is Laura Bernstein. And I would like to have some information about Berry Manilow. And I would like some information of emailing him a email. And also I would like to be in his fan club. So I would like some information. Can you find me any information about me being with berry Manilow please. Your truely Laura Bernstein. Thank-you.

  35. Hi my name is Laura Bernstein. And I would like to have some information about Berry Manilow. And I would like some information of emailing him a email. And also I would like to be in his fan club. So I would like some information. Can you find me any information about me being with berry Manilow please. Your truely Laura Bernstein. Thank-you.

  36. Hi my name is Laura Bernstein. And I would like to have some information about Berry Manilow. And I would like some information of emailing him a email. And also I would like to be in his fan club. So I would like some information. Can you find me any information about me being with berry Manilow please. Your truely Laura Bernstein. Thank-you.

  37. He writes songs touched the entire Mexican people, this is traumatic, so soul washed.

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