'All Songs Considered' Turns 20 | WCAI

'All Songs Considered' Turns 20

Jan 13, 2020
Originally published on January 13, 2020 8:10 pm

"It's a music show for your computer." That was the initial concept for All Songs Considered, now 20-years-old this month. These days Bob Boilen hosts the show with Robin Hilton, but Bob started out as the director of All Things Considered, selecting the music to transition between segments. Hear what that first year of the show sounded like in All Songs Considered's latest episode.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

All Songs Considered, hosted by Bob Boilen, marks its 20th year this month. And in a moment, we'll talk to Bob Boilen. But first, I wanted to recall back when I was an NPR intern. I introduced myself to a guy I met in the building and asked him what he did. His name was Bobby Carter. He told me he was a new intern, too, for All Songs.

BOBBY CARTER, BYLINE: I helped put together the first couple shows. I was grabbing CDs. Bob would tell me to grab a CD. And I was the music guy, so I was immediately intrigued by - when they said it was music. So I was excited even though I didn't know what I was doing.

CORNISH: Did you wonder why you were at a news organization doing it? Was there a vibe of, like, I'm the only intern not doing news?

CARTER: I did not wonder because, again, I love music so much. So I felt so lucky - right? - because it dealt with - I knew I was going into a music - a news organization, but I was working on music.

CORNISH: This was pre-iPod, all of that. So do you feel like you were on the cutting edge of something?

CARTER: I didn't know at the time. But now that we look at podcasts and music podcasts and where they've gone, I do think sometimes, like, yeah. We set it off.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Welcome to All Songs Considered, a music show for your computer. I'm Bob Boilen, and I'm one of the directors of NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CORNISH: I like that - that tone you're bringing.

BOILEN: Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: OK, so let me get into this a little. It's a music show for your computer. Did you have to explain it to people, like, all the time?

BOILEN: It didn't feel like explaining. It just - this is what it was. I grew up on radios under my pillow, you know? This was different. I say, you're connected to All Songs Considered. You were literally dialing up on your modem to listen to the show. It was a different thing, and I felt compelled to say a music show for your computer. Now I laugh because most of us listen to music on devices that we carry.

CORNISH: The roots of the show, I think, very much inform what is NPR Music today. It does so by feeling not quite so - I guess the term would be promotional. Can you talk about the tone you wanted to take and how that was different from what was going on in the industry at the time?

BOILEN: What I grew up on and loved in radio was hearing voices of passion and hearing what they felt strong about in the music they loved, and I think that that's what I try to do. I don't play stuff because it's new. I play stuff because it came to me and I love it. And I want you to know about it. That's who we are, and I want to express that through the music we play.

CORNISH: As the show grew and became more popular and more well-known, who were the artists that came on that surprised you?

BOILEN: In my life, one of the people who have made music incredibly interesting to me was Brian Eno. And I brought him on the show many, many years ago to do what we call guest DJs - basically ask him, hey; what are you listening to? He played this Portishead song, which I madly, madly love.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BRIAN ENO: This is so captivating. I haven't been gripped by a piece of music as much as I was by that for a very long time. I wanted to tell everyone about it. So I think it's both powerful and...

CORNISH: At this point, there are many very fun and interesting podcasts out there around music. Not all of them are from NPR - "Switched On Pop" or "Song Exploder." What do you think of the world of music shows on your computer - right? - that, in a way, you were kind of at the forefront of?

BOILEN: Well, it's pretty thrilling. I mean, it goes to the same place that I talked about the beginning, where a DJ would come into a radio station with a stack of their records and they'd put on what they loved. And I think that's the beauty of podcasting. It's very democratic. You can do it and find your audience, and that audience can be big or small. But it means that the voice of passion and the creative voice gets to talk directly to people right into their ears and hopefully make a difference in people's lives, both the lives of the people who make the music and the person who's listening to it, because music has that effect on people.

CORNISH: That's Bob Boilen, creator and host of All Songs Considered, former director of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

BOILEN: I still miss it.

CORNISH: Happy 20th.

BOILEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TROUBLE'S "SNAKE EYES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.