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Serious Songs Give Bite to Death Cab for Cutie's Sixth Album

Also: A listener in Indonesia asks about the first man to step on the moon, Neil Armstrong.  And hear how satellite radio is changing the way Americans listen to the radio. Transcript of radio broadcast:



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

Today we play music from the band Death Cab for Cutie ...

Answer a question about American astronaut Neil Armstrong …

And report on an interesting satellite radio program.


Satellite Radio


Radio listeners in the United States often say that local stations broadcast too many advertisements. So, many people are willing to pay money to listen to satellite radio. The two competing satellite radio companies in the United States, XM and Sirius, joined together in July. Barbara Klein tells us what satellite radio listeners are paying to hear.


Jeffrey Yorke writes for the industry Web site, He says that ten years ago industry leaders questioned whether satellite radio would succeed. Who would want to pay to hear the radio, they thought?

Today, more than eighteen million people in the United States pay about thirteen dollars a month for the service. Part of the reason for this growth, says Mister Yorke, is the huge choice in programming. The new Sirius XM Radio company will offer listeners several hundred channels to choose from. Most of them are free of advertisements. These channels present news, sports, humor, traffic and weather, political shows, talk shows, cooking shows and every kind of music.

Rock musician Bob Dylan, for example, presents a program every week called "Theme Time Radio Hour." The two-hour show is repeated several times a week. On each show, Dylan plays music based on an idea or subject, like trains, summer, New York City or coffee. Between songs, the rock star talks about the music, the singers, his opinions and anything else. Let's listen.


Lifestyle expert Martha Stewart and comedian Jamie Foxx also present shows on satellite radio. So do Howard Stern and Bob Edwards, who used to have popular shows on other radio stations. Mister Yorke says satellite radio could become even more popular in the future if new and different personalities are invited to create programs.

Neil Armstrong


Our VOA question this week comes from Indonesia. Mohammed Sholeh asks about American astronaut Neil Armstrong and what he is doing now.

NEIL ARMSTRONG: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


That was Neil Armstrong speaking on July twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine as he became the first person to set foot on the moon. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched or listened to the moon landing.

The United States Space Agency's Apollo Eleven mission was an extraordinary scientific, engineering and public relations success. And the astronaut quickly became an American hero.

Neil Armstrong was surely born for the space adventure. But he was never quite at ease with the fame that followed.

Neil Alden Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in nineteen thirty. When he was sixteen, he learned to fly a plane and got his pilot's license. After high school, Neil joined the Navy and was accepted in a special program that paid for his college education. He went to Purdue University in Indiana. It had a strong flight engineering program. But the start of the Korean War delayed his studies. He was a pilot and carried out seventy-eight air operations. He returned to complete his studies at Purdue after the war ended in nineteen fifty-two.

Neil Armstrong was working as a test pilot when NASA chose him to become an astronaut. His first trip to space was with the Gemini program in nineteen sixty-six. Three years later he was named commander of the Apollo Eleven flight.

After the trip to the moon, he resigned from the astronaut program and from NASA in nineteen seventy-one. He went back to Ohio and taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Armstrong helped lead the government's investigation of the deadly explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in nineteen eighty-six. He has served on the boards of directors of many corporations. Over the years, both major American political parties asked Mister Armstrong if he was interested in seeking public office. But he always said no.

A few years ago, the private man became a little more public. He worked with writer James Hansen on a book about his life. "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" was published in two thousand five. Reporters asked him if he would be interested in going back into space. Armstrong laughed and said he did not think he would get the chance but that he was available.

Death Cab For Cutie


Death Cab for Cutie has been making music for ten years. The popular rock group recently released its sixth full-length album, "Narrow Stairs." The group's guitar player, Chris Walla, describes the album as "having teeth." The serious songs on the album show that Death Cab for Cutie continues to develop its sound in new and interesting ways. Faith Lapidus tells us more.



That was the song "Grapevine Fires." Ben Gibbard sings about how watching a spreading fire becomes a lesson about the impermanence of life.

The name Death Cab for Cutie comes from a song written by a British band from the nineteen sixties.

Death Cab for Cutie recorded most of "Narrow Stairs" in the studio of the band's drummer, Jason McGerr. McGerr built the professional studio in Seattle, Washington so the band could have a pleasant place in which to spend several weeks recording together.

The album was recorded with the band facing each other as they played their music. This calm environment helps give the songs a natural sound, as though they were part of a live performance.

Here is the song "I Will Possess Your Heart." This eight-and-a-half-minute song starts with a long musical introduction.


Death Cab For Cutie has been performing music around the United States, Canada and Europe this summer. Here they play "Pity and Fear." This song skillfully expresses one person's thoughts on feeling sad and alone.


I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Jill Moss and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.