From 45 to 33 1/3: cadences of the AM and FM DJs

Good morning, readers. I hope your Sunday’s shaping up well. If you’re on the US continent, east of the Rockies, and north of Louisiana, I imagine you too will have a snow shovel in your hands before too long.

psmurray
Fab Four plus one.

Wednesday’s punk and post-punk gems will stay the same, but on Sundays I want to share a few more thoughts of themes from the book. For month two, then, I’m looking at chapter two, “From Sgt. Pepper’s to Born to Run: The Rise of Free-form FM Radio.” Through the  50s and into the 60s, the hysterical DJ dominated the AM airwaves, with promises of another “twin-spin sound sandwich” on a largely song-ad spot-song sequence. I couldn’t find an early aircheck for Murray the K. (also known as “the  5th Beatle”), but here’s one from 1966, just before Murray metamorphosed into a free-form DJ.

Rosko_WNEWIn the next year, though, the model has changed completely, and “Rosko” Mercer (not the UK’s Emperor Rosko), on WOR-FM, has turned things down, cadence-wise and volume-wise, and the corresponding change in music-as-pop to music-as-art leads to changes on the airwaves, too. Mercer, along with Scott Muni, led the charge at WNEW-FM into free-form FM radio, and he would segue from Coltrane to Shel Silverstein, and — as you can hear on this shorter segment — would improvise extended raps between songs and commercials, and share his own rather critical thoughts about the Vietnam War.

The 33 1/3 ethos, with minimal interference from commercials, made new demands on the listening audience, and upon advertisers to be more patient in terms of the frequency of their spots on the air. So, when Richard Neer at WNEW-FM raises the prospect of the live at the Bottom Line series to boss Mel Karmazin (now the head of Sirius XM), Karmazin couldn’t imagine how to make it happen — 90 minutes without commercials? It made little sense, but enough sense, and the Springsteen show ahead of the release of Born to Run sealed the deal. Four years later, The Clash were also included on the WNEW live series, now also at the Palladium, and we have the Guns of Brixton bootleg as a result. Thank you, Richard Neer, Rosko, and Muni!

For the rude boys and rude girls among you, check out Two Tone Britain. It’s not thorough by any stretch, but it does a solid job of unpacking the importance of the music and the politics of The Specials’ brigade against the backdrop of the rise of the National Front.

 

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my gig on 22 Jan at the rock hall // how the Boy Scouts inspired my faith in punk

Yes, yes. I’m a wee bit behind, in part because I’m preparing for my gig on Thursday, which you can watch live streaming, apparently — http://rockhall.com/event/Doane/ . The event’s all ready fully booked, so I hope I respond well to the pressure. I’m sure it will be a gas. The talk is called, “Hitsville, USA: How The Clash Broke America and Gave Our Adolescence a Whole Lotta Love,” and will include a review of:

  • how I was inspired by the Boy Scouts of America to become an aficionado of punk
  • the audio territory staked out by WNEW-FM, WPLJ-FM, and WPIX-FM circa 1979
  • punk aesthetics, blackness, and whiteness, and why The Clash were so damned awesome.

I’ll also talk about some of the holdings at the rock hall archive, and reprise some of the book’s themes on analog and digital music fandom. Here’s a pic of me as a Boy Scout (as if Monday mornings weren’t plenty difficult already):

Also: I just found this great article on Sdean of st15011818040 - Version 3WBCN, who were big Clash advocates back in the day (Oedipus, especially). I can hardly wait to track that book down, too.

Happy Monday, and thanks for tuning into K-SAT!

 

not fade away // notes on the social construction of youth

Keeping moderately good time, in my Beat concert-tee. 5 Dec 14.
Keeping moderately good time, in my Beat concert-tee. 5 Dec 14.

‘Allo, readers! Thanks so much to all of you who came out for Friday’s reading and shindig. I had a blast, and I hope you did, too. I wrote last week about my youthful notions of what adulthood might look like, which of course were based in reality but lost amid the cultural upheaval of digital life. After Friday’s reading, when I thumped along on my bass for three songs, and took the mic for another with The Crooked Beat, my one-off Clash cover band, it was only the second time in the past 25 years that I’ve performed musically in public. (The night I sang Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots Are Made for Walkin'” at a piano bar in Hell’s Kitchen to a roomful of gay men, well that’s a tale for another day …)

So yes, being well north of 40 years of age, and doing the punk thing of starting a band before I knew how to play (I’m in month 10 of my bass lessons), it was a great rush, and a blast to keep time with a bunch of capable musicians.

This Thursday, from 5-6pm EST, on wobc.org (livestream), is my last radio show for the fall, and I’ll be spinning discs in tribute to the upcoming winter solstice. I’m hoping to cram the hour with no fewer than 30 of my favorite short and sharp punk and post-punk tunes. Please tune in, and be safe out there.

the covers themselves — snippet from 9 Oct show

Happy Wednesday, readers. Today’s post simply offers the musical accompaniment to Sunday’s post on punk covers, and includes a few of my favorite covers by boy bands, including The Specials, Devo, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, The Clash, and another ruckusly-inclined band to wrap things up.

More news about the book is coming soon. Until then, please stand up and pogo around the office to this musical selection. Enjoy!

spirit of ’77, Oct 2 show

Ah, yes, I’m a tad late getting this segment together. A bit of The Specials, UB40, OMD, The Clash, and a couple other tracks–maybe 25 min. in length or so.  A bit mellow for ’77, but I’ll turn up the volume in today’s show, which is going to be focused on punk covers. It’s wobc.org, or 91.5 on your FM dial in Lorain County, 5-6pm, EDT.

post punk gems, v. 41 — The Specials’ “Ghost Town”

Happy weekend, people. It’s turned bitter-ish up north, and I expect that the bustling sidewalks of the past few months will thin considerably as the days get shorter, colder, and icier. How fortuitous, then, that 33 1/3 years ago, The Specials released “Ghost Town,” which was still all the rage on the radio when I had a home stay in Coventry (home base of The Specials) in July 1982.

A trip to Jamaica inspired the narrative and, of course, the de-industrialization of English metropoles was also on their minds. As Lynal Golding told the NME, “Kingston is a real ghost town. The place is a complete wreck … It was the first time I’d been to Jamaica in 20 years and it was frightening … people begging for a dollar, people begging you for the shoes on your feet.”

The 12″ single, I figure, was backed with “Why” and the sweet adagio swing of “Friday Night / Saturday Morning.” (You can find more recent live performances of this track, but I’m fond of the low-fi herein.)

The book’s available at most big online stores, but if you’re interested in the book (and its politics), please consider buying from somewhere other than amazon, including your local bookshop, whose hip cashiers may even be inspired by your fine tastes to order a couple of extra copies for the shop. I’m sure amazon is full of lovely people and all, but if half of what Hightower writes here is 25% true, it’s a bit of a mess.

25 Sept — Spirit of ’77 show (most of it, anyway)

‘allo, music mavens! Here’s the audio part of most of last Thursday’s show. It starts off well before ’77 with The Fabulous Counts, and includes tracks by Iggy Pop (from ’77), Game Theory, Costello, Guided by Voices, English Beat, Big Star, The Fastbacks, and The Corin Tucker Band. A bit more ‘merican than I usually do, but I think it’s a decent set.

I’m spinning discs every Th. for an hour, 5-6pm, EDT, @ wobc.org this fall. Send me requests via @stealingclash or, if you’d like, give the station a call — 440.775.8139.