Happy Sunday, folks! I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are experiencing something akin to spring by now. For return readers, I’m spending the next set of Sundays elaborating on some key points of Stealing All Transmissions, chapter by chapter. So, now that we’re into the fourth month of the year, I’ll dig a little deeper into clips from the cutting room floor of chapter 4, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The good eggs included Meg Griffin and Joe Piasek, of course, and this chapter provides biographical sketches for each of them.
Joe attended Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, and in 1970, he got involved in
Joseph Duffey’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Duffey was the chairman of Eugene McCarthy’s failed presidential campaign in 1968, and the headquarters of his own campaign were in nearby New Haven. Piasek told me how at an early meeting, a young law student named Hilary Rodham was trying the patience of the volunteers as they waited for the arrival of one of the key organizers. “`He’ll be here, he’ll be here,'” she implored, hours after the scheduled start time of the meeting.
That organizer was Bill Clinton, also a law student at Yale, who was that day apparently working his way down his to-do list in a rather leisurely fashion.
Duffey lost that election, but secured many an appointment in the NEH, as an ambassador, and did just fine.
Piasek, of course, within 10 years, secured a lasting legacy as a figure in New York radio who dared to try something new. Griffin of course went on to become a legendary figure in her own right, and still spins discs on SiriusXM Radio, and is one the key subjects in an upcoming documentary called I Am What I Play, a truly DIY affair. Check it out!
Greetings from radio K-SAT! I’m still waiting for a single hour in the 2-day forecast that doesn’t include a chance of rain, but in the meantime the tomato plants look awesome! (Speaking of tomatoes (and potatoes), does anyone else yearn for those bygone days when Dan Quayle was the most polarizing figure in US politics?)
As some of you know, Stealing All Transmissions tidies up a limited number of loose ends, and I figure it’s about time I apprise you of the whereabouts of a handful of the protagonists, aides, and abettors. Meg Griffin, of course, is still spinning discs for Sirius-XM Radio, and is also one of the key subjects of a new documentary, I Am What I Play. (Roger King is one of the masterminds of this project, and he’s a good guy, so do check this out when it arrives in your city.) Here she is with rock photographer extraordinaire (and insanely sweet guy) Bob Gruen, who still keeps busy on the other side of the camera. They’re pictured, of course, with Mr. G.’s book on John Lennon.
Joe Piasek, Meg’s partner-in-crime at WPIX, followed up their “Elvis-to-Elvis” experiment to work at Nickelodeon, where the management better understood the ethos he fomented at WPIX. As of August 2010, Piasek is behind the scenes (and occasionally on the air) at radio station WIOX-FM, out of Roxbury, New York. The station is this odd public-private partnership that broadcasts 24/7, with roughly 19 hours a day of live programming made possible by more than 80 volunteers. The facility is a former Masonic Lodge with plenty of space for in-studio performances, dances–the works. I had the chance to visit Joe there in 2012, and he’s still as properly restless as he was circa 1980 when it comes to business-as-usual. If you’re looking for a good cause to support, tune into WIOX, and consider joining their underwriting forces. (I’m presently tuned into Lizzie Douglas, who’s just schooled listeners that the inspiration for The Beatles’ “Good Morning, Good Morning” was a Corn Flakes commercial in the UK–just the thing that US historians might miss.) The transmission is analog and digital, and you can download the WIOX App for free at the iTunes Store. Given the struggles of radio in general, watch for this model to spread–all it takes is a few more mavericks who are willing and able.
Two more items of note: check out this lovely Clash fan site, which hosts over 3000 photos of the lads and descriptions in French.
Toronto, of course, played a big role in Clash history. As the tour bus readied in September 1979 to return to the US, Mick staged a sit-down strike until someone secured some marijuana. Luckily, some fan procured the necessary goods, and I’d like to offer my thanks to that person, as the legendary shows at the Palladium a few nights later might have otherwise never commenced. In case there’s interest: I am making a quick visit to Toronto on Thursday, 18 July, and while I wasn’t diligent enough to arrange a reading/signing that evening, I’d be delighted to meet folks for lunch and a chat about The Clash, the book, aging with punk and dignity, etc. If you’re interested (or know someone who’s interested), please e-mail me by 12 July, so we can make arrangements at a downtown eatery. Cheers!
Happy Mother’s Day all, and thanks for checking out my blog once again–or, if you’re a first-timer, welcome! My book’s been out for two whole days now in the UK, so it’s too early to report whether it’s got much traction with the home team fans just yet.
There isn’t much in the book that’s maternal-themed, but I’ve got to work a tie-in, so here goes. When putting the book together, I was under such a tight timeline, I wasn’t able to pursue permissions for the photo below of two of the key protagonists. In the book’s section on WPIX-FM, the NYC radio station that was brilliant, hilarious and all-too-short-lived with Joe Piasek and Meg Griffin at the helm, I describe the photo below from New York magazine. (Here’s the link to “Is Real-Rock Radio Normal?,” which appeared in the same issue as “How Politicians Stay Out of Jail”–if only “abnormal” radio were still with us, and the most nefarious politicians were locked up, I wonder if we’d have this global warming problem solved by now.
(The thematic aside: I cannot, alas, find the actual audio footage, but Griffin reported in our interview that, in an early in-studio interview with Tom Petty, each of them exited their respective booths, and when Petty looked aghast in Griffin’s direction, she asked what was wrong. “Well, Meg,” Petty drawled, “I guess I’ve never seen a pregnant deejay before.” And, for the Clash-o-philes among you, here’s a clip from that interview of Griffin talking about the gracious Mick Jones.)
Piasek and co.’s WPIX station was amazing, and here’s one of the playlists from August 1979, kindly provided by Will Keller, a PIX-o-phile who–when we were last in touch–was working on his own version of the brief-and-boisterous history of that moment in New York radio history.
Is it possible? Charlie Daniels, Wings, Nick Lowe, and Lena Lovich, along with The Clash, ELO, Ellen Foley, and Supertramp, all on the same playlist? For a fleeting moment, the “From Elvis to Elvis” format worked brilliantly, with live broadcasts of shows from CBGB and a host of fun radio stunts. But the bean counters at WPIX couldn’t sit still long enough for the public to catch on–and for their own good, too, as the station showed a financial turn-around just before they decided, once again, to modify “the format to improve the product to make it more mass acceptable,” according to the New York Times (Rockwell, “Pop Life,” March 21, 1980).
Following the format change (and mass firing), Piasek bailed from radio, worked for Nickelodeon for a spell, and currently staffs the helm at WIOX-FM, in Roxbury, New York, a distinctive model for private-public partnerships in community radio. I met Joe for lunch and conversation last summer, and he’s still as lively as ever, and remains excited about the possibilities of radio, music that matters, and a community of engaged listeners.
Meg Griffin, of course, still spins discs for Sirius XM Radio, and is one of the subjects featured in a new documentary: I Am What I Play, “a feature length documentary about the heyday of rock radio.” I’m certainly sympathetic with folks trying to balance the day job and the after-hours project, and wish them all the best putting the final edit together.
On the potpourri tip: this morning I encountered crossword puzzle query about Lloyd Price’s hit from 1959 (answer below), and on wikipedia a featured article drew my attention to Danie Mellor, a contemporary Indigenous Australian artist of no relation to another Mellor we know, I figure.
Oh, Stagger! What would your mother have made of this mess?