DJ Lou Reed, at WPIX-FM, January 1979

Good morning rude girls, rude boys!

I’m sticking with the general theme of the past few months of Sundays, where I elaborate a theme from my book — which, as folks on twitter may know, just received a silver Independent Publisher Book Award in the popular culture category. Thanks to many of you for helping get the word out.

November 1978 (Arista) -- artwork credited to Nazario.
November 1978 (Arista) — artwork credited to Nazario.

I’m keepin’ today’s spot from ch. 5 short and sweet–WPIX-FM’s “Radio Radio” show on Sundays included spots with dozens of (often NYC-based) musicians in the role of DJ, and Lou Reed made a couple of appearances during the “Joe from Chicago” era. It proved to be a transitional era for Reed: he and his long-time partner Rachel split, and soon thereafter he married Sylvia Morales. On January 28, fairly fresh off the release of Live Take No Prisoners, Reed and his entourage crashed the party, and played a bunch of fun tunes from 1954 to 1962, including:

And, his own one-off novelty hit from 1964 with The Primitives, in which you may be able to glean a germ of the punk sensibility of humor and anti-virtuosity:

And here’s a little ramble from Reed, once John Cale arrived in the studio that evening.

Have a rock-steady week!

Coda: I went for a quick drive after this post and, after a listen to Velvet Underground’s eponymous third LP (March 1969), felt compelled to add a few more thoughts about Mr. Reed.

Of their LPs, I dig Velvet Underground the most, in part because Reed’s growing influence in the band means good things for pop, as early as “Candy Says,” the opening track. With the Beatles-inspired turn to pop as serious art, Reed tarries in affirmative pop forms (with lyrics of existential dread), and draws upon his affinity for doo-wop to mix in the signature “doo-doo-wa” that closes the track.

For a host of good reasons, including Reed’s a-tuneful approach to singing, and the beautiful darkness-in-plain-sight of tracks such as “Some Kinda Love,” The Velvet Underground represents the logical bridge between Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) and The Sex Pistols’ decimation of “Johnny B. Goode” (1979).

 

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potpourri for punks (and mothers) — pix, Stagger Lee, etc.

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.

piasek griffin -- 1980

(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.

WPIX -- general playlist -- aug 10 79

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 Mellora 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?

Have a delightful week, culture comrades!