Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Things are never quite the way they seem..."

WOXY
Back to the Future Playlist
Saturday, 11 October, 2003

8 a.m.
Thompson Twins – “Lies”
The Go Betweens – “Karen”
The Connells – “Fun & Games”
Poi Dog Pondering – “Jackass Ginger”
Hot House Flowers – “Don’t Go”
Tom Robinson Band – “2-4-6-8 Motorway”
Happy Mondays – “Kinky Afro”
The Cure – “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”
Gary Clail – “Human Nature”
Felt w/ Liz Frasier – “Primitive Painters”
Dumptruck – “Back Where I Belong”
Matthew Sweet – “We’re the Same”
Deee-Lite – “Groove is in the Heart”
David Sylvian – “Red Guitar”
The Pogues – “Dirty Old Town”

9 a.m.
John Hiatt – “Thing Called Love”
Royal Crescent Mob – “Love Rollercoaster”
The Cramps – “Surfin’ Dead”
Television – “Friction”
Pete Shelley – “Homosapien”
Nick Cave – “Deanna”
Love & Rockets – “Haunted When the Minutes Drag”
Gang of Four – “I Love a Man in a Uniform”
Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus”
Edie Brickell – “What I Am”
Circle Jerks – “American Heavy Metal Weekend”
Duran Duran – “Planet Earth”
808 State – “Moses”

10 a.m.
Squeeze – “Take Me I’m Yours”
Talking Heads – “Cities”
Terence Trent D’arby – “She Kissed Me”
Pet Shop Boys – “Suburbia”
Golden Palominos – “Clustering Train”
Flesh for Lulu – “Postcards from Paradise”
Enigma – “Sadeness”
Soho – “Hippie Chick”
(open for request)
The Police – “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”
Stray Cats – “Rock this Town”
The Cucumbers – “My Boyfriend”
Us 3 – “Cantaloop”
(open for request)

Although The Record Store was primarily known first and foremost as a place to buy music and music-related ephemera, we also did a brisk side business selling jewelry and smoking paraphernalia. There were plenty of regulars who never bought music from us at all, but were there each week to buy pipe screens, rolling papers, or one-hitters. Because of the quasi-illegal nature of the paraphernalia side of the business, we were forced to stop selling the harder-core head items like bongs, but we sold whatever we could while still staying on the right side of the law. This included cleanse kits.

The first cleanse kits we carried were “Quick Flush” herbal teas. Even though kits cost nearly $20 a box and users had to drink a couple of quarts of the stuff for it to work, we sold out each and every weekend. In a blue collar steel-and-auto manufacturing city where alcohol and recreational drug use was about the only fun to be had, I guess selling out of piss-test helpers wasn’t all that surprising.

While the herbal teas remained popular, we soon expanded our trade to include vials of a synthetic compound that could be mixed with urine to mask THC, and shampoo kits that stripped the THC out of hair. The teas were most popular with those who knew they were going to have to take a drug test – usually those in the process of job hunting. The chemical vials were most popular with assembly-line workers, who could be pulled from the line for a test at a moments notice. Users were instructed to keep the vials with them at all times – preferably someplace warm, like the front pocket of jeans or inside a bra. This is because the synthetic compound needed to be the same body temperature as urine in order to work.

You are probably wondering by this time why I’m banging on at such length about drug test kits when this post is supposed to be about my old WOXY play lists, and I can only say that the first thing that leapt out at me about this play list was Gang of Four’s “I Love a Man in a Uniform” which reminded me of the inordinate number of military personnel who came into the store in search of those cleanse kits. By far the most requested items for the soldiers and flyboys were the shampoo cleanse-kits. One of them once told me that it was because the government rarely bothered with piss-tests for personnel who had already completed basic training – instead, the U.S. military preferred the hair-strand test for our boys in uniform. I do not know how things are in today’s military, but back then soldiers were tested each time they had been away on leave.

And since most soldiers had their heads shaved during basic and kept it close cropped throughout their tenure in the armed forces, the shampoos we sold were rarely ever used above the shoulders. Mostly, as I was nervously informed by a worried flyboy, hair would be plucked from the legs, arms or – wait for it – the groin area. Ouch. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the chemicals in the shampoo kits tended to burn the, erm, more “sensitive areas” upon which they were applied. Such were the lengths our boys went through in order to serve their country.

Anyway, I couldn’t find a decent video of Gang of Four, so instead I give you another military-inspired song from the 80’s:


Stan Ridgway’s “Camouflage”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"An ocean storm can be still risen by a woman's lips..."

WOXY
Back to the Future Playlist
Saturday, 4 October, 2003

8 a.m.
David Bowie – “DJ”
Fred Schneider – “Monster”
Guadalcanal Diary – “Always Saturday”
Kate Bush – “Babooshka”
Peter Murphy – “Line Between the Devil’s Teeth”
Camper Van Beethoven – “The History of Utah”
X-Ray Spex – “Oh Bondage Up Yours”
Was (Not Was) – “I Feel Better Than James Brown”
Urban Dance Squad – “Deeper Shade of Soul”
PiL – “The Body”
M – “Pop Muzik”
Depeche Mode – “Shake the Disease”
Jerry Harrison – “Rev It Up”
The Ramones – “We’re a Happy Family”
(left blank for request)

9 a.m.
Elvis Costello – “Everyday I Write the Book”
Laurie Anderson – “Language is a Virus”
Let’s Active – “Fell”
Talking Heads – “Television Man”
Young Fresh Fellows – “Amy Grant”
The Pretenders – “Precious”
Charlatans – “White Shirt”
Soul Asylum – “Cartoon”
Firehose – “Sometimes”
Wolfgang Press – “A Girl Like You”
Jesus Jones – “Move Mountains”
The Fall – “Cruiser’s Creek”
The Police – “Driven to Tears”
The Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen In Love?”

10 a.m.
Sinead O’Connor – “Jerusalem”
Echo & the Bunnymen – “The Cutter”
The Cult – “Revolution”
Ministry – “Work for Love”
XTC – “No Thugs in Our House”
Winter Hours – “Roadside Flowers”
U2 – “Gloria”
Tom Tom Club – “The Man With the 4-way Hips”
Special AKA – “Free Nelson Mandela”
The Clash – “White Riot”
The Replacements – “Here Comes a Regular”

No other band deserved to make the “big time” more than Winter Hours, but like so many others during the heyday of college radio, they got gobbled up and spit out by one of the majors.

Winter Hours originally formed in the early 1980’s and paid their dues playing in clubs up and down the east coast while trying to scrape together the money for demos. They first came across my radar sometime around ’85-‘86 when I stumbled across the Churches EP while flipping through the racks at Renaissance Music. I knew nothing about the band but was willing to take a chance on them based on their song titles and album sleeve artwork. I was blown away from the first listen, and actively sought out everything that came out afterwards.

The band released a couple of EPs and one LP for Link Records – not the U.K. punk label but the American one, which also released albums by The Godfathers, Full Fathom Five and O Positive. When I began working at WWSU I remember how excited I was the day the Wait Til the Morning EP landed on our doorstep. With the sublime “Hyacinth Girl,” I just knew the band would be huge. How could they not, with a song like that?

Their first full-length LP (released on Link), Leaving Time, remains one of my all-time favorites, and that is really saying something – coming from someone who has quite an extensive collection. With each listen I fall in love all over again.

The band signed with Chrysalis and released the self-titled Winter Hours, an album I felt wasn’t a patch on Leaving Time but was still very good. The single “Roadside Flowers” carried the album and could have taken the band to the next level, but Chrysalis had recently been made a public company and was still trying to adjust to a new playing field – they just didn’t have a clue. The label had no idea of how to market the band, they didn’t they recognize the band’s potential, and they looked upon college radio as a “fad” rather than a viable way to get the band’s music heard. Link had done what they could and knew college radio, but they didn’t have the money to really push the band. Chrysalis had the money but disdained college radio and the entire “alternative/modern rock” phenomenon. They were too busy pushing the likes of Pat Benetar, Slaughter and Huey Lewis & the News. That same mindset hurt them when Geffen unleashed Nirvana on the unsuspecting public a few years later and Chrysalis, like most of the majors, scrambled to play catch-up.

If there is one event that I look back on with abject regret, it is that I had the chance to see Winter Hours live at Bogarts (playing with Christmas) and I didn’t go. I had tickets but the weather was really bad and I figured that the show would be cancelled so I didn’t attempt the long drive in the snow and ice. I cannot count the number of times I have looked back on that decision and kicked myself for not going. I thought there would be other chances. How wrong could I have been?

This video of Winter Hours performing "Wait til the Morning" isn't the best of quality, but the song is stellar. Check it out. Likewise for more information on the band visit their tribute page.



Lead singer Joseph Marques died 28 June, 2003 at the age of 40. The beauty of his voice and lyrics will never be forgotten by those of us who loved the band.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Our nations need new heroes, time to sing a new war song..."

WOXY
Back to the Future playlist
Saturday, 27 September 2003


8 a.m.
Fishbone – “Party at Ground Zero”
Concrete Blonde – “Still in Hollywood”
Graham Parker – “Temporary Beauty”
E.M.F. – “Unbelievable”
John Wesley Harding – “The Devil in Me”
The Replacements – “Waitress in the Sky”
Hindu Love Gods – “Raspberry Beret”
Lightning Seeds – “Pure”
Nick Lowe – “Cruel to be Kind”
Patti Smith – “Because the Night”
Beastie Boys – “Fight for Your Right”
The Church – “Reptile”
Wire – “Eardrum Buzz”
Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come”
Lou Reed – “Sally Can’t Dance”

9 a.m.
Michael Penn – “No Myth”
Peter Gabriel – “Biko”
Stan Ridgway & Stewart Copeland – “Don’t Box Me In”
Material Issue – “Diane”
The Damned – “Alone Again Or”
Sam Phillips – “Standing Still”
The Waterboys – “This is the Sea”
The Stooges – “I Wanna Be Your Dog”
REM – “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”
Midnight Oil – “Best of Both Worlds”
The Godfathers – “Cold Turkey”
Stone Roses – “Elephant Stone”
Tom Waits – “16 Shells from a 30-6”
Kirsty MacColl – “Caroline”

10 a.m.
Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Fight Like a Brave”
Morrissey – “Everyday is like Sunday”
Art of Noise – “Close to the Edit”
The Stranglers – “Always the Sun”
The Sisters of Mercy – “This Corrosion”
Throwing Muses – “Dizzy”
A House – “Call Me Blue”
Brian Ritchie – “Sun Ra – Man From Outer Space”
Martha & the Muffins – “Echo Beach”
Bauhaus – “She’s in Parties”
Buzzcocks – “Orgasm Addict”
Josie Cotton – “Johnny Are You Queer?”
Joe Jackson – “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”
They Might be Giants – “Particle Man”

After 9/11 happened I worried that I’d never hear Fishbone’s wonderful “Party at Ground Zero” on the radio again, especially when the knee-jerk reaction of the corporate bullyboys at Clear Channel was to ban a bunch of songs with “questionable” lyrics and other non-CC stations followed their lead. Not that anyone at Clear Channel had a clue about Fishbone, evidenced by it’s omission in the “questionable” list, but I thought that certainly a title like “Party at Ground Zero” would find it’s way to the chopping block.

So imagine my elation when, a few months after those planes hit the World Trade Center, I heard Barb spin the tune while I was driving in my car on a cold, grey November day. WOXY had always had a healthy rebellious streak, and although they always adhered to FCC law they weren’t afraid to do their own thing, and playing “Party at Ground Zero” was testament to that. It’s difficult to describe just how much of a weight I felt had lifted when I heard that song on the radio. The U.S. government was in full war-mode paranoia with civil liberties being snatched away with each passing day, and in cities and towns across the country our newspapers, TV programs and radio stations were jumping on the censorship bandwagon before the white soot in New York had even settled. I thanked my lucky stars that there were still independent stations out there willing to take risks, and that one of them was the little station out of Oxford known as WOXY.

for your listening and viewing pleasure, I give you Fishbone:


I’m so proud to have worked at WOXY, even though my stint was merely a blink in time. This year marks their 25th anniversary; they no longer broadcast over the air but are still flyin’ the flannel via the magic of internet radio. And they still play "Party at Ground Zero!"

Tune in!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"I belong to the Blank Generation and I can take it or leave it each time..."

WOXY
Back to the Future playlist

Saturday, 20 September 2003

8 a.m.
Madness – “One Step Beyond”
Julian Cope – “Charlotte Anne”
Love & Rockets – “It Could Be Sunshine”
Neds Atomic Dustbin – “Grey Cell Green”
The Buck Pets – “A Little Murder”
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Walk On the Ocean”
Wire Train – “Chamber of Hellos”
B-52s – “Private Idaho”
Tracey Chapman – “For My Lover”
Dukes of Stratosphear – “25 O’Clock”
Eurythmics – “When Tomorrow Comes”
Gene Loves Jezebel – “Desire”
Big Star – “September Gurls”
Adrian Belew – “Big Electric Cat”

9 a.m.
The Modern Lovers – “Roadrunner”
Klark Kent – “Don’t Care”
Golden Palominos – “Boy (Go)”
Husker Du – “Sorry Somehow”
10,000 Maniacs – “Like the Weather”
Living Colour – “Glamour Boys”
Richard Hell & the Voidoids – “Blank Generation”
Stereo MC’s – “Connected”
The Cure – “Killing an Arab”
The Chameleons – “Tears”
A Split Second – “Parallax View”
The Jam – “Start”
Holly & the Italians – “Tell that Girl to Shut Up”
The Nails – “88 Lines About 44 Women”
Beat Farmers – “Happy Boy”
Translator – “Everywhere That I’m Not”

10 a.m.
Grandmaster Flash – “White Lines”
Madder Rose – “Swim”
Michelle Shocked – “Anchorage”
Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – “Jesus at McDonalds”
New York Dolls – “Personality Crisis”
Rockpile – “Teacher Teacher”
Pere Ubu – “Final Solution”
The Jazz Butcher – “The Devil is My Friend”
The The – “Infected”
Jesus & Mary Chain – “April Skies”
The Smiths – “Headmaster Ritual”
The Dead Milkmen – “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)”
The Connells – “Fun & Games”
The Call – “I Don’t Wanna”
Killing Jokes – “Eighties”

One of the greatest things about creating my own show was the ability to put songs on the air that would normally never get heard. I tried to intersperse the lesser-known songs with those that listeners would recognize, and it was always a thrill for me whenever someone rang me up at the station with a fun request or a compliment on how they were digging the tunes.

The listeners who took the time to phone in were a welcome distraction and usually had some awesome musical suggestions. They made my time on-air seem less like a job and more like a party. Knowing that folks were tuning in – even at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning - kept me on my toes to make my breaks as interesting as possible and I tried to give callers shout-outs on the air because for whatever reason, people like to hear their names on the radio. As more listeners learned about the show and tuned in, I began to leave gaps open in the playlist for their requests. Those will be evident in later posts.

This playlist is full of favorites for me: “Big Electric Cat,” “Roadrunner,” “Blank Generation” and “The Devil is My Friend” are just a few that I could probably put on an endless loop and never get tired of hearing.

Check out Richard Hell & the Voidoids:

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Things are going great, and they're only getting better..."

In May 2003 I got an email from old college buddy and current WOXY program director Mike Taylor, asking me if I would be interested in creating a Saturday morning program on WOXY to showcase the music we played as students during those halcyon days at WWSU.

“Hey -if you are interested in an air shift on 97X, and you think you will indeed still be living in the area for a while - let me know. there is a show i've been considering trying to get off the ground here, but needs to have a host with a serious knowledge of modern rock, particularly pre-Nirvana, whom I haven't run across with the desire to take it on. hope things are well -mike”

Of course I was interested! Several emails and phone calls later I was training in the studio with Mike, Sledge, Barb and Shiv, and then boom, I was on the air. I kept copies of all my Back to the Future programs and will be posting them as time allows.

My shift began at 6 a.m. with two hours of regular programming, and Back to the Future ran from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m.

WOXY
Back to the Future
6 September, 2003


8 a.m.
XTC – “Senses Working Overtime”
Berlin – “The Metro”
The Dbs – “Spy in the House of Love”
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”
This Picture – “Naked Rain”
Yaz – “Don’t Go”
Richard Thompson – “Valerie”
The Clash – “Ivan Meets GI Joe”
Stan Ridgway – “I Wanna Be a Boss”
The Beautiful South – “Rotterdam”
The Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m an Adult Now”
Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me with Science”
Blondie – “Denis”
Suzanne Vega – “Left of Center”
Too Much Joy – “Long Haired Guys From England”

9 a.m.
Timbuk 3 – “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)”
Meat Puppets – “Sam”
Don Dixon – “Praying Mantis”
Pop Will Eat Itself – “Can U Dig It?”Big Audio Dynamite – “The Bottom Line”
BoDeans – “Angels”
Lloyd Cole – “Lost Weekend”
Tones on Tail – “Go!”
Yello – “O Yeah”
Time Zone – “World Destruction”
Guadalcanal Diary – “Watusi Rodeo”
Ian Dury – “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”
The Pretenders – “Stop Your Sobbing”
Let’s Active – “Every Word Means No”
Black Flag – “TV Party”
De La Soul – “Me, Myself & I”
Hoodoo Gurus – “I Want You Back”

10 a.m.
The Vapors – “Turning Japanese”
Soup Dragons – “I’m Free”
Adam & the Ants – “Antmusic”
Belle Stars – “Sign of the Times”
English Beat – “Mirror in the Bathroom”
Fine Young Cannibals – “Suspicious Minds”
INXS – “I Send a Message”
The Kings – “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide”
Depeche Mode – “Flexible”
Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party”
Plimsouls – “A Million Miles Away”
Shriekback – “Nemesis”
Elvis Hitler – “Green Haze”
The Housemartins – “Happy Hour”
The Shamen – “Ebeneezer Goode”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden..."

Why is it that I always seem to be out of town when my favorite bands come to town?

Next month while I am away on vacation The National are playing a free concert on Fountain Square as part of a Barack Obama rally. The Breeders will be there too.

I'm gutted to be missing this one, for sure.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"I've been on the other side..."

WWSU Playlist
Wednesday, 12 April, 1989
9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
David Bowie – “DJ”
H Ultra Vivid Scene – “She Screamed”
TOTW Love & Rockets – “So Alive”
H African Head Charge – “Thrown It Away”
DC NoMeansNo – “Dead Souls”
H Royal Court of China – “Half the Truth”
H Buck Pets – “A Little Murder”
PMLS Clock DVA – “The Hacker”
H No Name Bertha – “Mr. Raccoon”
PM REC Beatnigs – “Television”
H Dessau – “Isolation”
H The Brood – “Satisfied”

SECOND HOUR
K
Nina Hagen – “Universal Radio”
H Arsenal – “Half Control”
TOTW Robyn Hitchcock – “More Than This”
H Keith LeBlanc – “Men in Capsules”
DC Capt. Sensible – “Glad It’s All Over”
H Mudhoney – “No One Has”
H Girl Trouble – “Wreckin’ Ball”
PMLS Darks Pandemonium – “Always Comes Evening”
H Pussy Galore – “Yu Gung”
Xxx Danielle Dax – “Pariah”
Xxx Danielle Dax – “Evil Honky Stomp”
Xxx Danielle Dax – “Hammerheads”
Xxx Danielle Dax – “Ostrich”
Xxx Danielle Dax – “Where the Flies Are”

THIRD HOUR
K
The Smiths – “Girlfriend in a Coma”
H Batfish – “Another One Bites the Dust”
TOTW The Cure – “Fascination Street”
H Masters of Reality – “Kill the King”
DC Husker Du – “Hardly Getting Over It”
H The Cult – “Fire Woman”
H Meat Beat Manifesto – “God O.D.”
PMLS Band of Susans – “Hard Light”
H Dinosaur Jr. – “Poledo”
PMREC Flesh For Lulu – “Spaceball Ricochet”

Right. So I went a bit nuts with the Danielle Dax stuff in my second hour. It is only because I adored her work and bought everything she released.

Dax (born Danielle Gardner) began her musical career as a member of the avant-garde punk band The Lemon Kittens but soon went her own way with 1982’s Pop-Eyes, released independently on her own label, Awesome Records.

The original cover art for Pop-Eyes, which Dax created herself, was considered too “grotesque” for the delicate sensibilities of mainstream record shops and was discontinued after the first run, being replaced by the enchanting multi-layered photo/paintings of artist Holly Warburton, who went on to create covers for Dax’s subsequent releases Jesus Egg That Wept (1984), Inky Bloaters (1987) and Dark Adapted Eye (1989), as well as several 12” singles.

I first discovered Dax with 1984’s Jesus Egg That Wept and it remains my favorite of her releases. As you can see from the playlist above, four of the five songs I chose to spin were from that album: “Pariah,” “Evil Honky Stomp,” “Hammerheads” and “Ostrich.” It’s difficult to describe her earlier music, but the words experimental, minimal and innovative come to mind. An incredibly talented musician, she plays nearly every instrument on her albums, including drums, bass, flute, keyboards, tenor sax, synths, honky-tonk piano and even the kalimba!

By 1987’s Inky Bloaters, Dax had eschewed the 4-track recording and brought in a full band. She was still pushing the boundaries of surrealism with songs like “Fizzing Human Bomb” and “Sleep Has No Property,” but it also seemed there was a conscious effort on her part to make music a little more accessible to the mainstream – songs like “Big Hollow Man” and “Where the Flies Are” had already been released as 12” dance singles in her native England, a trend that continued when she signed to Sire Records in the U.S. and released 1988’s “Whistling For His Love” and “Cat-House.”

I’m not sure Sire quite knew what to make of Ms. D – they tried to sell her as a dance club artist, but her music had too much depth and complexity to be pigeon-holed so easily, and I think it hurt her. Sire released Dark Adapted Eye, which was basically a reissue of Inky Bloaters with the best tracks from the earlier albums tacked on. Ironically, Sire didn’t include the boogie-woogie gospel dirge masterpiece “Evil Honky Stomp” in this collection, probably because they were afraid of offending someone. The song itself is about racial bigotry and Danielle uses a variety of voices and tape loops to convey the absurdity and stupidity of hatred, and it’s omission from the album is a glaring example of how major labels simply “don’t get” true artistry.

Once Sire got hold of her it was the beginning of the end. She released her lone studio album, Blast the Human Flower, in 1990, with downplayed eastern instrumentation and simplified lyrics. I do not know if she did this because of label pressure to achieve some chart success, or if she had simply ran out of good ideas, but the album seems shallow and hasn’t stood the test of time.

Blast the Human Flower was also Dax’s last full album. After that there was a Janice Long Sessions E.P., a collaboration with Shock Headed Peters on a couple of songs, a track or two released on Sire compilations, and in 1995 she returned to a more experimental sound with the instrumental E.P. Timber Tongue. Her final release was a collection of hits and rarities aptly titled Comatose Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax.

Since 1996 Dax has worked in interior design and has appeared several times on the BBC interior design show Homefront.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"Too little passion in your style, a little murder in your smile..."

WWSU Playlist
5 April, 1988
Wednesday, 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Billy Bragg – “Greetings to the New Brunette”
H Dead Can Dance – “Ulysses”
TOTW Xymox – “Obsession”
H Shades Apart – “On the Inside”
DC Captain Beefheart – “Moonchild”
H Full Fathom 5 – “Firing Line”
H Glass Eye – “Christine”
PMLS Grave Goods – “Narrow House”
H African Head Charge – “Throw It Away”
PM REC Flour – “Accordion”
H Girl Trouble – “Old Time Religion”
H Ultra Vivid Scene – “Lynn Marie #2”
DC Tones on Tail – “Real Life”
REC Royal Court of China – “Half the Truth”

SECOND HOUR
K
Front 242 – “Headhunter”
H Ungh! – “Josh Edit”
TOTW Erasure – “Stop”
H NoMeansNo – “Teresa, Give Me the Knife”
DC Bongwater – “Rock & Roll, Pt. 2”
H Live Skull – “Safe for Me”
H Mudhoney – “No One Has”
PMLS Laibach – “Symphony For the Devil”
H UK Subs – “Sabre Dance”
PM REC Sonic Youth – “Candle/Rain King”
H Buck Pets – “A Little Murder”
H Field Trip – “Where’s the Fire”
REQ Legendary Pink Dots – “Waiting for the Cloud”

THIRD HOUR
K
Camper Van Beethoven – “She Divines Water”
H Mark Zero – “White Trash”
TOTW Happy Mondays – “Wrote For Luck”
H Skinner Box – “Field of Holes”
DC Tater Totz – “Bharthas Boogie”
H Pussy Galore – “Yu Gung”
H Lard – “The Power of Lard”
PM LS Young Gods – “Face a Face”
H Voice of the Beehive – “D’yer Maker”
H Shock Headed Peters – “Son of Thumb & a Murderer”

Friday, June 27, 2008

"It ain't whatcha do it's the way thatcha do it..."

Had another training session at WOXY yesterday and I think I am finally getting a feel for the equipment and process.

Now if I can just find my voice again...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"There you go, way too fast. If you don't slow down you're gonna crash..."

WWSU Playlist
15 March 1989
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K The Primitives – “Crash”
H Flouride – “Keep on Walking”
TOTW Morrissey – “Last of the Famous International Playboys”
H Birdhouse – “Brixton’s Burning”
DC The Cure – “Boys Don’t Cry”
H A Split Second – “Bend My Body”
H Lead Into Gold – “Idiot”
PMLS Young Gods – “Face a Face”
H Prince Far I Singers – “Water the Garden”
PMREC Tones on Tail – “War”
H Frank Allison & Odd Sox – “Louder”
H UK Subs – “Motivator”
DC Skinny Puppy – “The Choke”

SECOND HOUR
K
Suicidal Tendencies – “I Saw Your Mommy”
H Shades Apart – “Shadow of a Cross”
TOTW Tim Finn – “Crescendo”
H Half Japanese – “Said & Done”
DC The Misfits – “Skulls”
H Ungh – “Skate Afrikana”
H Government Issue – “Strange Wine”
PMLS Karen Findley – “Lick It”
H Elvis Hitler – “10 Wheels for Jesus”
PMREC B.A.L.L. – “If I Break Down”
H Love & Rockets – “Bike”
H Arsenal – “Little Hitlers”
K The Damned – “In Dulce Decorum”
REQ Tuxedomoon – “Atlantis”

THIRD HOUR
K XTC – “Dear God”
H The Splat Cats – “Get Ready”
TOTW House of Freaks – “Sun Gone Down”
H Hector – “Hurts So Bad”
DC Til Tuesday – “Rip In Heaven”
H The Skeletons – “Outta My Way”
H Victims Family – “In a Nutshell”
PMLS Anastasia – “What Kind of Truth is This”
H Monty Cantsin – “Every Six Minutes”
PMREC Killing Joke – “Willful Days”
H The Sandmen – “Hate Your Ways”
H The Specials – “Ghost Town”
K U2 – “Drowning Man”
DC INXS – “Black & White”

Once again I had a trainee in with me for the third hour – someone with an appalling scrawl. It looks more like Sanskrit!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So it is written...

WWSU Playlist
1 March 1989
Wednesday, 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Bauhaus – “She’s in Parties”
H Fini Tribe – “Finis”
TOTW (blank)
H Elvis Hitler – “Green Haze”
DC Batz Without Flesh – “Retention”
H Ultra Vivid Scene – “You Didn’t Say Please”
H Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl”
PMLS Royal Court of China – “Half the Truth”
H Girl Trouble – “Hurt Yer Heart”

SECOND HOUR
K
Hula “Voodoo Chile 1”
H Dharma Bums – “Dropping Out”
TOTW (blank)
H Too Much Joy – “Bad Dog”
DC Zoetrope – “Seeking Asylum”
H Soundgarden – “Circle of Power”
H NoMeansNo – “Theresa, Gimme That Knife”
PMLS Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil”
H Pussy Galore – “Adolescents Wet Dream”
PMREC Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
H UK Subs – “Sabre Dance”
H Birdhouse – “Devil Looks After His Own”
K Talking Heads – “Stay Up Late”
REQ TRC – “High Speed 1996”
H Red Temple Spirits – “Nile Song”

THIRD HOUR
K Pete Shelley – “Homosapien”
H The Brood – “Cry”
TOTW Pond – “Bullets”
H Ungh – “Boop Boop Bwahh” ??
DC Minimal Compact – “Next to Real”
H My Dad is Dead – “Cut Out”
H Victim’s Family – “Crap”
PMLS Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil”
H Murphy’s Law – “??”
PMREC Metal First Aid – “Poolside”
H Blacklight 13 – “Graveyard Signal”
H Spongehead – “I am…”
DC Savage Republic – “So It Is Written”

My third hour is written by someone else, so I am assuming that I once again had a trainee sitting in with me. The playsheet doesn’t say who it was, but they had god awful handwriting. They also didn’t look over what I had played previously, because they played Laibach, which I had played during the previous hour.

There are two bands on this playsheet that I couldn’t get enough of back in the day: Red Temple Spirits and Savage Republic. Both band’s albums came through Fundamental Recording Co.’s distribution – RTS on Nate Starkman & Son Records and Savage Republic on IPR (Independent Project Records).

I won’t delve too deeply into Red Temple Spirits because although I loved the music on their luxurious, gatefold debut Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon, which had a post-punk tribal feel similar to Savage Republic, I never really warmed to singer William Faircloth’s nasally voice, which I felt was affected and fake. The band made interesting use of native instruments like flutes and bells, and incorporated natural sounds like birds and water into their music, but they simply haven’t stood the test of time for me.

Savage Republic, on the other hand, were so far ahead of their time that their music still sounds as fresh today as it did twenty five years ago.
The band first popped up on my radar via Camper Van Beethoven. Camper’s first album, the superb Telephone Free Landslide Victory, was released with a gorgeous hand-screened sleeve designed by Bruce Licher of Independent Project Press. When I bought the album (in 1985) I wasn’t familiar with Licher or IPP, but the letterpress graphics drew me in and spoke to me on an organic, primitive level, and while thumbing through some vinyl at Renaissance Music one day I stumbled across a staggeringly beautiful and moving sleeve reminiscent of TFLV. I didn’t know what the album was called because the name was screened in Arabic, and had no idea what the music sounded like, but I bought it nonetheless because I recognized the IPP style.

The sleeve featured a hand silk-screened version of a famous photo by Jahangir Razmi of several Iranian professors being executed by firing squad at the time the fundamentalists took over the country.
It’s a grisly photo, certainly, and recognizable to most who remember the Iranian hostage crisis. That Savage Republic was able to turn this horrific photo into an even more profoundly moving art statement is impressive and very brave. Aptly, the album is titled Tragic Figures.

Even if I hadn’t liked the music Savage Republic released I would have continued to collect their albums because of their uniquely striking sleeves, so it was a real bonus to find that the music was every bit as good as the wrapping. Tribal and evocative, their music seemed to exist outside the space-time continuum, far beyond the normal realm. Their use of metal percussion and Licher’s monotone-tuned guitars created a powerful onslaught with a decidedly eastern flavor. I fell hard for them, and set about collecting everything they released. That I never got a chance to see them live is tragic – for their live performances infused a raw energy unmatched by anything before or since. They were doing shows and blowing up stuff with Mark Pauline out in the desert years before the Burning Man phenomenon, and the full-length concert footage I have on video can only hint at the harnessed chaos they created.

The band never released a bad album and it’s difficult to play favorites, but as far as I am concerned they reached their zenith with 1988’s Jamahiriya Democratique et Populaire de Sauvage. From beginning to end this is the one Savage Republic album that latches on and doesn’t let go. Tightly wound, ethnically flavored sonic expanses ripple and shimmer under a crashing industrial veneer. Surprisingly for the motherlode of power contained within its grooves, the gatefold sleeve for Jamahiriya is something of a letdown in comparison, although Licher’s redesigned CD sleeve packs the punch lacking in the album version.

Savage Republic went on hiatus in early 1989 and briefly came out of "retirement" in 2002 for a whirlwind tour. In 2006 they reformed - minus founder Bruce Licher.

Licher has received two Grammy Award nominations for Best Recording Package: once in 1988 for Echelons by For Against, and in 1989 for Camper's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.

He continues to design gorgeous, original art from his studio in Sedona, Arizona.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Plenty of chances but no one will win, over and over and over again..."

WWSU Playlist
8 February, 1989
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Visage – “Fade to Grey”
H Ciccone Youth – “MacBeth”
TOTW Tooba Blooze – “Seven Million Miles”
H The Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl”
DC Camper Van Beethoven – “Good Guys & Bad Guys”
H Trotsky Icepick – “Bury Manilow”
H The Sandmen – “Hate Your Ways”
PMLS 1000 Homo DJs – “Apathy”
H Rapeman – “Trouser Minnow”
PMREC Ministry – “Deity”
H The Damned – “Ballroom Blitz”
H Girl Trouble – “Wreckin’ Ball”
DC Suicidal Tendencies – “Trip at the Brain”
REQ The Cure – “Why Can’t I Be You”
REQ Eclipse – “Slam Dancin’ Dog”
REQ The Replacements – “Cruella DeVille”

SECOND HOUR
K
Fishbone – “Party at Ground Zero”
H Hummingbirds – “Hindsight”
TOTW Elvis Costello – “Veronica”
H Dinosaur Jr – “Don’t”DC Bongwater – “Pornography”
H Sharkbait – “Big Rallies”
H Living Colour – “Broken Hearts”
PMLS The Church – “Under the Milky Way”
H Dead Can Dance – “Severance”
PMREC B.A.L.L. – “Shelter/Dylan Side”
H Tater Totz – “Bhartha’s Boogie”

THIRD HOUR (The Twang that Thang Hour)
Golden Palominos – “Boy (Go!)”
Broken Homes – “Seeds I’ve Sown”
True Believers – “Rebel Kind”
Hoodoo Gurus – “Death Defying”
Camper Van Beethoven – “Sad Lover’s Waltz”
Violent Femmes – “Breaking Hearts”
Guadalcanal Diary – “Watusi Rodeo”
Webb Wilder – “Poolside”
Nick Lowe – “The Rose of England”
Let’s Active – “Fell”
Winter Hours – “Hyacinth Girl”
REM – “Pretty Persuasion”
Dave Edmunds – “Almost Saturday Night”
Wire Train – “Take Me Back”
Jason & the Scorchers – “Good Things Come”
The Feelies – “Slipping (into something)”

Well I threw the third hour of the playsheet right out the window and played what I wanted to. The only reason I got away with this was because I was the MD at the time, and hypocritically I frowned on the staff for deviating even a little bit from the playsheets. “Do as I say, not as I do” was obviously my motto at the time.

Gotta say – I LOVE this third hour. Every song played during my self-titled “Twang that Thang Hour” is one that I still love to this very day. If you were to pry my iPod away long enough to scroll through the rotations list, you’d find these tunes still racking up plays.

Where to begin? A quick glance shows my predilection for Stiff Records artists - there’s Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and The Feelies, whose first album Crazy Rhythms was originally released on Stiff in 1980. The song I chose, “Slipping (into something)” was taken from their sublime 1986 Coyote Records release The Good Earth, which after all these years still ranks in my top ten albums of all time.

I sadly never got a chance to see them live, even though they opened some dates for REM on the Pageantry Tour. We in Cincinnati got shafted with opener Fetchin’ Bones by some cruel twist of fate. In fact, let me just say that REM always seemed to have fantastic opening acts (The Feelies, The dbs, Guadalcanal Diary, Camper Van Beethoven, Let’s Active, Robyn Hitchcock – my god, it reads like a MK-wet dream!) but they NEVER brought these fantastic acts to Cincinnati. I saw REM a number of times in the 80’s and the only good opening act I think I saw was when The Minutemen opened for them in Columbus at Vets Memorial on the Reconstruction Tour. I’m sure many would argue that 10,000 Maniacs were a good opener, and I have no doubt that fans were pleased to see The Indigo Girls on the Green tour, but replacing Robyn? Oh please, you guys know me better than that. Of COURSE I was pissed off!

Anyway, The Feelies had a sound similar to REM – in fact, REM regularly cited them as a major influence – but imagine Lou Reed fronting the band instead of Michael Stipe. The band got caught up in the major label feeding frenzy of the late 80’s, signed to indie-friendly A&M Records and released two very good, critically acclaimed albums, Only Life and Time for a Witness. They had mild radio and MTV success with the song “Away,” but big, bad corporate monster Polygram committed possibly the worst crime of their existence when they bought out A&M and left the band to languish in obscurity. I swear I’d like to punch someone at Polygram when I think about how poorly this fabulously creative, hard working band was treated.

Next week: Winter Hours, Camper Van Beethoven, and Hoodoo Gurus.

"The past is your present, the future is mine..."

Had my first training session at WOXY this week. Boy, production sure has changed since I was last on the air in 2004! Whereas before I had to physically pull CDs from the library to play, cue them up, check the outcue notes (the way the song ends) and do my best to make seamless segues, now it's all done via a computer program.

In some ways it is a lot easier now - I can fiddle around with the intros and outcues and can preview them beforehand - something I certainly couldn't do back in the day, and it's pretty handy. It's also nice that all the music is in one large database, so there's no pulling CDs for the show and no filing them away afterwards. I have only ever known the hands-on method, so this new (to me) software is very nice.

But in other ways it is a little more daunting. I'm something of a perfectionist, and I'll admit that I am more than a tad bit worried that I'll waste scads of time messing around with the song order and segueways ad infinitum. Add to that a library as large as WOXY's and you can maybe see my dilemma.

Holy crap!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Rode seven million miles in the trunk of a car - don't know where I'm goin', but I'm goin' far..."

WWSU Playlist
1 February 1989
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
The Stooges – “I Wanna Be Your Dog”
H Eclipse – “Slam Dancing Dog”
TOTW Tooba Blooze – “Seven Million Miles”
H Revolution 409 – “Crazy Horses”
DC Revolting Cocks – “You Often Forget”
H The Damned – “Looking At You”
H Sharkbait – “Big Rallies”
H Front 242 – “Headhunter” (CD!)
PMLS (crossed off)
H Pailhead – “Don’t Stand in Line”
PMREC Webb Wilder – “How Long Can She Last”
H Pussy Galore – “Yu Gung”
H NoMeansNo – “Dark Ages”
DC Public Image Limited – “Rise”

SECOND HOUR
K
Nitzer Ebb – “Join in the Chant”
H Volcano Suns – “Nature & Me”
TOTW Elvis Costello – “Veronica”
H Half Japanese – “Said & Done”
DC Velvet Underground – “Foggy Notion”
H Skinny Puppy – “Testure”
H Mission of Burma – “Forget”
PMLS Young Gods – “Face a Face”
H Love & Rockets – “Motorcycle”
PMLS Violent Femmes – “Breaking Hearts”
H Broken Bones – “Seeds I’ve Sown”
H The Waterboys – “We Will Not Be Lovers”
K Robyn Hitchcock – “The Man With the Lightbulb Head”
REQ The Proclaimers – “Make My Heart Fly”
REQ The Pogues – “Sally MacLennane”

THIRD HOUR
Crossed off with note “Signed off at 11 p.m.”

I haven’t explained why I signed off an hour early on this playsheet, but I’m guessing that since it was February, maybe the weather had turned bad – or was slated to turn bad – and I decided to bunk off early for the long drive home, which, on a good day, took around 45 minutes.

Tooba Blooze was a local Dayton band that I really dug. As the name might suggest, they were an R&B inspired foursome with a twist: instead of a bass player, they had Hal Taylor blasting away on a tuba.
I know it sounds odd, but it really worked. I caught them live a number of times, usually at Canal Street Tavern but a few other places around town too, and they never disappointed. I remember hanging out at Renaissance Music one evening shooting the shit with owner Geoff when a customer came into the store. I was busy giving Miss Lucy (the sweet little shop cat) a good head scratching and had my back to the door, so I didn’t notice the guy come in, but when he passed by I think I got a contact high off his hair and clothes. It was, of course, TB lead singer Denny Wilson. We got to chatting and he ended up visiting the station a few days later as a “special guest.” Even though he was a major stoner at the time, I always thought that he was incredibly focused and talented. I know a lot of folks grumbled that he had a massive ego – and maybe he did, but so what? He had the talent to back it up.

When Tooba Blooze split up, Denny formed the short-lived Wizbangs (with Tim Taylor and Juan Monasterio, later of Brainiac) and released an E.P. of groove-funk-rock similar in sound to Columbus’s Royal Crescent Mob. He later moved to New York and is still active in the music business.

I really ought to take this time to mention the fabulous Dayton label I Wanna. Founded by WYSO DJ Jim Carter (aka Rev. Cool), I Wanna had an impressive run, releasing albums by Tooba Blooze, The Highwaymen (whose lead singer Troy Campbell would later move to Austin and form Loose Diamonds), The Obvious and an excellent Dayton compilation called Hard to Be Cool in an Uncool World, which featured The Highwaymen, The Reducers, Mecca Normal, Human Switchboard, and True Believers, among others. In a future post I'll expound further on The Highwaymen, who were by far my favorite local band at the time. Loved. Those. Guys.

Unbeknownst at the time, the label secured a footnote in history with the release of Forever Since Breakfast, the first Guided By Voices album. It would be several years before GbV’s career took off on it’s meteoric rise, and by that time I Wanna was defunct and the band had moved on to Cleveland’s Scat Records (run by Prisonshake guitarist Robert Griffin).

The only other thing that really stands out on this playlist is the notation that the Front 242 song was played on a CD, which at the time was still something of a novelty at the station. A harbinger of things to come...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"If one should have made it, it should have been you..."

WWSU playlist
25 January 1989
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K Wall of Voodoo – “Mexican Radio”
H Skinny Puppy – “Censor”
TOTW The Replacements – “I’ll Be You”
H Tooba Blooz – “Seven Million Miles”
DC Revolting Cocks – “Attack Ships”
H Psychic TV – “Ballet Disco”
H Shaved Pigs – “Feel Free”
PMLS Keith Levene – “If 6 Was 9”
H Lead Into Gold – “Blackened Heart”
PM REC Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”

SECOND HOUR
K
Wire Train – “Chamber of Hellos”
H Half Japanese – “I’ll Change My Style”
TOTW The Reivers – “It’s About Time” (formerly Zeitgeist)
H Volcano Suns – “Laff Riot”
DC Monks of Doom – “Save Me From Myself”
H NoMeansNo – “Real Love”
H Big Stick – “Crack Attack”
PMLS The Young Gods – “Face a Face”
H Spongeland – “Mail it off to China”
PMREC Guadalcanal Diary – “Trail of Tears”

THIRD HOUR
K
O Positive – “With You”
H The Inbred – “Walk this Way”
TOTW The Pogues – “Yeah Yeah Yeah”
H Feeding Frenzy – “Tug”
DC Joy Division – “Ceremony”
H Rapeman – “Trouser Minnow”
H Soundgarden – “All Your Lies”
PMLS Karen Finley – “Lick It”
H Demented R Go – “Shadow Crypt”
PMREC Ministry – “Deity”
H Zoetrope – “Unbridled Energy”
H Dinosaur Jr. – “Don’t”
K The Jesus & Mary Chain – “April Skies”

Ah, The Reivers. Now there was a band that totally deserved to make it but was sadly overlooked during their brief career. Hailing from Austin, TX, The Reivers began their journey under the name Zeitgeist and built up quite a following with their self-titled E.P. on db Records in 1984. They seemed to have it all: jangly melodies, great hooks, evocative lyrics, beautiful harmonies.
Their first full-length, the magnificent Translate Slowly, built their fan base considerably and attracted the attention of major label Capitol Records, with whom they signed around 1987. On the eve of their major label debut however, Capitol learned that the name Zeitgeist was already copyrighted by a German new age band who were steadfast in their refusal to change their name.

Much to their chagrin and dismay, Austin’s Zeitgeist were forced to scramble and come up with a new name. They chose The Reivers after a William Faulkner novel of the same name, and Capitol sent out info sheets to local media alerting them to the new moniker.
I added the 12" single of "It's About Time" to our playlist as soon as Capitol sent it to the station and put a note on the sleeve to alert staff to be sure to announce their name change. But we were only a small 10-watt college station with a limited audience...

The name change obviously hurt the band – many fans didn’t learn of the name change in a timely fashion, and it has to be said that there was a certain apathy within Capitol’s promotions department regarding the band. Such a shame really, as Zeitgeist/The Reivers were a band who truly deserved to make it on the same level as REM was then doing. Instead, by 1991 they were no more.

This same situation would be replayed with Tucson's The Sidewinders, who after releasing two LPs under the moniker would be forced, via a lawsuit from a North Carolina cover band, to change their name. They chose Sand Rubies. By 1993, they too had disbanded.

Monday, June 09, 2008

"Viva SeaTac, they've got the best computers and coffee and smack..."

WWSU Playlist
11 January 1989
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Cabaret Voltaire – “I Want You”
H Laibach – “Get Back”
TOTW Easterhouse – “Come Out Fighting”
H Pailhead – “Don’t Stand In Line”
DC The Revolting Cocks – “Attack Ships”
H The Damned – “Fall”
H Sharkbait – “Furry Mounds”
PM LS Young Gods – “Face a Face”
H A.C. Temple – “Weekend”
PM REC Ministry – “Deity”
H Robert Wyatt – “Unmasked”
DC Frank French & Kevin Kinney – “Alice is my Ally”

SECOND HOUR
K
The Fall – “Victoria”
H Eclipse – ‘Slam Dancing Dog”
TOTW The Wonder Stuff – “Gimme More x3”
H The Wipers – “Time Marches On”
DC Happy Flowers – “Mom, I Gave the Cat Some Acid”
H Half Japanese – “Face Rake”
H Girl Trouble – “She No Rattle my Cage”
PM LS Karen Finley – “Lick it”
H KMFDM – “No News”
PM REC Time Zone – “World Destruction”
H Front 242 – “Work 01”
H Soundgarden – “Flower”
K Hunters & Collectors – “Throw Your Arms Around Me”
REQ The Jazz Butcher – “Chickentown”
REQ Sinead O’Connor – “Just Like U Said it Would B”

THIRD HOUR
K
Les Rita Mitsouko – “Cest Comme Ca”
H Tater Totz – “Give Peace a Chance”
TOTW The Fixx – “Driven Out”
H Demented R Go – “Shadow Crypt”
DC Siouxsie & the Banshees – “Hong Kong Garden” (request)
H Pussy Galore – “Yu Gung”
H Sonic Youth – “Teenage Riot”
PM LS Sigue Sigue Sputnik – “Frankenstein Cha Cha Cha”
H Dinosaur Jr. – “Freak Scene”
PM REC Scott Goddard – “Two Triple Cheese”
H Mudhoney – “No One Has”
DC Reverb Motherfuckers – “Highway to Hojos”
K This Mortal Coil – “Strength of Strings”
H Dead Can Dance – “Song to Sophia”

I’m really liking the second hour of this show – from The Fall’s excellent rendition of The Kinks’ classic “Victoria” to Irish chanteuse Sinead O’Connor, it’s a pretty good hour.

Much like Alice Donut’s “Lisa’s Father,” Karen Finley’s “Lick It” was another song with contentious content that I relished playing, just to see if I could “get away with it.” Finley is an artist who, a year of two after this song came out, was denied National Endowment for the Arts funding because of the controversial nature of her work. She wasn’t so much a musician as a performance artist, and her most successful work (music or otherwise) pushed the boundaries on topics of sexuality, power and abuse in the hopes of stimulating reflection and change. She and several other artists fought the NEA’s decision and won, but as a result the NEA stopped making grants to individual artists afterward to avoid similar messiness. Win one, lose one.

My good friend Rodney – an exceptional artist himself – once attended a dinner party thrown by Finley and was seated next to Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys. He phoned me up afterwards to dish, and what I remember most about the conversation is that Jello apparently didn’t believe in using deodorant and smelled so gamey that it put Rodney off eating. He held Karen personally responsible, since she had placed them next to each other, and I don’t think he ever quite forgave her.

Another great song this hour was Girl Trouble’s “She No Rattle My Cage.”
I LOVED Girl Trouble and championed their work every chance I got. Hailing from Tacoma, Washington and signed at the time to Calvin Johnson’s K Records out of Olympia, Girl Trouble played raw garage rock with blistering surf overtones. I had correspondences going with quite a few indie labels at the time, and of them all I enjoyed the insightful, funny and friendly letters and phone calls from Johnson, who turned me on to the burgeoning SeaTac scene. I was already well into the Sub-Pop phenomenon by 1989 but I felt that K Records artists were just as good and tried to give them as much airtime as I could.

Somewhere along the way I took up a spirited correspondence with Girl Trouble drummer Bon Von Wheelie, whose humorous letters I have kept all these years, stuffed away inside the Hit It Or Quit It LP. A quick Google search shows that she has a MySpace page but it doesn’t look as though there’s been any activity in months. It appears that GT is still slogging away, fighting the good fight. You GO, girl!

Friday, June 06, 2008

"and the radio man says 'it is a beautiful night out there'..."

I've added Matt Sledge 97 to my blogroll. He's WOXY-licious. Check it out.

"Even though it's complicated, we've got time to start again..."

It looks like I will be resurrecting "Back to the Future" at WOXY.com sometime this summer! Yippee!


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Why?! Why don't you like me!?"

WWSU Playlist
27 December, 1988
Tuesday, 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Ministry – “Stigmata”
H Clive Greggson – “Not a Day Passes”
TOTW Marty Willson-Piper – “On the Tip of My Tongue”
H Skinny Puppy – “Human Disease”
DC Neon Judgement – “I Stood In Between”
M Thinking Plague – “Etude 4 Combo”
H Living Colour – “Broken Hearts”
PM REC Violent Femmes – “I Held Her in My Arms”
H Waterboys – “Fisherman’s Blues”
H Dinosaur Jr. – “Don’t”
H Richard Thompson – “Gypsy Songs”

SECOND HOUR
K Hula – “VC1” (Voodoo Chile 1)
H KMFDM – “King Kong Dub Rubber Mix”
TOTW Laibach – “Sympathy For the Devil”
M Contoocook Line – “Goliath”
DC The Residents – “God in 3 Persons”
H Sharkbait – “Car Crash”
K REM – “South Central Rain”
PM REC Scott Goddard – “Two Triple Cheese”
H Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
M Ben Vaughn – “Darlene”
DC Pop Will Eat Itself – “U.B.L.U.D.”
M Billy Bragg – “The Price I Pay”
H Tater Totz – “Bhartha’s Boogie”

THIRD HOUR
K
The Ramones – “The KKK Took my Baby Away”
H Soundgarden – “All Your Lies”
TOTW New Order – “Fine Time” (silk mix)
DC The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Something’s Wrong”
H Lead Into Gold – “Hatred”
M A Split Second – “Scandinavian Belly Dance”
H Rapeman – “Radar Love Lizard”
PM REC Bongwater – “Dazed & Chinese”
K The Pogues – “Sally MacLennane”
H Diamanda Galas – “The Lord is My Shepherd”
K Laurie Anderson – “O Superman”
H Big Stick – “Crack Attack”
H Front 242 – “Headhunter”

Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug was the crescendo of my love affair with the band. Now the album itself I liked, in particular the raw emotion of “Don’t” which I used to put on loads of mix tapes.
Bug, while not quite as good as You’re Living All Over Me – which I still think is one of the best album titles EVER – had it’s share of would-be hits with “Freak Scene,” “No Bones” and “Budge” and probably would have been massive had it been released a few years later when grunge exploded. And this is the last album with the original line-up, before Lou Barlow left for the greener pastures of Sebadoh.

In 1988 I was the station’s music director and spoke with label folks on a regular basis. Usually it was the bastard offspring of the majors who rang (Warner Brother’s subsidiary Slash Records, for example), as well as indie distributors like Caroline. Dinosaur Jr.’s label at the time, SST, was one of the few indies with the resources to maintain weekly contact with tiny little college radio stations like WWSU, and as such friendships developed over time as they rang to chat about new releases, gossip about the acts, and find out how well the album was being received by staff and listeners.

I’m really not sure anymore how the conversation came about, but somewhere during the course of a chat with one of the peeps at SST, I was offered the opportunity to do a phone interview with J Mascis. Naturally I jumped at the chance. The SST told me to call at 3 p.m. on a certain date and gave me J’s HOME PHONE number! I got a crash course in how to patch the phone to the reel-to-reel so that I could get him to do a couple of station I.D.s, and a few hours before I was scheduled to ring him up the SST rep phoned to make sure I was still raring to go. Of course I was!

J, on the other hand, obviously wasn’t. When I phoned at the allotted time his father Joseph informed me that J had left the house about fifteen minutes previous. He apologized several times during our conversation for his son’s inability to handle the level of fame he had achieved, and he was so sweet about it and such a wonderful character to talk to that I ended up conducting my interview with him instead. He was a dentist with lots of interesting anecdotes about the profession, Amherst, and his family – a real charmer with a great sense of humor.

Naturally I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to speak to J, but his dad was so awesome that it made up for it. The SST rep was perplexed and somewhat pissed off when he learned that J had bailed on the interview (it wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last) but there was little he could do about it. When I broached the subject of interviewing one of the other Dino members I was told that it was J’s band, and that he was the official spokesperson. Um…oh-kaaaaaay.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Rock the records, rock the records, rockin' records..."

WWSU Playlist
21 December 1988
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
H Wolfgang Press – “King of Soul”
TOTW Heavenly Bodies – “Rains on Me”
H Malarians – “What’s New Pussycat?”
DC Danielle Dax – “Blue Christmas”
M A Picture Made – “Little Boy Wisdom”
H Front 242 – “Headhunter”
PM REC Ganzheit – “Traitor”
H A.C. Temple – “Sheik”
H Ministry – “Flashback”
K The Fall – “New Big Prinz”
DC 54-40 – “2000 Years of Love”
LS Band Aid – “Do They Know it’s Christmas”
M Big Dipper – “Meet the Witch”

SECOND HOUR
K
Cocteau Twins – “Pearly Dewdrops Drop”
H 1313 Mockingbird Lane – “Battle Dress”
TOTW Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil”
M A Split Second – “Scandinavian Belly Dance”
DC The Ghostly Trio – “White Christmas”
H B.A.L.L. – “Just Like The First Time”
H Half Japanese – “Said & Done”
M Billy James – “Withering”
DC The Associates – “Heart of Glass”
M Ofra Haza – “Da ale Da ale”
H Borghesia – “Naked, Uniformed, Dead”
PM REC Dinosaur Jr. – “Don’t”
REQ/K Big Audio Dynamite – “Esquerita”

THIRD HOUR
K
Bob & Doug McKenzie – “12 Days of Xmas”
H Tater Totz – “Bhartha’s Boogie”
TOTW New Order – “Fine Time”
DC Biff Bang Pow – “She Paints”
H The Waterboys – “Sweet Thing”
H Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
M Sharkbait – “Big Rallies”
LS R.E.M. – “Deck the Halls”
DC Jane’s Addiction – “Summertime Rolls”
H Living Colour – “Broken Hearts”
K They Might Be Giants – “Ana Ng”


From the playsheet it appears that this shift got cut about 15 minutes short. I’ve scrawled a note across the bottom of the sheet: “Bug fog covering so no “K” or “DC” etc.” I’m assuming that this means the studio was powered down a little early so that the University maintenance crew could put heavy plastic coverings over the equipment before they fogged the station/University Center for bugs. I can’t ever remember seeing bugs at the station, so this may have been a routine thing the campus did every time students were on break.

And Elmo & Patsy?! What was I thinking?!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Think of salad days, they were folly and fun..."

WWSU Then...

WWSU Now

"All I got were CLOTHES for Christmas! ARGH!"

WWSU Playlist
14 December 1988
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

In the weeks leading up to Christmas the music department added a few holiday records to the rotation. The one holiday album from the 80’s that has really stood the test of time for me is “Christmas with the Ghostly Trio” by The Ghostly Trio. Produced by Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo, this has got to be one of the most interesting and bizarre alternative jazz records ever released.
I’m not a musician so it is difficult for me to explain what makes the musicianship on this album so unique, but it sounds as though the trio is consistently playing out of key – on purpose. That’s the best way I can describe it. The songs, all traditional holiday favorites, are recognizable….just. The album came out in late 1987 and became a fast favorite with me, so much so that it has remained a staple in my seasonal collection to this very day.

The album has never made it to CD – which is a real shame – but that didn’t stop me from making a CD copy using an analog-to-digital turntable. Much to my husband’s dismay, I drag out the disc every year when we decorate our tree because it never fails to tickle me.

Another band played on this particular show that never failed to make me laugh was Happy Flowers. Seriously messed up stuff in the same vein as Caroliner Rainbow, Happy Flowers formed in 1983 and had a nice 10-year run of bizarro, heavily improvised weirdness. The band - Mr. Anus and Mr. Horribly Charred Infant - combined wilfully childish lyrics with carefree thrash noise and an intensely disturbing array of bizarre subjects. The thing about HF was that they were incredibly funny, even as they repulsed. Songs like "Mom, I Gave the Cat Some Acid" and "Let's Eat the Baby (Like My Gerbils Did)" give a little insight into their world. The Flowers never received the attention that likeminded Ween did a few years later. I guess they were simply too ahead of their time.

FIRST HOUR
K The Singing Dogs – “Jingle Bells”
H Pailhead – “Don’t Stand in Line”
TOTW Heavenly Bodies – “Rains On Me”
H Fishbone – “Freddie’s Dead”
DC INXS – “Do What You Do”
M Reckless Sleepers – “This Heart”
H B.A.L.L. – “When Is a Man”
PM REC These Immortal Souls – “Hey Little Child”
H Lead Into Gold – “Idiot”
H Soundgarden – “All Your Lies”
H The Ghostly Trio – “God Rest Ye”
DC End Result – “Don’t Sleep in the Subway”
H Happy Flowers – “All I Got Were Clothes for Christmas”
M Teknakuller Raincoat – “Dancing Cadavers”
REQ/K The Cult – “#13”

SECOND HOUR
K Bob Rivers – “A Message From the King”
H Screaming Trees – “Ivy”
TOTW (blank)
M Capping Day – “Brain in the Darkroom”
DC The Smiths – “Please…Let Me Get What I Want”
H Was (Not Was) –“Christmas in Motor City”
K New Order – “Subculture”
LS Christina – (didn’t write down the song)
PM REC Hoodoo Gurus – “Out That Door”
H Wolfgang Press – “Raintime”
M UB40 –“I Would Do it For You”
DC Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”
M Game Theory – “What the Whole World Wants”
H Shaved Pig – “Blonde/Corvette”
PM REC Siglo XX – “Lost in Violence”
REQ/K Gary Myrick – “Message is You”

THIRD HOUR
K
Myth – “Benzedrine”
H Angry Samoans – “Death of Beewak”
TOTW New Salem Witch Hunters – “Mighty Quinn”
DC The Jazz Butcher – “Grooving in the Bus Lane”
H Angst – “Time to Understand”
M Social Club – “Left to Understand”
H Rapeman – “Trouser Minnow”
PM REC A Witness – “Loudhailer Song”
LS Count Floyd – “Reggae Xmas in Transylvania”
DC The Ravers – “Punk Rock Xmas”
H Big Stick – “Crack Attack”
K Danielle Dax – “Big Hollow Man”
H Jade 4 U – “Valley of Kings”
H Dead Can Dance – “Song for Sofia/Echolalia”
M The Popes – “Not Beautiful”
PM REC Run Westy Run – “Heck House”
REQ/K Cheech & Chong – “Santa Claus and His Old Lady”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Oh, really?"

WWSU Playlist
7 December 1988
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
The Replacements – “Bastards of Young”
H Wipers – “I Want a Way”
TOTW Grant Hart – “2541”
H Wolfgang Press – “Shut That Door”
DC The Pontiac Brothers – “She Knows It”
M Mekons & Michelle Shocked – “Prince of Darkness”
H The Damned – “Fall”
PM REC Agitpop – “Out to Pasture”
H Angst – “Time to Understand”
H Angry Samoans – “Egyptomania”
K Public Image Ltd. – “Seattle”
DC Sex Pistols – “Bodies”
LS Big Audio Dynamite – “Love Sensi”
M Richard X Heyman – “Local Paper”
REQ/K The Waterboys – “We Will Not Be Lovers”

SECOND HOUR
K
House of Love – “Christine”
H KMFDM – “King Kong Dub Rubber Mix”
TOTW Christmas – “Ring My Bell”
M Ofra Haza – “Galbi”
DC 1000 Homo DJs – “Apathy”
H Jade 4 U – “Midnight Rider”
K Violent Femmes – “I Held Her in My Arms”
LS (blank)
PM REC Biff Bang Pow – “She Haunts”
H Souls in Isolation – “Poltergeist”
M The VPs – “Ode to the PTL”
DC Velvet Underground – “Train Around the Bend”
M Deception Bay – “Not Far From This”
H Common Ailments of Maturity – “Restless Hunger”
PM REC Meat Beat Manifesto – “Kneel & Buzz”

THIRD HOUR
K
Dead Milkmen – “Instant Club Hit”
H Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
TOTW New Salem Witch Hunters – “Quinn the Eskimo”
DC Lead Into Gold – “Idiot”
H Rapeman – “Trouser Minnow”
M Tater Totz – “Give Peace a Chance”
H Coil – “Feeder”
PM REC (scratched out) Cheech & Chong – “Santa Claus & His Old Lady”
LS (scratched out) Fred Lane – “The French Toast Man”
DC Eclipse – “Slam Dancing Dog”
H Front 242 – “Headhunter”
K Ultra Vivid Scene – “You Didn’t Say Please”
H LMNOP – “It’s Your Head – Ignited”

There’s a song that keeps recurring on each playlist during this half of 1988, and that song is “Lisa’s Father” by Alice Donut.
The song was on an Alternative Tentacles compilation album called “Oops! Wrong Stereotype” and if memory serves correctly I – as music director – put a “play only after 9 p.m.!” warning sticker on it because the lyrics really pushed the envelope of bad taste back in the day.

The song is basically a spoken-word story about the singer getting visited by a religious fanatic who gives him a handful of Jack Chick Tracts. JCT’s, for those who may not know, are little pocket-sized comic books of gloom and doom meant to shock the reader away from his bad ways and onto the Path of Righteousness. Personally I thought they were a hoot, and for several years I collected them as one would comic books.

So the song continues along with the singer reading aloud the Jack Chick Tract and other band members helping out with the various voices and characters. It was one of the most requested songs at the station.

Lisa's Father

Hey! I'd like to tell you a story
about something that happened to me.
I was sitting at home just the other day
watching some TV, when there's a knock on my door.
And I went to the door to see who it was,
and it was a woman with no eyes.
And she had a handful of comic books.
And she gave me one and then she said:“Take it and read!”
And I took it, and I did read.
And the story was so moving and compelling
that I had to write a song about it.


It wasn't one of your regular comic books.
Rather, it was one of the publications out of California,
one of those comic books that's meant to convert you to fundamental Christianity.


And it was a story about a family.
And the father's name was ... his name was Lisa's father.
And the mother's name was ... her name was Lisa's mother.
And then there was a child, a five year old child, named Lisa.
Lisa - pure as the driven snow.
But she was driven in other ways as well.
I'll tell you about that later.

Lisa's mother was an alcoholic.
She used to sit and knock back JD from 8 o'clock
in the morning 'til she passed out at midnight.
Lisa's father however, he was a sinner of another sort.
He was a sinner of a different colour, if you know what I'm talking about.
He was a kind of a man,
The kind of a man who didn't keep the sinning to himself.
'Cos he was a child-molester.
This was a man who abused his little daughter Lisa.
Every night.
Every afternoon.
Every morning.

As soon as Lisa's mother was blacked out on JD he'd go up to Lisa's bedroom.
And he'd start waling away on this poor little kid,
making that sound:
“Oh waka waka waka baby baby baby, have me a good time. Yeah - yeah.”

One day he was up there, doing what he did tothat poor little girl,
when there was a knock on his front door.
He tucked in his shirt, and he ran downstairs,
and he pulled up his pants.
And he answered the door as quick as he could,
and he said,“Yo! Who's there?”
“Hey, this is Phil, your neighbor!”
“Oh! Hey, how're you doing?”
“Hi, Lisa's father…”
“How's the weather?”
“Oh, the weather is fine and I know what you've been doing with Lisa.
Well you gotta let me do it too, if you don't want me to turn you in!”
And Lisa's father said,“Whoa, I'm in the soup now! What am I gonna do?"
I gotta let him do it to Lisa or else he'll turn me in to the police!
"Okay! You can do it!You can do it too!”

And upstairs the two of them went.

And from that day on the BOTH of them were doing it to poor little Lisa.

One day the mother dried out just long enough to take that kid to the doctor.
The doctor took one look at this kid, and
do you know what the doctor said?
That doctor said,“Your daughter has a venereal disease!”

And that mother, she put two and two together mighty fast, I'll tell you.
She knew what was going on up there…she knew
What was goin’ on down there.

And she grabbed that kid and she started running home.
She ran home as fast as she could.
And she ran and she pointed a finger at Lisa's father.
And she said, “You repulsive little shit!I hate you! I hate you!”
And Lisa's father said,“Whoa whoa, I'm in the soup now! She knows what I've been doing to Lisa!”
He ran!

He ran out that door as fast as he could!
He started to make his way down to the bridge,
just like James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life".
He was going to throw himself off that bridge.

But just then…A woman with no eyes and a handful of comic books,
walks up to him in the comic book.
Just like the woman in mine did to me.
And she gave him a comic book and she said,“Just pray!”
Just pray is what she said.

~~~~15 minutes later!~~~
And he said,“Whoa! I feel excellent!! I'm gonna go home and tell Lisa's mother about this prayin’ stuff.”
And he ran home, and he said,“Hey, Lisa's mother. Listen to this!”
And she said:“I hate you! I hate you! You Repulsive little shit!”
And he said,“Oh shut up you old cow! Listen to this! Get up and pray!!”

~~~15 minutes later!~~~
She says, she says,“I feel great!”
And Lisa's father says,“Let's call Lisa in here and tell her what's happening in our house.”
They call in Lisa.
And Lisa is a little scared.
She doesn’t like her parents much, as you can understand.

They say, “Hey Lisa. We've got some good news for you! We're never gonna hurt you,
never gonna hurt you anymore!”
And Lisa says,
Lisa says...

“Oh, really?”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"2541 - big windows to let in the sun..."

WWSU Playlist
30 November 1988
Wednesday 9 p.m.-midnight

FIRST HOUR
K
Negativland – “Car Bomb”
H Animal Time – “My Car is a Survivor”
TOTW Grant Hart – “2541”
H Malarians – “No”
DC Mad Daddys – “Stoned For the Rest of my Life”
M Billy Bragg – “Life With the Lions”
H Screaming Trees – “Damage Report”
PM REC Hoodoo Gurus – “Party Machine”
H B.A.L.L. – “It Don’t Come Easy”
H Highwaymen – “Shine a Light”
K Highwaymen – “After the Sun”
DC New Salem Witch Hunters – “Quinn the Eskimo”

SECOND HOUR
K Half Japanese – “Colleen”
H Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
TOTW In Tua Nua – “All I Wanted”
M Etude Combo – “Thinking Plague”
DC End Result – “Ward”
H Sharkbait – “End of the World”
K Husker Du – “Could You Be the One”
LS Wolfgang Press – “King of Soul”
PM REC – “Meat Beat Manifesto – “Kneel & Buzz”
H Swans – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
M Dead Can Dance – “Song For Sofia/Echolalia”
DC This Mortal Coil – “Song To the Siren”
M Ofra Haza – “Da Ale Da Ale”
H Danielle Dax – “Where the Flies Are”
PM REC Savage Republic – “Lethal Musk”

THIRD HOUR
K Screaming Blue Messiahs – “I Wanna Be a Flintstone”
H King Missile – “I’m Open”
TOTW The Fall – “New Big Prinz”
DC Phantom Tollbooth – “Barracuda”
H A.C. Temple – “Mince Meat”
H Diamanda Galas – “Let’s Not Chat About Dispair”
H Skinny Puppy – “Who’s Laughing Now”
PM REC Voice Farm – “Johnny Belinda”
LS Nitzer Ebb – “Join in the Chant”
DC Mark Stewart – “Anger/Hell is Empty”

It's been ages since I even thought about End Result, but now that my memory has been jogged with this playsheet I remember that I used to dig the song "Ward" and I'm wishing I could remember who I loaned the album to, because I never saw the LP again. Hmmm...I wonder if I can track it down?

I'm surprised that I played "Join in the Chant" by Nitzer Ebb on my show - not because it isn't a good tune, but because it was probably THE most requested song I spun at The Rathskeller on Tuesday nights. The station hosted "Alternative Tuesdays," a four hour dance club-type party that evolved from extended mixes of Depeche Mode and The Cure to the burgeoning Industrial scene. It seemed that every other person in the Rat would come up and request "Join in the Chant," so I'll admit that I got a little sick of hearing it, which is why I am surprised that I played it voluntarily.

I also remember a few diehard Husker Du fans were upset with me for adding Grant Hart's "2541" to the rotation (especially as a Track of the Week) because they blamed him for breaking up the band. Hart was trying to kick heroin addiction and the band's manager was under so much pressure from the warring factions of Hart and Bob Mould that he took his life on the eve of their tour for "Warehouse Songs and Stories." The fans sided with Bob Mould and looked upon Grant Hart as a pariah.

I thought the song was brilliant (I still do) and wasn't going to blackball it simply because of some disgruntled fans. Hell, I was a huge fan myself, but even I could tell they were imploding long before the split was announced.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Beware of being the roller, when there's nothing left to roll..."

WWSU Playlist
23 November 1988

FIRST HOUR
K
Peter Schilling – “Major Tom”
H Torn Pockets – “Just the Boys”
TOTW Art of Noise – “Kiss”
H Sharkbait – “Break a Bone”
DC Negativland – “Perfect Scrambled Eggs”
M Corpses as Bed Mates – “Venus Handcuffs”
H Skinny Puppy – “Testure”
PM REC Krackhouse – “Kennelration Generation”
H Rapeman – “Log Bass”
H Diamanda Galas – “Maladiction”
K Dementia Precox – “Maladie D’Esprit”
DC New Salem Witchhunters – “Quinn the Eskimo”
LS Woodpecker – “Bowl of Water”

SECOND HOUR
K
Leather Nun – “Gimme Gimme Gimme”
H Borghesia – “Naked, Uniformed, Dead”
TOTW In Tua Nua – “All I Wanted”
M Human Hands – “Lurk”
DC Dole – “A Day”
H Laibach – “One After 909”
K Stan Ridgway – “Camouflage”
LS Timelords – “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
PM REC – “Bongwater – “Pornography”
H Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
M Ben Vaughan – “Darlene”
DC Butthole Surfers – “Boiled Dove”
M Frank Tovey – “New Jerusalem”

THIRD HOUR
K
Robyn Hitchcock – “Acid Bird”
H KMFDM – “King Kong Dub Rubber Mix”
TOTW The Fall – “New Big Prinz”
DC The Residents – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
H AC Temple – “Weekend”
M A Split Second – “Scandinavian Belly Dance”
H Keith Levene – “If 6 Was 9”
PM REC Savage Republic – “Viva Rock & Roll”
LS Circus 13 – “Under the Library”
DC Voice Farm – “Mamma Made Me Do It”
H Ministry – “Deity”
K Treat Her Right – “I Think She Likes Me”
H Shel Silverstein – “The Great Smoke Off”

I’m certain that Shel Silverstein was not on our playlist, but a little deviation from the list isn’t always a bad thing, is it?

I first remember hearing "The Great Smoke Off" in the late 1970’s, probably ’78 or ’79, definitely when I was a geeky junior high kid. I was a big fan of the Dr. Demento show, which was a syndicated program that aired Sunday evenings on a tiny little college radio station in Oxford known as WOXY. Because the signal was weak and difficult to find on the dial (this was before digital tuning) I kept the station permanently tuned in on the radio in my bedroom, and Dad helped me string extra antenna wire around the room for better reception. The station played punk and new wave during the day, opening my world to Talking Heads, The Police, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, Television, Devo and many more.

Anyway, the Dr. Demento show was designed to fit into a two-hour programming block with ad breaks, but at the time the station didn’t really air commercials – there were public service announcements for the military, and underwriting by SDS Pizza in Oxford, but the station could never fill all the slots. There was usually between 10-15 minutes left at the end of the show that the DJ had to fill, and seven times out of ten he’d play “The Great Smoke Off.”
I’m sure one of the reasons he chose this song was because it was over ten minutes long, and I’m sure another reason was because it fit loosely into the category of “humor.” That the song is a poem about a couple of stoners trying to out smoke each other is perhaps a third reason the student DJ would choose it to fill up the rest of the hour. Whatever the case, this poem is a far cry from the wonderful children's books he's written, like A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree.

See for yourself:

The Great Smoke Off
In the laid back California town of sunny San Rafael
Lived a girl named Pearly Sweetcake, you prob’ly knew her well.
She’d been stoned fifteen of her eighteen years and the story was widely told
That she could smoke 'em faster than anyone could roll.
Her legend finally reached New York, that Grove Street walk-up flat
Where dwelt The Calistoga Kid, a beatnik from the past
With long browned lightnin’ fingers he takes a cultured toke
And says, “Hell, I can roll ‘em faster, Jim, than any chick can smoke!”

So a note gets sent to San Rafael, “For the Championship of the World
The Kid demands a smoke off!” "Well, bring him on!" says Pearl,
"I'll grind his fingers off his hands, he'll roll until he drops!"
Says Calistog, "I'll smoke that twist till she blows up and pops!”
So they rent out Yankee Stadium and the word is quickly spread
"Come one, come all, who walk or crawl, price – just two lids a head
And from every town and hamlet, over land and sea they speed
The world's greatest dopers, with the Worlds greatest weed
Hashishers from Morocco, hemp smokers from Peru
And the Shamnicks from Bagun who puff the deadly Pugaroo
And those who call it Light of Life and those that call it boo.

See the dealers and their ladies wearing turquoise, lace, and leather
See the narcos and the closet smokers puffin’ all together
From the teenies who smoke legal to the ones who've done some time
To the old man who smoked “reefer” back before it was a crime
And the grand old house that Ruth built is filled with the smoke and cries
Of fifty thousand screaming heads all stoned out of their minds.
And they play the national anthem and the crowd lets out a roar
As the spotlight hits The Kid and Pearl, ready for their smokin' war
At a table piled up high with grass, as high as a mountain peak
Just tops and buds of the rarest flowers, not one stem, branch or seed.

Maui Wowie, Panama Red and Acapulco Gold.
Kif from East Afghanistan and rare Alaskan Cold.
Sticks from Thailand, Ganja from the Islands, and Bangkok's Bloomin' Best.
And some of that wet imported shit that capsized off Key West.
Oaxacan tops and Kenya Bhang and Riviera Fleurs.
And that rare Manhatten Silver that grows down in the New York sewers.
And there's bubblin’ ice cold lemonade and sweet grapes by the bunches.
And there's Hershey’s bars, and Oreos, ‘case anybody gets the munchies.
And the Calistoga Kid, he sneers, and Pearly, she just grins.
And the drums roll low and the crowd yells “GO!” and the world’s first Smoke Off begins.

Kid flicks his magic fingers once and ZAP! that first joint’s rolled.
Pearl takes one drag with her mighty lungs and WOOSH! that roach is cold.
Then The Kid he rolls his Super Bomb that’d paralyze a moose.
And Pearley takes one super hit and SLURP! that bomb’ defused.
Then he rolls three in just ten seconds and she smokes 'em up in nine,
And everybody sits back and says, "This just might take some time."
See the blur of flyin’ fingers, see the red coal burnin’ bright
As the night turns into mornin’ and the mornin’ fades to night
And the autumn turns to summer and a whole damn year is gone
But the two still sit on that roach-filled stage, smokin' and rollin' on
With tremblin’ hands he rolls his jays with fingers blue and stiff
She coughs and stares with bloodshot gaze, and puffs through blistered lips.
And as she reaches out her hand for another stick of gold
The Kid he gasps, "Goddamn it, bitch, there's nothin' left to roll!"
"Nothin’ left to roll?", screams Pearl, "Is this some twisted joke?”
“I didn't come here to fuck around, man, I come here to SMOKE!"
And she reaches 'cross the table And grabs his bony sleeves
And she crumbles his body between her hands like dried and brittle leaves
Flickin' out his teeth and bones like useless stems and seeds
And then she rolls him in a Zig Zag and lights him like a roach.
And the fastest man with the fastest hands goes up in a puff of smoke.

In the laid-back California town of sunny San Rafael
Lives a girl named Pearly Sweetcake, you prob’ly know her well.
She’s been stoned twenty-one of her twenty-four years, and the story’s widely told.
How she still can smoke them faster than anyone can roll
While off in New York City on a street that has no name.
There's the hands of the Calistoga Kid in the Viper Hall of Fame
And underneath his fingers there's a little golden scroll
That says, Beware of Bein’ the Roller
When There's Nothin’ Left to Roll.