Dependable Erection

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thinking about radio

I was chatting with Kevin last night after the broadcast of Shooting the Bull, putting together a list of potential guests for the next couple of months, and trying to figure out how we get from where we are with the show to where we'd like to be while both of us hold down full time jobs, write our blogs, and have lives in the real world.


The last time i did radio, i didn't have distractions like a family or a mortgage. If i needed to stay up till 4 am editing a three hour interview down to 16 minutes and 30 seconds, that wasn't a problem. Now, if a potential guest doesn't return a phone call or an email, i don't know if i can find the time to keep trying to reach them. Interns sure would help with that. But even if we don't get one, i'll keep doing the show. I love radio too much to let go now that i'm back behind a microphone.

Mom and Dad used to listen to WNEW (Eleven three Oh on your dial), which featured impossibly smooth voiced announcers like Ted Brown and William B. Williams hosting shows with names like the Make Believe Ballroom, and the Milkman's Matinee. (Trivia - one of the hosts was a guy name Jim Lowe, who had a hit back in the 50's with a tune called "Behind the Green Door." Which in turn inspired the, ahem, movie of the same name.) A google search tells me that back in 1940, WNEW radio was the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Radio Corporation of America and the bandleader Paul Whiteman, which led to the decision that playing a record on the radio does not violate the copyright inherent in the recording.

One day, probably in the summer or early fall of 1967, we visited some friends of my parents, former neighbors in Queens. They had a daughter my sister's age, but no pre-teenage sons for me to hang with. Left alone in the apartment, i found a hi-fi stereo receiver capable of bringing in FM radio stations. I had already moved on from the big band and swing era sounds of WNEW for the top 40 hitmakers at WABC (or double you ay beatle see, as Cousin Brucie liked to call it) and the Good Guys at WMCA. Most FM stations at the time were still simulcasting their AM signal, but i think that the FCC had recently ruled they couldn't do that much longer. WABC-FM (95.5) and WNEW-Fm (102.7) were among the first stations in New York, and probably the country, to take advantage of this ruling, and start programming some of the music that was already defining the counter-culture. I don't recall what else i heard that day, but the album length version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" (which was already a Top 40 hit in the truncated version) was an absolute revelation. DJ's playing music for half an hour without talking or commercials was another.

It took me a little time to save the money to buy a stereo receiver of my own. But eventually i did, and it became my window on the world of pop culture and revolution in a time when music was, finally, going to change the world.

Which is, actually, the short answer to the question of why those psychedelic music videos from the late 60s and early 70s keep popping up here at the end of the day. If you grew up around NYC in those years, and you listened to Allison Steele, the Night Bird, do the 10 - 2 shift on NEW-FM, that music will be familiar to you. And if you are one of those people, all i can say is, check back here at 11:30 pm tonight. I've got a stone-cold psychedelic classic lined up for your enjoyment.

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  • Thanks for the insight into the minds of the music industry, circa 1947.

    They didn't "get it" then and they certainly aren't "getting it" now.

    By Blogger Tony, at 10:41 PM  

  • Also a Cousin Brucie listener as a kid. I had a little red transistor radio. Had a babysitter one night who was listening to FM on my folks' stereo. WABC-FM - later to become WPLJ. From there I found WNEW 102.7. Muni, Scelsa, Steele. Too many times I heard Alison play Flying as she signed off in the morning, and the night that Lennon was shot and Vinnie was playing Jungleland, well, it was all pretty pivotal. Thanks for the reminder of how radio, radio once meant something.

    By OpenID kdghty, at 12:24 AM  

  • I also grew up listening to Cousin Brucie. My mom was a WGSM kinda gal (they were an MOR station). It was listening to WPKN, the college station out of Bridgeport, that changed my life, circa 1973.

    Haven't wasted my time on commercial radio ever since.

    By OpenID mrsdependable, at 9:38 AM  

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