|Oil of Dog
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“It’s a lover’s night” sings this guy named SMOKEY from some grooves on the S&M Record label.
There are no pictures of him but his voice has a leather jacket. This tune is acapella, four-part street harmony. You’d expect artists behind this song to be a doo-wopper from the fifties. But it was just released. Smokey probably wasn’t even alive when the Persuasions first started cutting wax.
But the story is a sad one and the singing is beautiful; Butchie was killed in a gang fight. His girl, Claudine, “picks up the revolver – ready, aim/Claudine and Butchie are back together again.”*
* Smokey. “Claudine and Butchie.” No date, Bug Eyes Jasparr (BMI), from unnamed 45 rpm, S&M Recors, MX 105.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD
The Past: Paradise followed by The Fall.
The Present: The Modern World.
The Future: The End of the World.
I spit on the history of the world.
Figure 22: On Halloween Day, 1958, my father took these rare – indeed unprecedented – photographs of a One-Eyed One-Horned Flying Purple-People Eater as it landed in our backyard in Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Reprint by Zowie.)
THE MODERN WORLD
The Modern World might be defined by the dreams of progress – as George Steiner would say, the “forward dreams” of science.* It is not only the science of nuclear power and space exploration and dangerous chemicals and talking computers. It is the science that made possible the Vego-matic, Micronite filters, dolby, Pringles, and Saniflush. We are in a stage of great metamorphosis and science is the force behind it. We cannot afford to be ignorant of what science does.
In the Harrisburg nuclear accident, it was made painfully clear that our lives and our future are in the hands of highly-trained professionals who carefully hide their knowledge, guard it so that only a privileged few can really know, and who veil the fact that there is a great deal they themselves do not know. These pros have led us to believe that we can trust them. We can place our future in their hands. They will lead us. Science will lead us. Science is the life-force of The Modern World. “To have some personal rapport with the sciences is, very probably, to be in contact with that which has most force of life and comeliness in our reduced condition.”**
But once again it is the image and not the truth itself which has power. It is the myth of science which controls The Modern World. I was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Los Alamos is the place where the Modern World was born. It was in Los Alamos, during World War II, that the first atomic bombs were designed and built. At one time, the greatest scientific minds in the world were concentrated there, including Einstein and the fabulous mystical genius Oppenheimer. Shiva has been unleashed, he declared, upon seeing the first nuclear explosion at Trinity Site.
To this day, the town is devoted exclusively to scientific research. There is a tunnel a half a mile long there which shoots particles called mesons. It cost fifty million dollars and conforms to the curvature of the earth. This is beautiful. In one of the tool shops, they have a lathe with a forty-foot bed. This, too, is beautiful. There are merchants who sell goods to the scientists in Los Alamos, and there are doctors who keep them healthy, and teachers who teach their children. When I was growing up there, the workers from the communities in the valley outside of Los Alamos would come to work in the physical plant that maintains all the scientific buildings. The federal government built our homes, paved our driveways, repaired the roofs on our houses. I grew up on a reservation, except the inhabitants were scientists, not Indians. My father was a scientist, a physicist and a mathematician. At one time, I lived on Trinity Drive.
I grew up believing in science. It is a belief I cannot shake to this day. And yet as I acquire more knowledge and after reading Gregory Bateson I am haunted by the notion that science is not what I once thought. It is not true in the way I was lead to believe, it is not empirical, it is not provable in quite the same way that scientists want us to think, in the same way that scientists themselves believe. Scientists are of the living – Gregory Batesons’s word for this is Creatura. Some of them devote their lives to the study of Creatura. Some of them devote their lives to the study of the non-living – Gregory Batesons’s word is Pleroma. But they seem to be missing some basic sense of interconnection between these aspects of the universe. I think scientists in general are missing some basic perception. I cannot describe with clarity exactly what is missing. But I am shocked to learn now, decades later, how the moms and dads of my friends blithely let nuclear waste and toxic poisons leak into the beautiful canyons and watersheds of Los Alamos. I know they knew it was dangerous. I know because, even when I was little, my father told me about the dangers of radiation. How could scientists let such things happen?
And yet I know the answer better than anyone: Science is carried on by scientists. Scientists are not anymore good or evil than any other group. They are just people who have a propensity for the kind of thought that science requires. They went to college and then they applied for jobs. Scientists can get jobs from only three places: the government, large corporations, and universities. Scientists for the most part have families, they go to work at nine and come home at five. Some heat their coffee in flasks over Bunsen burners, but most of them have a little hot plate or coffeemaker in the office. They spend most of their time under neon lights pouring over many pages of data. There are very few stormy nights amid the glow of wicked machines and the bubbling of strange liquids. If scientists don’t do what their bosses ask, there are plenty of unemployed Ph.D.’s who will take over. The job market for scientists is almost as bad as it is for English majors and disc jockeys. When scientists go home they kiss their husbands and wives, they watch the evening news, they reminisce over old movies, they play with their kids. When they talk to their neighbors, they talk about their old lawn mower, or the game last Sunday. When they go shopping, they buy fig newtons and Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners.
Recently, Time Magazine published a rather unflattering article about my home town.
Los Alamos is part rich, overachieving exurb beset by worldly goods and ills familiar all over the U.S., but raised to the nth power; part lonely company town. But, above all, it is an intellectual hot-house not quite like any other.***
This article rather offended the people of my town. I found it basically true, although very shallow, basing much of its commentary on the notion that scientists are dispassionate intellectuals. Los Alamos is a sociologist’s dreamland. It has one of the highest per capita incomes of any community in the world. It has perhaps the highest number of Ph.D.’s per capita of any place in the world. It reputedly has one of the finest public school systems in the U.S.A. (and it is true, I graduated with an intellectual foundation comparable to that of many college graduates, but at an emotional cost that was not worth the price), all the streets have sidewalks and there is no unemployment and no poverty. It also has one of the highest rates of divorce, alcoholism, suicide, juvenile deliquency, and drug abuse of any place in the U.S.A.
In a sense, I grew up at the very vanguard of The Modern World. But something has been missing. I look upon the day I left home for college back in 1969 almost as my birth. The entire beat movement came and passed without ever really touching Los Alamos. So did the hippie movement, so did the disco movement, so did the punk movement. As the War in Vietnam raged the scientists never questioned that fifty percent of the hundreds of millions of government dollars appropriated to the town went to help the military. While hippies danced nude and grew their hair the High School made people tuck in their shirts and go home and get a haircut. While the world reeled in terror over Harrisburg, the scientists calmly walked in and out of reactors as they had for more than thirty years, monitoring readouts and twiddling knobs.
My father was on vacation in Mexico during the Harrisburg accident. His specialty was health physics – the systems that keep people safe when working with nuclear materials. He was one of the designers of the little badges that people wear to this day, that record whether a researcher has been exposed to radiation. I was the one who informed him of the cooling system breakdown and he said, “That shouldn’t have happened.”
As Mark Jacobson points out in that Village Voice article about Legs McNeil, my generation is the first to grow up completely within The Modern World.**** In our chromosomes is a hitherto unheard of sense that anything is possible. Anything. Not only can we go to the planets and harness the sun if we work hard enough, but we can devise a thousand sophisticated ways to mutilate and annihilate our fellow human beings and the planet which sustains us all. We are complacently object as the ozone layer dissolves. We look with dull disapproving eyes upon the millions of Cambodians recently exterminated. We blithely bemoan those who suffer from hunger and diseases that we, who are more fortunate, can easily avoid. I recoil from George Steiner's incisive observation: “The numb prodigiality of our aquaintance with horror is a radical human defeat.”*****
* George Steiner. In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1971), p. 128.
*** Joseph Kane. “Los ALamos: A City Upon a Hill.” Time Magazine, December 10, 1979, Vol. 114, No. 24, page unavailable.
**** Mark Jacobson. “Teenage Hipster in the Modern World,” Village Voice, August 7, 1978, Vol. XXIII, No. 32, page 20.***** Steiner, page. 49.
|The receptionist is sitting behind a thick glass partition. I wonder if it is bullet-proof. She takes my name. Through the glass I see framed on a wall an enormous picture of The Beatles autographed by each of the Fab Four. The receptionist presses a buzzer and I pass into the plush inner waiting room. This is the New York office of Rolling Stone Magazine. In a few minutes, I am sitting in the office of Dave Marsh, the head music editor. He is not very tall, medium blond hair, intellectual spectacles, seems quiet, a true rock’n’roll vinyl junkie type. The office is surprisingly free of the expected mounds of promotional LP’s, press kits, mobiles, manuscripts, photographs, monogrammed ashtrays, platinum records and the like. At the moment, he is typing out a review of Never Mind the Ballocks Here’s the Sex Pistols which is being deadline dictated over the phone by a reviewer who I think is in Boston. A delivery boy brings a very expensive cardboard hamburger and fries Marsh ordered for me. I pay for the burger, he pays for the Coke. “Lord knows t could get a lot of money,” he sighs. “I’ve been offered jobs with the big record companies. But I love this. Writing. Reviewing.”||
Please reconsider your decision to chop an hour from Oil of Dog. There is little enough programming of its type available on local radio and I have serious doubts that excising the 7 – 8 hour for parroted nooz/mag will draw anyone away from the AM Yegg Dreg hourly crud updates anyway.
Save Oil of Dog. Every minute cut is another minute of drone clone broadcasting.
Except for Gary Storm, American radio sucks.
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THE STANDELLS, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White.” Tell that to yo’ mama and yo’ papa. How’d these guys ever get so forgotten? Those dirty rockers of the late sixties whipped into oblivion by the changing times. Don’t dig this long hair? Don’t dig my blues? I know a thousand chicks who do. This is not just one of the greatest rock songs ever. It is one of the greatest rock songs ever on one of the greatest rock albums ever.
Along with the fact that you can never leave, the other important fact about Buffalo is that the weather is not as bad as people say it is. There are t-shirts saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Buffalo – wait a minute.” Yes, the winter is cold, the summer is humid, yes, I got tired of the snow this year, yes, it is a cold drizzly May as I write this. But the fact is that Buffalo just doesn’t have weather that at all equals its national reputation. It does not have the coldest, the bitterest, the windiest, the longest winter. Even the Blizzard of ‘77 was almost fun, we brag about it now. Nor does it have the muggiest most polluted summer. In fact, I don’t find the weather so bad at all, and I’m from New Mexico which has been dubbed The Land of Enchantment. No. The weather in Buffalo is like the end of the world, or the fall of man. It is not really all it’s cut up to be. But we all live as if it is.
I think the problem is that Buffalo is a naked city. There is another t-shirt: “Buffalo, New York, the City of No Illusions.” This is more to the point. You really can’t escape worldly problems in Buffalo. It is a small-big town, there is a great cultural mix, and real tensions between various communities and races and nationalities. The great onus of poverty is always there, the layoffs are always there, the corrupt and stupid city government is always there, the totally inadequate public transportation is there to make the weather seem worse than it is, the chemical and nuclear pollutants surround the residential areas, the elegant ladies in restaurants are never quite lithe and chic. There is no veneer, no facade in Buffalo.
Even its history is stupid. Frank Lloyd Wright designed revelatory airy offices for the Larkin Company of Buffalo. It was a world class work of architecture of enormous historical importance. After Larkin Co. went out of business, the City let the building decay and I think they actually replaced it with a parking lot. SUNY at Buffalo, a large State University, through bizarre Rockefeller-influenced political machinations, got the go-ahead to create a totally new campus. At the time, it was intended to be the largest construction project in the world. The dimwitted leaders of the City of Buffalo decided, after the civil unrest of the 1960’s, they did not want college kids wandering around town. So they kept the new campus from being built within city limits. The campus was moved to the nearby township of Amherst, which instantly became a boomtown as the entire university economy evaporated from Buffalo and moved to Amherst.
And then there was the Pan American Exposition – which, notably, brought world attention to the Niagara region as the first place on earth to demonstrate that electricity could replace other forms of energy as a source of light and heat – and which collapsed and was forgotten when President McKinley had the misfortune of being assassinated when he came to town to enjoy the lights and sounds. We cannot neglect the toxic pools and saturated flesh-dissolving soils of toxic child-mutating poison left behind by the many chemical factories near Buffalo. And no history of Buffalo is complete without acknowledging Bethlehem Steel and General Motors whose factories spewed lung-clogging filth into the air when they were in business, and who left thousands of acres of rusted dead filth after the jobs went over seas. How can you have illusions in a place with a nitwitted history like that?
Buffalo can claim no enormous wealth like that of New York City to create the astonishing beauty of Manhattan obliviating the winos and shopping bag ladies; no enchanting weather like that of the Southwest to make us forget life is a struggle; no booming employment like Houston; no spangled lifestyle like Southern California. Nothing quite rises above what is really here: streets, dirt, out-of-tune notes, thick wool rather than swaying silk, happy people, sad people.
And this makes for another slogan – that Buffalo is friendly. I guess the people here are pretty friendly. No one is quite beautiful enough to be aloof, not even those who try. Everyone needs help. Of course, there is terrible racism and corruption and stupidity and crime. But this emphasizes all the more that people need help. People say Buffalo is a dying town. Even if it is growing, the citizens live as if it is dying. Illusions and dreams cannot last long in such a place.So here I am in a dying city doing the graveyard shift on a radio station that wouldn’t care if I croaked tomorrow. Jeez.
I send my playlists to Robert Christgau of the Village Voice. In the April 17 article about the new bands of Akron, Ohio, he writes:
Gary Storm of the Oil of Dog show on WBFO, Buffalo – “If all you love is money you’ll hate our guts” – gave me a playlist that included records I thought no disc jockey had heard of and records I hadn’t heard of myself. One was an album called From Akron, on Clone, by two different bands, the Bizarros and The Rubber City Rebels. I wrote away for it and loved it, although I didn’t relate to the EP by Tin Huey I got with it.*
Wow! I’m kinda almost famous for a minute or two!* Robert Christgau. “A Real New Wave Rolls Out of Ohio.” Village Voice, April 17, 1978, Vol. XXIII, No. 16, page. 67 ff.
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So back in ‘77 Louie the Mad Vinyl Junkie gives me a copy of this weird album called A Bunch of Stiff Records. It’s an anthology of several British rockers and one of them is this odd guy with glasses named ELVIS COSTELLO who does a fantastic song called “Less Than Zero.” I’m the first to broadcast Elvis in this area, maybe in the U.S., maybe almost anywhere. Pretty soon I’m hunting up singles like “Radio Sweetheart,” “Alison,” and “Red Shoes,” and his first album arrives like the grail many of us rock’n’rollers have been questing for years.I flash back to the first time Elvis came to Buffalo and did the song I’m playing now, “Watching the Detectives.” The show was at Buffalo State College, in a small restaurant-style room, and Elvis walks right out off the stage and on to the tables, and he crosses the tables until he comes to mine, and he reaches his hand to – Me! I hand him my pen. Re throws it down. My cup. He slaps it away. My hand. He pulls me up on the table. Help! I’m trying to decide what to do. I put my hands into the back pockets of my Wranglers, and stare him in the eyes, and stick out my skinny ass and wiggle it back and forth to the rhythms of the song, as he sings, “. . . little gun’s gonna blow you away!” HELP!!!
HOW TO HATE JAZZ
Why do I hate so much of the jazz I hear on the radio? Here at WBFO I have actually heard our “jazz” programmer playing disco tunes by some noteworthy “jazz” musician. And nothing could be less interesting than the sou1ess pyrotechnics they keep calling fusion. This is just jazz for people who can’t stand jazz. Clean jazz. Safe jazz. Designer jazz. Rock jazz. Jazz muzak. Jazzak. (The word “jazzak” was invented by Mark Henning, one of Buffalo’s slyest DJ’s.)
Man, that’s not the jazz that first grabbed me, raging bitter sweet sweating jazz, mean happy jazz, JAZZ THAT IS AT THE EDGE, MAN, JAZZ AT THE END OF THE WORLD. The musician and the solo. That’s it. And if he doesn’t SAY HIMSELF while he’s living and wailing that solo then it isn’t right. Jazz is improvisation, JAZZ IS DANGEROUS. Each time a man or woman cuts loose over the chord changes, shooting for that impossible wild riff, quoting a hero, swinging with the band, roaring with the crowd, hurling soundless emotions out into the physical world, sailing through the stacks above the tonic, sounding sour and knowing exactly where they’re at, THEY ARE RISKING THEIR VERY IDENTITY, THEY ARE RISKING THEIR LIVES. When a group of musicians creates music out of the air, out of the feelings that charge the air, out of the knowledge of one another that comes from years of jamming, out of an intense inter-relationship that goes beyond listening, knowing the moment, the absolute now, it is orgasm, it is dangerous, it is jazz.
I know about segues. You can’t fool me. I can ruin the craziest rip-snorter by Jimi Hendrix or John Coltrane just by playing Doris Day after it. The two pieces of music interact, the notes actually change, the feelings conveyed by the musicians are mediated by one another. It does something, it changes the key, it reverses time, it changes the grooves on the records, it scars them.
ON RADIO, YOU ARE ALWAYS BROADCASTING EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON AT THE STATION. INSIDE YOUR HEAD AND OUT. THE ATTITUDE YOU HAVE WHEN PRESENTING MUSIC IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE MUSIC ITSELF.
So why jazzak? Why do I hate so much jazz I hear played on my own radio station? Why do such unredoubtable geniuses as Hubert Laws and even George Benson and even even Herbie Hancock feel they need to turn out such cornball music? The answer is obvious: money. Part of the problem is that the giants of jazz have become the imitators rather than the avant garde, they are following groups like Spyro Gyra who make commercially successful jazzak. And part of the problem is that jazz programmers on the radio don’t believe they can hold an audience without playing jazzak. Commercial Top 40 jazz. Jazz for consumption. Jazz for ARB’s. This is certainly the case with some jazz programmers in Buffalo. Supermarket jazz. Airport jazz. Jazz without improvisation, incredibly slick, incredibly flashing, incredibly heartless, incredibly safe. Obligatos over pretty Montovani strings. Machine gun tiffs on soulless synthesizers. Jazz for tanning by the pool. Jazz for the bridge club. Jazz for picking up the kids. Drive-time jazz.This is not Sun Ra or Anthony Braxton screaming at the edge of space for everybody alive, this is not mean old Pharoah Sanders, this is not even the smooth elegant Ron Carter I saw, or that demon Oliver Lake who puked fire through his horn one sad fierce night before my eyes in Washington, D.C., this isn’t the bleeding grinning sweating huge black roaring orgasmic white-hot groping swinging singing laughing shining endless jazz that made Robert Creeley write his swinging poems and Jack Kerouac his pounding prose. Jazzak. Jazzak. Give me a break. Jazzak. Jazzak. Who needs it?
Here for the next hour and a half or so is something that no one ever wanted or needed or even wondered about. All the versions of “Hey, Joe” I could dig up.
The Music Machine (this was the first version I ever heard.)
The Shadows of Knight
The Mothers of Invention (“Hey punk, where are you going with that flower in your hand?”)
Roy Buchanan (a classic)
Fever Tree (one whole side of an album)
I’ve heard several origin stories for this song. It is variously credited to Billy Roberts and Dino Valenti who used to play with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Someone told me that the writer of the song sold the rights for one hundred dollars to get out of jail. If anybody can sort this one out it is Dave Marsh. I’ll leave it to him.
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My interview with DEVO did not go well. I was with a friend who at one time, before they were famous, was very close to a member of the band, and people kept interrupting and the vibes were really weird and I go to pieces in public anyway. One question people will never decide about DEVO is whether or not they are serious. They spawned a whole new kind of cool. Acting Devolved – walking around like robots, creating a highly mechanical electronically sophisticated music, immersing themselves in the trashiest images of the modern world like product codes, disposable clothing, Madison Avenue artwork – a Dadaist or absurdist drama. As in a play by Ionesco or Samuel Beckett, they take images of horror and exaggerate them to the greatest possible extreme. As Mark Jacobson explains in the Village Voice, the hipster and hippie cool said, “What do the people who control the world love? Well, we hate all that.” The Devolved cool says, “What do those who are in control love? Well, we declare that to be ours, and moreover, we are going to be the kinds of robots you want us to be.” Being DEVO is a grim snicker. Mark Mothersbaugh, the front man of the group, threw my questions aside with this incredible rap:
Mark Devo: Like, I’m also starting to notice that, y’know, like ah . . . . y’know, I-I been walking down the street lately and, y’know, like I look around and I start seeing people, y’know, like and yer just walking along, y’know, and like yer minding yer own business and some – different cities, y’know – and I start seeing people that-that look similar, y’know, to people I’ve just seen. Like, ah I looked like, I gotta tell you what happened today, I’m so glad that we got out of New York ‘cause I got up this morning real early, I didn’t feel good, something was happening in my head and I-I was really hurting and I went out and I-I went down, like, in the lobby – the guy behind the desk, he was like looking right at me, y’know, like he . . . . . like, I saw him do something under the counter, but I couldn’t see what it was, y’know. And he did-it didn’t do it until I came downstairs, I’mnotkiddinya, he wasn’t doing it til I came downstairs, so like I, so like I real quick I he-I start heading out the doors, y’know, like there were these double gla-
(At this point, he accidentally presses the stop button on my cassette recorder. He carefully turns it back on again.)
Wow, y’know, like, y’know like I-I turned real quick to the right but there were cars like going down the street, I’mnotkiddinya, and they started slow, some of them were going slow and some of them were going fast.
(By now the other members of the band are acting somewhat embarrassed, but they are also sniggering, they say it’s time to go. My friend’s eyes are getting wider and wider. I am laughing nervously.)
And then, y’know, there were like people in every one of the cars, y’know, like and sometimes they’d be looking over at ya and sometimes they wouldn’t, y’know, and then like there was this lady and she had a dog, and ah like she started like walking and like the dog was in front of her part of the time and some of the time it was, like, walking behind her and like then she went by and so like I had to like I had to move real quick ‘cause otherwise, y’know, I thought our arms were gonna touch, y’know. So like I-I started running faster and like b-I-I-there were more people, yknow i-it was like, it’s like, y’know, I felt like maybe I’d blacked out or something in the night and they’d done something, they’d messed around, y’know, with my head or something, y’know, like in the middle of the night, y’know, so like so like I didn’t know what to do so I just started running . . .
(He is, by now, very agitated, or seems very agitated.)
. . . faster and like I got to this place, this delicatessen, it smelled pretty bad but I went in anyhow ‘cause they had this sortalike piece of meat hanging there that looked like it looked like ah . . . . it reminded me of something I’d seen in Akron once. So I went in there –
(He accidentally presses the off button again, and again turns it back on. By now, everyone around me is amazed and nervous and smiling knowingly.)
– and, y’know, I was . . . . sweat was pouring down, and I looked over and there were these two guys and I swear to God they’d been in Paris, y’know. I was sure they had been. And the one of them, like, he had these shoes just like they wear in the CIA, y’know, like in Mission Impossible, y’know, those shiny shoes with patent leather and they got the things in the bottom, y’know, and you never can tell, y’know, what’s happening and so I go “Oh my God!” y’know, like I’m looking around and there’s all these guys and so like, so like I’m trying to, y’know, I’m trying not to lose it, y’know, and this guy comes up and he says “Whataya wanna eat?”, y’know, like I didn’t know, I didn’t even want to eat anything, I just wanted to get outta there but I couldn’t even, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get outta my seat and ahh . . . . this stuff starts happening all the time, y’know, and I don’t know what to do about it, y’know . . . . . so like . . . . I waited for a few minutes, I ducked into the, I ducked into the restroom and I locked the door and I just stayed in there until-I til I knew it was time to leave, y’know, to get on the airplane, so like as soon as . . . .
(Somebody tells him they are to meet outside in fifteen minutes.)
. . . . and I heard noises like on the other side of the wall, I didn’t know what to do, I was getting, I was getting really upset, y’know . . . . .
My Friend: Was this this morning? This morning????
M.D.: (He ignores her.) Then like I, y’know, like I-I because of that like I’m really glad there’s snow because it’s gonna make ‘em harder, it’s gonna make ‘em harder to move around, y’know, like . . . . . at least, at least they may not see me . . . . . but y’know . . . . .
(someone bangs the table, they want him to leave, the vibes are flying like bats)
. . . . we gotta go back to the Holiday Inn sooner or later, r’m really worried about it . . . . . . . . y’know, it’s like . . . . . . . . . . but other than that, y’know, the record makes it on the radio, y’know . . . . . . . . and who knows what that means. I t means that there’s little kids listening to it and I think that that’s important. I mean, for every DEVO song that’s one less spot that the BeeGees or Foreigner or John Travolta could be.
Gary: That’s true. Do you want to change the world?
M.D.: No, I just . . . . . well, ah . . . . . I’d just like to help people use their heads) use their heads again, just give them things to think about.
G: I know what you mean. Hahahaha. I sorta . . . . .
Woman’s voice (to Mark Devo): That made me paranoid, your whole story. It sounded real.
G: . . . . . I try to do that on my radio show a lot. (Gary falls audibly to pieces.)
Woman: It really made . . . . . it really did something to me.
Whether or not DEVO is the band of the 80’s, I am sure they will make a lasting contribution to the English language – the words “de-evolution” and “devolved” will no doubt someday appear in Merriam Webster’s Third International Unabridged and the Oxford English dictionaries.
|Within twenty years, the United States becomes involved in another major military effort. It will not be the Big Final Doom, though small-scale nuclear devices will be detonated. The United States will experience great economic prosperity. Ostensibly, the war will be over Israeli nationalism, or African independence, or oil politics, or Eastern Europe. Multinational corporations lobby heavily in favor of the war. China and the United States will confront directly. Great disaster will be narrowly avoided. At home, there will be a highly reactionary attitude in the government and civil liberties will fall to the wayside. The Butcher will wrap himself in an American flag and be called a hero. Many people will oppose the war and will be shot on college campuses and in the streets. Thousands of American citizens will disappear in concentration camps. The music of the time will be magnificent. The U.S. will emerge from the war seriously morally crippled. This moral defeat will weaken the nation in ways few people could predict.||
An old routine by JACKIE GLEASON from The Golden Age of Comedy, Vol. I.:
JG: Jukebox? Never, never mention jukebox to me!
Straightman: Why not?
JG: Sit down and I’ll tell ya. It was a cocktail lounge of Park Avenue’s most fashionable restaurant that I first fell in love. There she was. Standing in the corner. Her lights were on. Her discs were revolving. I looked at her and she turned green, purple, yellow – all the colors of the rainbow dashed through her neon veins . . . . . .*
* © 1972. Manheim Fox Enterprises, Inc. form The Golden Age of Comedy, Vol. I, Evolution Records, 3013.
Figure 23: Balding aging hippie with viola. When my son was no more than four, he asked, upon seeing this photo, "Dad, was that when you were black?" (Photo by Jack Hunter.)
* Richard Chon. “Truth, Beauty and the Beast: Gary Storm at 3 a.m.” SUNY at Buffalo Spectrum, March 21, 1980, Vo1. 30, No. 7, page 11 ff.
Sorry it took me so long to get these records to you.
I really wanted to thank you for all your help. Bob Christgau saw our L.P. on your playlist and wrote in for a copy. He chose it as a pick of the week and we therefore got a contract with Blank Records. He also did a huge story on us a few weeks ago.
Our L.P. will be out in July. We will also have a cut on the Akron L.P. that Stiff is putting out. I guess you’ve heard of Devo signing and the R.C. [Rubber City] Rebels being on Sire. Tin Huey is about to sign to Warner.
Thanks again for your help – we will mention your name on the L.P.
Sincerely,Nick Nicholas of The Bizarros
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THE END OF THE WORLD
It is November. I am playing Bach’s Easter Oratorio. A phone call. Disembodied male voice asks if I have heard about the statues of Christ that have spontaneously begun bleeding in various places around the world. Paul Harvey says they have made tests and the statues are emitting real human blood. They are heavily guarded. I have those end-of-the-night shakes. I am moved by a vague fear. Could this be the end of the world?
John Farrell used to say, “I hope I’m here for the end of the world. I wouldn’t want to miss that show for anything! I mean, they spent fifty billion years getting to this point and we get to see the finale! I wouldn’t miss that show for the world!” The end of the world is my fear. The end of the world is my anger. The end of the world is my cause. The end of the world is my fascination. The end of the world is the modern world.
Whether or not intimations of utter menace are justified is not the issue. They permeate our sensibility.*
And when I put on my end-of-the-world-glasses everything I see about me, everything I do is the product of this sensibility. Beaudelaire saw it in his day:
. . . . . .it is more difficult to love God than to believe in Him. On the other hand, it is more difficult for people nowadays to believe in the Devil than to love him. Everyone smells him and no one believes in him. Sublime subtlety of the Devil.**
Everyone smells the end of the world, the armageddon, the third world war, the silent spring, the crash of ‘83, the thunder of Shiva – but we disco and fast-food and prime-time the fear from our hearts. Everyone from Jimmy Buffet to Elvis Costello sings about it. We are all citizens of Pompeii under Vesuvius, citizens of Los Angeles waiting for the tremor. This awareness creeps the country in little Harrisburgs and little Love Canals and little Vietnams. Mark Jacobson, in his article about Legs McNeil, is marvelously articulate on the subject:
. . . . . .25 years ago, . . . . the apocalypse was a new idea and truly only existed as a meaningful force in the minds of a few “urban adventurers.” America still operated by pre-atomic rules. Buildings were still made out of bricks; people still read books, ate in real restaurants, and had families.
Now, of course, none of the above is true. America has adjusted in profound ways to the spectre of the apocalypse. Now we have throwaway television, throwaway burgers, throwaway housing. None of it has the permanency of the pants your mother bought an inch too long so they’d fit next year. The society has caught up to Hiroshima. We are living . . . . in a fully-fleshed-out post-atomic world. Everything we touch, eat, and see has the singe of doom on it.***
I think about this stuff a lot.
All-Night brings me closer to this
sensibility. I get
mad and curse and
threaten all the bad people who are killing the world, who are greedy,
this doom so real, something I can feel at night. * George
Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of
Culture (New Haven:
Yale U. Press, 1971), p. 98.
Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of
Culture (New Haven:
Yale U. Press, 1971), p. 98.
** Beaudelaire. Flowers of Evil, ed. Marthiel and Jackson Mathewsw. New York: New Directions, 1955.
*** Mark Jacobson. “Teenage Hipster in the Modern World,” Village Voice, August 7, 1978, Vol. XXIII, No. 32, page 23.
Steve Rosenthall came to work at WBFO a couple of years after I started Oil of Dog. He is a marvelous saxophonist – he can do the circular breathe and play a single note for the rest of your life without a break. He is now a member of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet which specializes in beautiful arrangements of Scott Joplin and other ragtime music. He is also one of WBFO’s best programmers of jazz.
I think he once asked me for some feedback and I told him my cardinal rule for programming a radio show: Be an asshole. If you do not take risks you will accomplish nothing of worth. Reach out, experience every possible mistake so you know them all by heart. Do things you wouldn’t be caught dead trying. Humiliate and degrade yourself. Grow up in public. Masturbate under spotlights on a stage. Excitement will never happen in safety. I have done many things which shame me, which cause me embarrassment to this day. But the humiliations are the price for the extraordinary and inspiring things that have happened on my show.
One of the most extraordinary things about JULIAN BREAM is the way in performance, during a demanding passage, he bugs his eyes and sticks out his tongue. Every time I see him do it I nearly jump out of my seat and run screaming out of the auditorium.
Here he is boys and girls.
The greatest guitarist alive.
Greater than Segovia. Greater than Jeff Beck. Greater than Hoyt Axton. Greater than John McClaughlin. Greater than Steve Vai. Greater than Jimi Hendrix. Greater than Doc Watson.
But guitar ain’t enough for the greatest that ever was.
Here he is not playing guitar, but rather lute. You can hear him play a piece by Francesco da Milano who died in 1543. They called Francesco “Il Divino,” so consummate was his skill on the lute.What other names are there for Bream but “Bream”?
|Anarchy on the Airwaves. Friday, January 20, 1978. What a beautiful poster we had. It was designed by Judy Treibel, a brilliant artist who worked for WBFO. Vermillion paper with a huge safety pin in maroon ink. This was one of the first major prime-time presentations of punk rock in the Buffalo area – if not the first. It was a live broadcast of a concert by Lip Service, the first and, at that time, the only punk band to achieve any commercial notoriety in Buffalo, even if they were almost exclusively a cover band. Their lead singer was dynamite, former physical education major, Mark Rage. Unfortunately, they were at a low point in their short career having just found a new guitarist. I made tapes of carefully selected punk rock (or new wave as they were beginning to be called) records to play between the live sets. And I printed a list of all the songs as well as information as to where people could learn more about this new music. I even had 100 albums to give away. There was a blizzard and hardly more than 100 people came. Lip Service hated the air sound. They thought the WBFO engineers had mixed the vocals too loud. At the end, I cried out, “Do you like punk, do you like punk!?!” Ah! Punk had been dead for months.||
Figure 24: (Photo of poster by Zowie.)
This insightful review appeared in the University of Buffalo Spectrum a few weeks after our Anarchy on the Airwaves show.
PUNK MIJSIC IS A LOT LIKE BROWN MUSTARD AND CHOCOLATE ANTS
by Terence P. Kenny
As witnessed by those in attendance, WBFO’s benefit concert cum record hop Anarchy on The Airwaves drew a very small crowd. A noticeable proportion of the people were local pseudo-punks in search of cheap beer. As for our educated students, hardly any made their presence known. The program was fun, however, blatant the exposure of new wave, our newest genre of rock and roll.
The advertising logo was by no means covert. The safety pin (a generation ago it signified a new addition to the family) now deemed the archtypal symbol of punkdom, exclaimed the intent while simultaneously negating the purpose. First and foremost, Gary Storm wanted to turn the people on to some new music. Too bad those that wanted to check it out shied away because of the omnipresent punk vibe. People are afraid of Punk Rock, especially middle class collegians with chronic esthetic guilt complexes. They are not ready to check something out, and are more readily placated by the media’s exposure of the new wave.
. . . . . Sorry to say, the only way to get people to listen to new wave is to keep it undercover, just as with chocolate covered ants. Don’t tell them what it is and they’ll eat it up.** Terrence P. Kenney. “Punk Is a Lot Like Brown Mustard and Chocolate Ants.” SUNY at Buffalo Spectrum, February, 10, 1978, Vol, 28, number and page unavailable.
Now . . . . . well, I-I want to get to the punk stuff a little
later. But let me talk a little bit about the
Now, I’ve seen what record promoters do.
have to deal with them too. And even with me who-who has a
reputation of playing just about anything . . . .
Sandy Beach and Norm Schrutt: Hahahahahahaha.
G: Y’know, the-they like, they’ll take me out to dinner sometimes and stuff like that. And-an they are under a tremendous amount of pressure from the company to get a record played, and they’ll do just about anything to get it played.
S: Where are you going with this? Hahahaha.
G: Do you think that do-do you sometimes worry that this will get out of hand and-and that there will be big payola scandals again and stuff like that?
S: I can only be responsible for what happens here. Let me tell you something. The people who service this radio station are too smart for that. Ahh, my question. Y’know, it’s a question that’s with us all the time. It’s like a race car driver, did you ever think about that?
G: Mm hrnm.
S: Alright, my question is this: What is your career and what is your reputation worth?
G: Mm hmm.
S: What could they possibly give you that would be worth your career and your reputation? If they came in and they gave me $100,000 dollars, would that be enough? Would I sell out my reputation and my career for that? I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to do it. ‘Cause it’s just not worth it. It’s just not worth it. Now what they do in other cities, I don’t know, but they’re too smart to do anything like that, an-ah we ah we can’t deal with that ki-that kind of thing.
N: We-we even go one step further. Ah, if a record label ah will say take Sandy out to dinner one time, ah, the next time Sandy picks up the check.
S: We pick up the check.
S: In my budget, yeah. In fact, national guys always fall off the floor when I reach for the check. Because in my budget, I have in my budget, money to take people to lunch and dinner. And the reason is this: The reason isn’t I mean, obviously, I weigh 300 pounds – I mean, I-I if I had the choice, I wouldn’t do it at all. But the reason is this: When you go to lunch or dinner with a record promotion person, it’s a chance for them to really talk about their product with no interruptions. If you’re sitting in my office, even with the door closed, there’s a million phone calls, the knock, knock, knock on the door, ah a format sheet comes under the door, stuff like that, ya, it-it’s a chance for them to get you alone and say “Look, I think The Ramones should be on KB and here’s the reason why . . . . .” That sort of thing. But as Norman points out, ah, we keep it on a fifty-fifty basis, we do that for a reason. It’s not because we’re just big spenders, it’s because we think it’s the right thing to do.
S: Tha-that’s an example. As far as anything else, our corporation has very strict guidelines to that. Ea-each employee who has anything to do with the music has to sign a form each year, ah, plus, ah, our corporation says that, ah, normal social courtesies will be all that you’ll accept. And normal social courtesies would be lunch, dinner, things like that. It would not be, ah, breakfast in Paris.
S: For instance, we get a chance all the time to see new acts that are appearing like in New York and Boston.
N: What about Jon (Sommers, music director of WKBW)? Poor Jon ah-ah-the he had an opportunity to go see Barbra Streisand.
S: Barbra Streisand.
S: When-they, when-they signed, when Columbia re-signed Streisand, they said, “C’mon down to New York, we’d like you to be our guest.” And-and th-there was no hanky-panky, Columbia doesn’t need that. “And we want you to meet Streisand and whatever.” And we said, “No, you can’t do it.”
G: Mm hmm.
S: It kills you. “No, you can’t do it!” We can’t do it. Ahh, for instance, ah, the president of Atlantic Records is somebody I’ve known for about, ah, fourteen years. When the Stones were touring last year, ah, they were doing these surprise concerts, okay?
G: At the El Mocombo.
S: Right. Ah, well, that was up in, ah, yeah. I’m talking about the New York ones.
S: Ah, so they wouldn’t announce it til like four in the afternoon. And he called me up one day and he said, “They’re going to announce one tomorrow in the City and it’s going to be here, an-you, it’s impossible to get in,” he said. “But if you want to come down, y’know, the tickets are here, you can come in.” I couldn’t go. Couldn’t go! I mean, I could have gone if I wanted to pay for my own plane fare, and everything else.
S: But at the time, ah, I-we-we were just too busy, and whatever, and I just didn’t go. We never do those kind of things because we don’t want-don’t want any strings attached, no questions asked. And there’s no-no none intended. But even those types of business things we don’t participate in.
G: I see.
|It is not so long from now. The Russians look nervously at Chinese diplomats dancing with Nixon to the BeeGees via satellite. There is a massive arms build-up on the Sino-Soviet border. Gary pleads with both sides to kiss and make up. They do not listen.||
Everyone is cryin’ out
for peace, yes
* Peter Tosh, “Equal Rights,” © 1977, no pub., from Equal Rights, Columbia 34670.
A Shepheards boye (no better doe
I am reading from Edmund Spenser’s Shepheards Calendar. I love it and I have been studying it assiduously. I felt like I knew it well until I opened my mouth live on the radio. I mispronounce everything, I suddenly feel like I don’t really understand what is going on. How can I do this to the things I love so much? Oh well, it is better to take risks and be an asshole than to never try anything new blah blah blah.
So faynt they woxe, and feeb1e
in the folde
Help, I’m feeble. Help, I’m woxing. I completely lose my cool. Cool, oh Cool, why leave me so faynt?
* Edmund Spenser. Poetical Works, ed. J.C. Smith & E. DeSelincourt. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.
SHAMEFULLY PROCRASTINATED RELEASE IMMEDIATELY
A couple of months ago WBFO sponsored a fabulous punk rock party called “Anarchy on the Airwaves.”
The event was broadcast live on WBFO and featured Buffalo’s first successful punk group – Lip Service.
We gave away over 100 albums (thanks to you wonderful promoters) by groups like Talking Heads, The Saints, Richard Hell, The Dead Boys, Television, Motors, Dave Edmunds, Mink DeVille, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Southside Johnny, Graham Parker, The Runaways, The Jam, and Iggy and The Stooges.
Between the live sets by Lip Service we aired a carefully selected program of the best new wave records. A playlist of the songs was given to all the rockers who attended the party. I am enclosing a copy of that list for you.
Whether or not this music is a passing fad, the fact remains that we are one of the few radio stations in the U.S. actually broadcasting the music so that people can decide its worth for themselves.
We have been rotten punks for years. I hope you will treat us nicely.
HI! HERE’S A LIST OF SOME OF THE MUSIC YOU MIGHT BE HEARING TONIGHT.
Though you wouldn’t call all these groups PUNK, they all express a reaction against the canned commercial music that dominates so much of the Top 40 sound.
For more information check out:
|Sales plunge for the entire record industry. In a budget-minded publicity stunt, Columbia Records fires hundreds of employees. Jack Perry, our venerable local rep is canned with the rest. He is replaced by a much younger (and probably less expensive) person who turns out to be almost totally useless.||A friend says that patients at Buffalo Psychiatric listen to my show. They stare intently at the radio as if it were a television.|
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