November 15, 2013

Triple J, Sky Rock, and Radio Caroline

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:26 pm


Many disk jockeys say that there is no “there” in Oakland but a columnist says otherwise.

[Note:  We leave it up to other pundits to write columns about the latest developments in the ACA political donnybrook.  A nostalgic look at radio may not be cutting edge commentary but that’s the way the cookie crumbles for this week’s installment of a column from the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Who knows?  Maybe a change of pace in the midst of a tsunami of facts about health insurance will be a breath of fresh air.]

Norman Goldman, the talk radio host who promulgates the philosophy that labels are inaccurate and confining, asserts that radio personalities are entering a new age when radios are superfluous.  Since we heard Triple J radio online long before we used a small battery operated Sanyo to tune in to the source for Australian music, we grok what he says but it was a much more visceral experience to hold the radio and work the tuner to listen to that unique blend of voices and music.

When we think of going to visit friends in close proximity to the Big Apple, our heart leaps up at the chance to hear Harry Harrison reassuring the audience that they live in the greatest city in the world but that Eastern Airlines (“The Wings of Man”) stand read to whisk them away to far away places with strange sounding names.  We have to take a deep breath and say:  “That was then; this is now.”

Armstrong and Getty boldly assert that they have “the hottest show on the West Coast.”  There was a time, though, when things were different.  Living at Lake Tahoe as the Sixties came to a close, radio reception was very limited because of the basin which meant that very few AM radio signals could be picked up.  The two local stations were on opposite ends of the AM dial and so it was that switching from one to another meant a sweep of the AM dial and in that process you would hear a third signal.  Fine tune it and you would hear a raspy voice claiming that his radio show was heard from coast to coast and border to border.  A signal wall to wall and tree-top tall was heard in 38 states.  The people who heard Wolfman Jack before seeing American Graffiti know what the true definition of “the hottest radio show” used to be.

How could Wolfman Jack possibly have been that popular if he never took a position on the Affordable Care Act?

Heck, now folks with Internet access can be in South Lake Tahoe and listen to Triple J in Australia, Sky Rock in Paris (France not Texas), and Radio Caroline.  It’s no wonder that Pan Am has vanished.  Radio fans don’t need to travel to hear those radio stations.

We did listen, whilst in Sydney Oz, to Skid Row Radio but we have not fact checked listening to them via the Berkeley Public Library computers.

When we went to Paris in 1986 (how can a 28 year old columnist remember a trip to Paris almost 28 years ago?  [Trade secret.]) we packed a comparatively bulky portable radio to enhance the “we are really there” aspect of the experience.

Some other time we may expand the question “Why do Internet sites aggregate only American radio broadcasts and not include ones from outside the USA?” into a full column but not today.

Norman Goldman uses sound bytes of politicians to punctuate his broadcasts and that often reminds us of the first time we heard the version of “What the world needs now” augmented by various sound bytes.  We heard it on WABC and they usually played only one song at a time and when we heard that version of that song for the first time, they quickly followed with another song.  We have always assumed that the DJ, like us, had been caught off guard and was knocked on his ass by what he heard and couldn’t say anything.  Is the Pan Am building still called the Pan Am building by old timers?

That was just about the time WICK in Scranton had changed to the talk show format.  We called in to ask Evel Knievel which of the many hospitals he had stayed in had the best looking nurses.  He said the one in Las Vegas.  I had stayed in the hospital in Carson City Nevada and the nurses their all talked about what a good patient Kenivil had been.

WICK had been a sensation when they were one of the first stations in North Eastern Pennsylvania to play “Rock’n’Roll” music.  They used some Polish language broadcasts on Sunday morning to pay the bills and more than a few Irish Catholic Democrats picked up on phrases in Polish while waiting after Sunday Mass for the format to change back to the usual new music.  What ever happened to Fats Domino?

Their arch rival WARM used the WARMland shtick to excess during the winter months.  WARM ridiculed sports news by giving the results of a fictional match up between the Honeypot Cheaters and the MacAdoo Stompers every week during football season.

Before Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was picked up by the ABC TV network, they expanded from their Philadelphia flagship station to one other area TV station, WNEP in the Scranton Wilkes Barrie area.

A Southern California high school football team with the Fighting Arabs as their mascot have been in the news lately and since there really is a town called Honeypot we wonder what their high school’s mascot is.  What about Intercourse Pa.’s high school’s mascot?

The mascot of the Whittier CA college is “the Poets.”

Lately with the ACA 24/7 marathon we have searched in vain for KFOG but can’t find that old stalwart radio signal from the Sixties.  Can’t seem to find KABL either.

We didn’t hear Don Sherwood until he got his gig up at Lake Tahoe.  They had called his radio program the “Will Sherwood Show?” show because more than once the city’s top disk jockey called in sick.

Then the “shock jock” era began.  Whatever happened to Don Imus?

Did Westwood One and the count down format really get started in a former rug store in Culver City?  The last time we heard Dr. Demento we were living in L. A.  We should try fishing around to see what station carries his Sunday night show in the San Francisco area.

Since political punditry from Uncle Rushbo’s clones seems ubiquitous on the radio, we think a new radio format or a resurrected old one might be like rain in the desert for listeners who have been pummeled by nonstop criticism of Obama and have nothing but more of the same to look forward to for the next three years.

Why doesn’t some intrepid radio format wunderkind implement a format that uses a bilingual approach.  Folks who want to learn English could learn English and the gringos who want to know what the Spanish speaking employees are saying could benefit from such a style of newscasts.  We had an Aunt in Santa Monica who knew enough about baseball that she could have coached a high school team so she learned Spanish by turning on the TV, turning down the sound, and listening to the Dodger games on Spanish language radio.  She got to be quite proficient at it.

We can remember working at a large University in the Westwood Section of Los Angeles and we picked up a fair degree of proficiency in Spanish.  Once when the head honcho’s lackey came into the room the manager announced to the room in Spanish:  Watch what you say because she’s the department head’s spy.  The interloper didn’t speak Spanish so the general announcement went right over her head.  Since our Spanish was good enough to know what was said we felt like we were “one of the group.”

In the Seventies, one L. A. radio station played only big band era music.  We loved the music but since the commercials were all about Depends, denture adhesives, and hemorrhoid medicines, we opted out.

If some San Francisco station went to all Sixties music, now, we’d be tuned in to them in a New York minute.  What if they played Sixties music and ran news from 50 years ago today?  Could they call it Nostalgia Radio?

A column about radio and nostalgia reminds us how annoyed a friend used to get when, in 1968, we would often say:  “Back in 1968 . . .” and he would get mad and say “Damn it!  It is 1968!”  He died several years ago.

[Note from the photo editor:  Is the gigantic “THERE” in the East Bay actually proof that there is a “THERE” in Oakland or is it actually in Berkeley and a confirmation of the folk wisdom that, in Oakland, there is no THERE there?  Ask your favorite DJ.]

Back in 1968, a one-liner that was ubiquitous went;  “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Now, our disk jockey, who really appreciates good guitar work, will play us out with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Henry Mancini’s “theme from Peter Gunn,” (that’s Duane Eddy on guitar), and Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep.”  We have to go buy some strings for a friend’s sitar.  Have a “we’ll do it live!” type week.

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