ARCHIVES: WPKN playlist — 1/4/10: Ciao for now

This is the last of my pre-Franorama World posts, from my MySpace blog Jan. 4, 2010, 2:34 p.m. EST, at the tail end of my holiday visit to Connecticut, my last fill-in on WPKN (89.5 FM, wpkn.org). By the end of the month, I started this current WordPress blog:

My mind forgot how strenuous doing morning drive radio could be. My body didn’t.

Chris Teskey, a fellow longtime PKNer, was kind enough to offer me his 6-9 a.m. shift today, and I was too busy burning more mix CDs for the show to think about getting some sleep. Got to bed about 12:30 to be up at 3:20 to get down to the station in plenty of time to put together the news and rip some music, etc.

And I’m hurting for sleep right about now. Just like the old days.

Very early on this morning, I got a cosmic reminder of why I do these shows on my visits back — six years removed from full-time life in Connecticut and a regular show — and why WPKN and stations like it are so important. Even if it is just music.

We keep at least a little corner of the radio world free from the mindless corporate stooges that have denigrated, devalued, debased and are ultimately destroying the commercial airwaves. We’re the final buffers against the automation and syndication that have turned most of the radio world into nothing more than Muzak — programmed elevator music for the car. And not very well-programmed, I may add.

So anyway, I turned over my father’s car at 3:40 this morning, cleaning off snowdrifts in the darkness, in sub-20 weather with a wind chill at about zero. And I got in the car and turned to PKN. No one was on — the person scheduled to be on the air didn’t show and the station was closed. (Great — now I have to remember how to get in and how to turn on the transmitter. Been years since I did that …) So I punched the button for WDRC, the Hartford-based oldies station, the country’s first FM station (1922).

Normally, they have a better selection than most oldies stations. But this was definitely the canned satellite programming. And what should be playing at 3:40 in the morning, in the darkness and zero cold of early January?

“It’s a beautiful morning … Aaaahhhh …”

“A Beautiful Morning” by The Rascals.

“Beautiful my ass,” I fumed as I backed out of the driveway and pushed the button for WCBS, the news station.

You wonder why I rail at corporate mindlessness. Unless, of course, this was some programmer’s twisted sense of humor (which, if it were the case, I’d appreciate). Otherwise, no excuse.

I want radio with personality, with some thought behind it, with some heart behind it. Which is why I do it — I do a show that I hope I’d want to listen to if I didn’t know it was me doing it, if that makes any sense.

And there are so many people like me who are perfectly qualified to do quality radio shows — who have the deep musical knowledge, who have eclectic tastes, who know how to communicate with an audience. Not this flat, pre-programmed, one-way product form of “communication” spewed by a computer from god-knows-where and bounced by satellite.

I’ll just put this out there. Radio executives: Your current business model is not working. In fact, it’s destroying your business. Just as many newspaper companies haven’t learned yet: In no sane universe do you attract more people by offering them less. By giving listeners canned, pre-packaged spam from some syndicate, you’ve given up your connection to the people you profess to serve. Radio is all about connection. It’s about heart and soul. By whacking your local talent, you hack away your connection to your community. Pennywise, pound-foolish is not a good business model. It’s more like a wrecking ball, except that it cleans you out from the inside, until all you have left is a worthless shell.

If you have a station that needs help, or know of someone who has a station that needs help — needs a mix of communication, knowledge, personality and heart — then let me know and let them know. As it stands now, I’m looking for a job in the Bay Area, New York or back here in Connecticut. We could help each other. Hire me and you’ll get a commercial station like no other. Think of it as a fresh-cut deli counter versus the bins of pre-packaged cold cuts and cheese, and with a lot more variety. As a consumer, which store would you frequent?

So I get ready to reluctantly go back to central California, where there seems to be nothing left for me. If you tuned in during my time home, thanks for listening. If not, hopefully there will be a next time. It was a fun way to wrap up a lousy decade and jump-start a promising one.

So where’s what I offered up this morning. Three points of interest.

* One was “Byrds,” off the forthcoming album by P.J. O’Connell (see the previous post).

* Another was “’62 Hawk” by The Down-Fi. They’re a group from Indianapolis fronted by Craig Bell. Craig was on the ground floors of the alt-music scenes in both Cleveland in the mid-’70s and New Haven in the late ’70s. Craig played guitar in Rocket From the Tombs, a group that’s much more appreciated now than in their time. (Craig, BTW, co-wrote the song “Final Solution” — later famously covered by Bauhaus — with his then Rocket bandmate, the pre-Pere Ubu David Thomas. Cheetah Chrome was also in the band before joining the Dead Boys. Craig, David and Cheetah teamed up with ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd to do a couple of reunion tours in the ’00s.)

After RFTT broke up, he transferred with his railroad job to New Haven, where he started The Saucers with Mark Mulcahy, pre-Miracle Legion and cult-following solo career. After The Saucers, C.W. started his own band, first known as Plan 9, then Future Plan, The Plan and eventually The Bell System.

The first time I saw him — my intro to the New Haven scene — was the night before Easter 1982 with Future Plan at the old Brothers in West Haven. It was Craig on guitar, Mike Barone (who told me about the gig) on drums, Jon March doubling on Farfisa and bass, and Forrest Harlow doubling on Farfisa and electric autoharp. (It’s the only time I’ve ever seen two Farfisas in one lineup, much less one electric autoharp.) They did this one wiry, poppy, catchy tune that night that stuck with me ever since: “’62 Hawk,” an ode to a Studebaker. I always hoped they’d record that tune. They never got to it. Then he and Claudia got married and moved 20 years ago to Indianapolis. And this past summer, Craig sent me a CD. It was The Down-Fi — Craig revisiting his old tunes with a bunch of younger players. And finally, we have a released version of “Hawk.”

* And, at last, there were two songs for my folks, who have been supportive of me in the weirdest time of my life, and about a lot of things they never thought they’d have to try to understand. For Mom, an appropriate tune for an Engelbert Humperdinck fan this January morning: “Winter World of Love.” For Albie, who turned me on to Frankie Laine as a kid: “That Lucky Old Sun.” (Which, of course, Brian Wilson used as the nucleus of his last album.)

Let’s do this again sometime. Thanks to everyone who gave me a shift these past few weeks.

American Beat ’84 — The Fleshtones
Better Get Up — P.J. O’Connell
Byrds — P.J. O’Connell
Why Do I Cry — The Remains
Teacher Teacher — Rockpile
When My Baby’s Beside Me — Big Star

I Say a Little Prayer — Aretha Franklin
Baby A Go-Go — Barbara McNair
Rose Garden — Lynn Anderson
Baby I Need You — T.J. Williams & Two Shades of Soul
Needle in a Haystack — The Velvelettes

Stop Beating Around the Bush — The Velvelettes
Liquorice Twitch — The Kaisers
WABC Beatles jingle/It Won’t Be Long — The Beatles
New Toy — Lene Lovich
Every Word Means No — Let’s Active

’62 Hawk — The Down-Fi
A Someday Fool — MG & the Escorts
Hip-Hug-Her — Booker T. & the MG’s
Denis — Blondie
Drivin’ Me Mad — The Three Degrees

Have Love Will Travel — The Sonics
Freedom of Choice — Devo
Sock It to ‘Em, J.B., Pt. 1 — Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers
He’s a Doll – The Honeys
Can I Get a Witness – Marvin Gaye
Footstomping Music — Grand Funk
Some Kind of Wonderful — Soul Brothers Six
Lovers Who Wander — Dion
Surfin’ School — King Uszniewicz & the Uszniewicztones
Love and Loneliness — The Motors

Winter World of Love — Engelbert Humperdinck
That Lucky Old Sun — Frankie Laine
Surf’s Up — Brian Wilson
Look at What I Almost Missed — The Parliaments
I Love Her So Much It Hurts Me — David & Ruben
Shakin’ All Over — Johnny Kidd & the Pirates

You Better Tell Me Now — The Double Naught Spys
A Girl Like You — Edwyn Collins
As the Years Go By — Mashmakan
Sunglasses After Dark — Dwight Pullen
Rock’n’Roll Baby — Warren Smith
Ubangi Stomp — Warren Smith
Duck Tail — Joe Clay
Long Blond Hair — Johnny Powers
Keeping Time — Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents
It’s Love, Come What May — The Bobby Fuller Four

Come Go With Me — Gloria Jones

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