Archive for the ‘WPKN playlists etc.’ Category

WPKN playlist 5/23/13: The Bob Fill-in Edition

May 28, 2013
The artist in a more comprehensible time.

The artist in a more comprehensible time.

For the link to the May 23 episode of Franorama 2.0 on WPKN, click here and, for the final hour, here. Franorama 2.0 appears sporadically as a fill-in at PKN until your hostess’ job situation clears up and she can wrangle a regular shift.

Last week was another double-duty week for Franorama 2.0 — the usual 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday shift (May 24) on Cygnus Radio, preceded by a fill-in shift from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday on WPKN, my terrestrial radio home in Bridgeport.

It was my first time back on the air in 2 1/2 months; my last show, part of a day-long Women of WPKN programming block in March, was a midnight-to-2 shift in the midst of the winter’s last big snowstorm. This was no usual show, either. Nor was it a usual fundraiser. It was the second shift into a two-day “Dylan Days” fundraiser, using Bob’s name in vain and exploiting the 40th anniversary of the day he could no longer be trusted (last Friday) in order to generate operating funds for the station.

It was Christmas for me, too. Got to hear (and rip into my laptop) a recent Columbia box set of his first eight albums remastered in mono on CD, plus a couple other albums. Also heard and played selections from a six-CD import box set, A Long Time a Growin’, a collection of live recordings from that pivotal year of 1961, which ended with Bobby Z being signed to Columbia Records. And it pays to read the liner notes: I played three songs (all Woody Guthrie tunes) recorded May 6, 1961 at the Indian Neck Folk Festival, an exclusive, invite-only fest staged by a couple of Yale grads at the old Montowese Hotel, in the Indian Neck section of Branford.

The radio shift was a success, as was the weekend — where, in addition to box sets, we put up, for the pledging, tickets to Dylan’s July 19 show at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport (with Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham), as well as tickets to the Gathering of the Vibes the last weekend of July at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, and the Green River and Falcon Ridge festivals. The station’s goal for the two days was $10,200; John Corvino’s morning drive shift, preceding mine, brought in over $2K to open the fundraiser, and my shift brought in over a grand. It certainly was productive.

Well, here was my Dylan playlist. Hope I passed the audition, No, wait, that was a Lennon reference …

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WPKN Playlist, 2/14/13: The ambivalent-about-love fill-in

February 18, 2013

Cheryl valentineFeb. 18, 2013

For the third Thursday in a row, Franorama 2.0 made a fill-in appearance on WPKN as Binnie Klein wrapped up her bout with the flu. And enough blizzard snow had been removed to make the streets of Bridgeport passable, even if just one lane. And the temperature was in the 40s. And this time, the hometown Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t screw up my drive-thru order. Guess that made for a good morning.

Three themes developed in the course of the two-hour show:

The start of the show, at 10 on the dot, marked six months to the minute my friend Alexis and I pulled out of Fresno in the rental truck to begin the trip home.

The final set included a tribute to Slim Dunlap, the replacement Replacement. Sharon, my Facebook friend from Minneapolis, had sent me a link the day before telling me that the mayor had proclaimed Feb. 14 Bob “Slim” Dunlap Day. Slim’s been battling some serious health problems the last year or two, and with no insurance, and it warranted Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson reuniting to record a Replacements record — the Songs for Slim EP, sold by auction, raised thousands. Unfortunately, no one had converted their copies into a YouTube file yet — I’m guessing no one wants to play a record they spent hundreds for — but I did offer up one Slim song and two ‘Mats classics.

And then there was the short but vast middle. It was Feb. 14, after all. To me, Valentine’s Day is a day where the single people are either wanting to be in love or too bitter to go through it again, and the couples are going through the motions of this fabricated ritual, and stressing out over cards and flowers and gifts and dinner reservations, because of some sense of obligation dictated by greeting card companies.

This single, who now is firmly convinced that dates are only dried fruits grown in Mediterranean climates, went ripping through a first Valentine’s set about the downside of love. And then I got an unexpected valentine.

The lovely Miss Cheryl, aka one of the dearest friends I’ve never met, and another of the many who had no reason to celebrate this day — posted a virtual valentine to my Facebook wall. It was an old-school kids’ valentine from the ’30s or ’40s — long before every kids’ valentine pack had to be a damned licensed product tie-in — and it made me go “Aw, garshk” and blush like Popeye. And really? Deep down? I actually am a bit of a romantic but have shut down that part of my life for far too long. So I tempered the second set a shade or two — from downright anti-love to ambivalence. It’s the little things, y’know?

Anyway, I’m not sure if or when I’ll be on again. I’m at the mercy of my job hunt and other people’s schedule tie-ups. But this should hold you ’til then …

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WPKN Playlist 2/7/13: Bracing for the blizzard

February 14, 2013
To think -- two days before, I was driving to WPKN in this Camry.

To think — two days before, I was driving to WPKN in this Camry.

Feb. 13, 2013

The morning of Feb. 7 didn’t start off on the good foot.

I had another Franorama 2.0 show on WPKN, another fill-in for Binnie Klein, who was still battling the flu. I started the day with a trifecta at the Dunkin’ Donuts up the street from me. Ordered a bagel with veggie cream cheese and a large iced coffee with milk and sugar. The girl gave me the coffee and the lid popped off, and half of it spilled on my coat and my leg. She gave me a replacement — no sugar. And halfway to the radio station, I bit into my bagel to discover that, for the fourth time in just over a month, it had plain cream cheese instead of veggie. Lesson to pass on: Speed and efficiency don’t mean a damn if you can’t get the order right.

But on the good side, it was sunny and relatively warm, in the 40s. Of course, if I didn’t know better — and we all surely did — I wouldn’t have guessed that there was a blizzard coming in within 24 hours. By this time the next morning, there was already nearly an inch on the ground at home, en route to three feet by the time it ended on Saturday.

And it was the Ghost of Blizzard Yet to Come that inspired the second half of the show. And there were two more mini-tributes as well.

One was to Paul Tanner, who died at 95 two days before. Mr. Tanner, not to be confused with the Mr. Tanner of the Harry Chapin song, was a trombonist and the last surviving member of the original Glenn Miller Orchestra. But in the ’50s, he began exploring electronic music, and in the mid-’60s, he played Electro-Theremin on Beach Boys songs, most notably “Wild Honey,” “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” … and “Good Vibrations.” The guy played on two of the most iconic songs in the American songbook in two different generations — “In the Mood” and “Good Vibrations.” I’ve always had an affinity for people who live out of the spotlight yet do some of the coolest things you can imagine. Mr, Tanner fit that bill.

The other was one final two-song tribute to our dearly departed guitarist pal, Steve Deal. It was two newly released songs he recorded with his last band, Radiana. The boy was funny right ’til the end. Check the below video to “Brother Sun.” Steve, in the Union Jack T-shirt, did something around the 2:20 mark that would’ve made me do a spit-take were I drinking something.

Anyway, it was another short, sweet and fun little drag strip of a show, Made me nearly forget all about Dunky D’s.

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WPKN playlist 1/31/10: Stevo and Patty and NYC

February 10, 2013
Steve Deal. He was he was he was the Mods and more.

Steve Deal. He was he was he was the Mods and more.

Feb.8, 2013

The second Franorama 2.0 of the year on WPKN was another two-hour drag strip fill-in for Binnie Klein. And time flies when you’re having fun … or memorializing someone. Or someones.

The day before the show, two people who had something to do with my musical life died.

One was Steve Ceslik — also known as Stevo, Steve Deal or Steven Deal, depending on when you came into his musical life.  In my case, it was in the Stevo days, in 1987 at the Grotto in New Haven, when he was playing guitar for Bleached Black, a local trio who had one self-done EP (Wrist Slashing Romance) and a self-titled debut album on a big label (Relativity) that spawned a single (“I Was in Your Life”) that was played on eMpTV. It seemed Steve, Greg Prior and Shaun Washburn were ready to reach the same national attention in underground as New Haven’s most famous group of that era, Miracle Legion. Shoulda happened. Shoulda happened with his two groups in the ’90s as well: The Absolute Zeros and especially Chopper, just a pure power pop group.

Anyway, Steve, like many friends from the New Haven days, came back into my life once I had my little passive gender coming-out by joining Facebook two years ago. He was so upbeat, with an extremely witty, wry and sometimes obnoxiously funny sense of humor. And he had those dark Freddie Mercury looks and that mirrored Vespa and that talent on the Rickenbacker. And he was so positive that I had no clue for a few months that he had been battling a rare form of cancer, leiomyosarcoma, which affects maybe five people in a million. Maybe those closer to him heard and saw him at his worst, but not the rest of us. And there he was, offering kind words to me as I was dealing with the hell of the transition and unemployment. (Talk about guilt …) And he remained musically active right up to the end, just past his 47th birthday, playing with another strong group, Radiana.

The other tribute that Thursday morning was to Patty Andrews, the lead voice and last of The Andrews Sisters, who lived to twice Steve’s age.

You see, I didn’t grow up in a a rock’n’roll house, and my folks listened to a lot of old folks’ music, and I pretty

Patty Andrews (center), flanked by Maxene and LaVerne.

Patty Andrews (center), flanked by Maxene and LaVerne.

much had to as well. (As if I didn’t stick out already — the shortest hair in my class and the nerdiest clothes and already a target for ridicule for other reasons …) But my father’s music did stick with me in adulthood: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Frankie Laine and the big band sounds.

And that includes Patty, Maxene and LaVerne. They were iconic. And it wasn’t just the harmonies, which flowed as easily as water. I dismissed them as my folks’ music, as kids tend to do, but for some reason, it all came together one day when Channel 11 in New York showed the (barely) prewar Abbott & Costello film Buck Privates — with the girls singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” right about the time Bette Midler’s version hit the charts. I saw the electricity behind the voices.

They were inspired by The Boswell Sisters, but they, in turn, inspired vocal groups. And their music inspired a wave of ’40s nostalgia at the same time George Lucas brought about ’50s/’60s nostalgia. And they also inspire fashion to this day. So many modern rockabilly dolls take their cues from Bettie Page, but deaw a line further back, past the fetish photos, to the everyday wear of the ’40s and what The Andrews Sisters  and other women were wearing. The black bangs and red lipstick and insanely high patent pumps might be Bettie’s doing, but most of the dress/fashion inspiration really comes from Patty and Maxene and LaVerne.

And then there was a mini-tribute to a living place: the City of New York, led off by Garland Jeffreys’ new recording, “Coney Island Winter.” It was inspired by a linked posted on Facebook by one of the dearest friends (and the coolest chica) I’ve never met, Miss Cheryl, who lives in Metro New York and styles and rock’n’rolls and knows all the cool kids. She found a link to a list of the Best Songs About New York City and put it up for debate.

Like so many authoritative-sounding musical opinion pieces on the Web these days, it seems as if it were written by a kid in his 20s who thinks he knows everything. I mean, some are on the mark — from his generation, he had to give props to “Empire State of Mind,” and he also included Dylan’s “Talkin’ New York” and Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem.” But any list that includes those prep-school silver-spoons The Strokes or “53rd and 3rd” instead of “Rockaway Beach” is kinda suspect in my book. So, thusly inspired, I came up with my own mini-set, only constrained by time. Had I had more time, it would’ve included “Rockin’ the Bronx” by Black 47, “Waitin’ for the Man” by The Velvets, “King of the New York Streets” by Dion, “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters, “The Bottle” by Gil Scott-Heron, Grandmaster Flash’s  “New York, New York” and Aretha’s version of “Spanish Harlem,” among others.

Anyway, it was  a fun-packed two hours. I’ll take my fun in small doses wherever I can …

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WPKN Playlist, 1/10/13: Leading off the year …

February 7, 2013
The Suzan -- here to destroy your conceptions of Japanese girl groups.

The Suzan — here to destroy your conceptions of Japanese girl groups once and for all.

Feb. 7, 2013

Well, I’ve had a couple of previous WPKN playlists swimming around in my purse over the past month, and as you girls know, a purse is a dangerous place to place something, as most things that enter never leave. (Cue up the “BWAhahahaaaaaaaa!” and the ensuing shriek here …)

So after doing another fill-in this morning, I realized it was time to fishing for pieces of paper with journalist’s scrawl on them.

Ten days into the new year, I did my first fill-in of 2013, a two-hour drag race (10 a.m.-noon), filling in for Binnie Klein. (She said “drag” …) It was a short and sweet and fun two hours, that’s for sure. After my previous show, two days following the Newtown massacre, anything would’ve been a step up. But it was a few steps up from that.

Let’s see … Three things stick out from this show:

  • My Fresno pal Jes Farnsworth, the frontman for The Backstabbers and nephew of late Reducers bassist Steve Kaika, has a bigger job at the moment: playing guitar for Newsted, the new trio fronted by ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. The debut four-song EP, Metal, came out two days before. And since it was Jes (who also has a tour as a gun for hire with Jetboy on his resume), I placed them in a Reducers sandwich — Frigate’s track from the tribute album on top, my track with The Backstabbers and one by The Reducers themselves on the bottom …
  • New David Bowie, who turned 66 two days before the show. We managed to get a hold of “Where Are We Now,” the first song from his first album in 10 years, The Next Day, due out in March. It’s kind of a dirgy, gloomy song, but we hear the album as a whole (as produced by his old collaborator, Tony Visconti) is a bit more spirited. His health has been rumoured to have been bad for some time (think about the non-cancerous illnesses one encounters after years of smoking), but ill or not, here he is.
  • The Suzan. I saw them the previous Saturday night at Cafe Nine. Four girls who moved from Tokyo to Harlem two years ago. Talk about shattering concepts … I thought they’d be this cutesy group playing tinny-sounding songs with phonetically sung words and saying things like “Thank you! Buy our CDs!” after every songs, such as The 5.6.7.8’s (who actually did that when they opened for Dick Dale at Maxwell’s in Hoboken in October ’93) and Shonen Knife. The Suzan led off with two songs that reminded me of Talking Heads — in fact, “Come Come” sounded like a hybrid of “(Nothing but) Flowers” and “Iko Iko.” And along the way, they channeled Blondie as well. (And oddly enough, their manager, Greg Vegas, an old friend from his days in the Danbury scene in the late ’80s/early ’90s, told me they had never heard Talking Heads …) A lot of osmosis going on and pleasant surprise.

Anyway, enough yapping. It was fun. Here you go — two more to come in the coming days:

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WPKN playlist 12/16/12 — the one show I wish I could forget but never will

December 21, 2012

WPKN_Logo_webDec. 20, 2012

Among the many hundreds who crammed their way into the First Congregational Church in Danbury this morning were many journalists present and past, some of whom had reported on other people’s tragedies in the past.

Even among the computer-stained wretches, there’s a surreal element when a tragedy of worldwide impact involves someone you know, or the loved one of someone you know.

Lauren, one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers shot last Friday, was the daughter of Terri and for-all-intents stepdaughter of Bill, a couple with whom I worked at my first newspaper and who are still in the business (Terri at the hometown News-Times, Bill at The Hartford Courant).

She left a huge extended family (which also included her father and his wife) and dozens of friends from college and the restaurant where she once worked and the Starbucks where she still worked until her death, and between them and her families’ friends, it created a huge circle of love and support that translated into hundreds of people lined up for a block along Deer Hill Avenue waiting to get in for the memorial (along with over a dozen cameras perched at City Hall, across the street).

The church was standing room only — several friends and I were able to get into the lobby as the service was starting, where I watched the service through the main entrance, while quite a few others weren’t as lucky. Between the post-memorial hugs outside the church and the reception at the Fox Hill Inn  in nearby Brookfield, we were able to share the best and only way any of us really could.

Six days removed from the horror, with the shock and grief turned to a psychic exhaustion, an eternal bewilderment and even a sense of relief, what started out feeling very much like a day to dread transformed, at the risk of entering cliche territory, into a celebration of life and love. Of course there were tears; how could there not be? But there were a huge amount of hugs, of smiles, of years of distance dissolving, of bonds reforged, of reassurance. Of comfort. Maybe the only thing a family can take away from such a senseless death — aside maybe from Congress finally enacting sensible gun-control laws — is seeing the love they and their daughter sowed in life come back to them at their worst moment.

But the sea of emotions was swirling and churning much more violently four days before, when I was doing a fill-in show at WPKN. It’s the one show I would truly like to forget but never will.

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WPKN Playlist 10/11/12: Another Thursday, another fill-in

October 15, 2012

Well, WPKN is in the thick of its fall fundraising, and that means another call to the bullpen (it’s playoff season — humor me here). And thus, the babealicious blonde righthander came driving in from the bullpen for the 1-4 p.m. shift and did her damndest to put out the fire. Actually, in the case of fundraising, to start a fire.

And joining me in pitching, from the PKN tally room, was my old pal Harry Minot, the former PKN general manager with the impeccably sonorous tones. Just like old times — from my starting the show with the official Franoama 2.0 national anthem; to my torturing him with King Uszniewicz; to his using his standard mnemonic for remembering the station’s pledge line (203-384-9756): “Have you ever DUG-WPKN?”

(And also joining me for a short while on mic, pitching the new Stones GRRR box set and Johnny Winter album as pledge premia, was the current GM, Steve Di Costanzo. And there I was, filling in for the ailing last GM, Peter Bochan. Go figure …)

The economy is supposedly recovering, but trying to raise money sometimes can be a real beeyotch. And despite our best efforts — which included me playing the new Stones single, “Doom and Gloom,” and my version of “Out of Step” with The Backstabbers from the Reducers tribute album — it was a real struggle to get the phones to ring. But I did have friends check in (yes, sometimes Facebook can be a good thing), and that’s a reward unto itself.

Actually, the real reward came afterward. I met Cheryl, who took over for Harry at the tally desk, and we got to talking for quite a while after my shift ended. She was interested in hearing my wild story, and she said something interesting when I told her about the struggles with the job hunt in recent years: “You’re not meant to work a regular job. You have a story to tell, and that’s what you’re supposed to do — write your story.”

Still working on regaining my religion. But she’s right.

Anyway, chances are I’ll probably end up on the air again sooner than later. Meanwhile, if you can, please give to the WPKN of your choice, and generously.

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WPKN Playlist 9/27/12: The return edition of Franorama 2.0

October 2, 2012

One thing I hadn’t done since coming home was check in at my old radio haunt, WPKN. It didn’t make much sense to get involved yet if I was job-hunting, and I have a goodly sized nibble on a job out if state at the moment.

Funny how these things happen. A week ago Friday, I went to an art opening at City Lights Gallery in Bridgeport. There, I ran into Steve Di Costanzo, who, since last time I was home a couple Christmases ago, has become PKN’s general manager. We got into a long talk, and he asked me if I wanted to come on and take part in a two-day soul/funk fundraiser coming up at the station. I was always good at doing pledge periods, even if they can be like pulling teeth without anesthesia sometimes.

So there I was at the microphone Thursday morning, 10 a.m. to noon — plus an extra half-hour thrown in by Steve at the last minute, doing my first edition of Franorama 2.0 in nearly 21 months. (My last show was a fill-in that happened to be on the 20th anniversary of my first show at the station, and I made it my radio coming-out show.) And as an added bonus, my old pledge pitch partner, Rod Richardson, came in to help.

It was the kickoff of the station’s two-day “Family Affair,” a very short fundraiser for the moment. And while most of my music is in storage, I do have two full-sized car CD cases full of musical toys, as well as the laptop, and I decided to do a show skewed mostly to Northern soul and other rarities.

And it was great. We pulled in over $500 in pledges in the two and a half hours, and once I posted on Facebook that I was on the air, friends came flocking from all over the world — France, London, Lubbock (twice over!), Portland, Ore., south Jersey, Connecticut (of course), and especially Fresno — a shock since it was only 7 a.m. there when I started.

I missed being behind the mic. Once I get settled, I hope I can do more — if not at PKN (and I’m sure I’ll be doing more fill-ins), then wherever I land. Anyway, here’s what you almost missed. Let’s do it again:

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WPKN Playlist 1/4/11: The 20th anniversary/coming-out fill-in Franorama

January 5, 2011

For those of you who wanted to know what I looked like as a boy: On the air at WPKN, 8-19-2008. Photo by Elaine Osowski.

The Jan. 4 fill-in episode of Franorama, 6-9 a.m. EST on WPKN (89.5 FM, http://www.wpkn.org), was huge for me for two reasons.

Rod Richardson, my friend and program director, didn’t know this when he emailed me Sunday night, but Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of my first show at the station. It was Jan. 4, 1991, a fill-in for Tom Frouge’s “Strangeland” show, from 2-6 a.m. EST. Armed with three crates of records (and a handful of CDs) that I hauled in the back of my 4X4, I trudged up the 2 1/2 flights of stairs of the University of Bridgeport Student Center and prepared to stammer and blunder my way through my first show.

Having gone to the show right after seeing NRBQ play that evening at Toad’s Place in New Haven, and possessed with a touch of the smartass, I decided to open the show, and my PKN life, with something irreverent and unexpected for the PKN crowd, a slice of paradise by the hottest pop group of the time: “Step by Step” by New Kids on the Block. (I eventually would settle on The Fleshtones’ “American Beat ’84,” the end credits theme to Tom Hanks’ first starring film, “Bachelor Party,” with Tawny Kitaen and Adrian Zmed, as my national anthem and show-opener.) And it’s been downhill from there.

Tom flat-out gave me the show a couple months later, which I rechristened “The Sleep Deprivation Experiment.” In my younger, more reckless days — long before I discovered firsthand that prolonged sleep deprivation could kill you, or come damn close — I thought it was fun to be able to do an overnight show after a 55-to-60-hour work week, flying by the seat of my pants and physically hanging on by my fingernails. After 11 1/2 years of it, I was ready for prime time — Rod offered me a Friday morning drive show, 6-10 a.m., which I called “Franorama.” Which I hosted for a year and a half until moving to California in March 2004. And which I reprise a few times each time I come back to Connecticut to visit.

So, as fate and serendipity would have it, Tuesday I wound up celebrating 20 years, hundreds of shows, hundreds of cups of coffee, hundreds of bagels and (in my more compulsive-eater days) Pop-Tarts, thousands of songs and even more thousands of miles logged. No Pop-Tarts this time — just an extra-large Dunky D’s coffee and one of their crappy bagels.

But the show was huge for another reason: I came out on the air.

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WPKN playlist 12/28/10: Post-blizzard, something-out-of-Nothing fill-in Franorama

December 30, 2010

What a difference a day (and a half) makes.

Mid-Sunday afternoon into the evening, the wind made the snow come down horizontally, and the accumulations made driving home from my midday fill-in at WPKN (89.5 FM, wpkn.org) an absolute bitch from the other side of Hell.

Tuesday morning (Dec. 28), as I headed off to the station once again, the side streets were still varying degrees of sketchy (paradise compared to New York), but the snow was still on the crunchy side, the winds had left at last, and the temperature felt balmy compared to the previous two days.

And it was a good day and a good show. I filled in for Rod Richardson, who called me the day before and asked if I could do his Radio Nothing slot.  Making something out of nothing, if you will …

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