Cygnus Radio playlist 6/28/13: The week that was the last wek of June

July 2, 2013

June calendarFranorama 2.0 airs live on Cygnus Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (9 a.m.-noon CDT, 7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-4 p.m. GMT) and in the archive in perpetuity. To get to the archives, click here.

Well, for the first time in a long time, there was no planned theme to the most recent episode of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio. But, as usually happens, some mini-themes begin to sprout from the fertile little garden that is my brain (and, by extension, my wife the laptop, upon which I write this here blog and do this here radio show):

Game Theory and Big Star: Two cult-following groups that were honored with tribute shows in Manhattan this past weekend. Actually went to the Scott Miller benefit tribute show Saturday night at the Cake Shop, thanks to Ms. Marice, who had an extra ticket. (The quick backstory: Scott, a fine pop singer/songwriter who led Game Theory in the ’80s and The Loud Family in the ’90s, died unexpectedly in April. The benefit was to raise money for his family.) The 18-song show was kinda sloppy and (especially early on) disorganized, but got better as the night went on, highlighted by a couple songs performed by Ted Leo. I didn’t get to the free show at Central Park’s Summerstage the next night — a performance of Big Star’s Third in its entirety (if not in order), headed by Mitch Easter, along with Big Star’s Jody Stephens and Ken Stringfellow, and including the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Mills and Richard Lloyd. But I noted both events on my show.

Gettysburg: Yesterday (July 1) was the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the most pivotal event in the most pivotal period of American history. The three bloodiest days ever encountered on American soil. And so I called up the two Civil War rock songs I knew of — David Kincaid (who is a Civil War re-enactor and has carved a career singing period songs in authentic replica Union uniforms) leading The Brandos through “Gettysburg,” and Richard X. Heyman’s “Civil War Buff.” (Well, five songs, but I wasn’t gonna play Iced Earth’s 31-minute “Gettysburg” Trilogy …)

That was the week that was: The Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act, a filibuster in Texas that turned a heretofore-unknown state senator from Fort Worth into a national political figure (and unwitting Mizuno running shoe pitchwoman), the Supremes striking two huge blows for marriage equality, and the (still-continuing as of now) Nelson Mandela death watch. A heavy news week that made its way, in a way, into the show.

Anyway, catch you this Friday. Stay tuned. And please tell your friends to tune in while they while away at their desks or loaf or do the housework …

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Cygnus Radio playlist 6/21/13: ‘Cause it’s summer

June 25, 2013

SummerSolstice7Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (9 a.m.-noon CDT/7-10 a.m. PDT/2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the link to the archives, click here.

The summer solstice took place at 1:04 a.m. Friday, while most of you were sleeping. But not here at Franorama 2.0 World Domination Headquarters, where the staff (okay, it’s just me, but please do pay attention to the woman behind the curtain) worked feverishly rounding up songs that screamed summer. Well, maybe not all of them screamed, but emoted it melodically. And it did serve to launch your summer — and mine — in a fun way.

And not all of it was The Beach Boys. In fact, very little of it had to do with The Beach Boys — though the summer tribute show did dovetail nicely into acknowledgements of both Brian Wilson’s 71st birthday, and the 69th birthday of another of my faves, Ray Davies  of The Kinks.

Get SlimBut there were also a couple of small tributes to people who left the mortal coil ahead of the show. The musical bed for most of the show was A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” — aka the theme to The Sopranos — as my small nod to that acting giant, James Gandolfini. (And as an aside, one of the bands I played actually did appear on The Sopranos — The Swingin’ Neckbreakers once performed in a scene in Adriana’s nightclub.) And a singer who died earlier Wednesday, who was part of my late-night TV repertoire for years — the man who sold more records on late-night TV than Elvis or The Beatles, the man who saved the planet from a Martian invasion! — Slim Whitman.

Anyway, no theme, rhyme or reason planned for this Friday’s show — and hopefully, no tributes to the dearly departed for once. Pass the sunscreen …

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Cygnus Radio playlist 6/14/13: The rain, Newtown and other things

June 17, 2013

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and forever and ever in the archives. To listen to the archived link to this and all other Cygnus shows, click here.

Last Friday’s episode of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio revolved around three spheres

The Rain. It had rained heavily the two previous days, and Friday began just as dark and wet until the sky cleared considerably just around lunchtime. In fact, as I sat here in the cellar home studio, I would leave the laptop aside every half-hour or so and turn on the wet-vac and suck another buckets of water from the carpet near the cellar door. (Yes, multitasking.)

The spring here in Connecticut has been full of weather stops-starts like this, with intermittent storms and sharp temperature drops

Anyway, I had a lot more songs about rain , both literally and metaphorically, than I realized, but I kept it to two sets’ worth. Notables: ending one set with the Dead (“Box of Rain”) and beginning the next with the Dead, from their earliest recording session as The Warlocks (“Early Morning Rain”). And, of course, I had to play The Cowsills.

Sandy Hook SchoolNewtown. It was six months to the very hour — also on a Friday morning — that the news crawls on local TVs began running the news that there were reports of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown. And as morning progressed into lunchtime into afternoon into mourning, the disbelief that usually goes with such horrific events — and Newtown, as well as most of western Connecticut really IS a sleepy town where little ever happens — was countered by the wretched enormity of what had happened.

And living a half-hour away, and having the privilege of having a microphone on this milestone day — and having known a couple whose daughter was one of the murdered teachers — I couldn’t let the day pass unnoticed. But how to commemorate it? The TV stations were gonna milk it for all they could — the maudlin piano chords, the “Tragedy at Sandy Hook” graphics, all of which I find pretty damn offensive.

I didn’t want to get bogged down in the politics of it, but I read aloud the eloquent-but-angry op-ed piece in the morning;s Newtown Bee. It came from Tucson — from Gabby Giffords and Roxanna Green. (Green’s young daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was killed in the shooting that critically wounded Giffords.) The words speak for themselves.

I don’t have a lot of kid-related music. But I do have parts of They Might Be Giants’ album NO! It was a children’s album, and my favorite song on the album was a Lovin’ Spoonful-style tune written about one of the great many questions a curious kid would ask about the world. And it sounded as if it were something that a first-grader would ask. Where do they make balloons? So that’s what I led with.

I also played one of Marvin Gaye’s most poignant songs from one of his most troubled and brilliant times, along with some of the childlike innocence from Brian Wilson at his most vulnerable and troubled period, and finished the set with Judy Garland. It was all I could do to not lose it. Had I played the version of “Over the Rainbow” that the surviving Sandy Hook students recorded (at Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s home studio in Fairfield), I most definitely would never have made it through the song.

And other things. Well, some of the other threads:

Arturo Vega. The Saturday before, Arturo Vega died. Technically, there were eight men who were Ramones at one point or another — Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, Richie, the short-stinted Clem Burke (aka Elvis Ramone) and C.J. But in reality, Arturo was the fifth Ramone. He designed their iconic logo; he was a confidant; the band rehearsed and recorded demos at his East Village loft; and Joey and Dee Dee lived with him at various points. I remembered him by playing some better-known songs and some early and little-heard demos as well.

Jet-setting. Saw Los Straitjackets a few nights before at Cafe Nine in New Haven, and since their latest album is Jet Set, I put together the three songs I have with those words in the title — them, Joe Jackson and The Fleshtones.

Dock Ellis. Last Wednesday was the 43rd anniversary of one of the greatest feats in baseball history — Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing a no-hitter against the Padres in San Diego while tripping his brains out. Barbara Manning and her group, The SF Seals (named after San Francisco’s legendary pre-Giants minor league team, whose most famous alum was hometown boy Joe DiMaggio), recorded a three-song 7-inch Baseball Trilogy single for Matador 20 years ago already. A wild trip of a song called “Dock Ellis” was part of it.

The Style Council: It was 30 summers ago already, about this time, that Paul Weller’s post-Jam group made its American vinyl debut with the EP Introducing … The Style Council, a compilation of songs already released as singles in England. Still a favorite piece of my library. Played three SC songs — a killer instrumental called “Mick’s Up” from the EP, plus two of my favorite later tunes. From 1983-85, Weller, Mick Talbot and Dee C. Lee were the shit.

So that’s it. On to this Friday’s show, the first show of summer. Get your sunscreen ready …

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Cygnus Radio playlist 6/7/13: So much to cram into three hours

June 10, 2013
Yes, Deacon Jones was briefly a recording artist.

Yes, Deacon Jones was briefly a recording artist.

Franorama 2.0 airs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (9 a.m.-noon CDT, 7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio. For the archival link to this and all other past shows, click here.

As Al Anderson sang with NRBQ, there’s so much to do and so little time

That’s the way my latest Franorama 2.0 show on Cygnus Radio felt last Friday. How do you cram everything into one three-hour tour? Well, the way the Howells and Ginger crammed steamer trunks aboard the S.S. Minnow for their three-hour tour, I guess …

Here’s what I had to fit in — and did:

  • “52 Girls” because I just turned 52.
  • Los Straitjackets, The Outta Sites and The Big Fat Combo. Los Straitjackets, the surf combo with the Mexican wrestling masks, plays tonight (June 10) at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, the drummer, was just at the Nine a month ago playing for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. In addition, he fronts The Outta Sites, back in L.A.; their new debut album, Shake All Night with The Outta Sites, is wonderful shades of The Dave Clark Five and The Wonders from That Thing You Do. And local semi-legends The Big Fat Combo will open the show.
  • A tribute of sorts to the greatest defensive end of all time, Deacon Jones, who died last Monday (June 3). If you grew up in a certain era, as I did, you probably thought the Los Angeles Rams were pretty cool — the white-and-blue unis, Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow, and the most famous front four in NFL history: Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy. I often wondered whether David Jones took his nickname from a song, like fellow Hall-of-Famer Night Train Lane. I included two songs titled “Deacon Jones” (by Louis Jordan and zydeco king Boozoo Chavis, who recorded extremely down-and-dirty versions of it early and late in his life), as well as a 1965 single the Foursome recorded for Capitol.
  • In its entirety, the new CD by one of my favorite people (musician or not), Blake
    The inimitable Blake Jones & the Trike Shop.

    The inimitable Blake Jones & the Trike Shop.

    Jones & the Trike Shop, back in Fresno. One of the most whimsical and pedigreed pop groups you’ll ever hear. Their first album in three years, Teasers From the Whispermaphone, is just that — a seven-song look at early and now-out-of-print discs and hints of sounds and directions to come.

  • The Remains and The A-Bones. After the show, I jumped on a train to a rainy Brooklyn to see them play at the Bell House. What’s weird is that I’m now as old as The Remains, those ’60s Boston legends via Connecticut and Jersey, were when they started their second chapter back in 1998. Anyway,  hadn’t seen Barry Tashian, Bill Briggs, Vern Miller and Chip Damiani (an old New Haven near-neighbor of mine) since I drove from Fresno to Hollywood to appear in their documentary, America’s Lost Band. That was six years, one gender and one cross-country move ago. And the last time I
    Barry Tashian and Vern Miller of The Remains at The Bell House, Brooklyn, Friday night.

    Barry Tashian and Vern Miller of The Remains at The Bell House, Brooklyn, Friday night.

    got to see Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and Bruce Bennett and Marcus the Carcass was five summers ago at the now-gone Magnetic Field in Brooklyn. It was great to catch up, let me tell ya — even if my brake master cylinder went on me ion the way home …

  • Amaglamated Muck, Eric Hisaw, New Mystery Girl, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and the Dead Kennedys. One of the weirdest sets I’ve played in a long time. Eric, a guitarist/singer/songwriter from Austin who found me on Facebook a month ago, was at the Nine last Wednesday playing lead for Zoe Muth. Played one of his new songs and something from a rock band he played with back there three years ago, New Mystery Girl, At the show, I met, at long last, Lauren Agnelli — onetime New Yorker who lives in central Connecticut now. She was in a new wave band in the late ’70s (Nervus Rex) and, a retro-folkie act in the ’80s (The Washington Squares). She now plays in another folkish group of sorts, Amalgamated Muck, and her hell of extended joblessness (which ended last year) inspired the title song of their 2012 debut album, The New Leisure Class. The Dap-Kings I played because Sharon broke the news last Monday that she’s battling stage-1 bile duct cancer. After the news broke about the government’s widespread electronic snooping on us, I played their incredible twist of “This Land Is Your Land” … into the DKs’ song about a surveillance state, “I Am the Owl.”
  • The Reducers. It’ll be a year already on Wednesday (June 12) that we lost Steve Kaika, the bass player from Connecticut’s greatest rock’n’roll band aside from The Wildweeds. Thirty-four years with the same four guys (only The Four Tops, 53 years with the same foursome, topped that). I played mostly of them, along with the three best tracks from Rave On, Vol. 1, the tribute album that his nephew back in Fresno, Jes Farnsworth (now touring Europe as the guitarist for ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted’s trio, Newsted), put together to help pay Steve’s medical expenses.
  • Birthdays living and dead. I found out just as my previous week’s show ended that it would’ve been the 50th birthday of outsider art’s link to rock’n’roll, Wesley Willis (who died 10 years ago in August), so I put him in with three Friday birthdays: Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes (50), Prince (55) and Tom Jones (73).
  • To close, the rarely heard original 1961 version of “Someday We’ll Be Together” — yes, The Diana & the Supremes swan song — by Johnny (Bristol) & Jackey (Beavers).

That’s enough fun for one week. I think I want to do it again next week, too. Tune in live or in the archives. Ciao for now …

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Cygnus Radio Playlist 5/31/13: A childhood regression of sorts

June 3, 2013
Dom-in-i-nique-a-nique-a-nique-a ...

Dom-i-nique-a-nique-a-nique-a …

June 3, 2013

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the link this all all other previous shows, click here.

I had never done this before: recaptured my childhood in the context of a radio show. But that’s what I did last Friday: rounded up every single song I remembered from the radio from my toddler years in Brooklyn in the early-to-mid-’60s (yep, I lived in Greenpoint 40 years before it was hip) and played them at the top of the 11 a.m. hour. (That would be the third set in the playlist below.)

My folks listened to WMCA, now a right-ring talk station but then a top-40 station, home of The Good Guys, with Joe O’Brien as the morning-drive host (accompanied by an obnixious occasional “sidekick” named Benny, who would burst out with “Hey! O’Brien!”). That’s what we listened to until we moved to Connecticut in the fall of ’65.

My folks gravitated to the old-folks’ stuff, but of course, MCA, and their Good Guys, were the ones who broke The Beatles to the masses in NYC when I was 2 1/2. So I got some Beatles, but also a lot of other diverse sounds. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had diverse musical tastes, which is why you see The Singing Nun and Louis Armstrong and the robotic novelty hit “Mechanical Man” among the set list.

The lights are much brighter there ...

The lights are much brighter there …

But my favorite song from childhood was from a pretty English singer named Petula Clark, singing about a mythical place called “Downtown.” Except I lived just across the Queens-Midtown Tunnel from midtown Manhattan,and there really was a Downtown, and, as she painted it for me, it sounded like this wonderful place full of life and activity. And there was one evening when we visited my mom’s cousin in Chelsea. It was my first time through the tunnel, all gleaming yellow brick, and when we exited among the dark gray clouds above, I remember shouting “Go downtown, Daddy! Go downtown!” And, of course, to my thrill, he did.

But yeah, all that probably had something to do with this deejay’s musical tastes.

Anyway, other random items from this past show: The chicken or the egg — did Little Richard begat Esquerita or vice versa? Played them back-to-back … Sister Sledge’s original 1973 version of “Mama Never Told Me,” redone in the early ’80s by Paul Weller protege Tracie Young with The Questions, and Boffalongo’s original 1970 recording of “Dancing in the Moonlight” … the first time I played a mashup — a tasty mix of Stevie Wonder singing “Uptight” over the remix of The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” … and recent releases by The Outta Sites (whose frontman, Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, come to Cafe Nine on Monday (June 10) playing drums with Los Straitjackets; Texas singer/songwriter Eric Hisaw, who’ll play in Zoe Muth’s group when she comes to the Nine this Wednesday (June 5); Albany-based garage fiends The Mysteios; a couple things from the new She & Him album; an d a selection from a new country-laced EP by one of my favorite singers, Boston’s Jenny Dee (Jen D’Angora) & Several Men of Mystery.

I had so much fun that, what the hell, might as well do it again this Friday. Catch you then …

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Humility

May 30, 2013

B-W meditationI started this just-past Memorial Day the way I start most Mondays — with my usual week-opening read: Peter King’s newest Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com. Being a holiday week, and a light news time in football, King went heavy on other things besides the usual news: Memorial Day, a look back at Brian Urlacher’s just-ended career … and snippets of commencement speeches.

And one excerpt struck me.

It was from author John Green’s address to the newly minted grads at Butler University. His words, obviously, were meant for a few thousand college kids entering the work world at an awfully tough time to be entering the work world, not someone going through a whopper of a mid-life crisis after being discarded by the work world. But the passage that King ran with could easily have been written about my life:

” … You are probably going to be a nobody for a while. You are going to make that journey from strength to weakness, and while it won’t be an easy trip, it is a heroic one. For in learning how to be a nobody, you will learn how not to be a jerk. And for the rest of your life, if you are able to remember your hero’s journey from college grad to underling, you will be less of a jerk. You will tip well. You will empathize. You will be a mentor, and a generous one. …”

During my way-too-long struggle to find a full-time job these last four years — one that has brought me quite a few times to the brink of losing my sanity and/or pondering ending my life — I’ve often thought, in my most lucid moments, that maybe this is one of the big lessons I’ve had to learn these past four years: humility.

That’s way too simplistic, though. Or is it? And what constitutes humility and what constitutes ego and conceit, anyway?

The battle rages on.

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Cygnus Radio Playlist 5/24/13: So many directions, so little time

May 28, 2013
The man, the myth, the legend, the Tiur de Force. With Brute Force after his show at Two Boots in Bridgeport, 5/23/13.

The man, the myth, the legend, the Tour de Force. With Brute Force after his show at Two Boots in Bridgeport, 5/23/13. Bethany Appleby photo.

Franorama 2.0 airs live Fridays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the archived links to this and all other shows, click here.

I came into this latest episode of Franorama 2.0 with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of territory to cover in three hours.

I was coming off a show where my audience quadrupled, thanks to a mention on iTunes as a must-listen. I was also coming off a very active week musically:

The death of Ray Manzarek that Monday. It’s one thing to play The Doors everyone does it. (And rightfully so; Ray’s keyboard playing stands up there along with Felix Cavaliere and Al Kooper as the best of the ’60s.) But there was more. In addition to the three obligatory Doors songs (my favorite, “Soul Kitchen”; “Peace Frog,” because you can’t live in or near New Haven without a little blood in the streets in the town of New Haven; and “Light My Fire,” a classic use or organ in a rock song), I played two 1965 songs from his pre-Doors band, Rick & the Ravens, and two songs from X’s first album, Los Angeles, which he produced.

Brute Force the night before in Bridgeport. Back in the late ’80s, an old friend let me borrow his copy of the damndest album in the history of Columbia Records: the 1967 release I, Brute Force: Confections of Love. Well-measured abdurdity of a time and place. Anyway, Mr, Force — who later recorded for Apple, having been championed by George Harrison and John Lennon, no strangers to absurd humor — is still plying his musical trade, and in an I-never-thought-I’d-see-the-day moment, he and his eyebrows and his band (including his daughter, Lilah, on backing vocals) came to Two Boots Pizza in downtown Bridgeport the night before the show. the audience was way too small (about 15) but enthusiastic. And rightfully so.

Bob Dylan’s 72nd birthday. I was kinda Bobbed out, having played three hours of him the previous day as part of a WPKN fundraiser. But since it was his actual birthday, I couldn’t let it slide. So I didn’t. Bob got a set of tunes from you actually could understand what he was singing.

She & Him. The new third album by She & Him, cleverly titled Volume 3, is out, and Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward raised the bar here, a difficult task since Volume Two was such a gem. Played three killer originals, plus a mini-battle of the bands: three songs remade by Zooey and M., alongside the original versions. The real revelation was “Baby,” a rare side of vinyl from 1965 by someone much better known for her songwriting, Ellie Greenwich. She wrote the song with her then-husband/songwriting partner, Jeff Barry, and the recently deceased Shadow Morton, the man who shaped The Shangri-Las’ sound. Both versions here were excellent, but Ellie’s was a revelation.

New sounds: I’ve been soliciting new sounds from musicians all across my Facebook spectrum. And musicians have been responding, and I played two new-to-me performers on the show for the first time last Friday. From Albany, N.Y., came The Mysteios, latter-day garage featuring Johnny Mystery on guitar and his daughter, Tambourine Girl, on vocals. They’ve been getting play on the Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM, and I’m glad to have them aboard this show as well. From Austin, Texas, came the reflective sounds of singer/songwriter Eric Hisaw, who’ll be coming this way for the first time, playing at Cane Nine in New Haven June 5.

Anyway, the only downer was that the audience was back to its original numbers last week; the bounce the week before didn’t hold. Hoping the algorithms line up again at some point and that I end up on iTunes’ radar again and get a huge chunk of new listeners, and that they’ll stick around.

Anyway, if you like what you hear, listen on Fridays or click on the archives and tune in at your leisure. Also, please like my Facebook page and get your friends to do the same. And if you’re a musician who wants to get played on my show, go to my Facebook page and message me, and I’ll send you my snail and email addresses. Anyway, let’s do this again this Friday:

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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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My phoner with Ray (Ray Manzarek, 1939-2013)

May 20, 2013
Ray Manzarek, 20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

Ray Manzarek, mid-20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

May 20, 2013

Editor’s note: This is the end for Ray Manzarek. The clock said it’s time to close now. News just came in a few minutes ago of the death today of Manzarek — The Doors’ keyboardist/co-founder and producer of X’s first two albums — after a long battle with bile duct cancer. He was 74. (Can’t believe he was only three years younger than my mother …)

I interviewed Ray on the phone one morning in April 2003 for the New Haven Register. It was a preview of The Doors 21st Century — that abomination of a tour with Ian Astbury pretending to be Jim Morrison — coming to the Oakdale Theatre in nearby Wallingford; the story and sidebar ran on the morning of the show, April 28. It was the first time Ray and Robby Krieger (with a hired-gun drummer and bassist) had played that close to New Haven since, well, Dec. 9, 1967, when they did a little show at the old New Haven Arena.

None of my Register stories made the conversion to electronic archives unscathed (every one of my stories I’ve found has had the first sentence, paragraph or page missing), and all my clips are in storage, but thankfully, I’ve been able to find the pieces here and here. Ray seemed very upbeat over the phone from his home in Los Angeles — maybe because he was anticipating a return to New Haven? Who knows? But it went well. And here are the main story and the sidebar in their entirety:

Strange days, indeed

Three decades later, a reincarnation of The Doors

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

April 28, 2003

The big question isn’t why Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have revived The Doors without the band’s focal point. After all, they recorded two albums and carried on for 16 months after the death of singer Jim Morrison in July 1971. As what’s being billed as The Doors 21st Century pulls into Wallingford’s Oakdale Theatre for a show tonight, the big question is: Why now?

There have been other times when it would have made more sense – say, the late ’70s, when Doorsmania inexplicably erupted (hallmarked by the Rolling Stone Morrison cover: “He’s Hot. He’s Sexy. He’s Dead.”); or perhaps in 1991, when Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors” came out, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison.

“Why now? Because it’s the 21st century,” said Manzarek, the band’s keyboardist, from his Los Angeles home two weeks ago. “The Doors were not going to get together in the 20th century. But there’s wars going on and the economy is going down the drain and the environment is being threatened … it’s like the ’60s all over again.” Besides, he added, “In ’91, it would have been clever to capitalize on the movie. But who would we have gotten to sing?” You could hear the sneer. “Vallll – Kilmer?”

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Cygnus Radio and WPKN playlists, 5/17/13: I got (algo)rithm

May 20, 2013
Ernie Banks was right -- it was a wonderful day to play two.

Ernie Banks was right — it was a wonderful day to play two.

For the links to this and all other Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. For the link to this episode of Franorama 2.0 on WPKN, click here. Franorama 2.0 can be heard live on Cygnus Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT) Fridays; WPKN shows are on a fill-in basis for now; keep posted on the station’s Facebook page.

Well, this past Friday, for the first time, I did radio shows on two different stations on the same day — the Franorama 2.0 Double-Duty Day-Night Doubleheader. First, my regular 10 a.m.-1 p.m. shift from the comfort of home on Cygnus Radio, then down to Bridgeport for a 4-7 p.m. fill-in on WPKN. Howard Thompson, the host of the regularly scheduled show, Pure — and a longtime big-label record executive — trusted my musical tastes (thanks for the endorsement), to let me take the reins.

Anyway, it was exhausting but fun. I think I swept both ends of the doubleheader. And the day wasn’t just fun, it left me feeling a little optimistic at a time when I desperately need optimism.

The Cygnus show, now on the air three months, is still a fledging show on an upstart station, and understandably, the audience is small for now. But a funny thing happened just past the first half hour — the number of listeners jumped 2 1/2 times, then it tripled, and withing five minutes, it had quadrupled. (I have the analytics right there on the screen as I play.) And I kept about two-thirds of that audience for the rest of the show.

This had to be a glitch, right? A spam attack or something? An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese? Well, no. I texted our fearless leader, Gary Gone, to ask about this, and he explained: However the Apple algorithems work — and who knows how these damn things work? — someone at iTunes apparently labeled my show as a must-listen, which prompted huge the jump in listeners all of a sudden.

Coolness! I’m hoping this is the door opening just a crack enough for the flood to start rushing in. I need something to happen! I’m hoping the people who came and stayed will tell their friends, who, in turn, will tell their friends, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera …

Anyway, a couple musical highlights of the day:

The Outta Sites (both shows): Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, who made a sideways appearance in a blog post here a couple weeks ago, is one of the hardest-working musicians I know: longtime drummer/second guitarist for

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Deke Dickerson … has been playing drums for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys (who came to Cafe Nine in New Haven the previous weekend) … behind the kit for Los Straitjackets (who come to Cafe Nine June 10) … and now, he fronts his own band, The Outta Sites. Their newly released debut album, Up All Night, is a killer. Think one part Dave Clark Five, one part That Thing You Do, one part Nuggets and Pebbles collections, throw in the atmosphere of the mid-’60s L.A. club scene, and you get the picture.

Jonathan Richman and The Velvet Underground (WPKN): An old friend, Lauren, who lives and works around Hartford, messaged me on the Book of Faces the night before to ask if I could play the Velvets. I started, at long last, pulling boxes of CDs from my storage space to rip into this laptop that serves as my radio station and traveling music library. But I haven’t found my Velvets box set yet. Anyway, I did find one VU song, but not until after I steered her to Jonathan Richman, the onetime VU groupie, singing “Velvet Underground” … and one of our mutual faves, “Double Chocolate Malted” (No nuts! No nuts!), and, for good measure, The Groovie Ghoulies playing a Jonathan song.

Well, that’s enough for now. Back to a single Cygnus shift this Friday, leading into the holiday weekend. Please drop in and give a listen. And if you like what you hear, tell your friends, and tell your friends to tell their friends. And “like” my Franorama 2.0/Franorama World Facebook page. And if you’re so inclined to help out financially, there’s a PayPal button at the end of each blog post.  Anyway, catch you this Friday!

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