Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"How many fingers, Winston?"

I will always love Radio.  Good old fashioned, live, Freeform Radio.  Honest, non-corrupted, doing it for real Radio.  And like a lifelong partner, soul mate, friend and lover, member of the family, I have painfully watched this Dear Soul go through the hurtful trials of existence, fighting off the illnesses for its struggle to survive.  Battered down by the treatments of the professionals; "experts" who profess to keep the patient "alive."  Bullshit!

What a difference a decade can make.  When SPACE PIRATE RADIO went on the air for the first time on January 27th, 1974, KTYD Santa Barbara, California, the people running the station were all young, rebellious, excited by the music, inspired by the sound and vision of what could be possible with this overgrown wireless set.  Business wasn't the motivating reason for being on the air.  We weren't unprofessional.  Hardly.  We just knew that if we did something good that we were all passionate about, the station would financially float.  Good Deeds would garnish Good Rewards.  And we were right.  KTYD with all its eccentricities, contradicting personalities and ultra diverse programming, became the top model of a successful Freeform Radio station.  We were a hit, Man!  A Big Hit!  The record companies loved us 'cause all types of new artists and musical styles got a shot.  The DJs loved what they played.  No playlist commanded by someone else.  No payola.  No corruption. It was Real.!

That would change... 

Success at doing something original creates a satisfaction; a sense of well being that like Alchemy, transmutes into power.  A Personal Power, interpreted differently by the Individual.  How one uses this Power, is the Rite of Passage.  I watched so many of my young, hippie, radical or just fun loving or downright lazy friends transform themselves.  Once in possession of this Power.  If one does not have the ample tools of introspection, this gift of certain powers has the ability to transform on lesser levels.  For the Man on the Street, we call this transformation: Corruption.

And in the Purgatory of Life known as Commerce or Industry or the Free Market, this Corruption, soul devastating as it can be...  Well, it is simply Business As Usual.

How quickly the free spirited and visionary, idealistic youth of the '60s and '70s were able to embrace in the '80s, the repressed, restrictive and so hated values of their oh so un-understanding parents. After the murder of John Lennon and the Reign of Master Chimps, Ronald Reagan and Czarina-like, mystic loving, Rasputin Red Wearing former FBI agent Nancy Davis, my Weather Or Not Underground Members, Black, White, Grey or Slightly Beige Panthers were ready to give up.  Olly Olly Oxen Free.  Time to give up the Go Go Dancing for the Dance of the Lemmings.  "Hey, I'm middle aged!  Time to get my share."   

So the year 1984 lives up to its Orwellian promise.  In the early days of radio, a local radio station had to be locally owned.  Serving the community and so forth.  Media understood by and for the Community.  With the spokesperson for the General Electric Theatre and Company, the Death Valley Days industry of Boraxo and the Twenty Mule Team, Chesterfield Cigarettes as the Perfect Christmas Gift, Arrow Shirts and so on...well, it was time to remove that little local radio hang up.  Why couldn't a Media Consulting Group from Langley, Virginia decide what people in Laguna Beach would hear?  Thus, with little effective Resistance, the FCC or Federal Communications Center, de-regulated ownership rules of small market radio stations, and the buying boom was on. 

Like a night on the Home Shopping Network, selling zircon encrusted earrings, the pitch was feverish.  Small Mom & Pop companies bought up failing stations in exciting communities like Santa Barbara and Long Beach; less exciting places like Banning, Beaumont and Barstow.  Communications savvy banks were quick to make loans available, with the small print proviso, that if the bubble should burst and collections were due, said broadcast stations would revert to the banks.  And for, pardon the playlist pun...a song.

Now, in a piece of fiction writing, wouldn't it be funny if these banks were only shills or fronts for a larger network of one market, one owner Media Corporations?  Nah, you couldn't write this kind of stuff.  Who would have such a clear channel of operations, be premier in such an undertaking and still be taken sirius?

Stuff and Nonsense.

Monday, April 4, 2016

"I Sing the Body Electric."

One Year Later.  Just under, even.  We are Puttin' On the Fritz.  Lang, that is.  And headin' to his City.  Metropolis.  To engage in the periodic volcanic eruption that is Magma.  And to walk its ghostly streets.  Explore its memories.  Of forgotten Things To Come.  A Darker Shade of Pale.  The Martian Comicals.  A Noir in Interstellar Overdrive.  A Childhood's Endgame.  Fading Flower Power, yet...Something Wilted This Way Comes.

Dreamtime, but The Sleeper Awakes...

"I can dig it!"

The Little Lady and I have returned to the City of Vendors.  Vim Vendors.  Where the Angels Are Lost.  The Chet Bakeries abound.  "Let's Get Lost Honey!"  Far Away, yet So Close.  Downtown.  Petulant Clerks.  *giggles*  Our Home Away From Our Former Home Away From Home:  The DoubleplusGudenTree.  Operations Base One.  The Rabocopbank Headquarters.  "Dum de Dum Dum!"  "My Name is Feitag."  Drag Queen Net.  Der Mensch Im Blau, now the Men in Noir.  "We are HERE, Daddy!"

So it has been just under a year since we last saw the band MAGMA.  These French favourites, first played on SPACE PIRATE RADIO in 1974 promised they would return last April 6th, after their stunning show at the Echoplex.  So said Stella Vander, long reigning stellar ambassador and lead voice of the ensemble.  Spokesperson from her planet, commanded by the Monarch and visionary leader: former husband Christian Vander.  The man who follows the beat of a different drummer:  Himself.
We first met Stella Vander, backstage after the show in San Francisco,  1999, Progfest at the Palace of Fine Arts.  Friendly and cordial, she presented us to the Drumming Buddha himself, smiling and quiet like Maher Baba in a Bernardo Bertolucci film.  It was presented that I was the first to play his music on U.S. commercial radio, back in the day and he was pleased.  My satellite had passed through the system of Kobiah.

But tonight we were in the first row, below Stella and company, in the reincarnated semi-classic movie house of yore, The Regent.  One of the many ancient palaces of Downtown Los Angeles, that in the late '60s, I would venture into the environs from Diamond Bar, to catch a forgotten British or European horror flick, with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Barbara Steele.

Three's a charm for Magma.  Although the acoustics in these vintage movie theatres are sometimes less than optimum, the vibe was a warm and fuzzy dynamo.  Magma has an opening artist this time around; the sonic cello work of Helen Money.  I dig her and was looking forward to seeing and hearing her so up close and personable, having only viewed recorded performances.  If a classic cellist had played in the Balanescu Quartet and did acid with Hendrix, the experiments might be these.  I dig her explorations, but some said the hall wasn't working with her as well as it should have.

The evening is even more special as the lady and I are joined by my old friend from Santa Barbara theatre days, Paul Bergevin.  Paul says we first met during LOVE RIDES THE RAILS, which he worked on in 1973.  He saw my play NOTHING IS SACRED, which immediately followed that year with ABELARD AND ELOISE after that.  I remember him being a fan and friend of SPACE PIRATE RADIO early on.  He interviewed me in an early Isla Vista apartment of his for a class at UCSB.  Before his successful and long-term career in the banking world, il Mondo di Banco, Paul graced the counter of an all-night gig at the Goleta Kwik-E-Mart and tuned in to my weekend avant-rocker shows at KTYD, Saturday and Sunday mornings.  This fueled Paul's lifelong passion for the music, as well as being one of the many facing an early Monday morning work call who tuned into, recorded and called me on the phone during SPACE PIRATE RADIO.
An instructor at SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, once said to me, "I know which students stay up all night and listen to your show.  They have revealing zombie-like motions, or often collapse their heads on the desk.  The ones with the greatest fortitude have AAA road map bloodshot eyes."  I am gratified.

Paul also acted, and played the part of Mozart and a Louvre night watchman in my play CASANOVA'S LIPS in 1976.  Since this is the year of the 40th Anniversary of that theatrical outrage (I was an actual instructor for this *giggles*), I intend to discuss this in-depth (charges) later.  *more giggles* 

I also get to meet Paul's friend Doug Lee, who listened to SPACE PIRATE RADIO in the day, and still retains a grand passion for this music and is a real friendly cat.  That's one of the faith miracles of the show: the music unites kindred souls, who upon first meeting, you know you've been buddies for years, automatique.  And the irony is Doug makes his home today in Fullerton, the childhood heaven & hell in my life; the first launching pad of my space station, located in the heart, or perhaps failing kidney, of Door Hinge County.  I like him immediately and we are the Alexandria Quartet for a marvelous, Magickal evening. 

Helen Money and Magma: the pad is strictly Coolsville.  Mondo Perfecto!

Our stay in Fritz Lang-Lee, Virginia on the Left Coast continues in the vein of the Master of Metropolis, Mabuse and Spys.  And more.  Earlier, we make the Fantastic Voyage in the Doctor Morbius Krell-like Subway Shuttle to our molecular destination, Amoeba Records.  We need those sounds, Man.  How many journeys have I made, with early friends and now wife, to the Sacred Temples of the Sounds?  Moby Disc (a moveable feast), Vogue, Aron's, Amoeba San Francisco and now Hollywood.  But that's another story for another time.

The following day, in pure daylight, unusual for my normal nocturnal habits (because, quite simply, when I travel I switch to daylight hours, as necessity demands it.  At home in the lofty Melting Watchtowre, the old Hermit does his alchemy in the darkest hours before the dawn), we are on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. 

This encounter is always the most surreal to me.  Partially because in my late teen years, I spent unlimited hours here, Day for Night, and vice versa.  My perception today, that I am truly The Ghost Who Walks (or in my case Stumbles) is compounded by how much The City has changed.  It still is this dystopian relic of my childhood, but I still can't get a handle on the new transformation.  My wife, I'm sure, has had her fill in my confusion on directions.  In the late '60s and '70s I knew Downtown Los Angeles like an urban street in Fullerton.  I knew every theatre, pawn shop, Army surplus store and bus stop.  Metropolitan and Greyhound.  Now it's like I'm on the cover of that Steely Dan album, The Royal Scam.  The skyscrapers rise to Tower of Babel heights.  I am the ant that winds below my trashcan.  In awe.  Insignificant.

So in the spirit of Off-World, the cherished wife and I trek the streets of old.  We are heading to the Bradbury Building.  The scene of so many scenes.  Noirs of the Past and Future Passed.  How appropriate.  This building which symbolizes to me the Spirit of Ray Bradbury, and stands majestically today, while the great writer's home was unceremoniously demolished. 

This is the home of Sebastian.  He make friends.  Literally.

And figuratively.

As Frank Sinatra might say, if he was a cyborg:  "L.A. is my Replicant."