Sunday, June 26, 2011

Show #60 June 25, 2011

This one's for Lolene and the cast of Rocky Horror Show!

Lolene- Mad Turks Cafe Istanbul
Gone Daddy Gone- Violent Femmes Add It Up
Ain't Got No Sense- Teenage Head Teenage Head
Baby Loves to Rock- Cheap Trick All Shook Up
You Rool Me- TPI TPI 7"
Moves- The New Pornographers Together
And Violets Are Blue- The Probers Mat At The World
Poor Girl- X More Fun in the New World
^Father Of Mine- Everclear So Much for the Afterglow
Anywhere Else But Here- The First Steps Anywhere Else But Here E.P.
Gimme Some Time- The Nerves One Way Ticket
Emergency- 999 Emergency 7"
Holiday Fire- Marc Thor Holiday Fire
Tigerland- Rudi Big Time
*Dad Said- The Tremblers Twice Nightly
*Daddy's Girl- The Secrets Titan: It's All Pop!
*Wait Til' Your Father Gets Home- Incredible Kidda Band Too Much, Too Little, Too Late!
*Your Daddy Will Do- Sloan The Double Cross
Opening Up- The Cute Lepers Can't Stand Modern Music
It's Only Love- The Lonely Boys The Lonely Boys
Tonight We Fly- 20/20 20/20
Sticks And Stones-- The Semantics Powerbill
Sticky Sweet Girls- The Zeros 4-3-2-1-The Zeros
Warrior In Woolworths- X-Ray Spex Germfree Adolescents
>Dear Dad- Chuck Berry The Anthology
Stepped On- Shane Champagne Band Stepped On 7"
The Backpack Song- Nerf Herder IV
Neck On Up- Utopia Utopia
(I'm Lookin' For A) Sputnik- Rick Rock Mondo Montage
Too Busy- Wreckless Eric Big Smash
Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)- Pernice Brothers The World Won't End
I Turned Her Away- Game Theory Tinkers To Evers To Chance
Outfit- Drive-By Truckers Decoration Day

^Power Pop Peak: #70 Billboard Hot 100 1998

*SacroSet: Father's Day

>Power Pop Prototype: 1965

As I wrote in the post for Show #22 seeing a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at age 12 was a pivotal moment in my life. I still don't know how my father heard about the film, though I suspect the TV show Sneak Previews had a role. (He always loved watching Siskel & Ebert fight about films.)

Dad, Cousin Rich and I first saw the movie in Brockton, Mass with an audience that made up for its ignorance of the finer points of Rocky Horror participation by going completely mental throughout the film. After that I started going in to Boston to see the Friday midnight show at the amazing Exeter Street Theatre. The theater occupied the former First Spiritualist Temple built in 1885, which is appropriate because, according to Wikipedia, one of the tenets of Spiritualism is: spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séances) are held by "mediums," who can then provide information about the afterlife.

The building was converted into a theater in 1914 but (thankfully) never shed its creepy origins as these pictures show. Anyway, by the late 70's The Exeter Street Theatre was struggling and the Friday midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings were the only thing keeping it going. It was an amazing show- live people performing on stage in perfect sync with the film screening behind them. It was here that I learned "proper" Rocky Horror participation etiquette: squirt guns, news paper, toilet paper, toast, etc. Dad took my sister Sarah and I in one night and I remember another where Sarah and I were joined by friends Frank and Jim along with my cousins Adam and Mary Lee from D.C. For suburban high school kids, it didn't get any cooler than Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Exeter Street Theatre.

Needless to say, last January I was very excited to hear Sonoma's Caps Productions had Rocky Horror Show slated to kick off the Sonoma Theater Alliance's Summer Festival of Theater. Another company in town had tried to do the show last year but the school they rent from had issues with the content and put the kibosh on the production. I have always wanted to play "Riff Raff" so I put together a demented version of "The Time Warp" accompanying myself on distorted electric guitar at the audition. The director Cat Austin put me through the paces on audition day and I felt I did pretty well. Almost as an afterthought, she asked me to read a few sides as "Brad" before I left. As soon as we started I saw something click in Cat's mind and I knew "Riff Raff" was off the table. In retrospect, I think she made the right choice. I've really grown to appreciate "Brad" and I love singing "Dammit Janet," "Frankenstein's Place," "Once In A While" (which isn't in the film), and "Super Heroes." The harmony singing and choreography are a challenge but everyone's hard work has paid off- it is an amazing production.

(Interestingly, this audition/casting thing has happened once before, when I was going for Dentist "Orin Scrivello" in Little Shop of Horrors and was cast as "Seymour Krelborn." I guess I have a deep connection with dorky guys who wear glasses.)

Before I got the part, I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show with the kids and I think it freaked them out a little. (I must admit it was very bizarre for me too, watching the film outside the live theater experience- for one thing, it was the first time I was able to hear anything the narrator is saying.) When I told the kids I was cast, Nica yelled upstairs to her brother: "Jack, Dad gets to have sex with a MAN!" My son congratulated me then asked that we keep pictures of me in the corset/fishnet stockings out of the newspaper. (So far I've been able to keep up my side of the deal, although there is a picture in yesterday's Sonoma Index-Tribune of me in undershirt and tightie whities.)

Jack came opening night and seemed to like the show. Nica not so much, but more due to the heckler than anything on stage. She didn't get why this guy was calling her dad "asshole" and the lady beside him "slut." The whole heckling thing made Nica so anxious Jaime drove her home at intermission. The heckler has been to most shows, driving 60 miles from his home in Davis, and, credit where credit is due, he's got the audience participation script and timing down pat. He comes in costume as Joel from 90's cable show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and even brings a small Tom Servo doll with him. I find the heckler annoying; while there is a lot of camp in Rocky Horror I think there are some sincere moments ("I'm Going Home," "Super Heroes"). The heckling makes it all seem like one big ironic joke though, and I HATE irony in performance. Even so, audiences seem to like the heckler so I accept his handshake every night when he says "good job!"

My mother and sister are coming out from Massachusetts next weekend to see the show and Nica's going to join them for the final performance. She'll be ready for the heckler this time. Rocky Horror Show's grueling six day a week rehearsal schedule has been a major imposition on my family so I'll conclude this post by thanking Jaime, Jack and Nica for allowing me to have this experience I'll never forget.

Here are the links to download this week's show:
Hour 1
Hour 2

Monday, June 13, 2011

Show #59 June 11, 2011

This one's for Ronnie... and my friend Paul!

Ronnie- The Rubinoos Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About
Tell Her I'm Ill- The Freshies The Very Best Of
She's Leaving- The Flashcubes Bright Lights
Color Eyes- L.A. Burgers L.A. Burgers
Reduced- Tot Rocket & the Twins Reduced 45
Out Of Reach (Dreams)- The Know I Like Girls 7"
Frustrated- The Knack Get the Knack
The Law- Art Yard Boston Underground (1979-1982)
^Lies- The Thompson Twins Quick Step And Side Kick
Pain- Durango 95 Lose Control
First In Line- The Romantics Romantics And Friends-Midwest Pop Explosion
Sudden Fun- Sudden Fun Sudden Fun E.P. 7"
The Answer- Was You Sloan The Double Cross
Make You Love Me- The Sugar Stems Sweet Sounds of the.....
*Lies- Silver Sun Disappear Here
*Lies- Neats 1981-84 The Ace of Hearts Years
*Lies- Pointed Sticks Lies 7"
*Lies- Spys Midnight Riders 45
Fall To Sorrow- The Rifles Great Escape
Strange Man, Changed Man- Bram Tchaikovsky Strange Man/Changed Man
I'm The One- Tweezers Already!
Basket Case- The Windbreakers Time Machine (1982-2002)
Hurts Like Love- Helmet Boy Helmet Boy
Yes Or No- The Locals You Never Have Fun Single
>Lies- The Knickerbockers Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era
Moonlight- Cherry Vanilla Venus D' Vinyl

^Power Pop Peak: #30 Billboard Hot 100 1/22/83
*SacroSet: Songs Called "Lies"

>Power Pop Prototype: 1965

I hadn't seen my friend Paul in about ten years so I was very happy to get a text from him a few weeks back asking if we were free for a visit in June. It worked out that I had already booked studio time
during his stay so, for the first time, this week's show has a co-host. I met Paul in 1986 at WMJX in Boston. It was my first job out of college and Paul had spent the last few years paying his radio dues in Connecticut and New Jersey.

I've written before about WERS, the Emerson radio station I worked at all four years of college, but I don't think I've mentioned WECB, the closed circuit station only heard in the three dorms at the time: 100 Beacon, Fensgate and Charlesgate. I wasn't sure I'd get a spot on broadcast station WERS as a freshman, so I also applied at WECB. I was on the air the second week of school and did my last shift that December when I started hosting Niteklub on WERS. WECB was formatted like a commercial radio station with clocks, record rotations, jock liners, etc. There was only one spot each hour where the DJ could play a song of their own choosing. The funny thing is that many of the DJ's on closed circuit WECB sounded more professional than their counterparts on broadcast station WERS. The difference was that WECB was trying to train students for work in commercial radio while WERS' block programming schedule (folk in the morning, jazz and reggae in the afternoon, R and B and punk/new wave at night, with everything from showtunes to klezmer music on the weekend) required musicologists with presentation a secondary consideration.

The morning folk hosts on WERS aspired to the NPR delivery (think SNL's "Schweddy Balls" sketch) while the R and B DJ's at night strove for a smooth, commercial sound. Hosts in the other dayparts were a toss up. Dead air, stammering, low talking, mispronounced titles/artist names, records played at the wrong speed- every college radio cliche, you'd hear them all. I was not a very good announcer myself back then and tended to get a little monotone. I only
The Master
remember receiving one compliment on my presentation: that I was the "Bob Newhart of college radio." (Thinking back on it, perhaps it wasn't a compliment yet little could they know, I LOVE Bob Newhart.)  On the other hand, I knew the music backwards and forwards and it was great hearing from people who loved my musical choices. In fact, my friend Janet once said she would look for my initials on record cover play sheets when picking songs for her own show.

Every semester there would be a few kids with natural announcing skills (which is a talent, like any other) who would fake their way through an audition to get on WERS. Then they'd find themselves saddled with a three hour weekly jazz show, playing music they knew nothing about for a finicky audience that wasn't shy about sharing their displeasure over the phone. I would often hear older students advise these kids to go upstairs and work at WECB, but few did and after a semester or so they would drift off, perhaps never returning to radio. (It's ironic that as WERS' programming has become more structured over the years, WECB is now Emerson's "underground" student run radio station, having survived several attempts by the administration to pull the plug. In its current incarnation, WECB is an internet only station, which according to Wikipedia is "in a modest studio within the WERS suite." I've listened to this WECB and unfortunately it sounds like a schizophrenic's iPod on "shuffle.")

Anyway, my friend Paul, like those WECB kids back in the day, is one of those people with the voice and skills who grew up wanting to be on the radio. While most children play with toys or sing in the shower, I imagine a young Paul doing weather and traffic breaks- perhaps with an Old Spice microphone shaped soap on a rope. Rather than waiting for college to get on the radio like I did, Paul got his first announcing job at age 15, working for WSUB in Groton, CT where they made submarines for the navy. Aside from taking up smoking to help lower his voice, he had the right idea about starting a career in broadcasting.

Paul and I came to the business from different directions, yet a few years into our careers we both realized what we really wanted was to be program directors. While we had to do on-air shifts as part of our early PD jobs (Paul because he sounded great, me purely for budgetary reasons) it was a huge relief when we finally got off the air and could focus exclusively on programming. Our paths have diverged over the years, but we both continue to work in the industry- Paul as a content/prep provider and myself in research. Like me, Paul is a true believer in the power of local radio.

Here's the link to stream this week's show, to download right click and "Save Target As:"