Unsure of the contents prior to opening the box I was not fully prepared to be transported instantly back to the last century, but that is exactly what happened. Bright colors and weird covers adorned the top layer of DAT tapes filling the carton. I don’t even use them anymore but back in the 1990’s it was a very common site. Here they were, I knew I never got rid of them. Last seen in early 2001 while packing to move to Washington, DC for XM. The shows that I did for WHTG from my home studio in Peabody, MA while I was working for Rykodisc. Now there’s a story…. And quite frankly I’m not sure I want to share it all, at least not this week. But since context and environment are a necessary element for full enjoyment, here’s what I will share for now.
Before Ryko I was programming my dream station, Coyote Radio in New Mexico. Located in Santa Fe and privately owned. I thought we would be there forever. It lasted a year and a half! For now we’ll avoid getting into the drama, but this was the period that changed terrestrial radio forever. The future for anything above lowest common denominator programming on FM was terminal once ownership caps were removed. So let’s just say that there is most definitely a book in there.
Rich Robinson had joined me in Santa Fe and wound up staying for a while but I took a great job with Rykodisc and once again moved across the country. This was it as far as Radio was concerned. No more. Fuck Radio! Ryko was a wonderful place to work, truly great people all with music as the center of their life. The roster of artists contained absolute gems like Morphine, Bob Mould, Alejandro Escovedo, Lloyd Cole, Golden Smog, Bruce Cockburn, Medeski, Martin & Wood, John Cale, Andrew Bird, Josh Rouse and on and on. Plus we had the catalogs of Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Nick Drake, The Soft Boys, The Undertones and so much more. Jeff Rougvie was the A&R guru and we are friends for life. He’s about ready to publish his book on the label and I can’t wait to read it.
I can’t remember the exact date but in 1997 good old Rich gave me a call that started with “Hey Spike, I’m back in Jersey and you’ll never guess what station I start programming soon.” I hesitated for a second and knew there was only one answer, ``Don't tell me, HTG?” Yep, he was back and talking about “putting the band back together.” He knew there was no way i could afford the beyond extreme pay cut a full time job would be for me, but before long we had devised “Radio Terrorism.” Every Saturday I would do 10 pm to Midnight via a recorded show and Bart Cross-Tierney would come back with his new creation “Barrage From The Garage” LIVE from Midnight to 6 AM. Vintage Vinyl, easily the best and now largest Independent Record Store in the State, would pay for the whole shebang. Owner Rob Roth was a huge supporter of the station since we started it in ‘84 and he was thrilled with the change in programming.
I made zero money for doing the show and didn’t care. They covered blank media (DATS) and all mailing expenses, but the key was the rules. There weren’t any. I could play and say anything I wanted. Rob was basically sub-contracting the signal for 8 hours and was paying six months in advance. He made sure to include a clause in the contract that any forced change to the programming would terminate the deal immediately. This 77th show was actually picked at random out of the box, but is a perfect way to begin the series, as the week before it aired Rich had been let go as PD and the new program director, had a big problem with the lyrical content of the Bruce Cockburn song I played and called me up. I was in no mood. By 1999 my contempt for radio had increased to maximum. With very few exceptions, the corporations were completely in control and had systematically squeezed the adventure, discovery, respect for the audience and above all, fun from the assembly line. They had dumbed everything down to a degree I considered insulting. I almost felt bad for my reaction to that phone call, but I said what I needed to say and am glad I did. Basically I told him to check the contract. Since it was already paid through to a period about 6 weeks or so down the line, I don’t have to play or better yet, not play, anything. You have no say. Consider this my notice. I will fill out the contract and not renew. Please let me know ASAP if you will need me to provide the shows remaining. They did and so did I. Fuck Radio. I was done and haven’t done a show for “terrestrial” radio ever since.
Although very comfortable with computers, I had not yet patched mine for audio, so I would use my basic setup, 2 turntables, 3 compact disc players, 2 cassette machines, a portable DAT and cheesy old reverb. It was all done live, a 2 hour show took about 2 and a half. Today I could put together a 2 hour show in 15 minutes if necessary. And literally none of the gear just listed would be involved.
I can’t believe I have managed to save all the playlists!
The Playlist is right HERE
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Dad, Husband, Radio Programmer/DJ, Music Enthusiast, Drummer, Baseball Fan and Retired American.
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