Generic Radio

There was a time when I thought this might be my first post. Around the time I was building Ed’s blog, I was digging thru some old stuff and found an old Memorex tape.

I don’t remember what I was looking for now, but I am glad I found this tape. I must have taken ownership of it at some point over the years from my Uncle Chris. It is labeled “Generic Radio 12-23-87” and it is probably the only recording in existence of a radio show I did in high school with my friend Johnny B.

John and I had a show on Rockland’s community/high school station WRPS 88.3 FM on Wednesday from 5-7pm. So, it was very small-time and definitely not like a Saved By the Bell thing either. I am shocked there was enough juice for my uncle to get that tuned in as far away as Milton MA. The iPod car transmitters probably have more juice these days.

Christmas time in 87 would have been my Junior year in high school and I think by that point we had been doing the show for almost two months. I ended up doing it for about a year and a half, or about the time I stopped wanting to play amateur DJ in favor of making more cash spinning pizza (or just got bored with it).

So, the day that I came across the tape I gave it a listen. I had to dig out my old Sony Sports Walkman to even play it since I don’t have my tape deck set up in the living room anymore. It was either that or sit in the Jeep. What a blast from the past and thank gawd no one listened. I think there was equal parts nostalgia and embarrassment while listening to it 18 years later (which is scary in itself).

We came up with the name Generic Radio in an effort to stick it to the man. Yes, we were rebels without a clue and meant it to be contradictory since we played *Alternative* music and not the pop or hair-band garbage on regular radio. Our playlists usually consisted of stuff we pulled from Rolling Stone‘s college radio charts or that we heard played on WFNX, a real alternative station out of Lynn MA that we could barely pick up in Rockland at the time.

Back then John and I were calling it “Progressive Music” because we couldn’t get away with “College Rock” while still haunting the halls of Rockland High. I definitely said Progressive Music on the air and I don’t really know where it came from since Wikipedia (not that it is the definitive resource) has nothing. It isn’t meant to be the same as “Progressive Rock,” but a guess is they may have been using it on FNX or 120 Minutes at the time.

I found my interest in Alternative music thru multiple people and media all around the same time. It all might have started by watching the aforementioned 120 Minutes on MTV. Yes, that bastion of Pop culture had me find an area of music’s sub-culture instead. Oh, and since I’m waxing nostalgic and prone to tangents, anyone watch The Young Ones on MTV? We played cuts off Neil’s Heavy Concept Album on the show. That was probably the first English TV show I ever watched besides Benny Hill or maybe Monty Python.

Oh!!!… and what about The Kids in the Hall? Way more off the topic, but that one just came to me too… “I’m Crushing Your Head!”

Anyway, the closest I ever came to falling under the spell of pop or hair-bands was Van Halen, who I think we all appreciated when 1984 came out. I’m sure Joe will exclaim he was an early adopter, but “Jump,” “Hot For Teacher” and their videos were likely what hooked me. The plus side to that was when I decided I no longer liked mainstream music of the time, I sold three VH cassettes — probably Diver Down, 1984 and 5150 — to Ed for five bucks total. I think I wanted some candy or pop that day… maybe a slice or two.

I must sheepishly admit there was Samantha Fox (I’m sure it was all about the singing) and Pseudo Echo as I am sure I had to go down to “Funkytown.” Those are two cassettes I remember owning in the Summer of 87 — maybe earlier for Fox — along with U2’s The Joshua Tree of course. I don’t remember buying much music before then because I had no disposable income that wasn’t spent on candy, pop, baseball cards/stickers and comic books.

My Uncle Chris introduced me to a lot of bands out of the UK at the time — The Chameleons, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Pogues, The Housemartins (who begat The Beautiful South and Fat Boy Slim) — and older classic punk bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols. Oh… and then there’s this really out-there German band — Propaganda — that he had, I totally dug, played on the air and blew his mind.

Eric (a friend of a friend), who worked at the old Musicsmith record store in the Hanover Mall, was also an influence. He introduced me to the Red Hot Chili Peppers because I wanted something that sounded like Faith No More‘s (pre Mike Patton thank you) Introduce Yourself which I had found on my own via the single/second version of “We Care a Lot,” probably from FNX or 120 Minutes. Any song that mentions the Transformers or Garbage Pail Kids is great in my book, but a little less so for mentioning the “NASA Shuttle falling in the sea.” If memory serves me correctly, Introduce Yourself was the first true alternative album I had ever purchased and the Chili’s Uplift Mofo Party Plan was the second. It would be hard to consider The Joshua Tree alternative since that’s the album that blew up U2.

Although I had heard all three bands before, John introduced me to much more of R.E.M., The Cure and The Smiths (who I had probably heard via Chris also). R.E.M. had released Lifes Rich Pageant in 86 and “Superman” was/still is a great song. I haven’t listened to that, or any R.E.M. for that matter, in a long time. Also released in 86 were The Queen is Dead and Standing on a Beach (a collection of singles and B-sides) by The Smiths and The Cure respectively. John had all three of these albums and those and earlier albums by this trio soon became staples in our burgeoning collections.

Yeah, so back to the point of the post… since it was two days before Christmas, the playlist was littered with what alternative Christmas songs we could dig up at the time. The interesting thing about the show was I was flying solo that night. If I remember right, John couldn’t play because he got suspended for a week, not because of radio but because of school. When we’d fly solo, we’d change the name of the show to our own personal titles and mine was Atomic Coughdrops. I suppose that sounded cool to me at the time. I don’t remember what his was, but we would later change the overall name of the show to Industrial Strength Time Killers for the next year. I’m pretty sure John came up with that one.

The playlists would usually have us alternate between songs we chose and we’d also feature a band of the week. We happened to feature U2 that week and that probably had a lot to do with being able to play “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from the first A Very Special Christmas album. Shockingly, I played Rock the House by Run-DMC instead of “Christmas in Hollis,” although I may have played that later since the tape of the show isn’t the full two hours.

Well, what really hit me while listening to this was the very first song I played after the opening music. It was “Holiday Story” by X and this is significant for a reason I will get to eventually…

X came around on a *we reunited for money tour* this past December and Chris had asked me if I wanted to go, but I declined. I gave it good consideration because Juliana Hatfield was also on the bill and I hadn’t seen her in a while. As it turned out, Chris and all his friends blew it off anyway.

Chris related that to me and and the whole story to my stepbrother Bob over my Mom’s house about two weeks after the show. Come to find out that Bob was a huge X fan back in the day and Chris and I were a bit shocked. You’d never take him for an X fan now, but I guess you never know. He talked all about Exene Cervenka — the lead singer — and John Doe backing and on bass (he even had the way Doe would play as he did an air-bass to show us).

We were together over my Mom’s house to celebrate Christmas a little early, but also because that day marked four years since my stepfather died. The date was 12.23.2005 and the date of this Generic Radio show is 12.23.1987. How freakin weird is it that we end up talking about X the same day I played them on a radio show 18 years earlier?

So, the day I listened to the tape, I tried to make up a iMix playlist on iTunes to send a link to Chris and I decided it might one-day make a good blog post (I’ll leave it to you to decide that). Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the full playlist because iTunes wouldn’t have all the crap on it, so in some cases tracks are left out or substituted for something else they did have. They didn’t add the full Chili’s catalog until recently. As I wrote out the playlist I also took some notes about the show itself. I am going to post the notes along with the full playlist in my Audio section later in the week. I’ll add a link to it in this post too.

I also dug thru a bunch more boxes looking for a notebook I used to have with more playlists in it. I can see the cover in my mind, but I can’t find it. I must have accidentally tossed it at some point. I find it amusing that I keep a ton of notebooks from college filled with Physics and Calculus notes, but I don’t have one I’d actually find useful today. Oh well, I did find something else I’ll probably post about soon which is sort of related to a post by Joe on Scooby Speak.

Oddly enough, I listened to the Live at Easy Street EP from Pearl Jam while writing this and John Doe is featured on “New World” with PJ.

I just picked that up tonight…