01.) Pipe Organ Cactus * The Cosmos Group
02.) It Came From Outer Space * T.Б. TPAЧEPИ
03.) Ball Me Out * DMZ
04.) Hang On Sloopy * The Remains
05.) Chariot Choogle * T. Rex
06.) Run Run Run * The Velvet Underground
07.) The Other Side Of A Record * The Sounds Like Us
08.) Reverberation (Doubt) * The 13th Floor Elevators
09.) Children Of Rain * The Electric Prunes
10.) The Divine Toe (Part I.) * The Fugs
11.) Somebody To Love * Grace Slick & The Great Society
12.) My Degeneration * The Eyes
13.) Splittery Splat * The Electric Eels
14.) The American Metaphysical Circus * The United States Of America
15.) You And I * Silver Apples
16.) Children Of The Sun * The Misunderstood
17.) Corporate Anthem * Devo
18.) Tequila * The Champs
19.) The Daily Planet * Love
20.) Astral Plane * The Modern Lovers
21.) Sunshine Superman * Donovan
22.) TV Eye * The Stooges
23.) Mother Of Pearl * Roxy Music
24.) It’s OK * Dead Moon
25.) I Hear Voices * Screaming Jay Hawkins
26.) Cemetary Polka * Tom Waits
27.) You Turn Me On * MX-80
28.) Philosophy Of The World * The Shaggs
29.) Scientific Devices * Half Japanese
30.) Walking On The Moon * Lucia Pamela
31.) Flat Earth Society * Toad In The Hole
32.) Satan’s Waitin’ (Excerpt) * The Carl Stalling Project
33.) The Court Of The Crimson King including The Return Of The Fire Witch and The Dance Of The Puppets * King Crimson
34.) The Divine Toe (Part II) * The Fugs
Miss Rikki & I continue our Ontological Assault on the world at large with this radio deconstruction of recordings that are on the edge of awareness of their state as recordings. Leaving no symbol unturned, with layers upon layers of meaning and commentary with regards to the current state of our program, we delve quite a ways into the 70’s, offer some Cilantro PSAs, prepare for Time Travel, and offer a number of means for managing your own stress. The mix is thick and dense in some spots, with lots of “Waiting Room” references. Just how we like it.
Part II of this program is reminiscent of one of the ’90’s episode of this program I did at KWVA in Eugene, which you can stream or download here. I’m pretty sure it is the same source material, and it is interesting to revisit the same material with a new perspective. Not much more meta than referencing yourself, right?
Dig it. There’s some dope shit in here.
On The Flip Side
Part I: The Musical Heritage Surplus Club of Hong Kong
01.) Twenty Minutes of Silence * Flip Wilson * You Devil You
02.) Break Song [Excerpts] * Vanilla Fudge * Near The Beginning
03.) The Church of What’s Happening Now * Flip Wilson & Redd Foxx
04.) 40 Great Unclaimed Melodies! * The Firesign Theater * Dear Friends (Live Broadcasts)
05.) “Real Life” Trailer * Albert Brooks
06.) Checkers Speech * Richard Nixon
07.) What’s Happening News * George Carlin w/ Flip Wilson
08.) Alexander Grahmn Bell * Lilly Tomlin * This Is A Recording
09.) Telephone Courtesy Educational Film
10.) WINO Radio * George Carlin w/ Flip Wilson
Part II: It’s Time For Traveling Through Time
11.) I Hate Cilantro, It’s Gross * Glozell Green
12.) ?? LP?
13.) Traveling Through Time * Pan Am Films
14.) Learn How To Touch Type
15.) Cindy Goes To A Party * Etiquette Lessons
16.) Drugs Are Like That * Anita Bryant
17.) Act Your Age Education Film
18.) You And Your Parents * Coronet Films
Part III: Stress Relief With Tranquilizers
19.) How To Win At Conversations With Mom * Daniel Kibblesmith
20.) The Wayne Mason Trio * LIVE! at the La Pesada
21.) [Excerpts] * Kermit Schafer * All Time Great Bloopers (6 Record Set)
22.) Stress Relief With Tranquilizers * The Relaxed Wife
23.) Cindy Goes To A Party * Etiquette Lessons
24.) Drugs Are Like That * Anita Bryant
25.) Evert 1 Pipkin * Man… Or Astro-Man? * Made From Technitium
With all that has been happening here in the Lava Lamp Lounge (as part of our 15th Anniversary), there has been little time to produce an old-fashioned radio show, the kind the OG Blasphuphmites used to make in olden times. (Somewhere around 1991.) But I promise, we have been brewing up some cool things for you, and this will continue over the summer, as fun stuff that is only in the theoretical stages at this point begin to solidify. In the meantime, I decided to turn down the lights, put on the headphones, and kick out the jams, motherfuckers.
Consisting mostly of new-ish-er stuff that I’ve been grooving on lately, this show is in three parts. “Ham On Rye” consisted of a collage I threw together, to feature some experimental artists I’ve been getting off on lately. It had been a while since I did a “smaller” collage like this, and I really had a good time with it. Hopefully, you’re down as well. Part II is definately a more “punk” set, and I was really stoked to feature all of these bands, most of which have been on the show, will be on the show, or are friends of the show. There’s also a mini-collage during the Sweat Lodge track, which I’m rather fond of. Part III is where I get a little political, but also just throw some Russian Satanic Metal. Ya know, for fun.
There are so many cool things happening in the next few months, I hardly have time to mention them all. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lost In The Supermarket, our digital compilation that we released at the Blas-Travaganza. Speaking of: there are some cool things being developed from the media we captured that weekend. Our next scheduled live broadcast will be happening from NoFest 6 in August, so mark the date, and DO NOT forget to tune in the Saturday, starting at Noon at going until 8 PM, where myself, Johnathon Boober (of Please Remain Seated) and Miss Rikki will be hosting Gaytheist, Sweat Lodge, and No Bone, in addition to a number of DJ sets and other madness. It will rule, and you will love it.
I’m really proud of this show, so I will now let it speak for itself.
Part I: Ham On Rye
01.) Second Time Around * Blue Cheer * Vincebus Eruptum
02.) The Uncomfortable Comfortable * Overdose The Katatonic * Absolute Insult
03.) From Ham On Rye (1982) * Charles Bukowski * Uncensored: From The Run With The Hunted Session
04.) Part Four * Death Pact Jass Ensemble * Absolute Insult
05.) Moth To A Flame [Excerpt] * Holy Filament * Year One
06.) Plague of Madness * Moth Hunter * Dust
Part II: Uncool
07.) And Giraffe, Natural Enemies [Excerpt] * OXES * OXES
08.) The Restoration * Gaytheist * Hold Me… But Not So Tight
09.) Protest Protest * /root_DIR * /root_DIR
10.) Weed: It’s Just Like Jesus But Better Because It’s Real * The Thrash-Key Kids * Free Abortions
11.) Circus * Sweat Lodge * Cassette Demo
12.) Uncool * Del Close & John Brent * How to Speak Hip
Part III: Don’t Play With Guns
13.) Autumn Set [Excerpt] * The Black Noise Orchestra * Autumn Set
14.) Interview Excerpts * Ted Nugent & Piers Morgan * 5 February 2013
15.) Don’t Play With Guns * The Black Angels * Indigo Meadow
16.) Люцифер (Lucifer) * Коррозия Металла * Орден Сатаны (Order of Satan)
17.) Side Effects of Being Tired * Unwound * Live In London 12″
A True Fictional Story (Featuring music that acts as a sequel to Episode 082, with music centering around the root of all evil – if evil were a real thing – being, of course, money. Originally podcast on 20 November 2012.)
Institutions, ideas, and the way our lives are governed have come up in my life quite a bit recently, and as I have been making new inroads at my job, filling out Union Paperwork and documents about my future retirement, I find it funny how much unquestioningly people have faith in these things. Recently I’ve been in a number of situations where the unreality of the world around us has come up – quite specifically with regard to money – and people instantly become defensive. “It is SO real! Don’t even suggest otherwise!” I understand the value of believing in these things. (After all, consider all the things that have been possible with religious faith.) But just because someone wants something to be true, doesn’t mean it actually is. This is never more obvious when someone just realizes they are wrong.
Regardless, there is a lot of academic discourse surrounding the unreality – or, as Ira Glass was so kind to say, “The Fictional Quality Of Money,” – that it is somewhat of an irresistible topic for me. This might have something to do with my minor degree in pharmacology, or perhaps my own anarchist leanings when it comes to pointing out to people that most of what the world around us is built upon is predicated on power structures designed to control and manipulate the behavior of humanity. Or, it might just be that I have a problem with authority. It’s hard to say, really, but my standard response to anyone who has too much faith in one thing is to remind them that the universe is constructed by language and images, and that the people who create and design these things are the people who are really in power. Money just happens to be a symbol that has most people by the balls.
The subject of money is particularly fascinating, because rock music seems to be preoccupied with it. Just about every band of a certain age had a song about money, their desire for it, and their love of it. These songs very much have a similar structure, and the effect is the same: to deny the immaterial things in this world, and to embrace capitalism in all of its sticky, disgusting, filth-coated sexy goodness. And there is something thrilling about getting paid in the same way that getting a handjob at a rock concert is thrilling; in that moment, we can do anything, we can go anywhere, and literally nothing can stop us. This is why a number of cultures have sayings relating to money (and the spending of it). In spite of knowing better, we all see the attraction to the dirty side of things, and rock music itself is predicated on the attraction to filth culture. Money is, after all, filthy lucre. How can you not find it fascinating?
This episode is a sequel to Episode 082, a show I have always been very fond of for somewhat different reasons. While I had hit upon the vague idea of doing a show about money, when I did the original program, I built the show almost entirely at the last minute. Using the KPSU studio archives, the Inter-Web-A-Tron, and a few odds and sods that I had brought with me, I completely pulled that show out of my ass, and was quite pleased with the results. Not only did it become a coherent narrative, and a very good example of the kinds of theme shows I wanted to pursue more often, but it reinforced in me this notion that I could do good radio on the fly. I really feel like I turned a corner with Episode 082, and I follow my instincts quite a bit because of what I learned doing this show. It only made since to me to throw together a sequel in the same manner, and I think the results turned out pretty excellent.
The backbone of this episode come from two sources: a film I found on YouTube.com, titled “How Money Is Created,” which is a short (and simple) essay about how the FED creates money. While I could not find the film I was thinking about when I made this episode, this one covers the same subject matter, and offered some pretty good sound clips. (The one I remember was animated, and looked like something from the 60’s, but was clearly from the ’90s.) The samples from this film help spell out some of the things hinted at int he second sound source, an episode of This American Life that featured a number of stories about various problems that have cropped up because of the fact that money isn’t real. (Especially in light of the Housing Bubble crash of a few years ago.) While Ira has a good ear for the funny, I thought something a little more academic might help shed light on the “summing an infinite series” type comments that they made. Really, I just recommend doing some critical reading about the value of money, and try to answer for yourself the question, “What, exactly, is a single dollar worth, objectively?” If you actually think you can answer this question, then the entire field of economics really could use your insight, because they still have no idea.
As with Episode 082, I fleshed out the rest of the show with songs that I think really tackle the subject well, with an emphasis on punk bands, who usually manage to say things in a way that cut straight to the heart of the matter. Any show that has The Dicks, Patti Smith & Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 pretty much offers more insight into who I am than anything I could tell you directly.
Next week we’ll have our annual Thanksgiving Leftovers show, which may double as A Family Affair episode, if I can pull off some recordings during our dinner gathering. The year is winding down, and there’s a lot going on between now and Episode 200, coming up soon. Between that and my new job, there’s a whole lot that needs my attention. Hopefully I can deliver in a timely manner.
See you in seven!
A True Fictional Story
Part I: The Fiction Of Money
01.) “Money Isn’t Real” * Ray Liotta * Blow * New Line Cinema
02.) Money * The Sonics * Here Are The Sonics!!! * Etiquette Records
03.) Love Can’t Buy You Money [Edit] * Motörhead * Overnight Sensation * CMC Records
04.) “Money Is Fiction” * This American Life * Episode 423: The Invention Of Money * PRI
05.) Clean Money * Elvis Costello * Armed Forces * Columbia Records
06.) Money Talks * Penetration * Once Upon A Time Vol. 08: U.K. November ’77 * mythkoz-areyouexperienced.blogspot.com/
07.) Rich Daddy * The Dicks * 1980-1986 * Alternative Tentacles Records
08.) “The Fictional Quality Of Money” * This American Life * Episode 423: The Invention Of Money * PRI
09.) Don’t Wanna Be A Rich * Guilty Razors * Killed By Death Vol. 77 * Killed By Death Records
10.) Rich Plastic People * Killjoy * Not So Quiet On The Western Front * Alternative Tentacles Records
11.) Just Got Paid * Rapemen * Two Nuns And A Pack Mule * Touch & Go Records
Part II: The Idea Of Money
12.) Strike It Rich * Negativland * Over The Edge Vol. 7: Time Zomes Exchange Project * Sealand Records
13.) Money Honey * The Drifters * The Roots Of Rock ‘n’ Roll * Hip-O Records
14.) [Excerpt I] * Your Drugs, My Money * Live At KFJC 8/16 * Self-Released
15.) Summing An Infinite Series * This American Life * Episode 423: The Invention Of Money * PRI
16.) Money * Pink Floyd * Dark Side Of The Moon * Capitol Records
17.) How Money Is Created [Excerpt I] * godisfrauddotcom * How Money Is Created * YouTube.com
18.) Man With Money (alternate) * The Eyes * Arrival Of The Eyes * Lion Production Canada
19.) Free Money * Patti Smith * Horses * Arista Records
20.) Bottom Dollar * Eddie Spaghetti * The Sauce * Abstract Records
21.) “You’ll Have To Pay Cash” * Groucho & Chico Marx * A Day At The Races * MGM
Part III: Gimme A Dollar
22.) Money Money Money * Gene Simmons * Essential SUN Rockabillies * Sun Records
23.) [Excerpt II] * Your Drugs, My Money * Live At KFJC 8/16 * Self-Released
24.) How Money Is Created [Excerpt II] * godisfrauddotcom * How Money Is Created * YouTube.com
25.) Her Dad’s Got Money * Mad Magazine * Fink Along With Mad! * Big Top Records
26.) Money Loans * Mars Production Staff * Mars Production Library * Mars Production Library CK-71
27.) Give Me A Dollar * King Missile III * The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life * Instinct Records
28.) Dollar For Dollar * They Might Be Giants * McSweeney’s Music CD – Issue #6 * McSweeney’s
29.) Million Dollars * Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 * Admonishing The Bishops * Matador Records
30.) How Money Is Created [Excerpt III] * godisfrauddotcom * How Money Is Created * YouTube.com
31.) Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) * Pet Shop Boys * Please * Parlophone Records
32.) Man, You Won’t Give Me No Money * Memphis Minnie * Hoodoo Lady (1933-1937) * Legacy / Columbia Records
33.) Money * The Android Sisters * Ruby 1: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe Radio * ZBS Productions
The incredible thing about living in the 21st Century is that we have access to information and media of which our early 20th Century counterparts could never dream. Not only taking into account monoliths like Apple who entirely changed how everyone consumes information in the modern era, but just the access to factoids that would be difficult to source even 10 years ago. We now live in the future, as difficult as that may be to fully process. Case in point: at any given moment I can listen to digital transfers of Edison Wax Cylinders, watch The Avengers on a massive screen, text a friend of mine in Istanbul, and take 1000 pictures of a cat sitting next to me, all through devices that are middle class mundanities in this modern world. The future, indeed.
As a media junkie, I’m always looking for new things to absorb, and with my mind on the very problem of and created by modernity, I stumbled across a CBC Radio broadcast of a program called “The Wire,” and the seeds of this show were first sewn. Our relationship with music today is entirely born out of music’s relationship with electricity, something that goes back to the end of the 1800s. As early pioneers discovered ways to capture music – an experience that, previously, required the listener to be in the same room with the performer – music entered a new kind of simulacrum, where mechanical objects were standing in for the real performance and “playing back” these sounds. Obviously, Edison is one of the movers and shakers in this revolution, but that is not to say that he was the only person fixing sounds to some object in space. However, his work set the template for the record industry that was to come, and in that sense, he is very relevant. Electricity is now married to music in a way that seems inseparable to the modern ear, and yet is in no way apparent when you are turning on a streaming service to help pass the time.
The idea for my particular punny spin goes back to 2011, when I first began to flirt with the “History Lesson” concept. I had done a number of shows where I was getting more and more experimental with the editing thanks to my interest in Negativland and Over The Edge, and in some ways my show from the very beginning was about de-contextualizing recordings against music and other forms of audio, but with a “radio” sensibility to the presentation. (I was, of course, still on the air.)
In 2011 I expanded the scope of these audio essays to a four-hour, two-part broadcast called “Before ’75,” briefly covering as much material as I could about the earliest days of the pre-punk music scene. However, I always felt as if that show was not enough. Four hours covered a ton of music, a number of artists, and included a lot of really good interviews and samples that drove the point home. But the beginning felt lacking. I always thought that, if you logically extend the story back further, punk rock only really has context if you tell the story that came before it. Act I of punk rock is the merger of electricity with music; distorted guitars and DIY cassette releases need the first 70+ years of music history to make their revolution son incredible. I immediately envisioned a new, bigger and grander idea for “History Lesson.” Let’s really take the listeners back to the beginning.
As we roll back the tape to the end of the 19th Century, the state of music was merely that of being in the same room as a music source: a performer. From there, we move forward through acoustic recording techniques with Edison, the major difference microphones had on the sounds you could record, and along the way present music that complements the story while driving the narrative from time to time. Later, we discuss the impact recorded music had on the film industry, and enter a discussion about how these factors lead to the birth of radio itself, a pastime so near and dear to my heart.
At this stage in the program we switch our audio samples over to another very different documentary, “The Empire of The Air.” This Ken Burns documentary of PBS covers the story of Radio through three men, interestingly enough glossing over Marconi, and omitting Tesla entirely. (For shame.) However, it does a good job of drawing a parallel to Edison and his relationship with recorded music: not only do the pioneers of radio develop amazing technology, they are setting the course for how radio would act in the public for generations to come.
And, along the way, there is music to help tell the story. And what a story it is.
Now, let me grab your attention for an hour. Side one is about to start. Thank your for tuning into:
For a story like this, how can you NOT pick Beefheart’s “Electricity” to kick-start this mother, huh? If the thesis statement runs along the lines of: electricity is to music as punk rock is to pop — then you really have to put your cards on the table up front, dig? And truly, “Electricity” was the lighthouse beacon straight ahead across black seas, a song that laid bare a new path that rock and roll could forge through the saccharine formula that was prevalent across the musical landscape in 1967.
Already in the years between the early and late 1950s the world has seen an incredible revolution in the form of rock ‘n’ roll, and the ’60s see a massive array of miniature musical revolutions to match, each setting the course for a wide number of new interpretations. For Beefheart, it was the dirtiness of rock ‘n’ roll, it was the strangeness of The Blues (with a capital T & B) all mixed with this country shuffle, that really turned him on. But Beefheart wanted to distort both the recording of his vocals specifically and the artform as a whole intellectually, to return the music to its raunchy & rebellious origins. Ambitious? Absolutely. No small feat for any band of any era. Beefheart’s deconstruction of the blues/rock jam is so perverted it just oozes with the grime that is unmistakably punk in spirit and form. “Oh, they do it that way? Well, we do it this way.” There’s a sort of Troggs-y quality to the forward momentum and chord-progressions, true, but even that comparison only highlights the weirdness of the bass-line, a direct ancestor of the first Clash album, or some Ramones tunes. This, in many ways, is the source of the infection, patient zero, at least of this particular strain.
The myths surrounding this number are, themselves, larger than life, and the most appropriate pieces of foreshadowing if ever there were any. As it goes, Jerry Moss (the co-owner of Beefheart’s label) claimed the song was “too negative” for him to allow his daughter to hear it, leading to A&M Records dropping Beefheart. It is also said that in an effort to get the gritty vocals, The Captain shattered a microphone during one take. But the strangest legend of “Electricity” comes from one account of a legendary performance on 11 June 1967. The Magic Band was slated to play on Day Two of The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival, by all accounts the first true rock festival as they exist in the modern form.
By way of an all too appropriate tangent within a tangent within an annotation, it is interesting to note that the promoters (Tom Rounds and the staff at KFRC 610) were inspired by the success of The Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California, who were putting together these multi-stage, two-day events with music and artists and food and drinks, packaged together as a weekend of renaissance style fun. They wanted to do a rock & roll / freeform radio version of their event, and out of this was born The Fantasy Fair, a less documented affair that happened a full week previous to The Monterey Pop Festival, and really kicked off The Summer of Love.
The Fantasy Fair was, for lack of a glamours way of putting it, trying to capitalize on the rise of Psychedelic Rock. Sgt. Peppers had just come out, and everybody was talking about the San Francisco scene, which was already a few years old by then, and was was already being considered old news by the hipsters who were moving on to the slightly “harder” stuff that was happening in the underground “garage rock” scene of the late ’60’s. KFRC figured they could squeeze a few dollars from these hippies and make a mark in a big way for freeform AM radio by covering the event. Everybody wins.
They were, of course, 100% right. While there were absolutely financial motivations, KFRC was also looking to reclaim rock and roll from the awful version that America was living with in those days. The early ’60’s had seen the rise of the disdainfully named “bubble gum” craze, called such not only for the association that the music was for children, but for the added insult that the music was also quickly flavorless, and ultimately disposable. The Pat Boone-ification of these baby-faced teen idols led to a very bland format, which at the time was parading as “rock and roll.” A lot of people remembered how exciting it was to hear Little Richard on the radio, and were not getting the same vibe from Paul Anka. At least with the scene at The Fillmore, it could be said to be about, and for, adults who liked to rock, and who remembered that rock and roll used to be fierce and seedy, and fun. The Rock Festival, as an artistic statement, was to draw a line in the sand and say, “over here, we try to expand our minds like real adults.”
Were we ever so naive?
The line-up at The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Festival is a veritable who’s who of late ’60’s rock bands: The Doors, Canned Heat, Chocolate Watch Band, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Tim Buckley, The Fifth Dimension. It is in this insane time and place where Captain Beefheart performed his greatest version of “Electricity.” Here’s the scoop: The Seeds has just laid waist to the audience, themselves already declaring so-called “psychedelic” rock to be bullshit they produced their own hard-driving sound that was pretty formidable for audiences who were there to see Tim Buckley, or had heard that, “Mr. Tambourine Man” cover and thought it was “pretty.” The Doors had already begun to walk the darker side of rock music, and there was a small but dedicated group of folks who were exploring things that were new and different. The Magic Band sets up, trying to find a way to follow the propulsive set The Seeds had just offered. The crowd is ravenous. They are ready to rock. Time freezes. You can hear the sound of a pin dropping amplified through stage speakers.
The Magic Band winds up, rears back, and lurches forward. “Electricity” issues forth to a slightly perplexed crowd. They don’t know what to make of it. A few are just loaded, so they start to dance. Others just watch. Several wander off. One person is turned away slightly, eating. But most are trying to get into it, trying to figure it out. This whole weekend has been about something new, and they are eager. This song is a little shaky on the landing. Perhaps not the best song to open with, but Beefheart insisted. If they could just get to their next tune, “Diddy Wah Diddy,” which has been a bit of a hit when it came out and got a ton of radio play, perhaps they could win–
Beefheart signals, and the band lurches to a halt. They’re confused. What happened? The audience is stunned. They really don’t know what to make of the situation. Beefheart silently straightened his tie, and pointed to a girl in the crowd. Off mic he says, “she has turned into a goldfish.” Silence, quieter than before. Beefheart walks toward the girl, right off the front of the stage, pitching up face first in the mud and grass below. “That’s it!” yells Ry Cooder. “I have had it with your pretentious unpredictable bullshit, Don!” Cooder walks off stage, and out of The Magic Band forever. As Cooder leaves The Captain – still face down – signals again, and the band picks up the song (as best they could, sans one guitar), as if nothing had happened. As the show went on, you could see Beefheart smiling through the grass stains on his face.
The Seeds claimed it was the best performance they had every seen anywhere, and they should know, as they caught the whole thing from the side as they shared a joint.
Fuck the Summer of Love. This festival was the beginning of Punk Rock.
The incidental music for this episode is “Tremens.” Not only are Sonic Youth the musical heirs to the Captain’s throne of art-rock aspirations, they heartily acknowledge this indebtedness in their own rendition of “Electricity” on a fantastic Beefheart tribute record. “Tremens” holds quite a bit of significance for me, personally. I began my stint on radio when the SYR series began, and I listened to them as I was learning the ropes. This track is featured in an early episode of my program, too. But the title gets at the thesis statement problem too: in order to get us to a place where we can understand the transformative effects electricity has had on music, we may suffer the the aural DTs as we travel back to the acoustic era of recording.
I also use a chunk of “Two Golden Microphones” not only because microphones themselves are such a large part of the narrative, and were the innovation that allowed music to evolve out of the acoustic era of recording, and into the electric era of recordings, but to further acknowledge that Nurse With Wound are the true pioneers of the cut-and-paste music aesthetic. In fact, between them and Negativland – the DNA of which should be apparently audible in nearly everything I’ve done – I would have no other schtick to stand on. So for that, thank you.
From here on the musical selections are slightly less symbolic and much more literal, though I do hope that these can work on at least two levels as well. Bing Crosby was chosen only because he is a perfect example of the kind of artist that could only have a career post-microphone. His voice is very well suited for an intimate performance, where we is really singing at a quiet and personal way, something that couldn’t be done in the era of acoustic recording.
05.) Menuett G flat major & Valse bleat * Beethoven (Kathllen Parlow – violin; George Falkensten – piano) * Edison Amberol 4M-28026 (1912)
There is something incredibly charming about being able to listen to Beethoven while you wash dishes, but for this I decided that I should find an actual Edison Cylinder recording, because I knew I could actually take the extra step. As this song is in mono, it adds another level of simplicity to the program. There are a number of places online that you can find wax cylinders, and I do very much love listening to these .mp3 transfers of a 100+ year old record for the disjoinedness of it. Therefore, I encourage you to go to The Thomas Edison section of The National Parks website, and download some archived recordings of Edison Cylinders. It’s a lot of fun, and they are all really weird.
06.) Aria from Massanet’s “Le Cid”: O Souverain, O Juge, O Pere * Enrico Caruso * 1916
Something that is lost on audiences 100 years later is the absolute star power of an artist with a name of which you have never heard. Enrico Caruso released more records in his lifetime than most tenors could ever imagine being featured on, and was the opera singer of his time. He packed houses across two continents, and critics have spoken so passionately about the sound of his voice that there are some schools who have annual competitions by students who eager to take a shot at describing Caruso’s vocal performances. If you don’t go that deep into opera, then there’s no reason you would be able to recognize the caliber of his performances, and since the last time Caruso was popular in the US was 100 years ago (and I’m not kidding, it has been that long, precisely), I’m not surprised you don’t know who he is. I only came across his music when I started listening to The Ragged Antique Phonograph Music Program, and even then I can only really say I know of him.
Plus, opera ain’t really my bag. But, as a key player in the early days of recording music, Caruso is a perfect example – unlike Bing – of being able to perform for the acoustic era. It is said that his voice loved the horn, and he could belt out a tune the way no one else could. It is no wonder he recorded over 250 times in his career; the dude could sing.
07.) After Dinner Toast at Little Menlo * Arthur Sullivan * ENHS E-2439-7 (5 October 1888) 08.) The Lost Chord * (performers unknown) / composted by Arthur Sulivan * ENHS E-2440-3 (August 1888)
Various corners of the Inter-Web-A-Tron can reveal some incredible things, so here’s something fun I turned up as I was researching this episode: a recording of Arthur Sullivan from 1888 talking about being “thrilled and terrified” by Edison’s invention. Hopefully you have the kind of ear that can dig through the grooves on this one and really “grok” what he’s saying, but the gist of it is something that I think is at the heart of the central conversation about recorded music: the old generation is excited and annoyed by the next generation all at once. It was just too perfect, not only as an artifact, but as a way of framing how long this generation to generation conversation has been going since the beginning. Edison’s later resistance to electric recording technology, then finally giving in and embracing it far too late, is entirely foreshadowed, symbolically.
09.) Alexander’s Ragtime Band * Billy Murray * EDIS 36065 (1911)
Caruso might have been the opera equivalent of a rock star, but Billy Murray has often been referred to as the Elvis of his time, mostly in the sense that Murray was known by everyone. Unfortunately, he was considered a novelty for most of his career, which spanned almost 45 years across two centuries. Unquestioningly the biggest household name of the 1900s and 1910s, he sang vaudevillian ballads and novelty songs, and for nearly 20 years made a living touring and singing to people all across the country. His singing style is considered “conversational,” and people really connected with his everyman style, unconventional compared to other artists working the similar circuit. While he continued to get work into the early ’40s, as electric recording techniques and jazz began to dominate the record industry, Murray had less and less star power. In the acoustic era of recording, Billy was the biggest star America had ever known in popular music, and it wasn’t until Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra that someone as huge grabbed the American consciousness. While his name is largely forgotten today, this is a sample of American Popular music at the beginning of the 20th Century. Hopefully, as we continue with more History Lessons, we can see this style and format evolve.
Two major forces were also at work in this early era of American history. Film and, later, radio, were on the rise in the US, and as this fledgling music industry worked to develop it’s structure and form, the relationship film and radio had with one another was immediately parasitic. As sound pictures began to develop, they were immediately married with songs, and radio could not only play records on the air, but promote film stars as well with drama and comedy. These three media forms grew to become dependent on each other, and while film will undoubtedly get left out of this story (to be saved for some future series), the story of music and art in the 20th Century cannot be told without covering the subject of wireless telegraphy.
As the program moves into it’s back end, I decided to pull out a handful of songs that were not only about radio, but embrace the real center of this argument: the story of music is also the story of radio. The Spirit of Radio could, in fact, be music. There is something spellbinding about good radio, something I’ve been obsessed with for my entire adult life. As soon as radio was self aware enough to do so, it started playing music for audiences, and I love exploring the subject of radio in a radio format. It just seems fitting.
I’m not really that familiar with Jimmy Vigtone, and it’s possible that there was only the one 45 ever released. However, I do know the Hyped To Death Compilations, which are all full of incredible gems of punk, post-punk, power pop, and other oddball records released all over the place. I went through a phase around 2005 where I became obsessed with these collections, and every now and then I can find a song that is just perfect. This one in particular gets stuck in my head all the time, and it really feel on the nose to me.
13.) Shikaku Maru Ten (Radio Waves) * CAN * Cannibalism 2
This track also works very well as something that runs behind vocal samples, obviously, but comes from a CD I found in a Goodwill here in Salem, and was singular in the kind of band it was, and for the kind of women that worked in the place. I was very happy to pick it up for 50 cents, and it has entertained me well ever since. At times listening to CAN feels like radio waves, rolling in.
To be fair, I am not the Rush fan I probably should have been. I am the right age, and they were absolutely popular (and even played in my home by my parents). You couldn’t avoid them. But I never really was interested in them the way I liked Pink Floyd and The Doors. But in time I would feel the power of what they were getting at, and while I can appreciate certain aspects of them, I’m not bound by any nostalgia or early childhood memory to enjoy them in spite of their other musical crimes.
However, this song (and a handful of others) are just incredible, and The Spirit of The Radio is really where all of this was leading. Perhaps in an exploration of the form I will find new meaning in it all? It is possible. There are plenty of subjects I have not been able to cover in a radio form, and I feel as if Audio Essays are only beginning to be understood as a way of telling a story, but at a slower pace. Like Rush, maybe I’m entering territory that no one else has. But to me, making radio like this makes me happier than I ever have been happy before, and as I work on this series, I hope that some of that excitement can rub off on the show, on the listener, and the world around us.