Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#216: Theme From Hill Street Blues

Music today sucks. Seriously, it does. Each time I turn the radio on I’m faced with a choice between wailing women or whining men. “Arms wide open”, Jaysus, give me a break. And what passes for R&B these days, which was rap back when, all sounds the same. But it doesn’t come as any great surprise really, as music is cyclic, so I have faith that something will happen, eventually, to wipe these twats off the face of the map, and it won’t be named Cyrus or Beiber.

Miley Cyrus. How did anyone think she’d be making quality music? If you take a punt on say Dhani Harrison, Julian Lennon or Jakob Dylan then you’re in a with a chance. After all their fathers were bloody good. Same with Jeff Buckley, but really, is the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, he of the achy breaky heart, ever going to make decent music? It’s as if you have the chance of buying a horse sired from Think Big as opposed to some nag that went to the cat food factory last week. I just want to scream, “You suck!”

Back in the 1800s we used to listen to a lot of music, by virtue that radio pretty much ruled. If you had $2.50 spare then it was easy enough to buy a K-Mart brand portable radio, complete with those white ear plugs that’d get so filled with wax that they’d stop working after three weeks and just zone out. Today the radio is something that people tolerate in the car from time to time. But in the 1800s the radio was the King of the castle, and rightly so. I was one of those who used to leave the radio on all night, turned down low and buried under my pillow, just so the sounds could soak into my skull. I liked my radio, and my radio liked me. It never deserted me, and from time to time, it gave me some odd sounds as it’d pick up some ethnic station somewhere, or, on clear nights, a station from interstate. That was mecca to me.

But don’t get me wrong, there was more than a fair share of shit back then too. For each time I’d hear something as majestic as Living In The 70s there’d be five bands like Salt Water Taffy or the 1910 Fruitgum Company. I came to hate the Peppermint Candy Kids with such a passion that I when I finally learnt how to use a knife properly (twirls, how to stab successfully, throwing and the like) I wanted nothing more than to put those lethal skills into action by slaughtering all of the Kids on Christmas Day, along with the other Peppermints, the Peppermint Trolley Company and the Peppermint Rainbow and any other wankstain using the name Peppermint. Peppermint my arse! You’d hear The Promises Baby It’s You twenty times more than you’d hear Walking With A Weight On My Shoulder. And that wasn’t fair, but that was the nature of the beast. Anyone who lived through 1979 knows that the devil went down to Georgia just as much as Elvis Costello pumped it up or Nick Lowe was cruel to be kind, or Dave Edmunds kept on about girl’s talk. And there was the beauty – not all the songs sounded the same. Not everyone whined or wailed their way through stuff that sounded like Pearl Jam Lite or Mariah Carey Cloned.

It was different. It was unique. It was shithouse for the most part, so don’t get me wrong, not by a long stretch. Still, I loved it. Hearing music like The Real Thing for the first time in the dead of the night, and just imaging what was going on, how all of this insanity was able to fit into a small plastic green box with a crappy speaker was a delight. Hearing the latest song from Queen, compressed to buggery, or Sweet or Slade or David Bowie or Mi-Sex or Jeff Duff was heaven. Really, it was. Today’s generation will look back on their own radio days with a certain fondness, but the same as my lot look at shit like Rupert Holmes and his Pina Fucking Colada Song and recognise it for what it really is – pure crap – and would rather beat themselves to bloody pulps than listen to wankers like Bay City Rollers, Eddie Rabbit, Lancelot Link, Glen Gray and anything by fucking Sherbet, in twenty years people will do the same with shit like Nickleback, Lady Ga-Ga and Creed. Count on it. R&B isn’t any black person talking into a microphone, and rap isn’t some skinny white boy prattling on about how tough he is – Eminem meet Vanilla Ice and Kayne West meet MC Hammer. Sir Mix-A-Lot at least was honest. Johnny Cash was the last pure singer to grace the airwaves. Frank Zappa did things that people are still trying to work out forty years later. Arcade Fire and Dream Syndicate will always win out. Kids In The Kitchen, fuck the Uncanny X-Men and Brian Mannix.

But these days I can’t stand the radio. Bland voices, all sprouting the same shit over and over, plugging the same crap that, in four years time, they’ll be bagging. Here’s an example – I can remember, vividly, when that bloody song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, was huge. I can remember it was played constantly, and the wank stains on the radio would praise it, and probably rightfully so, as a virtuoso performance, as all the voices and noises came from the one throat. But, flash forward fifteen years and you’d find it being played as part of the worst songs of all time, by the same cretins, and slagged off as being bland and boring. It wasn’t bland a boring when it was bringing in the cash from the record companies though. But it’s all horrible.

Back when Moses was a sapling I worked in radio and had my own shows. For about three years I’d go in, each week, without fail, on the graveyard shift and just play, and say, whatever the hell I wanted to. It annoyed many, many people at the station who felt that I should merely fit into the standard that was required, that being playing the same shit that everyone else was playing during the day and evening, and not saying anything that might be deemed to be controversial. I tried, at times, to fit in to the stereotype that the station wanted, but it made me feel like I had the squints. I just wasn’t comfortable. By being unpredictable I managed to have some brilliant moments. Early one morning my brother and me began, for no reason, to play the Special AKA’s Free Nelson Mandela, only to be advised, via the BBC World Service, that Mandela had indeed been freed, just after the first chorus. We were overjoyed and played the song another four times.

I was once slotted to follow the heavy metal show, which was run by a myopic, squeaky voiced little bastard whose idea of metal was playing Bon Jovi and Winger. Each evening I had to follow him I’m start by playing what I thought was metal, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, plus industrial music like KMFDM, Ministry (Jesus Built My Hotrod was a ripper) and NIN – stuff that actually was heavy, then I’d wind down after an hour or so with Radio Birdman, Public Enemy and the Hitmen. After two months I received a complaint from the guy who had the metal show. It seemed that people were switching him off and listening to me, and wanted me to move shifts. I argued that it was a good idea, and why shouldn’t we, as a radio station, listen to the listeners? This was duly received and the decision was to ban me from playing anything heavy until an hour after the metal show ended. In protest I began the next three shows with Exile’s Kiss You All Over, She’s Like The Wind by Patrick Swayze (God rest his wonderful soul), How Can I Live Without Her by Christopher Atkins and anything by the Korgis. I got hauled over the coals for that – amazingly because my listenership had dropped off dramatically - it was my fault, you see, because I wasn’t playing appropriate music. You can’t reason with stupidity.

I’d swear on radio, I’d eat, drink and fart. At 3am on a Sunday morning, well, who was listening? Quite a few people actually. I’d invite insomniacs to wander down and say hello. I’d encourage people to phone in with requests and then not bother playing them. I’d ask people to tell me what was on the TV. I’d play static. I’d play a lot of soft songs and encourage people to turn up their radios only to play something Love Me by The Phantom and blow their eardrums out. I’d look at the camera facing the streets and yell at people walking past. I’d invite other radio announcers in after they’d had a big night out and we’d spend two hours talking crap and abusing people. I had a lot of fun and people had fun listening to me. I’d get calls from businesses doing nightshifts saying that they loved me and wanted to advertise on my section. But it was all in vain.

I upset far too many people. Not because of what I played, or what I said, or what I did, but how I did it. I had an attitude of ‘if I like it then someone else will’ and I was right, hell, I’m still right now. However there were too many hippies who hated me, mainly because I’d gone further and worked at the ABC (fucking sell out), approached day shifts with a professional attitude (fucking sell out), didn’t whisper into the microphone (fucking sell out) and was articulate to the point of taking professional lessons in media and radio broadcasting (fucking sell out). Their idea of Iggy Pop was Cry For Love and Candy, mine was I Wanna Be Your Dog and I’m Bored. That shows the gap between us. Sure, I’d play local bands, indeed I was a local band once, and I loved, and still do, love local music, but, frankly, The Jaynes sucked then and still suck now so I’d refuse to play them. I never hid the fact that I loved, and still do, music that spans and crosses genres, and my taste is eclectic to say the least. They hated me because I brought money into the station, via subscription and by buying, in bulk, all of the records and CDs that some people either wanted to steal or throw out. In short I brought several thousand dollars into the station, but my reward was to be hounded out. So I left. Or I was pushed, take your pick. I know the truth, as do others, however the revisionists there keep inventing shit.

Would I go back? Sometimes I think yes, as there’s plenty of great music to play to annoy everyone. Sometimes I think yes, as it was fun. Sometimes I think yes, as there’s just too many people out there with the same voice, the same stale jokes and the same racist views. Sometimes I think yes as I know that I’d be an individual surrounded by clones and that’s a great thing to do, as you stand out. But then I remember the people I had to deal with, some of whom have made a career out of being unemployed (shades of Norm Barber) and have made a career out of being annoying, whiny, complaining bastards. When I’m asked, and I am asked a bit, if I’d go back, I always say, “Sure, if they’d leave me alone and just let me get on with it.” But, I’m told, that’d never happen, because there’s always someone who believes that they know better than you do, and it’s the ones who know far less who are the most vocal about it. Call it passive-aggressive bullying, but every workplace has those cliques, those people who hate to see anyone doing better than they ever will, hate seeing anyone *gasp* happy and hate seeing anyone, well, they just hate seeing anyone.

I hate those people with a passion. If you want a fight, have the guts to front me and raise your fists and see how far you get, otherwise get off my lawn, you fat bastard.

1 comment:

GruntRat said...


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