The Freelance Mentalists.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
 
Sad dry sack of cheesey mid-80s night (what have I done, moving back here, more marooned than ever--because the whole point of last time was that it was the last time). Turn on the radio, a random gesture that happened to twist a dial rather than a button or a pencap. "In A Silent Way." Miles' night moved through mine, fine-tuning my last gasp brainfart into a call. A train moving through, going somewhere, here's its light, look out now.
In fact that was just one selection on "Night Music," a program that came on every night from 8 til 12, hosted by Gene Knight, Music Director of my local Public Radio station, which I don't remember ever having listened to before. He went deep, tickling my knowlege and my ignorance too. I began to devise all sorts of cunning ways to track down jazz, and even pay for it. I got back into the world that way.
Gene suddenly left that station, but re-established his base at a campus station that was just getting into Public Radio. Gene and his monster record collection got the listeners in on the ground floor, at both stations, which then had the cred to seek funding for national programming (the second station's never ever had the semiannual beggathon Pub Radio's so known for, though the school they're located at is hardly the most pecunious. Gene?) He left them too, but then put on free (as in no admission charge) jazz concerts, of all local talent, most of which had never heard each other, for audiences ditto (when blacks and whites were just beginning to go to the same clubs in roughly equal numbers, on the same occasion). Bands that played in different styles. Jazz fans tend to be very intolerant of styles beyond their "own" turf, but somehow they applauded every act, and not just politely. They got up and danced. Anyway, he proved it could be done. And from then on, the ever-budding local summer festival got jazzier and jazzier (fourteen-year-old boys who all looked like Keanu did then, jumped up and had excellent adventures doing their hormoner-stoner best to dance to Charles Earland's organ boogie, which shouldn't have been that much of a rubberlegs gauntlet, but they made it!)
He started a store, cos his wife wouldn't let him bring any more records into the house. Everything settled down, we all got used to our higher plateau of jazz, which got over grown with new miracles like Nirvana. Then one night, ferns started growing out of my car radio. What the-? It was yet another campus Pubic Radio, proudly presenting "The Greatful Dead Hour." Actually I heard later that the Station Manager couldn't stand it, but it was fully funded by a rockin' dentist, Dr. Bernie. He had this superstring theory-inspired floss sculpture in his waiting room. Damn, I knew I was saving that old floss for something! But wisely confined my superstring experiments to listening. I'd never gotten into the Dead before, largely because of early encounters with thin-sounding LPs (the first, WORKINGMAN'S DEAD, and a couple tracks off LIVE IN EUROPE '72 I'd heard at a bad party). Also encounters with proudly obnoxious, hairtossing Deadheads. One of them came up while I was trying to learn the words to "Sister Morphine." "Oh m-a-a-n, the Stones are just cockrocking rednecks, I heard AMERICAN BEAUTY on Orange Sunshine and it touched my heart and fr-i-i-ed my mind, man, it FRIED MY MIND!" Actual quote, and just his opening sentence. If I were a cockrocker, and could have gotten up off the couch, I would have hit him. Instead I could only vow I would never, ever listen to AMERICAN BEAUTY.
And I've kept that vow. But "The Hour" taught me new-to-me ways to cast my listening line, man. I still played FUNHOUSE at the CD store where I worked, and the octogenarian black customer who always re-introduced herself to us as the Blues Bitch still played air bass to Dave Alexander's dum-dum Stoogemovements. But Friday night, I followed the Dead around the world and through the ages, through the exploding keyboardists, all that. They jazzed, they boogied, they synthed (glittering mantis leading the ferns toward Bowie's Sun Machine: roight place, Londontown, but this was the 80s, and Bowie had a blinding hairwave even for the 80s, singing "Let's Dance", while the Dead led a cult of millions completely off the fashion map; even Sammy Hagar fans wouldn't touch 'em). I could only listen from my distance, as the Dead rose again, and led the new jambands through my very store. Garcia died, it all got even bigger, the Other Ones did one last tour, everybody but me ran off to Atlanta to see it, then that was it for them. Sure, their boxsets and previously unissued livesets kept a-coming, but so did those of Phish and even Pearl Jam, as post-Nirvana Alt sank and/or settled into other contexts."The Hour" finally doubled in size and the station dropped it, despite Dr. Bernie's money stuffed under the door. Jerry made his point and moved on and changed the stations and raised or re-decorated the ferny furry plateau, like Gene did. And I just stood there listening, not bothering to wave.Because the street parade, store parade could never be just for me, just for my approval and disappointments, not anymore. Vox populi, feet and breath, Sea of song, sea of life, can't stop it,can only channel, let it flow, radio radiOH.
 
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