Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Wildfire" - 2007

As freeform rock faded in the early 1970s, there was a hope that progressive country could carry the banner...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plastic People of The Universe

Every musician's dream: to be intro'd by a national poet who becomes president after a bloodless revolution they helped spawn:

Read a little bit about the Velvet Revolution:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freeform BCN

"Rock of Boston reborn - Ex-DJ brings WBCN to HD and Internet radio" By Ed Symkus, Boston Herald, October 18, 2009

How do you like this playlist?

1. The Rolling Stones, “Jigsaw Puzzle”
2. The Temptations, “Ain’t too Proud to Beg”
3. She & Him, “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”
4. The Rascals, “Good Lovin”’
5. Coldplay, “The Scientist”
6. Bob Dylan, “Tangled up in Blue”
7. Quicksilver Messenger Service, “Fresh Air”

Internet location:

( Sam Kopper from back in the day, on WBCN-FM )

Darn good batch of music. If all of those songs existed in the late ’60s and early ’70s, they might have been heard on WBCN [website], the groundbreaking progressive rock station that went dark in August after a 41-year run. But that playlist was exactly what came over the air one day last week on ’BCN’s heir, FreeformBCN.

FreeformBCN is the brainchild of Sam Kopper, who back in the day was a disc jockey on ’BCN’s pre-Laquidara morning shift and the station’s second program director (after a brief stint by Steven Segal). FreeformBCN is currently heard at the HD radio station 100.7FM-HD3 and streamed at

FreeformBCN is automated. But Kopper, acting as a sort of one-man radio station, with programming assistance from former BCN announcer Albert O, has grand plans.

“We are bringing back the musical, the sociopolitical, the radio technique of the great days of progressive rock radio - the great days of ’BCN, ’68 through the ’70s,” he said, seated on a couch in his Hingham home.

But Kopper, 63, makes sure to point out that the station will be rooted firmly in the 21st century.

“So when I say bringing back those days, I don’t mean a nostalgia trip,” he said. “I don’t mean constantly rehashing Vietnam, or Watergate, or just the music of then. I mean bringing the consciousness, the youthful, never-grow-up spirit of that time. Musically, that means being very diverse and loving new music - being open to new music.”

Kopper hopes to go live and do away with the robotic, automated business before the end of the year. He intends to bring back disc jockeys who have something more to say than where Eric Clapton had dinner in town last night. Kopper already has ’BCN veterans, including Albert O, Lisa Traxler and Debbie Ullman, eager to sit at the microphone. And he’s got plans to get folks such as Laquidara, Norm Weiner, Tami Heidi and Kathryn Lauren to do shifts that will, through the magic of modern technology, sound live.

Fans of left-leaning politics will be happy to know that Danny Schechter, “the News Dissector,” has already started contributing commentary.

Kopper, who found a career producing live concert broadcasts, was trying to pitch the freeform idea in the early ’90s when he realized that rock radio had given up on playing new music. So he came up with a new format that used classic rock as a foundation and presented it in a seamless mix with new music.

“I took it around to people, including people at CBS, but nobody would listen,” he said. “When Triple-A Radio (adult album alternative) came around, I thought my idea was stolen. But then I realized they weren’t getting it. It didn’t have enough oomph to it. It wasn’t really eclectic. It didn’t cook. It didn’t have any attitude. It was too nice.”

Two years ago, Kopper got together with former WBCN [website] general sales manager Tim Montgomery and they knocked on CBS’ door again.

“We went in to see Mark Hannon, the marketing manager in Boston, and he got the idea,” Kopper said. “We got the go-ahead to begin building FreeformBCN.”

The station premiered on HD last February and started streaming Sept. 11. But can it succeed?

“Getting to a 24/7 staff is all about money, and money is all about drawing a lot of listeners,” Kopper said. “The Catch-22 is, I don’t think we can draw a lot of listeners and excitement without having at least 40 hours a week of live programming. We’ll likely start with a few hours per day, perhaps longer periods on weekend nights. As popularity and demand go up and CBS sees some monetizing happen, then we’ll expand hours.”

Kopper puts the station’s target demo at listeners aged 40-65, but strongly believes plenty of 20- and 30-somethings will like what’s being played.

“I always call my sons, Jake and K.C., who are 25 and 30, and ask what they’re listening to,” he said. “K.C. has eclectic, avant-garde tastes. He’s into Brian Eno. Jake likes everything from hip-hop to Coldplay and Grizzly Bear. Albert (O.) was at ’BCN from 1980 to 2003, and has got much more knowledge of that period than I do. Where we’re both coming from musically totally merges.

“Boston was and is the largest student population in the world,” he added. “People who went to school here from 1968 through the late ’80s and were affected by WBCN are now not only just all over the United States, they’re all over the world. And the Internet allows us to reconnect with them.”

But it won’t only be the pioneering ’BCN jocks making those connections.

“I want to combine us with some of the best, young, just-out-of-college radio jocks,” Kopper said. “It was in ’68, and always will be, crucial to what this is about - that we have fresh, young energy in this. We need their musical input, and we need their attitudes and young concerns.

“So it’ll be the old revolutionary masters and young radio warriors inspiring each other, using the best of the past and constantly renewing it. That is central to the resurrection of ’BCN’s greatest days, of bringing it’s spiritual attitudes and soul into the 21st century.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Form BCN

Boston freeform radio station WBCN still lives! Now available on the Internet:

Free Form BCN - The Revolution Returns

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jim Santella

[ From: "Legendary radio career framed at WBFO," By Jim Bisco, UB Reporter, August 5, 2009 ]

“No one ever taught me how to do real radio, so I felt real comfortable with my nose touching the microphone.” -- Jim Santella, DJ, WBFO 88.7 FM

To listeners who only know him for his work over the past decade, Jim Santella is the voice of the blues on WBFO 88.7 FM every weekend, working the mojo of Muddy, Buddy, B.B., Koko and everybody who’s anybody on the blues scene nationally and locally.

But to those with deeper listening roots, Santella was the voice of underground radio, introducing listeners to now classic rock bands, and before that the voice of jazz when WBFO was in its fledgling years.

He also has been a voice of reason, one of the most natural and knowledgeable disc jockeys who ever made his way across the FM dial. “No one ever taught me how to do real radio,” he says of his intimate style, “so I felt real comfortable with my nose touching the microphone.”

Santella was always fascinated by radio and, as many other youngsters did in the post-war era, built a crystal radio set. When he was 13, he talked his way into appearing on a Saturday morning teenage disc jockey radio show hosted by Bernie Sandler on WEBR. That was his introduction to the airwaves.

After acing high school, Santella entered UB in 1956 as a psychology major. When that became a struggle in his sophomore year, he left to gig around town as a jazz drummer. Then, Uncle Sam came calling with draft notice in hand. After the service, Santella returned to UB, this time as a music major—later, he would also try a stint as a theater major. His roommate, Joel DiBartolo, a bassist who later would secure a 20-year gig with the band on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” introduced Santella to his cousin, Greg Perla, who was doing a jazz show on WBFO. The meeting led to Santella beginning his radio career in 1965 with his own jazz show.

“Anything I know about radio, I got to work out at WBFO,” he says with a nod to the constant presence the station and the university have played in his career. “That was the time where the groundwork of (station manager) Bill Siemering and public radio was being set up. Public radio was developed at WBFO.”

Santella’s jazz show came after a program on quantum physics and a show on Appalachian music—block programming, he recalls, that wasn’t exactly designed to keep an audience from one hour to the next. Then toward the end of 1967, what came to be known as the underground began to rise up at WBFO.

“We went off the air at 11:30, so they decided they would extend the hours. They wanted to get a bunch of people who were willing to do a show of anything they wanted to, any kind of music, from 11:30 until they got tired. If they felt like doing an hour show, fine, then put the sign-off in and close down the transmitter. It was free-form. It was going to be called ‘Extensions,’” he recounts. “At the time, I was the jazz disc jockey. I knew about rock ‘n roll, I liked it, but I really didn’t know much about it. That’s when I first started learning about rock ‘n roll.”

Turns out he was a fast study. It was the beginning of album rock with cuts and whole sides being played from artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane, along with anything and everything that suited the DJ’s fancy. And as for nouveau rocker Santella, it was a blend of fancies to match his eclectic interests.

“The fun part, I thought, was to put together arcane kinds of connections,” he recalls. “For instance, I would play something from the first Cream album, follow it with Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and then some folk music. It was that kind of free-form radio.”

In 1968, WYSL-FM 103.3 (now called the Edge) decided to adopt the new progressive underground format and recruit college students as disc jockeys. Santella got the job and began his commercial radio career on Jan. 9, 1969

“Everyone suddenly discovered all this music,” he recalls. “We played Elton John when Elton John was dangerous to play. It was the time of Frank Zappa, the Who, Genesis at the beginning that gave those bands the opportunity to be heard. There was no such thing as what you couldn’t play. We didn’t know anything about radio. We weren’t really disc jockeys. We were college kids who were hippies. It was my choice—so much so that I thought it was my right to play what I wanted to. Since (station management) didn’t pay much attention, you knew how to get away with playing what you thought was best.”

Actually, it wasn’t all his choice. Santella says that being on campus everyday—he also held a full-time job as stack supervisor in UB’s Lockwood Library for 11 years—he came to know what college students wanted to hear because they told him. “It was an exciting and significant time on campus. I had never been as tapped into my audience as at that time.”

The station made Santella’s reputation as a knowing purveyor of great new sounds and a wry commentator on the fiery political scene. It all came to a screeching halt four years later when Santella reputedly became the first and only disc jockey to quit while on the air.

“I remember waking up that morning and listening to the radio station and it didn’t sound like my radio station. The music was different. I called the jock on the air and asked what happened. He said they came in and reduced the library. We had about 10,000 albums and they removed all but about 500. The management wanted to get rid of the people on the air because we were thought to be not professional,” he remembers.

The die was cast for Santella who was determined to make a statement against the new restrictive format by walking off at the beginning of his 9 p.m.-1 a.m. show that night. “The date for me was significant—April 24, 1972—which just happened to be my birthday. I said (management) has the right to do what they want because it’s their station, but I also have the right to express myself. And I knew what I was going to play when I walked off the air—a Jefferson Airplane song called “Lather” (“Lather was 30 years old today, they took away all of his toys…”).

Word on the street was that Santella would never work in Buffalo radio again. He had his library job to fall back on and a month later returned to the air on WBFO with a rock ‘n roll show. Contrary to any anticipated burned bridges, however, over the next 25 years he proceeded to travel up and down the local FM dial, from 97 to 98.5 to, yes, 103.3 again, to 104, to 107.7—with a couple of AM gigs along the way—returning to 88.7 in 1997, where he has held blues court since.

Santella feels he has come full circle in his long radio career. A product of Buffalo’s East Side, he grew up in an environment steeped in rhythm-and-blues and gospel, and recalls appearances on the South Campus with such legendary blues figures as John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf, interviews with B.B. King, and his contributions to advancing the blues community here.

In the meantime, Santella finally earned degrees at UB after, as he says, accumulating credit hours (more than 300 over 32 years) like they were going out of style. His interest in film and video—scripting and shooting—earned him an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in media studies.

Santella lives with his wife, Mary Lou, in a comfortable home near the North Campus. Although he says he has yet to use his degrees, he continues to employ his own master’s in communication—words and music—that he has earned over a lifetime of broadcasting to generations of Western New Yorkers.

Legendary radio career framed at WBFO - UB Reporter

Thursday, July 02, 2009

KMET Returns

[ From: "KMET returns to the air – sort of. The defunct station will be recalled in specials on KLOS and KSWD," by GARY LYCAN, OC REGISTER, July 1, 2009 ]

KMET/94.7 FM was the soundtrack of Southern California when it came to underground progressive rock in the late '60s, '70s and '80s. 'The Mighty Met' was free-form radio with dominant on-air personalities and it rocked in the local ratings.

KSWD/100.3 FM is devoting a day to KMET on July 10. This weekend, however, KMET memories will be heard when rock KLOS/95.5 FM plays three days of 'Legends' holiday programming starting on Friday.

Is it a KMET salute weekend? Yes and no. KLOS is calling it 'Legends,' but former KMET personalities are stopping by to share memories and four on the current KLOS staff were at KMET – Cynthia Fox, Jim Ladd, Bob Coburn and Denise Westwood. 'The best way to re-create a magical time is to bring in the magicians,' said KLOS Program Director Bob Buchmann. 'Luckily, many of them already work for KLOS,' he said.

Frazer Smith, ex-KMET, will guest host for Mark and Brian on Friday starting at 6 a.m. At midday Friday, KMET vet Cynthia Fox will be joined by former KMET personality Paraquat Kelley."

"Legends" programming on KLOS will continue through Sunday. Making a rare appearance will be FM rock radio pioneer Raechel Donahue.

"We're the only station to stay true to rock for 40 non-stop years. We're pumped," said Buchmann.

A full day of KMET memories and airchecks – including Dr. Demento – will be July 10 on 100.3 FM. Many fans can still recall the KMET jingle – "A Little Bit of Heaven, Ninety-Four Point Seven – KMET – Tweedle-Dee." Its farewell song on Feb. 14, 1987 was from The Beatles "The End" – "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

KMET was replaced KTWV ("The Wave") with a smooth jazz format that continues today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

McQueen Signs Off

Dave McQueen, late evening news anchor on KCBS, did his last reports Friday, capping a radio career dating back to Houston in the early '60s. By decade's end, he was on KSAN, in its free-form rock years, a standout, with his authoritative newscaster's voice, on a station known for its laid-back DJs. "I had the good fortune to spend more than a decade at KSAN getting paid to spend time and scheme with some of the brightest, most talented people in radio history, at a time of musical and journalistic ferment not seen in a century," he said.

When those times changed, McQueen adapted, taking on carpentry jobs between radio stints. "I've worked in just about every radio format," he said, from country (on KNEW) to rock (on KFRC and KKCY, "The City"), and including smooth jazz at KKSF. As he reasoned: "A microphone is a microphone." But few announcers made radio sound better. In his blog on SFGate, Rich ("Big Vinny") Leiberman quoted media analyst Paul Stern saying that McQueen had the "best pipes" in the world.

-- Ben Fong-Torres

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Radio Unnameable Film

Radio Unnameable tells the story of legendary New York City disc jockey Bob Fass, who pioneered free form FM radio on his long running program of the same name.

For nearly fifty years, a devoted following of night people have tuned in at midnight to hear Fass’s spontaneous mix of music, politics, poetry, social activism and open dialogue amongst fellow listeners.

Bob Fass has consistently served as a conduit for the culture at large, whether it be playing an instrumental role in the early careers of Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie, launching the Yippie movement with Abbie Hoffman or remaining a steadfast enthusiast for young activists and artists of today. Since it’s conception, there have been no boundaries for Radio Unnameable.

Fass’s unique and influential program has blazed a trail for everything from NPR to Howard Stern. Yet even so, whether against the FCC, the changing landscape of FM radio or the countless station managers at listener sponsored WBAI, Bob Fass has had to fight many battles over the years to keep his show on the air.

The documentary film Radio Unnameable is not only about Bob Fass and his legion of listeners but also the story of FM radio, it’s evolution, and the struggle to keep free expression on the airwaves.

For more information and to donate to the project, please go to:


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birth of KFML

Recently, I received email from Patricia Bancker, the wife of the original owner of KFML before it was freeform, when it was a classical station. Here is what she wrote:

"I was noting some of the information you have online about KFML and I never see you mention the actual birth of the station, which you may find of interest. My husband, Evert Abram Bancker, Jr., purchased the station while he was living in Chicago attending the University of Chicago and moved it lock, stock and barrel from Chicago to Denver.

"His vision was of a purist classical radio station, which is what KFML was originally. He also had, in the lower below ground level beneath the station on Fillmore Street, a record/hi-fi store which also sold high end electronics and furniture. That was known as the Allegro Music store. It had two huge fish tanks at the entrance and usually had a huge lizard whose name was Quazimoto tied outside at the entrance. The lizard finally broke loose one day and made the front page of the Denver Post as it was captured and placed in the zoo.

"As Evert was well in advance of his time, the station of course didn't make any money. He tried to manage with subscriptions but was certainly ahead of PBS and that didn't work very well. KFML ended up in receivership and was purchased sometime in the early 60s by a family who maintained some of the classical repertoire, but gradually it evolved into what I heard (we had moved to Europe by then) it became, which is what you are speaking about.

"... My husband's first wife, Janet, is still living and might remember some of the old staff that worked there. I simply cannot recall any names, but some of them did stay with the new owners after it went into receivership. I recall the attorney in the receivership, who remained a friend, was Leslie Gross. Leslie was killed flying into Aspen in a small plane from Denver in the 60s. Not that that makes any difference. If Janet recalls any details however that may be of interest I will pass them on to you..."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

KPIG Dries Up

KPIG continues to decrease the number of live DJ's, marking the beginning of the end.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

John Leonard (1939-2008)

John Leonard was extremely important in the creation of what became known as "Free Form Radio" and its derivative spellings. While I would not say he was the "Father of Freeform Radio" -- that is Bob Fass' mantle -- there is no denying Leonard's influence.

( John Leonard image courtesy of KPFA )

[ From: "Above the Fold: Remembering John Leonard - Literary lions celebrate the legendary critic," By Charles Kaiser, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, March 3, 2009 ]

Family members, former colleagues, important writers, and intimate friends gathered yesterday to praise the critic John Leonard for his “love of the life of the mind,” his “incomparably informed generosity,” his reluctance to “pan books or movies or TV shows or children, except when absolutely necessary”—and his unlikely dependence on just ten words: “tantrum, cathedral, linoleum, moxie, thug, dialectic, splendid, brood, libidinal, and qualm.”

Leonard died of lung cancer the day after Barack Obama was elected president last November, but his family waited until what would have been Leonard’s seventieth birthday to celebrate his life.

The two-hour-and-ten-minute memorial at the Unitarian Church on Central Park West in Manhattan began with a thirty-second welcome from Fran Lebowitz, who strode to the podium in a black suit jacket, white dress shirt, blue jeans, and brown boots—an outfit Leonard would have appreciated, partly because it could have been a sartorial homage to himself.

Lebowitz is one of scores of writers—Toni Morrison, who was also present, is another—who loved Leonard for who he was, and for the fact that he was the first critic to propel her to prominence from his most powerful launching pad, The New York Times.

Here is how Leonard celebrated the then-unknown Lebowitz, when she published Metropolitan Life:

To a base of Huck Finn, add some Lenny Bruce and Oscar Wilde and Alexis de Tocqueville, a dash of cab driver, an assortment of puns, minced jargon, and top it off with smarty-pants. Serve without whine. This is the New York style, and I for one am glad that it survives and prospers because otherwise we might as well grow moss in unsurprising Omaha.

Obviously, he had spotted a kindred spirit.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Leonard was the critical wunderkind of the New York literary world. Hired as an editor of the Sunday New York Times Book Review in the fall of 1967, Leonard became a daily book critic in 1968 and the editor of the Book Review at the end of 1971. No other journalistic ascent has been more meteoric than that.

Three months into his tenure as the Book Review’s boss, Leonard published an issue mostly devoted to books attacking the Vietnam War. He kept the top job at the publication until 1975, when his incapacity to adjust his principles landed him in the position of the Times’s “cultural critic” at large instead. When Leonard returned to being a daily book critic, his review of Lou Cannon’s new biography of Ronald Reagan was killed outright by his increasingly conservative boss, Abe Rosenthal. Then Leonard panned a book by Betty Friedan, a close friend of Rosenthal’s, and the frequency of his daily book reviews was cut in half. Leonard left the paper in 1982, but remained an occasional contributor to the Book Review until the end of his life.

Earlier Leonard had worked for the National Review and had been a student at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley he was also the impresario of “Nightsounds” at KPFA, the local outlet of the Pacifica Foundation, which was one of the earliest promoters of what we would later call the counterculture. Larry Josephson told yesterday’s gathering that tapes of “Nightsounds” were sent by fourth-class mail from KPFA to WBAI in New York, where a young late-night announcer named Bob Fass would play them. This made Leonard the father of free-form radio, a format embraced by Josephson, Steve Post, and, most famously, Fass—whose “Radio Unnameable” on WBAI launched a crucial anti-Vietnam hymn called “Alice’s Restaurant” a few years later.

Josephson called Leonard his “mentor, model, and friend. And my moral compass.…”

John wrote with a machine gun, spraying his readers with a dazzling and daunting fusillade of language.…John never sold out. Let me repeat that: John never sold out.

Before Berkeley, Leonard was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he caught the attention of Victor Navasky with a front-page piece in the Harvard Crimson, under the byline “John D. Leonard” (like “James B. Reston,” Leonard later discarded the middle initial as unnecessary).

Navasky, the future editor of The Nation (and future chairman of CJR), was then publishing a satirical magazine called Monocle, which was the subject of one of Leonard’s earliest, unbridled attacks. Yesterday, Navasky read the lead of Leonard’s story:

In this somber age of Nixon, Nikes, and Maidenform Bras, we make very few demands on anyone with the courage to be funny. But even within this abysmal temperance, we look at the latest issue of Monocle (a magazine of political satire) much like the young man watching his mother-in-law plunge over a cliff in brand new Cadillac—with mixed emotions.

Navasky responded with a letter inviting Leonard to become one of Monocle’s contributors. Leonard eventually agreed—resulting in “Confessions of a National Review Contributor,” which he offered in the form of a parody of a letter from Whittaker Chambers to his grandchildren.

It was Leonard’s son who yesterday identified the ten most important words in his father’s gigantic lexicon. “Freud, I’m sure,” Andrew Leonard said, “would caution against the perils involved in posthumously editing one’s father.”

And yet when Leonard taught criticism at the Columbia Journalism School, his stepdaughter, Jen Nessel, recalled, “his first assignment was to trash a classic, and his last assignment was always for the students to review their fathers.”

Nessel remembered Leonard as “a giant head, a benign version of the great and powerful Oz before the curtain’s pulled back.” His first words to his granddaughter Tiana, Nessel recalled, were “class struggle.”

Next up was Toni Morrison, who called Leonard “the first critic who took me seriously as a writer.” When she left Lorain, Ohio, Morrison had New York on her mind. She assumed the city would be “fast, smart, generous, open-minded, and free. It wasn’t all of those things all the time—but John was.”

E.L. Doctorow said he had been stunned when Leonard had tracked him down to apologize after the Times Book Review had run “a short dismissive review of a novel of mine, The Book of Daniel.”

Here was the editor of the TBR apologizing for a bad review!.…He did not draw his identity from the job he held, the institution he served. With that brilliantly capacious mind he seemed to have read everyone, and to be on top of everything. A mind of swift-moving, synaptically fired thoughts so that his sentences seemed to race along and sometimes pile up in their effort to stay abreast.…Those club-sandwich sentences.

Then Doctorow offered an example of Leonard’s capacity to eviscerate with economy, by quoting his review of Norman Mailer’s The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing in the New York Review of Books:

[Mailer wrote] “That is one of the better tests of the acumen of the writer. How subtle, how full of nuance, how original, is his or her sense of the sinister?” [Leonard asked] (George Eliot? Chekhov? Stendhal?) “Few good writers come out of prison. Incarceration, I think, can destroy a man’s ability to write.” (Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Rimbaud, Koestler, Genet, Havel, Solzhenitsyn?) “It is not only that no other man writes so well about women [as D.H. Lawrence], but indeed is there a woman who can?” (If not Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison, or Colette, how about Shikibu Murasaki?) “It is possible that Bellow succeeds in telling us more about the depths of the black man’s psyche than either Baldwin or Ellison.” (No, it isn’t.)

Like his very close friend Molly Ivins, Leonard was adored by many of us for his unflinching left-wing principles. His review of James B. Stewart’s DisneyWar enumerates a few of them:

But those of us who grew up dreaming of teaching, journalism or nonprofit social service, for whom the point of an economy is to provide jobs, food, medicine and space for its citizens, for whom leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, prestaggered cash flows and capital liquidity ratios were a superstitious sort of Pythagorean number mysticism—who have always rooted for Jesse James, Calamity Jane and Willy Loman against railroads, Daddy Warbucks and J. R. Ewing, who have lined up with deerslayers and river pirates against J. P. Morgan as immortalized by Steichen, the avatars of Donald the Vulgarian and the severed ear of a kidnapped Getty—are nauseated by the celebrity chic of the megapolists who show up every year at Herb Allen’s Sun Valley media and entertainment conference to get their mugs shot by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, who would have fired Franz Kafka for looking in his mirror, seeing the modern corporation and inventing workmen’s comp, who might even have been happier in Regency England, when the poor were hanged for poaching rabbits. But then we have also wondered why the downsized and homeless haven’t stoned the smoky windows and slashed the radial tires of every stretch limo on the streets of the imperial city.

Boy was he prescient about that “superstitious sort of Pythagorean number mysticism.”

Leonard was an alcoholic who stopped drinking a couple of decades ago. In the words of his colleague Eden Ross Lipson, “he had sobriety long enough for an entire career, and used it generously.” But he was always conscious of the dangers threatening scribblers everywhere. This is what Leonard said about them in that same review of Mailer quoted by Doctorow:

Of course, it’s virtually as if writers are there to be ruined. Look at the list: booze, pot, too much sex, too little, too much failure in one’s private life, too much attention, too much recognition, too little recognition, frustration. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice—as one gets older, one becomes aware of one’s cowardice. The desire to be bold, which once was a joy, gets heavy with caution and duty. And finally there’s apathy. About the time it doesn’t seem too important to be a major writer, you know you’ve slipped far enough to be doing your work on the comeback trail.

Remarkably, Leonard never succumbed to any of those dangers. As Jen Nessel put it, “he was deeply principled in ways you don’t see much anymore.”

Last year Leonard hung on just long enough to celebrate the seventieth birthday of his wife, Sue Leonard—and to cast his vote to end a forty-year-long era of conservatism in America. Only then could he allow himself to let go.

Above the Fold: Remembering John Leonard : CJR

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bob Fass Documentary

There's a Bob Fass video documentary in the works. An intro reads:

"Radio Unnameable tells the story of legendary New York City disc jockey Bob Fass who pioneered free form FM radio on his long running program of the same name. For nearly fifty years, a devoted following of night people have tuned in at midnight to hear Fass’s spontaneous mix of music, politics, poetry, social activism and open dialogue amongst fellow listeners..."

"... Bob Fass has consistently served as a conduit for the culture at large, whether it be playing an instrumental role in the early careers of Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie, launching the Yippie movement with Abbie Hoffman or remaining a steadfast enthusiast for young activists and artists of today. Since it’s conception, there have been no boundaries for Radio Unnameable. Fass’s unique and influential program has blazed a trail for everything from NPR to Howard Stern. Yet even so, whether against the FCC, the changing landscape of FM radio or the countless station managers at listener sponsored WBAI, Bob Fass has had to fight many battles over the years to keep his show on the air. The documentary film Radio Unnameable is not only about Bob Fass and his legion of listeners but also the story of FM radio, it’s evolution, and the struggle to keep free expression on the airwaves."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


"You're Listening with Malcolm..." (1969-1992)... Here are the latest archived airchecks. See the sidebar, also:

"You're listening with Malcolm..." First of four airchecks from my brief freeform days at KMIO-FM, Sinton/Taft (Corpus Christi, Texas, radio market). KMIO-FM became better known as KNCN-FM, progressive rock. Length: 0:46:56; Quality: Fair.