Segarini: I Miss the Radio

I really do miss the radio. Oh it’s still out there, playing the hits and the product that sounds like the hits, but it just isn’t the same. Now before you start accusing me of being an old fart (which I am) and stuck in the past (which I am not), Understand that I do occasionally find a station that carries on the proud tradition of playing new music and forgotten classics and does so with engaging, witty, and knowledgeable on-air hosts. Unfortunately, very few of these stations are on the radio.

The way things are going in the Lower 48 (Amerika), Ryan Seacrest (or someone who sounds exactly like him) will be the only voice you will hear on music radio long before the end of the decade. He is being syndicated everywhere and is spreading faster than a case of crabs at a KISS reunion. I have nothing against Ryan Seacrest per se, I just wish he would stick to hosting his television shows where his teeth can light the set and his chirpy teleprompter skills can reach their full potential. Good for him for being so incredibly employed, and having a bank account bigger than Kim Kardashian’s ass, though.

Between the homogenization of the on-air sound of music radio stations, and the sameness of their playlists, I, and most people who are looking for interesting music and entertaining personalities, have turned our attention elsewhere, mostly to the internet, and to the clubs that are springing up with DJs that play more than just dance music. (Hello, Cherry Cola’s). Some of us just stay home and scour the internet or dive deep into our music collections, and talk to our kitties or dogs between tunes. You do what you can.

It has been decades since I heard a new piece of music that hit me hard on the radio, especially hearing something that touches me, on the radio first. Occasionally, they will eventually discover a great track and, after the consultants, music directors, and PDs give a thumbs up, will cautiously add it to their playlists to see if anyone wants to hear it. Yay.

I have always believed that the songs we love are snapshots of our lives. They have the ability to take us directly to where (and who) we were when we first heard them. It is a magical and wonderful power great music has over us. There was a time we would be so excited about a piece of music that we couldn’t wait to play it for our friends, see if they liked it too, proud of having discovered something we considered worthwhile. Do kids still do that? I see thousands of videos and sound cloud clips on Facebook, and a gazillion vids on YouTube, but they seem to be mostly classic tracks or friends of the people who post them. I have gone in and looked around for Drake and Pitbull, GaGa, and others, but I notice that even the ones that have had millions of hits rarely get passed around. It appears that their fans are drawn to the popularity of the artists, but they don’t seem to be invested enough to spread the word. Anybody have a different take on that?

Anyway, the radio actually led me to the path I am still on. A love of music and songs that still finds me seeking out the latest and greatest. Sadly, radio is no longer there to help me find this stuff, nor are there many jocks who are pointing the way to new and exciting music. Let’s face it, formatics, familiar sound-alike personalities, and the over all sound of the music being played has taken precedence over taking risks, music discovery, individuality, and uniqueness. Bummer.

We all have very personal experiences when it comes to songs that touched us, and many of you grew up the same way I did, with one ear always cocked toward the radio, and the radio was always on. We all had our favourite stations, our favourite jocks, and our favourite artists, but we were always open to something (or someone) new and different. I hope you share some of your personal favourites and where you first heard them with me at some point, I’d love to hear the stories. In the meantime, here are some of mine.

Dream: I was 2 years old when I got my first radio. I used to fall asleep to either Burgie Bandstand or Lucky Lager Dance Time, two music programs that were syndicated but with a difference. They originated out of the East Coast, but the shows were hosted by local disc jockeys, who were sent scripts for each show. One of the shows had this song as its closing theme. Even now, all these years later, it conjures up those clean crisp white sheets, the weight of the blankets, my teddy bear, my grandparents, and my folks. I can smell the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove and hear my mom and grandmother playing Canasta in the living room. There were a lot of great songs I still love from this era, but this one is as close to comfort food as I have ever gotten.

Goodnight My Love: I was 10 years old when this record was released, but the first time I heard it was on Stockton California’s KSTN, probably a couple of years later. It was our local R&B/Rock and Roll station that had an edge over its local competitor, KJOY, who were more apt to play a Pat Boone re-hash of a Little Richard record than the original. Jesse Belvin (who also wrote this song as well as Earth Angel for The Penguins) sang the pants off this song, just like he did on another favourite, You Cheated, by The Spaniels. Not only was this song the closing theme for Alan Freed’s radio show back east, rumour has it that an 11 year old Barry White was the piano player on the track. This brings back memories of junior high dances, sweaty palms, and Donna Hall’s well filled out Angora sweaters.

Good Golly Miss Molly: Again, KSTN was responsible for me getting into this hybrid of R&B and rock and roll. I still remember that the speakers in my Emerson table model radio and the little Zenith transistor radio my mom bought me always got turned up loud enough to distort…and wake up my dad once when I cranked it up too much, too late at night. First record to receive a “Turn that shit down” from my pop.

Love Me: By now, KJOY was full on the rock and roll bandwagon and I heard this tune one night after I had been turned on to Elvis by our neighbor, Guy Waltz, who had given me his Elvis 78s when he (Guy) went into the army. This led to buying pomade (Butch Wax brand) and growing my hair into a pompadour. The girls liked it, but my dad threw a fit and I was back to having Dean Martin length hair in no time. The vaseline-like Butch Wax remained, however.

Think: Back to KSTN. My first James Brown earworm. Not the first James Brown record I ever heard, but the first one that made me want to see someone perform live. I had seen a lot of amazing artists with my uncle Elbert at San Francisco’s Blackhawk jazz club, but this was the first time I had to see someone. A few years later, I saw him along with the next artist on this list, in Sacramento along with a couple of thousand African Americans and my friend Glenn Gallup. It was a little uncomfortable until a couple of girls asked us to dance. We were good dancers and were accepted into the ranks of Brown’s fans without incident. The tickets were 2 bucks. Imagine that.

What’d I Say: Of all the times I was fortunate enough to see Ray Charles, I will always think of the aforementioned show as the one that snapped my head back. I think KSTN played this song for years because even after I was in my first band, every group in Stockton had a version of this tune in their set lists. The best version belonged to Gary Wagner and the Nightbeats, an R&B band fronted by Wagner, whose grasp of this music was eerily authentic for a skinny white kid.

Blue Moon: Glenn Gallup, Art Jacobs, and I were in my tricked out ’56 Chevy heading toward Oakland California to the annual Oakland Custom Car Show when this song came on the radio courtesy of eithr KDIA or KSOL, the 2 Bay Area R&B stations we were in the habit of listening to. When I hear this song now (Alec Fraser and Mike Daley play my current favourite take on the tune) I am suddenly back on the freeway headed for Oakland in the Chevy, Glenn and I singing along in the front seat, Art opening cans of beer in the back. Seat belts? They didn’t exist yet.

Surfer Girl: Surfin’ USA had had some airplay in Northern California, but the surf craze was still limited to SoCal when this beauty came out. Sacramento, which would become a home away from home for the Beach Boys, had 2 fantastic rock and roll radio stations, KROY and KXOA. It was on one of those stations I first heard Surfer Girl. I was so taken with this record (and In My Room), I bought a surfboard and drove around Stockton (and everywhere else I went) with it strapped to the roof of the Chevy. When I hear this song I am creeping along Beach Street in Santa Cruz California, bumper to bumper surfers and wannabe’s, all living the California dream. I can still hear the seagulls and smell the Pacific Ocean, and hear the kids on the boardwalk screaming on the roller coaster, and I can taste the incredible salt water taffy you could buy at a little window on the boardwalk. And seriously, there was nothing quite so endearing as a lithe young girl, hair bleached golden by the sun, innocent and beautiful far beyond her own perception of herself, a quality that made you want to protect them or have them fall in love with you more than anything else. When I think of my youth, this music and Santa Cruz are almost dream-like in their power to make you hope that Heaven is like this.

Please Please Me: Bobby Mitchell played this record on KYA’s Record Race. When it lost (the second or third Beatle Record to do so) he went into a tirade that lasted for 5 minutes, yelling at his listeners to wise up, that this music was the future of rock and roll. I ran down to my local record store to ask for The Beatles records. They had never heard of them. The next February there were so many people in the record store buying Beatle records, I couldn’t get in.

The Last Time: I was in L.A hanging out in 1965 when this blasted out of my car radio courtesy of 93KHJ. The Stones had recorded it in L.A at RCA studios, where I would end up myself a couple of years later. Based on a 1955 Staples Singers song, This May Be the Last Time, the track also sports some Jimmy Page guitar, and was the Stones record that won me over. It takes me back to Sunset Strip when I hear it these days. Teen clubs everywhere, three of the greatest AM stations that ever existed (KHJ, KRLA, and KFWB) and a music scene the town could not contain. When I get the time machine and visit L.A, it will always be between 1963 and 1969 before Manson went goofy. The single after Last Time was Satisfaction. Can you say ‘arrived’?

Merry Go Round: First heard the first single (Live) on KRLA, although I had already heard the album.Another band who should have been much more successful than they were. Fronted by the drummer of the Palace Guard, the Hullabaloo nite club’s house band, Emit Rhodes gave the L.A Basin their very own Beatles. Their first album had so many great songs on it in the vein of Liverpool’s Mop Tops, that when I went back to Stockton with a test pressing of the album (like all test pressings, it had a blank white label) and told my peeps it was a Beatle album recorded between Beatles VI and Rubber Soul, not one person disbelieved it. Hearing anything from this record either takes me to Joel Larson’s (the drummer) place where I used to get my hair cut from one of his roomates, Manny, or my living room on San Joaquin Street in Stockton, where I pulled the wool over my friends ears. I was a hero until the album came out. Than, I was an asshat.

Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing: All three AM giants in L.A jumped on this record when it was released. Buffalo Springfield was so popular in their ‘hometown’ (Hollywood), that they sold out the Whiskey for days on the strength of about 13 songs, all they had at the time. This song was number one in L.A although it received very little (if any) airplay anywhere else. Another local band (like Merry Go Round) who were good enough to have the local radio stations jump on their records. If only Toronto radio stations did that now.

It’s No Secret: Tom Donahue or Bobby Mitchell played this on KYA and talked about the burgeoning San Francisco scene that they had helped create. With Signe Anderson as their lead singer, this was the first track from Jefferson Airplane I ever heard on the radio. Of course, when Donahue launched KMPX, the worlds first ‘underground’ radio station, you heard the Airplane all the time. This one takes me back to the Fillmore, doses me with good Owsley acid, and then drives me to Oakland to a Doggy Dinner for dogs and a milkshake afterward.

I Feel Free: Heard this on KISN in Portland Oregon when The Family Tree was there to play the wonderful Crystal Ballroom. We ended up at an all night party at our friend David’s apartment in an old Victorian house. We listened to the album this track was on over and over until the sun came up. Hearing this Cream song takes me back to David’s, the Puritan Cafe, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, and the Crystal every time. David always served brown rice and vegetables and these little microbiotic dried fish for snacks. I loved him like a brother, but he was such a fucking hippie.

Take it Easy: Another L.A local band success story, although I first heard the song in Montreal on CKGM. I knew Glen Frey and J.D Souther from L.A when we worked on the Vanishing Point sound track. They had a group called Longbranch Pennywhistle. We were Sunset Strip friends. One day, the 3 of us went to some girls house in Laurel Canyon to write together. We ended up drinking a case of beer, smoking joints, and telling jokes. Glen borrowed money from me for a case of beer one night at the Troubadour. He still owes me a case of beer.

Owner of a Lonely Heart: First time I heard this was when I played it on Q107. Bob Mackowycz brought a cassette of the song into the booth while I was doing afternoon drive and told me no one else in the city had it yet. He told me to put it on immediately after the record I was playing (imagine that these days). I ended up playing it 3 times in a row. I hear it now, and I’m back on the air at Q in 1983. Ian Astbury from the Cult heard it and called, and asked for a copy. Macko said sure, and they sent a limo for me to take it down to the CBC where they were filming a TV show. Radio used to be so exciting.

The Way It Is: I was in California for a few months in 1986 to be close to my mother after she had had a stroke. While I was there I found a radio station from the Bay Area, KMEL. It was unlike any I had ever heard. They were all over the road. They played everything from Beatle classics to Little Richard, to Madonna’s latest and it worked! I couldn’t stop listening. It was on KMEL that I first heard these 4 songs. All different, all wonderful pieces of music, all favourites to this day. Hornsby’s track is still the best piano based song I have ever heard. Rich in both texture and atmosphere, it still catapults me back to Stockton’s hot weather and perfect summer nights, driving my mom’s car down Pacific Avenue, and what was going to happen to me and my increasingly worsening drug problem. The next 3 songs take me back to the same time and place.

Shake You Down: Gregory Abbott had been married to Freda Payne (Band of Gold), and then had this massive hit out west. He could have been the next Marvin Gaye, but this is the only song of his that ever got any traction. Pity, he has a wonderful, soulful, voice.

You Give Love a Bad Name: He may be the butt of jokes and fans ire these days, but when the album this track was on, Slippery When Wet, was released, this guy and his band were undeniable. This came on the radio in my mom’s car when I was driving to a liquor store on Pacific. I couldn’t turn it up loud enough.

Sweet Love: This performance is so free and effortless, I couldn’t believe she could do it live. I saw her opening for Luthor Vandross at Radio City Music Hall later on, and she easily matched the recording. I went back the next night to see her and Luthor again.

Every Little Step: KMEL again, but in 1989 after my mother’s second (and nearly fatal) stroke. KMEL was what is now called an Urban station by then, but still had great ears when it came to picking songs and artists to play. The album this is from is still a mainstay around here, not a bad track on it. This one conjures up Stockton, the Bay Area, and the San Joaquin Delta, where I would blast it on the sound system in my little 1975 Fiat Spyder convertible while flying down the levee roads at sunset, a cool breeze coming off the delta mixed with the uber warm weather. The last track from Bobby is a killer ballad, both romantic and lascivious. Put in a mix with Sweet Love and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, I can guarantee you second date and third base with the right girl. Rock Wit’cha.

I Miss the Radio: So, do I really miss the radio? Really? Yep. So much so, I wrote a song about it. Here’s the demo. Are the songs we care about snapshots of our lives? Absolutely!

We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: dbawis@rogers.com Please use it to askquestions,tell us what you’d like to read about, send links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

 


6 Responses to “Segarini: I Miss the Radio”

  1. It’s No Secret – what a song ; the version did Fred proud. Liked the live Gracie incarnation Airplane version on ‘Bless It’s Little Pointed Head ‘ too. Link from a Fred Neill buff :

    http://www.wirz.de/music/neildsc.htm

    =a=

  2. Glenn Gallup Says:

    Thanks for spelling my name right, Bob. Seriously, great column. Today I find myself listening to my sattelite radio way more than the broadcast guys. But boy do I remember being in the out crowd at Stockton College because Al Palermo and Toby Stephens and I listened to KWBR in the parking lot. And I’ve got most of the 50’s and early 60’s stuff on my mp3 player.

  3. Really fun rundown of radio (in your ears), but is it a game show? She? He? Hell, I can’t remember who did “Slippery When Wet”. I can’t even remember when I took my last piss! A little help here?

    And BTW, you’re still an asshat.

    Uncle Purvis

  4. Everything you write is ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!

  5. It’s a weird thing. As I read this it dawned on me how much it meant to hear a song for the first time on the radio – the build up and anticipation for something I was waiting for made it worthwhile . To make it all that more special, it was Rivers, Cooper or Segarini that I WANTED to premier the song. I wanted them to like it and I wanted them to connect me to it and to the artist.

  6. AGAIN. BRILLIANT BOB!

    Just Posted yer Note on MY Page.

    “KnightTimeInTheCity”

    XXX

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