Friday, April 20, 2012

Notes in and on passing

There has simply been too much going on in my life the past few weeks. Our beloved Community Radio Station, WVEW-lp rose like the proverbial phoenix from the water logged ashes of downtown Brattleboro's Brooks House, which was nearly destroyed by fire a year ago.

When a radio station goes off the air due to such circumstances, it has exactly one year to return to broadcasting or lose its license. On Tuesday evening, April 10th, at just about 8:10pm, I used a computer at the station's new studio to log into the transmitter and turn it on. I used You Tube to play the Hallelujah Chorus. I had also used the same piece a few days previous on the first broadcast test of the new set up. The choice was corny, but we had just saved the license, with six days to spare so I make no apologies.

As the transmitter was turned on. Left to right, Dan Lefkowitz, Scott Brown (in green), myself (at the computer), Rolf Parker-Houghton, Stephen Frankel, and Lauren Reedy - some of the members of the WVEW-lp Board.

I also threw the switches that originally put the station on the air back in 2006. In those days, I played the Ramones "We Want the Airwaves", which was the song I used when I threw the switches a couple of times for our former community station, radio free brattleboro. All of this is a very long story, which will hopefully be told one day, but today is not that day.

Today, I wanted to note the passing of another icon of my youth. A few days ago, we lost Dick Clark. Forget the "America's Oldest Living Teenager" nickname. Forget the New Year's Eve shows from Times Square (sorry, New Year's Eve will always have Guy Lombardo playing in my mental soundtrack). Forget the cheesy tv specials. Back when I was a kid, there was "Bandstand". It was a show out of nearby Philadelphia, and was on everyday at, oh, was it 3 or 4pm on WFIL, the fledgling ABC network on broadcast channel 6. It was an hour and a half long in those days. You have to understand something here. My first record player, a children's toy, played 78 rpm records. Music when I was old enough to have some idea of what I was listening to was still by and large the music of the big band era. The first movie I can remember seeing, shortly before my fifth birthday, had a song in it which became a huge hit: "Rock Around the Clock". I was a child of the birth of rock and roll. And Bandstand brought rock and roll into my living room. And Dick Clark hosted and produced that show. I never watched it a lot - but I certainly watched the guest stars like Bobby Rydell (a Philadelphia boy!) and to see the teenagers dancing.

Dick Clark interviewing Bobby Rydell (a big star back in the day) on American Bandstand.

 I was especially fond of the summer version, as on Saturdays it would broadcast from the World Famous Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I don't know how a logo for a tv station in St. Louis got in here, but much of this clip is from one of those summer shows:

There were frequent camera shots of the ocean, and the famous diving horse. I can't recall just when the program changed its name to "American Bandstand", but I think it was around the end of the 1950s. In those days, the average wage was $ 5,000 dollars a year. A car cost over $2,000 dollars, and you ordered it with the extras (like a radio) you wanted and then waited for it to be made in Detroit and delivered to your local dealership. A jar of peanut butter cost 29 cents. I lost interest in the show after my early teen years, and besides, the show had moved to Los Angeles and wasn't local anymore. But it, and Dick Clark (bless him) live on in my memory. Thank You, Mr. Clark, for helping usher in an era, and showing it to me.

Levon Helm also passed away this week. He was the drummer and a lead vocalist for The Band. I was a fan. Back when I used to help run the Purple Dragon Coffeehouse in Ocean City, we also had a coffeehouse in Somers Point, across the bay, called The Fish Market - because that's what the building had been. It was next door to a club called Tony Mart's. The Band used to play there under a couple of different names before they became The Band. I've been aware of them for a very long time. I treasure my copy of "Music From Big Pink", one of the graetest rock albums ever released. I saw them live, when they backed Bob Dylan at the Madison Square Garden when Dylan finally returned to live performing years after his motorcycle accident.

Here's Levon Helm's vocal leading off one of my favorite songs from the Big Pink album.

The above clip is from the movie "The Last Waltz", a film of the final performance of the Band. When I was working in the movie business in NYC, my friend John Chiafalo and his brother were rehabbing an old brownstone they had bought in Brooklyn. As they near completion, they held a party to celebrate. I got them a 16mm print of "The Last Waltz" which we showed in one of the larger rooms. Needless to say, it was a popular stop on the house party tour.

Mr. Helm had his ups and downs, and over the last few years had re-emerged into the public eye - and discovered that he had an audience who fondly remembered him. He lost his battle with cancer yesterday. The final number the Band ever performed together seems like a fitting send off. You don't get a chance to see much of Mr. Helm in this clip, and his distinctive voice blends in with and many of his (and The Band's) friends. The Weight has finally been lifted, and Levon Helm has been released. Rest well, sir. Rest well.


ricola said...

Congratulations on the renewal of your radio license!!!

sdt said...

Thank You! And just as I got your note, I also got a message that the link to our webstream has been returned to our WVEW webpage. Many of the station's volunteers still need to be trained on the new set up, but our shows are returning. I still haven't had time to breathe and realize that this is real. (Insert smiley thingy of your choice!)