Sunday, October 2
Underground Radio changed my life. Underground Radio was what they called freeform AOR FM stations back in the late 1960s. It was in 1969 that I first heard WBCN in Boston, and at that time it was one of the most radically unconventional ‘rock’ radio stations in the country. Although it was a commercial station, their DJs (they called them ‘airmen’ and some of them were female) were allowed to play whatever they wanted, with no restrictions, and you could hear music sets approaching an hour in length and featuring acid rock, Greenwich Village folk, Delta blues, free jazz, classical, comedy, and anything else, all mixed in together (usually sequentially, but some late-night DJs even did simultaneous mixes: I remember one night hearing a freeform collage made up of the new Firesign Theatre album, Ravel’s Bolero, Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin’s “Je t’Aime (Moi Non Plus),” and an obscure spoken word piece by Toru Takemitsu). As Eric Burdon sang in “Spill The Wine,” “this really blew my mind!”
But things got even more interesting (and much weirder) one rainy Sunday afternoon when I was listening to WBCN on the car radio in my Dad’s Ford Falcon, and I heard Lumpy Gravy by Frank Zappa. I was twelve years old at the time, and I’d never heard anything as bizarre and unorthodox as this before. Like, #@%&*#^*+$#!*?#!, man! Hearing Zappa led me on a lifelong journey of musical discovery, and confirmed my outsider status as weird music aficionado. After that, I started buying every record by the Mothers of Invention, and reading magazine interviews with FZ in Circus, Crawdaddy and Creem, where he talked about Edgard Varese and Cecil Taylor, John Cage and Eric Dolphy, etc, and so I began exploring and buying music I’d never even heard before. And as I continued listening to ‘BCN, it wasn’t long before I discovered other artists such as Captain Beefheart, the Velvet Underground, White Noise and others, always passionately interested in discovering new and unusual sounds while remaining a rock & roller at heart.
But back in the 1970s (at least in Eastern Massachusetts where I grew up), WBCN wasn’t the only radio station that played music outside the mainstream. There were about half a dozen college stations in addition to the prestigious PBS outlet WGBH, all non-commercial and mostly clustered down around the low end of the FM dial, coming out of Boston, Worcester and Providence, R.I. If I got bored with what the DJ was playing on ‘BCN (and that station really started veering toward a more conventional AOR programming structure around 1972 or so, when they moved their studio from the heart of the red light district up to the top of the Prudential Building and started running commercials for motor vehicle companies and so forth). There was WBUR, coming out of Boston University, which had a lot of great jazz programming. And Brown University in Providence to the south had a great station called WBRU, and that was where I first heard Faust in 1973, around the time they signed to Virgin and released The Faust Tapes. This was another great mind expansion for me, and it led to my personal discovery of the whole previously uncharted territory of ‘import records’ and all the amazing bands from the UK and Europe who put out fantastically inventive music on labels that were not generally distributed in the US. So while I was getting into all this weird music, it was the same time as I was digging prog and glam stuff and the other groups who never made it onto American Top 40 radio, from Gentle Giant to Roxy Music.
And then Punk happened. And New Wave. And Industrial. An ever expanding musical universe, to the point where even the most dedicated musical explorer can’t begin to discover half of the stuff that’s out there these days, what with the explosion of the internet, independent record labels and distributors, bedroom musicians… and radio stations like this one!
So back when I was a teenager, holed up in my bedroom listening to Yoko Ono’s Fly on my Nikko receiver, Miracord turntable and Advent loudspeakers, I used to think that if I had a radio program of my own, I’d like to call it “Mindtrain,” after the propulsive, rocking freakout track of the same name on Yoko’s double LP. I’ve waited a long time to make this happen, and with the help of the people who’ve brought this station into existence, here it is!
The music on this first episode of Mindtrain runs the gamut from psychedelia to warped out trip hop, avant-garde jazz to adult contemporary, No Wave to dark ambient/industrial. Old favorites from my youth and fresh new releases from this past year. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, folks. Listen and enjoy…
The playlist gives artist name, song title, and album title (in that order). A space between lines of text indicates the break between sets where track announcements were made.
Playlist for Mindtrain 01 – 02 August 2011
- Yoko Ono – Mindtrain – Fly
- The Move – It Wasn’t My Idea – Message From The Country
- Ildfrost – Poppycock – Possum Play Falcon
- Cyclobe – Ayin Acla (Third Dream Of The Night Circle) – Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Window
- Pixyblink – Condemnation – Flameless Lantern
- Paul Haines / Carla Bley & The Jazz Composers Orchestra – Why – Escalator Over The Hill
- Alejandro Jodorowsky – Topo Triste – El Topo (Original Soundtrack)
- Scott Walker – Wait Until Dark – Scott 2
- Swing Out Sister – Somewhere Deep In The Night / The Vital Thing – Somewhere Deep In The Night
- Cockney Rebel – Ritz – The Psychomodo
- Mary & The Boy – Mama – Mary And The Boy
- Rhea Tucanae & Pixyblink – Star-Winds – Fungi From Yuggoth
- Mary And The Boy – Death / Cock – Mary And The Boy
- Maki Asakawa – Flash Dark – Black
- Paul Haines / Carla Bley & The Jazz Composers Orchestra – End Of Rawalpindi – Escalator Over The Hill
- The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – Could’ve Moved Mountains – Demonlover (Original Soundtrack)