Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's All a Dream We Dreamed

one afternoon, long ago
n. Philosophy.
  1. The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.
  2. The theory or view that the self is the only reality.
Some say solipsism was the disease of the 20th century, or at least that's what they said back in the 20th century. This radio station I'm writing about is so narrowly focused, it almost seems like some kind of personal dream, made just for me. I have no idea how many others relate to it like I do!

There has been a very strange thing on the AM dial recently in the Bay Area. KTRB has moved its 50,000 watt transmitter from Modesto to the Bay Area, and has been 'testing the transmitter' by playing exclusively (with some exceptions) music of the classic San Francisco Sound bands. There have been no commercials, only these odd, often tacky promos about how they don't know what format the station will be playing. One friend described it as KFRC (oldies station) for aging hippies. Perhaps he's right.

It's an odd experience to drive around the City, and hear Quicksilver's "What About Me?" followed by "The Fool," their big closing track from the first Quicksilver album. I don't think I'd heard the song in decades, and there it was, wafting into my car on tinny AM frequencies. I have heard it a few more times since then, and it still amazes me how powerful this band was at one point. "Pride of Man," "Dino's Song," and even "Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder!"

The other morning on my way to work, I heard the Airplane's "Comin' Back to Me," and was immediately transported back into my bedroom at my parents' house in Cupertino, in 1967, listening to my GE portable stereo, with maybe a bayberry candle burning for mood. This haunting song hasn't been on the radio in what seems like forever. Could this really be happening? Could I be driving through Golden Gate Park on a dark misty morning listening to this song?
I realize I've been here before.
The shadow in the mist
Could have been anyone--
I saw you, I saw you,
Coming back to me.
And in typical fashion, I have heard this song several times since, but it still sounds beautiful. I love "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" but why don't I ever hear this song anymore?

They even played "Masked Marauder" from Country Joe and the Fish's first album, a short cinematic instrumental. I wrote a poem in high school based around my impressions of this song. About all I can remember now is some line I wrote about the "Stranger that everyone knows" coming down from the hills. Great tune. Barry Melton was definitely as hot as anyone back then on guitar. He became a lawyer over 20 years ago.

When Moby Grape's "Omaha" explodes out of my car radio, their potency and intensity puts them in a special class. There's something almost punkish about the music, but simultaneously virtuosic (is that a word?) And to think this album also contains the extremely short "Naked if I Want to."
Can I buy an amplifier, on time
Well I ain't got no money
But I will pay you before I die
One of the things I have enjoyed is the lost art of playing 'sets' of artists. In a galaxy far away, in KMPX/KSAN land, if the DJ felt like it, you could hear 2, 3, or more songs in a row by the same artist. No media consultant told them they couldn't do it. I have heard "Children of the Future" going into "Quicksilver Girl" and then maybe into some live Steve Miller track I didn't even know ("Evil?")

I have heard "White Bird" now and then over the years, but once again, how could I get tired of this? It's a great "car song" and I always flash back to returning home from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in my parent's Mustang, driving through a 'tunnel of violins' (the multitracked end of the solo section) with my sister Rickie and Bill, a college roommate. Summer of '69 indeed!

KTRB has been playing lots of big Janis hits, but also some great tracks you don't hear anymore, like "Bye Bye Baby" from the first Mainstream LP. Looking at the crude album art takes me back to seeing it for sale in the store window of a record shop on Haight St. when it was released.

I know it may be hard for some of you who know me to hear this, but they might play a little too much Dead. I like the song, but hearing "Hell in a Bucket" just doesn't seem right in this milieu. Otherwise, it's been good, driving around, cruisin' to tunes, and hearing "Morning Dew" off the first LP whilst traversing Golden Gate Park.

There's been more, and I will be sad on the day I turn my radio on, and find something else coming out of 860 AM, but for now I will take the time warp, and be glad for the good times.

And yes, I have been blessed to hear "Box of Rain" too:
It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
But it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
and a short time to be there