Wolfs, Lambs, Leopards, Kids, Rockers, Cops, Criminals

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Good news for my fellow Angelenos and rockers of goodwill everywhere with access to its web feed: despite idiotic Federal Communications Commission regs that counted Clear Channel's ad sales responsibilities for the station as tantamount to ownership, pushing Clear Channel over its legal ownership limit for L.A., and thus almost killing it, it appears that L.A.'s Indie 103.1, the best commercial radio station I've heard in all my born days, won't be going away at the end of the month.

This happy news reminded me of one of my happiest moments of many listening to the station (random sampling of stuff heard in the past week from DJs ranging from Dickie Barrett to Rob Zombie to Steve Jones: Ray Stevens' "The Streak," John Cale's "Mr. Wilson," Mott the Hoople's "Drivin Sister," the Cramps' "Route 66," Dionne Warwick's "Say a Little Prayer," The Cure's "Jumping Someone Else's Train," Beach Boys' "You're So Good to Me," Jimmy Buffett's "Pirate Looks at Forty," Buzzcocks' "I Believe," Replacements' "Kiss Me on The Bus," Stooges' "Raw Power," and that's not to mention any of the at least twice daily doses of X, Ramones, the Clash, and all the mostly great new stuff in medium rotation from The Gorillaz, Stereophonics, Ben Lee, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Social Distortion, Kaiser Chiefs, Futureheads, fresh mash-ups daily, and lots more–even as I type, a "Whole Lotta Love"/"Drop It's Like It's Hot" amalgam is amusing me), when former Sex Pistol Steve Jones had as a guest for a full hour on his show none other than Peter Frampton.

Were one to try to make pop music history into a war–as many critics like to do–one could not come up with a more perfect and total Enemy for the Pistols than Peter Frampton, who dominated 1976 (the year the Pistols recorded and released their first single) with his, so the story goes, teeny-bopper poster-hanging wimpy overly polished forgettable crap, the epitome of the spavined, weak pop the Pistols were supposed to be in ideological and sonic revolt against.

As an enthusiastic fan of music from the Cowsills to the Swans, from Bob Dylan to Public Enemy, I've never liked narratives that tried to limit the range of popular music that was considered acceptable, respectable, canonical, worthwhile. I like amusing and crazy and catchy and warming and heated and smart and stupid tunes of all varieties, and it made me smile to hear the punker and the teen idol hanging out like a pair of daft old friendly British blokes who liked playing the guitar and loved pop music (as evidenced by his DJ choices, Jonesy the Pistol still loves the ska, bubblegum, glam, and pub rock he grew up on more than the punk rock that followed in his wake) singing together on an impromptu strummed "Show Me the Way" cover and laughing at Jonesy's suggestion that he could have used one of Frampton's talk boxes in the Pistols day to vomit into, and then hit a big chord and propel the vomit into the crowd.

It was fun, and funny, and unwittingly ecumenical and open-hearted and reminded me of the sportsmanlike way simply human enthusiasms and affections can outweigh the most fervant us v. them ideological warfare that it amuses people to generate out of any old thing. I got a similar reaction that same week seeing a screening of Return Engagement, a documentary from 1983 about a dual debate/lecture tour by Timothy Leary and Gordon Liddy, a man who once arrested him.

Something sweet there is about seeing people not let themselves be trapped into enmity by social game rules and expectations, and the lure of watching an amusing and warm chumminess grow and dissolve the barriers between the two men, on opposite sides of a moment in history, but united by wide libertarian streaks (yes, even in the sometimes authority- and duty-worshipping Liddy), the bond of understanding and character between ex-jailbirds, and a winning cussedness and independence.

NEXT: The Scatter Plot Against America

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  1. Nice essay. Does that station webcast? I’d like to check it out.

  2. That reminds me a little of the time Don Henley joined Mojo Nixon on stage in Austin to sing Nixon’s “Don Henley Must Die.”

  3. I listen at work every day, via the web. Love it, even though there’s too much Clash sometimes.

    I listen to Steve Jones sounding like your daffy but loveable uncle and realize how old I am now. Skinny ties and safety pins in a lapel look really dumb on a 44-year-old man

  4. College or non-commerical radio is still the best, bar none.

  5. “That reminds me a little of the time Don Henley joined Mojo Nixon on stage in Austin to sing Nixon’s “Don Henley Must Die.””

    Now if he could get Martha Quinn to join him on stage for “stuffin’ Martha’s muffin”, that would really be something.

  6. It’s not like Martha Quinn is doing anything else. Getting Princess Di to join in on “Drunk Divorced Floozy”, that would be impressive.

  7. Brian–

    I *saw* the Leary and Liddy show when they came to Gainesville. I was not impressed–they were far more interested in posturing and belting out the usual rants to their usual constituencies than they were in actually engaging each other. Their act makes the presidential debates look downright academic by comparison. Maybe they were just having a bad day, but I don’t think so.

  8. Chuck–I saw the Liddy/Leary show live as well, at Jacksonville University–probably the same week you saw them, I’d imagine, if the tour was sensibly booked. The movie, however, is only about 1/3 concerned with actual footage of the show, which are its weakest parts–its the backstage stuff, the Learys and the Liddys breakfasting and dinnering and partying together and chatting with motorcycle gangs roadside, that make RETURN ENGAGEMENT sing. Still not on DVD, alas, as far as I know.

  9. Brian–

    I don’t disagree that the backstage stuff would be interesting. I guess what pissed me off was that I came there expecting a debate: you know, where one side makes an argument and the other rebuts, etc. (Shows my naivete as a student 🙂 ) I left there feeling like, not only were they chumming it up backstage, but just going through half-assed motions on stage, just to collect a check and go party together some more. It was kind of like a bad professional wrestling match.

    I think it’s great that people from opposite sides of the ideological spectrum can hang out together and find common ground. I just don’t like footing the bill for it with my student fees.

  10. “I got a similar reaction that same week seeing a screening of Return Engagement, a documentary from 1983 about a dual debate/lecture tour by Timothy Leary and Gordon Liddy, a man who once arrested him.”

    I saw that documentary when I was still in high school. I vaguely remember a guy at the mike who’d taken a shot gun blast to the face. The person who shot him was apparently on acid at the time.

    …Surely that wasn’t the first time someone confronted Leary with some grisly tale of an acid trip gone awry, and yet Leary seemed shaken by this.

  11. I too saw the Leary/Liddy show. I too was disappointed. Leary could barely put a complete thought together, and frequently stopped talking mid sentence to admire the ceiling tiles. I remember thinking that Liddy would have done well in the Third Reich, as he seemed to be lamenting that the US joined up with Allies.

    Much better was the Flint/Falwell circus that came to town the following decade. Larry and Jerry could have had their own morning drive show I think. Both men were more reasonable and entertaining than I had expected.

  12. Larry and Jerry may have been able to go up against Curtis and Kuby in the morning.

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