Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Magic Man



It was late March/early April 1977, the near end of the coldest winter I'd ever lived through. Sara Smile by Hall and Oates was still popular and I was still playing it at least every few days. It was classified as a "recurrent hit", one whose audience re-surges like a new moon tide, and my pie chart instructions called for 1 recurrent an hour along with 8 hits, 2 oldies, 1 (pick) black/country, 12 minutes of commercials, 6 minutes of news and weather and fill with chatter of my choosing.

None of the bands that I played were personal favorites, except Heart and Fleetwood Mac I suppose. But Fleetwood had turned to the dark side and dropped their blues roots in favor of pop/cash, and Heart...as much as I enjoyed their music, I was really a fan because of Nancy Wilson's stunning face and prowess with a guitar. She was blessed to be my teenage celebrity crush for the year.

A diskjockey rarely picks his own music, most every radio station has some guidelines, some much stiffer than others. And my employer had just seen fit to hire a consultant; a severely anal dweeb that pinned our freedoms to the wall like donkey tails.

It's lazy man's radio, the only difficulty was staying awake. But as this was only my second gig in the biz and the boss seemed to like me, I played my "personality" to the hilt and tried to sound as charged up as I could under the circumstances.

That's when my first wife Anita left me, or I left her actually, once her boredom with me and her many lover solution to it became public knowledge. Life thenbecame very complicated.

I loved all music once, I prided myself in being able to pick out the slightest use of some oblique instrumentation. I knew players and writers, arrangers and producers names and bios as well as some baseball freak might know each date of Babe Ruth's many home runs. It was all self taught and rarely if ever exposed. My love was personal; music moved me like good sex or a great ethnic meal.

I'd never paid much attention to lyric beyond the titles; mood and intent wasn't my bag and let's face it, the vast majority of seventies pop lyric was pretty damn silly overall. It was singer range and tone, musician ability and taste that flipped my switch; the right combination could make me hold my breath until I turned blue. I'm the guy who sits in Orchestra Hall with tears running down his face, who is respectful enough to his neighbors that he doesn't sniff, blow, wheeze, snivel, wipe or otherwise draw attention to the fact that the movement is killing him.

So it was quite a surprise when I discovered that 80% of the lyric I was playing at the time was based in unrequited love. It kinda snuck up on me about the time that I'd rolled out a mattress in the back of my 1964 Chevrolet station wagon, Red Fred, and began to sleep in highway rest stops and farm field tree lines.

It was enough that I was pulling my hair out about the realities of my impending doom while keeping quiet enough about it that my job wouldn't be in jeopardy.

I'd spend my shift perkily vamping about the great springtime weather and then start "Torn Between Two Lovers" or "If You Leave Me Now", their bittersweet words piercing my brain like "Nightmare on Elm Street" Freddie's fingers.

Was it too much to ask that songwriters pen a few happy tunes while I was dying? Apparently. After sleeping in the back of a station wagon in 20 degrees, I was blessed to sit behind the mic every day and announce the titles Don't go Breakin' My Heart, Love Hurts, All By Myself, 50 Ways to Leave your Lover, Kiss and Say Goodbye, Never Gonna Fall in Love Again, Nights Are Forever Without You, Lost Without Your Love, Here Come Those Tears Again, The First Cut is the Deepest and a few dozen other tunes in that happy talk that 70's jocks were famous for.

And as if that wasn't enough, I suffered through imagining my wife and her many new gymnastics partners while playing Tonight's the Night, Close to You, Sweet Thing, Devil Woman, You are the Woman, Love So Right, After the Lovin, Night Moves, Someone to Lay Down Beside Me, and New Kid in Town.

Add insult to injury and some armchair philosophers taunted me with Stand Tall, ObLaDi ObLaDa and Take it Like a Man.

For three months I was homeless, paying off my wife's newly acquired std treatments, waving to my fans and watching them titter over my marital complications and spinnin' singles that ripped music appreciation from every pore of my body. And then I turned in my notice and vanished; I couldn't take it any more.

I surfaced in the teeny town of Waupaca, Wisconsin, at a station in need of a programmer and heavy metal jock. So I gave them after dinner Floyd and Steely Dan and Captain Beyond and Tom Waits and anything I could dig up that would not remind me of my sorrows. It worked pretty much; I got past my musical angst and all was well...until I was robbed, conned out of my job and ripped a hernia into my list of physical maladies. But peace was good while it lasted. I'd finally understood, the phrase "a moment's peace" meant exactly what it said.

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