Before I started writing about music as my mission and living, my heart belonged to radio – specifically, the everything-goes FM rock & roll broadcasting pioneered by Tom Donahue in San Francisco in the late Sixties. I heard it in Philadelphia on WDAS and the early WMMR, in the soft-spoken magnetism and informed passions of local-hero DJs such as Dave Herman, Michael Cuscuna, Michael Tearson, Ed Sciaky and My Father’s Son – the last so named because Steve Leon (his real name) was the son of the owner of WDAS. Among the benefits of that connection: I remember the night Leon played the MC5‘s “Kick Out the Jams” with the “motherfuckers” intro, as soon as it came out in February, 1969. He didn’t get fired.
I had my shot in college radio, then for a year on a non-commercial FM station in Philly, hosting an hour of free-associative segues on Saturdays at midnight. Since then, I have been lucky and honored to spin records as a guest DJ in Australia; on Sirius XM’s Pearl Jam channel; and during this year’s SXSW on KUTX in Austin, Texas with two great friends, KUTX host and Austin radio legend Jody Denberg and singer-songwriter and Beatles connoisseur Robyn Hitchcock.
Back on the Air
I never got a job in broadcasting. But as a writer, I still aspire to the highest rock-radio ideals, particularly the exuberant purism and uncompromised nurturing spirit I always heard in British broadcasting legend John Peel. Fricke’s Picks Radio is basically my life and work on the air, drawn from every corner of my listening with no logic other than the action at the moment – new releases, current stories and memorable gigs; those artists and records who are always within arm’s reach of the stereo – and sequenced, I hope, as a great ride.
There may be themes and annotation on occasion; streaming licenses will inevitably limit some of my preferences; and frequency could get irregular, depending on deadlines and road work. But everything you hear will come from my own heavy rotation and constant exploration. This inaugural episode, for example, combines recent writing on Green Day, SXSW and an Ohio underground institution, the 15.60.75 Numbers Band; favorite sides by the Ramones and the Black Crowes (the latter about to go back on tour); a nod to that morning on KUTX, playing Beatles records with Robyn and Jody; and a dynamic small-club evening, a few weeks ago, with the fire-jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing.
The short description: This is what I do. This is how it sounds.