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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Joseph R. Balint Jr., "Civitas Romanas"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

15. JOSEPH R. BALINT JR: "Civitas Romanas [TIRnRR ID]"

Somewhere, in a distant and exotic land, maybe there are community radio stations that don't perpetually teeter on the brink of financial oblivion. But that's not how it is in Syracuse.

Syracuse Community Radio was the original home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a partnership that predates TIRnRR's first broadcast at the end of 1998. SCR operated WXXE-FM in rural Fenner, NY, where its weak signal was heard mostly by the local cattle (who, oddly enough, turned out to be big fans of both The Cowsills and The Dead Milkmen). Hoping to connect with a few human listeners, SCR scraped up loose change and empty promises to start a webcast. WXXE could no longer afford music programming, so it switched to an all-talk format, leaving the music shows as online options only. Financial woes scuttled the webcast in early 2007, prompting a divorce from SCR and the formation of TIRnRR's new streaming home on the independent Westcott Radio. We later reconciled with SCR, and have effectively joined hands as the new Spark Syracuse, which should commence FM broadcasting in Syracuse soon.

Definitely soon.

Our incessant, near-crushing need for cash flow means we have a tin cup in our hands as often as we hold a microphone. Community radio is, by definition, listener supported. We can't sell advertising time. Bake sales don't really cut it when we need to raise thousands of dollars, so we solicit donations from those who either love us, or are at least willing to sort of tolerate us. Trying to concoct a scheme to accumulate some coin, we emulated our heroes, The Monkees:

MICKY DOLENZ: I've got it!


MICKY DOLENZ: A brilliant idea!

OTHER MONKEES: What is it?

MICKY DOLENZ: No, that's what we need, a brilliant idea!

Our brilliant idea was Who Needs Dana & Carl?, allowing listeners who donate $100 or more the opportunity to program the music for one three-hour radio show. And that, in roundabout fashion, is how we came to meet Mr. Joseph R. Balint Jr.

Joe arrived in Syracuse as plus-one on the arm of  his charming wife, Eleanor Cook. I don't have any recollection whatsoever of how we first came into contact with North Carolina's phenomenal pop couple, but Eleanor's been listening to us for years, and she's been an active and enthusiastic participant in the show's Sunday night Facebook chat group. Eleanor donated to the first Who Needs Dana & Carl? promotion (whenever that was), and she submitted a mighty fine playlist for us to program in the studio. She donated again in 2013, and this time her travel plans already included a visit to, I think, the Buffalo area. Since she and Joe would be just one area code away from Syracuse anyway, a Sunday night side trip to Westcott Radio seemed in order.

On June 2nd, 2013, Dana and I got to meet Eleanor and Joe at the glorified closet we call a studio. Eleanor took over a mic and both CD players for an effervescent 'n' engaging edition of The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. Joe was mostly in the background, diggin' the tunes and the vibe. And, at one point late in the proceedings, Joe decided he wanted to take a brief, active role. In so doing, he entered the realm of TIRnRR history.

Eleanor said Joe wanted to do a show ID. Fine by us. Joe took the mic, and Joe testified:

Ladies and gentlemen! Friends and neighbors! Civitas Romanas! This is Rock 'n' Roll Radio! And, for the particular purpose on this particular planet, it is excellantum ... maximus ... friggamus!

We were stunned. I think I may have applauded. My high school Latin teacher mighta been horrified if he'd heard. We were simply tickled. We now play Joe's ID nearly every week. From seeming happenstance to joyous habit, it's now a welcome fixture on TIRnRR.

We used to say that community radio, particularly our community radio station, relies on the kindness of strangers, like a rock 'n' roll Blanche DuBois. But it's not true. We rely on the kindness of friends. We rely on friends like Eleanor and Joe. Excellantum. Maximus. Friggamus.

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