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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 NewsThe Syracuse New Times, Big Stir magazine, and AHOY Comics.  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.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

BOPPIN' THE WHOLE FRIGGIN' PLANET (The History Of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO), Part 2: We're Your Friends For Now!

As This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl celebrates its 20th anniversary, it's time for a look back at who we are, how we came to be, and our long history of claiming to be The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. We stand by that claim. You can read Part 1 here.



It was Dana's idea.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl debuted on December 27th, 1998. It was the beginning of a long Sunday night tenure that has now lasted for more than 950 shows over the course of two decades. But it wasn't the first Dana & Carl radio show; it was a continuation of something we'd already started years before. If we're going to tell the history of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, we have to tell the prehistory. We have to start with We're Your Friends For Now, and how We're Your Friends For Now eventually led to TIRnRR.

I met Dana some time in the '80s. Our paths almost certainly crossed early in the decade at some Screen Test or 1.4.5. show, during the final flourish of the Syracuse new wave scene, before raising the drinking age to 21 suffocated the scene in 1985. Neither of us remembers meeting the other at the time. Because, y'know, beer. Other than sporadic visits back home, I spent most of the '80s away from Syracuse anyway, living in Brockport and Buffalo before my wife Brenda and I moved permanently to the 315 in 1987. My high school pal Jay Hammond introduced us to Dana that summer, I think, noting our mutual interest in that drivin' rock 'n' roll beat, man, the beat. Brenda and I had an apartment on the North side; Dana and his wife Maria had a house on Valley Drive. My memory tells me that my first visit to Dana and Maria's stately Bonn Manor was a cookout, and there was music: The Beatles, The Stooges, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, The Flamin' Groovies, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Beatles, The Beatles, and The Beatles. Okay. I'm right at home here.

We all got to be friends, and saw each other with some frequency. Brenda and I quickly grew tired of apartment life--the crazy neighbor who carved YOU DIE!! into the vestibule outside our door may have been a factor in that--and we bought a house in the Northern suburbs in 1989. We had occasional parties, for New Year's Eve and--of course!--the Season Two premiere of Twin Peaks. Dana and Maria were among our regular guests at these festivities.

Near the end of 1991, The Syracuse New Times published a notice that something called WNMA was accepting proposals from would-be radio programmers. Other than hanging around with some pals at the campus radio station at Brockport, my only previous radio experience was as a guest DJ on WBNY-FM in Buffalo. But c'mon--what dyed-in-the-wool music fan wouldn't want a shot at turning listeners on to Fave Rave tunes? I was intrigued, but unsure. Someone--Brenda perhaps--may have suggested that I could do a show with Dana. Maybe someone made a similar suggestion to Dana. Whatever path led to the moment, it was during our New Year's Eve party at Casa Cafarelli, as we bid adieu to '91, that Dana said to me, You wanna do a show?

Dana contacted the good folks at WNMA, and a meeting was scheduled for after work on the evening of January 15th, 1992. WNMA was run by Lee Spinks and a guy named Greg, whose last name my memory bank long ago surrendered to the ether. Dana and I made our tentative pitch, a show co-hosted by two record collectors sharing knowledge and enthusiasm with an audience starved for more than commercial radio was serving them. We did some mock patter; Lee and Greg thought I didn't speak enough, and I've been overcompensating for that ever since. They asked us to record a demo show, right there and then. The first song we played was "Why Do You Treat Me Like A Tramp?" by Gashead. We segued Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore" into "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" by The Ohio Express, or maybe it was vice versa. Our demo passed the audition and went out on the air that very night.

"On the air." That meant something a little bit different at WNMA. WNMA wasn't a traditional station, but a project called Radiovision, an audio background to play behind community bulletins on the city's cable TV system. Our friend Dave Murray quipped that we weren't a real radio station, but we played one on TV.

When we recorded our demo, Greg and Lee asked us for the name of our would-be radio show. Huh--neither Dana nor I had thought much about that. I blurted out, "We're your friends...for now!" I think we meant to change it, but we never did. After that 90-minute pilot on 1/15/92, our three-hour weekly show We're Your Friends For Now aired Monday nights 11 pm to 2 am. We recorded the shows on cassette in WNMA's (sorta) converted storefront studio earlier in the evening, and they played back at the designated time. We specialized in theme shows, starting with a psychedelic (i.e., '60s garage) show on 1/19/72, and rippin' our way through subsequent shows dedicated to pure pop, soul/jazz/R & B, instrumentals ("music too good for words!"), covers, 45s, punk/new wave, live recordings, rock 'n' roll soundtracks, Beatles rarities, the British Invasion, 1987-1992, girl groups and female singers, the '70s, comedy and novelty rock, The Monkees, Apple Records, and the sounds of summer, with several themeless shows thrown in here and there. We're Your Friends For Now wasn't exactly the same as whatever This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio is, but it was similar. And it ended much too soon.



When we arrived at the studio for our sounds of summer show on June 1st, 1992, we were informed that WNMA would be terminating its affiliation with the cable company, effectively killing We're Your Friends For Now and all other WNMA shows. We weren't allowed to say anything about that publicly, not yet, so we sullenly went about our business of playing surf 'n' sun tunes as the rain fell and our moods faded to freakin' black. We did themeless shows for the brief remainder of our run, concluding with our Sayonara Show on 6/29/92.

Lee Spinks still had a long-term goal of turning WNMA into an independent broadcast station. Spinks invited a number of WNMA programmers (including your intrepid Friends For Now) to join him in that ongoing effort, but after a few meetings, the group split acrimoniously. Dana and I were among those who stuck together to form a new group, dedicated to that same goal of establishing a community radio station. This was the birth of Syracuse Community Radio.

Meetings. Plans. Arguments. Searches for compromise, attempts to merge disparate views into a workable, unified vision. Is this really how you build a better radio station? Yeah, I guess it is. I was selected as the treasurer. I just wanted to play my records on the radio, man.

Dana and Maria separated during the Radiovision project. It was as amicable a split as anything involving lawyers could be, but it was still a split, and eventually a divorce. They remain friends. Dana bought a house in Mattydale. In the midst of all these endless meetings, we wanted the Dana & Carl show to find a way to survive in some form. Dana had some basic recording gear at home. We weren't done just yet.

WHEN BOPPIN' THE WHOLE FRIGGIN' PLANET RETURNS: I'll Send You A Tape From Central New York



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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens' track) is also available from Futureman Records.

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