In December of 2018, as our weekly radio show This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl was approaching its 20th anniversary, I decided it was time to attempt some kind of chronicle of who we are and how we came to be. Yep, just like Batman. Almost a year later, I finished the ninth and final chapter just in time for our 1000th show on November 10th, 2019. The entire series is collected here for posterity. Ladies and gentlemen: BOPPIN' THE WHOLE FRIGGIN' PLANET (The History Of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO).
CHAPTER 1: The Kids Are Alright
December 27, 1998. Sunday.
WXXE-FM finally began broadcasting earlier that week. It was a long time coming. Syracuse Community Radio had been attempting to navigate the labyrinth of FCC approval for an FM broadcast for years, and had secured a signal at 90.5 FM, with a transmitter located in the rural area of Fenner, NY. SCR originally planned to commence WXXE's signal by the preceding weekend, before Christmas, but technical difficulties delayed things by a few days. I don't remember the precise date that The Double X started beamin' its mighty widdle waves across the county line, but it was during that Christmas week, 1998. The signal was strong enough to hear in Syracuse. And on Sunday night, we would do our show.
The "we" in this instance are Dana & Carl, Carl being me, the other half being my friend and co-host Dana Bonn. We were founding members of Syracuse Community Radio, and this was the culmination of years of work. Granted, a lot of the work had been done by other people, but we were fully prepared to participate and, if necessary, take all the credit. That's show biz.
We loved music. We loved radio, at least in theory. We loved radio the way we remembered it, the way we imagined it. Dana called it "The Joy Of Radio," the delight of discovery, of connection with rockin' pop heard on the air. To him, it was the sense of free-form independence he used to hear on college radio (specifically on Syracuse University's WAER-FM, before it switched to an all-wallpaper-all-the-time light jazz format in the early '80s). To me, the ideal was every great AM Top 40 station that provided bop, fuzz, and jangle as I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, crossed with the boundless possibility to be found left of the dial. Radio. It could mean something. It should mean something.
I picked Dana up at his house, probably around 8:15 or so; we wanted to get to the studio early. We stopped at a (now defunct) Mobil station at Erie Boulevard East and Teal Avenue for coffee, soda, and snacks, fuel for this Joy Of Radio schtick. I had a million songs in my head, records by everyone I'd ever loved on the radio, or ever wished I could hear on the goddamned radio. Power pop. Punk. British Invasion. Soul. Bubblegum. Rock 'n' roll. I wanted to play it all, this night, and for as many Sunday nights as we could hold out before this crazy gig imploded, as it inevitably would. We were going to be on the radio. It couldn't last long, of course, but for now? Tonight? We were gonna be on the radio.
Our show was called The Kids Are Alright. That was the plan, anyway: We're Dana & Carl, it's Sunday night, and THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT! Our proposed title theme song was a cover of The Who's power pop classic, performed on a 1978 import 45 by a British group called The Pleasers. On the way in that Sunday night, while were still on Teal, heading to Mobil, Dana informed me that the turntable at the studio wasn't operational. That meant no vinyl that night, and therefore no way to play our chosen theme song. Plan B, then?, I said. Dana agreed. Plan B.
As we arrived, Eric Strattman was finishing up the inaugural edition of his indie pop show Unsurpervised, I Hit My Head, and he was encouraging listeners to stay tuned for some exciting power pop with Dana & Carl on The Kids Are Alright. Oops--sorry, Eric! We've changed our name. The clock struck nine. Showtime.
The legal ID played. You're listening to WXXE-FM Fenner/Syracuse, Double X! Our show's new and permanent theme song began, a cacophony of signals crossing and warring stations fighting for space on the dial, a symphony of radio's promise. Drums. Benediction: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Come on, let's rock 'n' roll with The Ramones! Louder drums. Guitars. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Marky. Dana & Carl. A question: Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio? An answer, one Sunday night, 20 years ago: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1.
There was no time then to ask: What brought us this far? There was no inkling yet of What happens next? Two decades later, maybe we should look back and figure all of that out. As if one Sunday night mattered. As if another 20 years' worth of Sunday nights--more than 20 years, and counting--added up to something.
Maybe they didn't. Maybe they did. It's time to tell that story. This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Stay tuned for more rock 'n' roll.
CHAPTER 2: We're Your Friends For Now!
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 1000 shows over the course of two decades plus. 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.
CHAPTER 3: I'll Send You A Tape From Central New York
What now? What next?
The early days of Syracuse Community Radio offered a barrage of meetings, brainstorming, ideas, arguments, and ultimately a feeling of stagnation. We seemed to be going nowhere, and not even getting there fast. It was slow. Everything was slow.
I was SCR's treasurer, but the group didn't have enough money for that to mean much. I went to, I think, nearly all of the meetings, but found my enthusiasm ebbing. I wasn't interested in any of the behind-the-scenes drudgery of building a community radio station; I just wanted to be on the radio.
I did at least try to do my part. Before we split from WNMA, I wrote an article for The Syracuse New Times about the need for community radio, and the roadblocks such efforts faced. Some time after that, I crafted a proposal to present to 1260 WNDR-AM, pitching the idea of that venerable local broadcast institution partnering with SCR to create an alternative radio format. WNDR and its former rival WOLF had been the stations that originally ignited my passion for radio when I was growing up, and it woulda been such a kick to be aligned with NDR. Dana and I visited the WNDR studio to make our case, and while the gent we met there was polite and kind, he clearly thought we were out of our minds, from another planet, or both. There was not going to be a shortcut for SCR getting on the air.
Dana and I were itching to get back on the radio. That brief taste of doing our own show had been addictive, like crack or Krispy Kreme, and we were dying to get back at it, like, now. I'm not sure who had the idea of a short-term substitute, if the notion came from Dana, or from fellow SCR member Frederic Noyes, or if it was someone else. But in 1994, there was an opportunity to produce shows on cassette, and a few local businesses--On The Rise Bakery, My Sister's Words bookstore, the food co-op--would play those cassettes in store. Dana & Carl were back!
Doesn't take much to get us jazzed, does it? Dana had some mics and a rudimentary mixer, so we recorded shows at his house. We didn't want to call these new shows We're Your Friends For Now--frankly, we were never all that fond of that name to begin with--so Dana took a cue from John & Yoko to christen us Radio Peace: This is Radio Peace, this is Radio Peace, this is radio Radio Peace, this is Radio Peace! Catchy! It was basically the same show we'd been doing on WNMA, and pretty much the same thing that would eventually become This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Two guys. Some records we thought you should hear. Radio needn't be any more complicated than that.
And it was still fun. I remember bringing in some CDs that I didn't have when we were on WNMA, including stuff by The Muffs and Ben Vaughn. Radio Peace was a success on its own modest terms, perhaps the only time the word "modest" was ever applied to a Dana & Carl show. It led to more shows on cassette, and some oddball circumstances. Through SCR connections, we wound up recording shows to air between races at a Guiness round-the-clock marathon in England (for which we used the show title We're Your Mates For Now!), and also recording shows to air in Russia. No, really! The latter opportunity came through Frederic Noyes, who had been to Russia and had established connections with folks at Russia's Radio Vox. I still look back on that with a grateful but puzzled scratch of the head and a shrug of the shoulders, my equivalent of teen sensations The Wonders' guitarist Len Haise asking rhetorically, How did we get here?
Somewhere in this general time frame, Dana and I also served as MCs for some kind of...well, I don't actually remember what the hell it was. But it was a presentation of various performers and poets interspersed with unscripted banter from us, introducing each act. It took place at the Westcott Community Center, a location that would eventually come to loom large in our legend. Shortly thereafter, our ability and willingness to be shameless showboats made us the logical choice to serve as hosts for Radiovision, a one-hour cable TV special produced by Syracuse Community Radio.
Man, Radiovision was...well, I used to say it was bad. Looking back, it's really okay, clunky and amateur, but not nearly as embarrassing as I remember. And I'm so happy we did it.
One Sunday afternoon in--was it 1994 or '95?--we took over our favorite Armory Square nightspot Styleen's to tape our segments for the TV show. Styleen's was closed during the day, and owners Eileen and Michael Haggerty let us have the run of the place. Dana and I did our schtick, talking back and forth, introducing videos. There were shots of us shooting pool (well, Dana shooting pool while I attempted to play air guitar with a pool cue), a scene of Dana trying to get something out of a vending machine while I suggested maybe trying to put some money in first, one silent shot of us staring sullenly at the camera while I let a mirrored disco ball dangle spinning from my hand. Before TIRnRR became our little mutant radio show, Radiovision was our little mutant television show.
But it wasn't. Ours, I mean. We had some input regarding the content, but we were basically (unpaid) hired hands. I brought some videos I thought we might use; a video starring The Monkees was emphatically vetoed by one of our cohorts, and a 1978 video of The Flashcubes proved unusable for technical reasons. I managed to get one garage video (starring The Bohemian Bedrocks) into the mix, and Dana had videos of local heroes like The Wallmen and Bicycle Thieves. This wasn't supposed to be a TV version of We're Your Friends For Now or Radio Peace, but rather a special promoting the diverse and eclectic interests of Syracuse Community Radio. That was more appropriate than Dana & Carl playin' rockin' pop videos, granted, but I tell ya, I really wish we had some subsequent chance to do a TV show that was more...well, us. Not more screen time for us, but more focused on the types of music we'd play on our own radio show. That wasn't Radiovision's purpose or intent, nor should it have been; nonetheless, I still mourn the fact that there was never a This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radiovision.
My lovely wife Brenda accompanied us for the Radiovision shoot, adamantly insisting that she would remain off-camera. In June of 1995, Brenda gave birth to our daughter Meghan. Being a Dad was much more important to me than going to more SCR meetings, so I resigned as treasurer and withdrew from active participation in Syracuse Community Radio.
Dana remained connected with SCR. I still had sort of an informal tether to the project, and even attended the occasional meeting. SCR moved forward, still slowly, but with increasing success. By 1998, the FCC granted SCR permission to broadcast on WXXE 90.5 FM in Fenner. Radio City, man.
Frederic Noyes called me in 1998, asking me if I'd like to do a power pop show on WXXE. I'm not sure whether or not he meant for me to do a solo show or for us to reconvene The Dana & Carl Show, though I think he intended for Dana and I to do separate shows to cover more time for this new station. Maybe? I considered it, even thinking of calling the show Shake Some Action. But there were two obvious problems.
One: I didn't want to do a strict power pop show. That was too limiting, and I was never interested in that. Two: although I felt I could do a show solo, I didn't think that would be anywhere near as interesting as a Dana & Carl show.
Dana called me. You wanna do more shows together? Yes. Yes, I did want that.
WWXE went on the air the last week of 1998, its studio upstairs at the Westcott Community Center, above the spot where Dana and I had been MCs for whatever it was we'd been MCs for that one time. See? We were moving up! This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl debuted on Sunday, December 27th, 1998. And that's where we'll next pick up our story, already in progress....
CHAPTER 4: Hello There, Whole Friggin' Planet
December 27th, 1998, approximately three minutes and fifty-three seconds after 9 pm Eastern time. The intro spin of our theme song "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" by The Ramones concluded:
This is rock 'n' roll radio. Stay tuned for more rock 'n' roll....
And we were on the air.
"This is The Double X, and this is indeed Rock 'n' Roll Radio. And if you disagree, well there's something wrong with you then, now isn't there? This is the Dana & Carl show. I'm Carl."
"And I'm Dana."
"And This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Welcome friends to the origin show, who we am and how we came to be. We're gonna be playing for the next three hours or so little selections from Dana's collection and my collection. The way it works is pretty simple, but take notes just in case there's a quiz later on. I'm gonna play a record, then Dana's gonna play a record...."
"I better play a record. Because if I don't get to play a record, I'm gonna be very, very angry."
"Dana, you can play... It's fine with me if you wanna play records, 'cause I'm afraid of you. I'm gonna play...."
"Well, that's the way it it should be."
"Hi, this is The Double X...oh, we're past that part already. And then, y'know, before we know it, we'll be three hours older, no wiser, and, like, worthless. Let's get right under way. We're gonna start things the way we like to do it, with a shot of local music circa I think 1979 or so. This was an all-female group called The Poptarts, who should have been The Go-Go's, but they broke up and then The Go-Go's became The Go-Go's. This is a track called "I Won't Let You Let Me Go," from The Poptarts on the big Double X."
The Poptarts. Shonen Knife. The Monkees. John Lennon. The Raves. Cake Like. Go! Our first set done! The second set commenced with TIRnRR's first miscue, as we meant to play "Pressure Drop" by Toots & the Maytal and I accidentally selected Toots' cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" Instead." Oops. This would be our first of many, many in-studio errors over the next two decades. It makes us seem more human, I think.
After the introductory six-song set, we switched to a format of ten-song sets. Let 'em fly! Toots, The Donnas, The Dickies, The Muffs (twice!), The 'B'-Girls, Mary Lou Lord, BMX Bandits, House Of Love, Benny Spellman, Supergrass, The Flashcubes, Cockeyed Ghost, The Jellybricks, Ming Tea, The Plimsouls, Matthew Sweet, The Rare Breed, The Bevis Frond, The Dukes Of Stratosphear, Tommy Roe, The Richards, The Pixies, Frank Gorshin, Droge C69 (from the soundtrack of Vampyros Lesbos), Arthur Alexander, The Beach Boys (two in a row, "Don't Worry Baby" and "'Til I Die"), The Beatles, Myracle Brah, Big Star, The Experiments, The Undertones, Sonic Youth, The Creation, The Basement Wall.
That's all we know for sure about TIRnRR # 1. I'm pretty confident we also played "See You Tonite" by Gene Simmons. We didn't think to keep a copy of the playlist. We either didn't think or weren't able to record the show on cassette, but someone else at the studio--probably either Frederic Noyes or Danny Danhauser--had the foresight to pop in a blank mini-disc and preserve these shenanigans for posterity. The mini-disc captured all but the last thirty-five minutes of the show, and that mini-disc is the only surviving document of what we played on our debut. We didn't even know it was being recorded. When I found out, I was delighted, and I purchased that little mini-disc from the station, just to make sure I'd have something to keep for the archives. I didn't even own a mini-disc player yet. That would come soon enough.
It's been a few years since I listened to that first show. I recall we were still gawky and tentative, yet absolutely certain that we were doing the right thing, playing the right records, creating the right radio show. A week later, we began TIRnRR # 2 with Squeeze and Lyres, and bopped from that point forward. Within a day or two after the second show, I had the bright idea of sharing the playlist via email. I had some (very) small notoriety in underground pop circles, thanks to my work in Goldmine and my active on-line presence in pop discussion groups; why not tell folks about this cool new radio show Dana and I were doing? This simple notion allowed us to spread our goofy and informal manifesto far beyond The Double X's modest signal range.
That would turn out to be important for us in the long run. While WXXE-FM could initially be heard on the air in Syracuse, a new and stronger competing signal from a different station would bring an end to that almost immediately. Before long, we were just broadcasting to the cows out in Fenner. The playlist emails at least allowed us to provide a virtual listening experience, as fans around the country and around the world marveled at the sheer snap of our selections. Reading our playlists from his home in Los Angeles, musician and Permanent Press Recordings label owner Ray Paul wrote to us: "I live in the world's biggest media hub, and there's no around here doing anything like what you guys do for three hours every single week." Thanks, Ray!
So there was an audience for us, out there, somewhere. They just couldn't hear us. Nobody could hear us. There had to be a way to remedy that.
CHAPTER 5: Sound Of The Radio
There was talk of a webcast almost immediately. I made a reference to it in the email accompanying the playlist for our third show (our oldest surviving bit of playlist hype), so the idea had at least come up in conversation. As with most things involving Syracuse Community Radio, a webcast was a lot easier said than done. But it was a necessary part of any notion of us trying to go forward. Aside from the contented cows grazing in Fenner, no one was going to hear much out of WXXE-FM.
Money was an immediate issue. SCR was cash-strapped from the get-go, so each playlist I emailed out to eager rockin' pop fans included a plea for tax-deductible donations. Since these emails were being sent to folks well outside the Syracuse radio market, it made sense to pitch support for a webcast as a way to someday actually hear this magic three hours of radio Dana and I were doing Sunday nights. That was the hook: with a webcast, you'd be able to tune into TIRnRR from anywhere in the country, or in another country entirely. We used the playlists to network, to build a fan base, to create...well, if not quite a mythology, at least a mystique around this goofy show we started to bill as "The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet."
This effort succeeded, at least on its own DIY terms. I used whatever little notoriety I'd earned from writing for Goldmine and participating in the power pop internet community to beat the drum on behalf of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. People responded positively. We got some donations. We got some fans, even though they were vicarious fans who could only read our playlists and pretend they could actually hear them. We did the best a little mutant radio show could do.
But a webcast was not immediately forthcoming. In addition to our shoestring budget, there were technical considerations, and there were bureaucratic channels to navigate. We kept playing our records, begging for spare change, and trying to live up to a legend we'd crafted in our own minds. The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. Well...why not?
We settled on a boilerplate description of the show: "This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio is a rockin' pop/punk/soul/bubblegum Shangri-La, where Toots & the Maytals play poker with The Ramones, Liz Phair arm-wrestles with Little Richard, Big Star is a household name, and some act you've never even heard of before can change your life, or at least send you on an interstate dancing spree." Dana's involvement in the Syracuse music scene made him much better known locally than I was, whereas I had a tiny bit of name-recognition outside Central New York. In promoting the show far and wide, I leaned on my Goldmine pedigree and added a number of spurious credits for Dana:
The Bobby Sherman of the new millennium.
Costumed scourge of the underworld.
Heir apparent to the vast Spaghetti-O's fortune.
The New Kid On The Block that time forgot.
The man who would be Kinks.
The only man ever to leave The Partridge Family...and live to tell the tale.
The man who sold the world--dealer inquiries welcomed!
The 17th Beatle.
The undisputed Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robots champion of the free world.
First in war, first in peace, and first in the line at the Dunkin Donuts.
Who hunts the world's most dangerous game: dust bunnies!
The 1999 poster boy for good posture.
Who is hooked on phonics, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and--might as well face it!--he's addicted to love.
Yeah, Dana's credits were significantly snazzier than mine.
Hype was really all we had going for us in the early days. It kept the name alive while we kept on doing our shows, praying that someday somebody would be able to hear us. We still had a signal, weak as it was, so occasionally someone would manage to tune in. We added a weekly Wednesday playback of Sunday night's show. My friend Fritz Van Leaven kept track of what we played, providing stats we could use for a year-end countdown. We did our first anniversary show on December 26th, 1999, crowning The Stallions' punky cover of The Dirty Wurds' obscure '60s nugget "Why" as our most-played track during our first year on the air. It would take that title in our second year as well, and it would remain our all-time most-played track for a long time thereafter. It was eventually dethroned by Big Star's "September Gurls." We oughtta dig up "Why" for a few fresh spins. Hell, I think we'll play it this Sunday night. You should, like, join us or something.
The hype accompanying each week's playlist always hawked the idea of a webcast to commence...eventually. Throughout 2000, the people who actually did the work at Syracuse Community Radio (as opposed to those of us--me!-- who just talked about it) moved forward with the slow process of getting DSL installed, negotiating agreements with servers and the Westcott Community Center, and trying to figure out how to pay for all of this. The TIRnRR tin cup was thrust forward each week, sometimes in self-deprecating fashion:
3/12/00: "THE WEBCAST IS COMING! So, of course, is Armageddon, and we're covering all bets as to which one arrives first."
3/26/00: "We're pretty sure we'll have the webcast up 'n' running a little before, say, Brian Wilson completes SMiLE."
7/9/00: "The webcast continues to lurch its way slowly toward Bethlehem. Sorry for the continued delay; our original plan--to just get a cardboard box, dub it a Magic Transmission Machine, staple it to the payphone downstairs and start wishing really, really hard--has fallen by the wayside because of some stupid 'technical reasons.'"
8/6/00: "We also dedicated '(You've Got Me) Dangling On A String' by The Chairmen Of The Board to our ever-elusive, ever-forthcoming webcast."
Yeah, this took forever. When we did our 8/13/00 show, we still didn't know when the razzafrazzin' webcast would be a real thing. By the time I got that week's playlist out, the webcast was finally beaming our virtual signal from sea to shining sea. The Wednesday playback was the first edition of TIRnRR to be heard on the world wide web.
Our 8/20/00 show was the first live TIRnRR on the web. We played Kyle Vincent's "She's Top 40" just before our show started at 9 pm Eastern, 8 pm Central, etc. For the show itself, there was always only one track we knew we had to play as the kickoff to our first official webcast.
Screen Test was a great Syracuse pop combo in the early '80s, formed by three members of my favorite power group The Flashcubes. 'Cubes/Screen Test bassist Gary Frenay wrote a song he used to introduce in live sets as about "how great radio used to be, back when radio played The Kinks." "Sound Of The Radio." It absolutely had to be the first track on our first webcast.
When I was a boy
I used to try to run away
You can't go far
So you escape in other ways
Hiding in my room
I'd hold the radio to my ear
No one could tell me what to do
My world became the songs I'd hear
Just can't get away from the sound of the radio
Just can't get away from the sound of the radio
The sound of the radio. That was us. That's what we wanted to be. And now, for the first time, people would be able to hear us, wherever they were. Just can't get away from the sound of the radio.
Now. What else could This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio do to make an impact?
CHAPTER 6: Crafting Mix Tapes For The Digital Age (or: Dana & Carl Make A CD)
This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio had to make a compilation CD. I don't remember when the idea first came up, nor who suggested it, but it moved from pipe dream to urgent priority pretty damned quickly.
It made sense. We were getting just enough notoriety that a few fans around the country had sort of heard of us, kinda knew who we were and what we did. In 2002 we started contacting labels to gauge interest in releasing such a thing. Actually, "started contacting" overstates the approach. I happened to be talking with two labels about unrelated matters, and tagged on the question: Hey, would you be interested in releasing a This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation CD? One of those labels didn't deign to respond; Jeremy Morris of JAM Recordings responded immediately, and his response amounted to Let's do this!
And I'm not sure exactly when we started work. I remember making a long list of artists to hit up for tracks we could include, probably commencing before we talked with Jeremy. I know we wanted Hello Helen, a Swedish group whose wonderful debut album was basically unreleased, just shared among a few interested parties (like us); we'd been giving Hello Helen a significant amount of airtime on TIRnRR, and my gut says the fantastic Hello Helen track "Fall's Far Away" was the first cut we settled on using. Book it!
The Masticators and Chris von Sneidern had recently become the first two artists to craft TIRnRR IDs for us, so we naturally wanted to include their IDs on our CD, and to secure tracks from them, as well. CVS gave us his unreleased track "Lonely Tonight," and though The Masticators broke up before we could get a track from them, their lovely 'n' talented leader Lisa Mychols offered us a sublime solo track called "Cactus Boy."
We absolutely wanted The Flashcubes on this, figuring we'd use one of their many then-unreleased '70s recordings; in a follow-up conversation at a 'Cubes show in December 2002, guitarist Paul Armstrong told us that the group would prefer to record a new song for us instead. More on that later.
If memory serves, Jeremy supplied selections from JAM Recordings artists The Lolas, Florapop, Phil Angotti & the Idea, Ed James, and Jeremy himself, and suggested we contact Australian pop god Dom Mariani (who was already on our list) to secure the DM3 cut "1 x 2 x Devastated." Our friends The Kennedys gave us an effervescent cover of The Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing," and the intrepid Keith Klingensmith provided access to some great tracks by his pal Chris Richards, from which we selected "It Doesn't Sound Like You."
Dana and I reached out to a number of other acts we'd been playing, and we ultimately collected irresistible contributions from The Johnny Popstar Luv Explosion, The Oohs, The Finkers, The Rooks, Sex Clark Five, The Flashing Astonishers, The Jellybricks, and Popdudes. We'd initially wished to solicit separate tracks from both Gary Pig Gold and Shane Faubert, but Jeremy suggested getting just one track featuring both of them together, as the compilation was filling up. We had to decline an offer of an unreleased Bill Lloyd track--yeah, believe it or not--because it was too long for us to fit into the short-song format we'd chosen. We did get another Lloyd track, a collaboration with Jamie Hoover. Everything was clicking into place.
And that new Flashcubes track I mentioned above? The finished song made its way into our hands around, I believe, the Spring of 2003. The disc was labeled "Carl."
Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio?
Top Of The Pops
And Ready, Steady, Go?
We got pictures of Lilly and matchstick men
Loretta and Little Willy
Do it again
He's a Cicero boy
That's New York, not Illinois
His friend Dana rocks
They're the kings of power pop
So you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star
With all kinds of girls?
Kick out the jams
Rockin' all over the world
Making plans for Nigel
And Arnold Layne
Stop! Wait a minute!
Never ever gonna stop
The weekend stops here!
Wouldn't you like it
20th century boy?
Go all the way
Search and destroy
Gudbuy t' Jane
Hello there, Polythene Pam
Who will save rock 'n' roll?
Carl, you da man!
20/20, Humble Pie
Spongetones, Shoes, DC5
Runaways, Cockeyed Ghost
Screen Test, Jam, and The Most
Fireking, Enuff Z'nuff.
New York Dolls and The Scruffs
Outlets, Ohms, and Ramones
I was speechless. Thrilled and speechless. I still am. Wow. Just...yeah, wow.
Some time later in 2003, Dana and I got together at my house, recorded a spoken intro from my daughter Meghan, added snippets of banter from some old shows (mostly from our TIRnRR predecessor We're Your Friends For Now!), and put everything in proper compilation order. We sequenced it on mini-disc, burned a guide CD, gathered the individual masters, and sent the project off to Jeremy.
1. MEGHAN JEAN CAFARELLI: Intro
2. CHRIS VON SNEIDERN: TIRnRR ID
3. DANA & CARL: Say Hi to The Folks, Dana!
4. THE FLASHCUBES: Carl (You Da Man)
5. THE LOLAS: Sticker
6, DANA & CARL: Maraca Player To The Stars
7. THE JOHNNY POPSTAR LUV EXPLOSION: Oh Renee
8. JEREMY: If We Try
9. DM3: 1 x 2 x Devastated
10. DANA & CARL: Role Reversal
11. CHRIS RICHARDS: It Doesn't Sound Like You
12. HELLO HELEN: Fall's Far Away
13. DANA & CARL: Intermission
14. JAMIE HOOVER & BILL LLOYD: Screen Time
15. DANA & CARL: East Side Story...?!
16. THE OOHS: TIRnRR ID
17. THE OOHS: Mr. Cliche
18. DANA & CARL [with DAVE MURRAY]: The Ballad Of Jah Clampett
19. THE FINKERS: Last Thing On My Mind
20. THE ROOKS: Sometimes [alternate version]
21. THE FLASHING ASTONISHERS: Period Exclamatory
22. DANA & CARL: His Name Was Johann
23. ED JAMES: Shiver And Shake
24. THE JELLYBRICKS: She Can't
25. DANA & CARL: Elvis Season
26. GARY PIG GOLD & SHANE FAUBERT: Gotta Get In Touch
27. THE MASTICATORS: TIRnRR ID
28. LISA MYCHOLS: Cactus Boy
29. DANA & CARL: You're Forever Fighting Little Steven
30. CHRIS VON SNEIDERN: Lonely Tonite
31. THE KENNEDYS: And Your Bird Can Sing
32. DANA & CARL: What Community Radio Is All About
33. PHIL ANGOTTIE & THE IDEA: The Only Reason
34. SEX CLARK FIVE: Japan Under The Sun
35. FLORAPOP: Who Can Really Know?
36. DANA & CARL: I Coulda Been A Partridge
37. POPDUDES: Desperation Time
38. DANA & CARL: Goodnight Minneapolis!
Jeremy rejected it.
Jeremy's vision for a This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio CD did not match ours. JAM is a music label, and Jeremy objected to the silly spoken bits we'd inserted in between music tracks. Our intention was to make a more direct audio connection between the compilation and the radio show it was supposed to promote, creating an experience kinda like The Who Sell Out (or like, I dunno, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio). Jeremy would have none of it, and he suggested that perhaps we should find another label. He recommended some potential people we could take it to.
But, as we thought about it, we wondered if Jeremy had a point; maybe we should approach a compilation CD differently than the way we would do a rock 'n' roll radio show. Yeah. Stubborn as we (especially me) can be, we had to admit Jeremy was probably right. We decided to re-work the whole thing, to try to make This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 1 something that Jeremy would be proud to have on his label.
Back to the drawing board.
"Carl (You Da Man)" written by Paul Armstrong, Cubic Music BMI
Once we accepted Jeremy's wish to cut our DJ banter tracks out of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 1, it really wasn't difficult to revamp the CD into the sort of purely music compilation he had in mind.
And it's worth reiterating that Jeremy was right; the other day, I listened again to the original, unreleased beta version of the compilation, and it doesn't hold up anywhere near as well as the released version does. The banter is a distraction, and I think the CD would not have been quite as well received if it had been released in its original incarnation. I like some of the individual bits of silliness, particularly "East Side Story...?!" (which was me warbling lines from Mad magazine's early '60s West Side Story parody, as Dana somehow makes his scornful glare audible), but excising them was a good call on Jeremy's part.
So the changes were easy. We wanted a couple more tracks to make up the difference in running time. Jeremy supplied The Shambles' fantastic cover of the Connie Francis nugget "Warm This Winter." We contacted Lugless Booth to secure permission to use his track "I Blame His Brother," a TIRnRR Fave Rave about a songwriter trying to get a tune to Joey Ramone, but who is blocked at every turn by Joey's brother Mickey Leigh; demonstrating his own sense of humor, Mickey Leigh himself mixed the track.
We did insist on leaving one of the original banter tracks in, and Jeremy agreed that "The Ballad Of Jah Clampett," our mock reggae reading of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies, made an appropriately goofy and agreeable closing track. We switched out two other selections: Jeremy wanted to use "If We Try" on his own album, and directed us to use his track "What God Wants" instead; we decided that Sex Clark Five's "Japan Under The Sun" didn't work in context, and the band granted us permission to substitute "She's The End/Great Sheiks." We tweaked the sequence one more time for maximum punch, and This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 1 was completed by late 2003, maybe early 2004 at the latest. Scott Jameson of CNY Radio Archives, sat in with us to research an article about us and the station, and we felt like big shots. Even as the expense of music broadcasting prompted Syracuse Community Radio to switch to an all-talk format on WXXE-FM, our webcasting continued as before. And that's where our audience was anyway.
A TIRnRR CD compilation. I wrote the liner notes, Dana came up with graphics, and Jeremy lined up a professional to do the mastering. It seemed to take forever to happen, but the CD--OUR FIRST CD!--was finally released in January of 2005. Reviews and reaction were very positive, and Dana and I wanted to do a sequel immediately.
Alas, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 2 was a troubled production from start to finish. Maybe we should have waited longer between volumes, though I don't know how much that quick turnaround did or didn't damage the process; perhaps the length of time it took to compile, complete, and release Volume 1 prompted us to rush the process of Volume 2. For whatever reason, it was a more contentious project overall. Most of the individual tracks were fantastic, as good as anything on Volume 1. But...troubled. It was a troubled production.
But you know what? Screw the troubles. It's a very good album, with simply ace contributions from John Wicks & the Records (whom our friend Rich Rossi brought to the TIRnRR table), Screen Test, Eytan Mirsky, astroPuppees, Cloud Eleven, The Spongetones, The Grip Weeds, Tim Anthony, Jim Basnight, and The Dipsomaniacs, among others. Jeremy suggested we use "I Just Wanna Stay At Home," a terrific track by The Blondes, but I asked if we could sub in The Blondes' tribute to my rock 'n' roll crush Suzi Quatro; I believe Jeremy chuckled, and made it so.
Our biggest thrill in putting together Volume 2 was securing a track from The Cowsills. We had been corresponding with Bob Cowsill, who expressed his support for whatever the hell it is we do on the radio, and especially for our embrace of The Cowsills' Global album, the best record of the '90s. We asked Bob if we could use "She Said To Me," a simply wonderful track from Global, on TIRnRR # 2. Our timing was awful. In August of 2005, as we were assembling tracks for our frivolous little compilation, the members of The Cowsills were frantically looking for brother Barry Cowsill, who was missing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Barry's body was discovered later that month. In the midst of this horror, Bob sent us an email granting permission to use "She Said To Me." I still can't believe he bothered with us at all during that difficult time. The Cowsills are good people, and we will always wish them the best (and we can't wait to hear their new album in 2020).
|Landmark Theater Syracuse, 2019, L-R: Paul Cowsill, my lovely wife Brenda, anonymous blogger, Susan Cowsill, that other TIRnRR guy, and Bob Cowsill|
Another song we were eager to include was Mr. Encrypto's a cappella mix of "The Last Time," the isolated vocal tracks from a full-band cut on the first Mr. Encrypto album, Hero And Villain. We adored this one, but Jeremy did not share our enthusiasm. It was one of two tracks on Volume 2 that he asked us to remove; we reluctantly surrendered on the other track (an unfortunate decision that damaged our relationship with the act we had to drop from the CD), but held firm with "The Last Time." Jeremy accepted the compromise. He, in turn, had a track he had secured from another artist, and we didn't think it fit our CD at all. But it was a take-it-or-leave-it situation, so the track did indeed wind up on TIRnRR # 2, our objections notwithstanding.
For all its troubles, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 2 turned out well. I wrote liner notes, Dana did the art, Jeremy had it mastered, and JAM Recordings released it in the latter part of 2006. Good reviews, and, I think, ultimately a good feeling for all of us. We did a CD release party at Metropolis Book Store, with performances by Beauty Scene Outlaws, Tim Anthony, and The Fallen Archies, and a giddy aura of satisfaction. My friend Dave Murray wrote a cover story about TIRnRR for The Syracuse New Times. That issue of the New Times hit the stands in December of 2006. Dana and I figured we were riding pretty high.
The ink wasn't even dry on our SNT cover story when Syracuse Community Radio informed us of its sudden (to us) decision to pull the plug on our webcast. We were greeted with that bombshell as we arrived at the studio for The Eighth Annual This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio Christmas Show on December 17th 2006, the Sunday following our fleeting moment of New Times stardom. Too costly, was the summary explanation for the webcast's imminent termination, perhaps (and perhaps not) accompanied by a Sorry, boys or a Thank you for all you've done, boys. Looking into the future, all we could see now was the end of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl.
Well, actually, we saw one other thing.
We saw red.
CHAPTER 8: Starting Over
Having just been informed that our show had less than a month left to live, Dana and I seethed our way through The Eighth Annual (and presumably final) This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio Christmas Show. We were pissed. I was especially angered that we had managed to get some much-needed publicity for the station with the New Times cover story, and it was all being tossed away. It was reminiscent of the situation back in June of 1992, when WNMA, the host of our TIRnRR predecessor We're Your Friends For Now!, similarly told us the end was nigh as we soldiered our way through a Sounds Of Summer show. But there was one key difference between the end of We're Your Friends For Now! in 1992 and the sight of the Grim Reaper's scythe descending upon TIRnRR in 2006.
This time? Man, this time we were gonna fight back.
In fairness, I have to say that we understood the why of the SCR Board of Directors' decision to kill the webcast. Syracuse Community Radio's whole raison d'etre was and remains to establish and maintain a community radio station, and that meant getting and staying on the air, not necessarily on the internet. We still had WXXE-FM out in its remote Fenner, NY location, struggling to beam its paperweight signal to someone somewhere. WXXE's programming by then was purely a placeholder, kept on the air with a cheaper talk-radio format--prohibitive licensing costs made music programming out of the question--and continued only to retain our FCC license. That license was more valuable than the station itself, and even though its signal was virtually worthless, SCR needed to keep it going if there was ever to be any hope of advancing to something better.
Although the webcast was the only way anyone could actually hear any of SCR's original programming, it was hemorrhaging money. Something had to be done, and it had to be done quickly. The board didn't kill the webcast out of spite or pettiness; it did what it had to do for the organization to survive.
The fact that we understood and appreciated all of the above did nothing to appease our ire. It was if Joe Strummer himself whispered in our ears: Let fury have the hour, anger can be power...!
Danny Danhauser was the board member most sympathetic to our cause. If Andy Chertow was also on the board at the time--I don't remember--then he would have been on our side as well. By whatever means of negotiation and finagling, it was agreed that the programmers themselves could be allowed an opportunity to find some way to save the webcast.
"The programmers" in this example basically meant Dana & Carl. As self-aggrandizing as that statement may appear, it was also true. TIRnRR was the only show on SCR with any consistent record of bringing in donations from listeners. Our support wasn't nearly enough to keep that ship afloat by itself, but our fans had always stepped up when we asked them. And we had fans. Those fans helped SCR out of budget crunches before. It was time to call upon them again.
Within days after we received the webcast's death sentence, we sent this notice to the friends and fans of TIRnRR:
Is this the end of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio? We hope not, but things could look a lot better than they do right now.
On January 7th, Syracuse Community Radio will hold an emergency meeting to discuss whether or not to pull the plug on SCR's webcast, a project which has proven to be an enormous drain on the station's worse-than-limited resources. Currently, we have about $3600 in immediate debt, with an additional $1800 in licensing fees set to kick in on January 1st. On top of what we already owe, the webcast costs $407 a month, yet brings in only about $150 a month in contributions. This situation can not continue, and our system needs to be revamped, but right now we're asking for your help.
First, we need a lot of money, FAST. Our timing stinks--the week before Christmas may not be the best time to hit people up for donations to keep The Bay City Rollers on their media player, but we can't control that. We don't expect anyone to go into hock on our behalf, nor do we wish you to bypass donations to any of your other favorite causes. That said, we know that if someone doesn't step up, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio is history.
We offered a promise to fans and contributors: There will be no wasting of your good money after bad. Send what you can. We won't cash a single check unless and until the webcast has a viable path forward. If we fail, we will return all of your checks immediately. If we succeed, you will have saved This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Period. A decision will be rendered at an emergency SCR board meeting on January 7th, 2007. Save us. Please save us.
The response was...damn, I still get choked just thinking about it. The response was amazing. They liked us. They really liked us.
News of our desperate plea spread through the internet pop community. Jeremy Morris and JAM Recordings, home of the two TIRnRR compilations CDs, stepped up with incentives to offer potential donors, and other labels and artists kicked in, too. Pop web sites talked us up. Money started to pour in. Our former SCR colleague Eric Strattman wrote us to say he envisioned something like the climactic scene of It's A Wonderful Life, with friends hauling basket after basket of cold cash into that January 7th board meeting, some equivalent of Uncle Billy proclaiming, It's a MIRACLE! Nobody asked why, all they had to hear was Dana & Carl are in trouble, and they all wanted to help!
The reality was slightly less flamboyant, but it was essentially the same. Dana and I showed up for the meeting and informed the board that we had raised thousands of dollars, and not a dime of it could go to anything other than a continued webcast. I will cherish the memory of the shocked look on the faces of the board members for as long as I dance upon this earth.
The meeting was on a Sunday. That night, Dana and I returned to the studio for the final TIRnRR under our old arrangement. We were able to announce the news our fans were aching to hear:
Eight years, brothers and sisters. Eight years, and still here.
Details remained to be finalized. Sensing that the balance of power had shifted a bit, I drew a hard line in negotiations, insisting on some parameters that would not be subject to debate. It was a divorce settlement. We would agree to pay SCR a lump sum of money in exchange for all of the studio equipment, and we would set up a new independent webcast under the auspices of the Westcott Community Center, which had been home to our cramped little studio from the beginning. Some board members wanted more money than we were willing to give, but we made it clear: This is it. Not another penny, because we were saving the rest of the money to operate our new webcast. Take it or leave it.
They took it. And Westcott Radio was born.
Our 1/7/07 show had been our year-end countdown, playing back what we played a lot over the course of the preceding twelve months. Our # 1 most-played track in 2006 was "Should Have Been Mine" by The Catholic Girls, and with that, we bid farewell to the soon-to-be defunct wxxe.org. A new incarnation awaited us. We'd been pronounced dead. But we got by with a little help from our friends.
CHAPTER 9: Reach Out Of The Darkness
Music has power. It doesn't have unlimited power; it can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, and it can't heal the sick or balance your checkbook. It can't mend broken bones or broken hearts, and it can't persuade a soon-to-be-former soulmate to please, please give us one more chance. It can't buy us love. It can't even buy us lunch.
But music does have power. It can offer comfort, validation, inspiration. Catharsis. Companionship of a sort. Maybe it can't dry our tears, but it can grant us the freedom to weep without shame, to dance away the heartache, to twist and shout, to do the freakin' Freddie when only the Freddie will do. Music is there for us when we need it. I can't imagine a time when we don't need it.
The need to play music--to share music--lives and breathes at the core of any pop (or soul, or rock, or country, or jazz, or classical) radio show programmed by any music fan. This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio is but one of thousands of shows that have embraced that ideal. We are legion, even if each of us feels like a lone voice wailing Turn it UP! The power of music connects us. The beat goes on.
It took some time for TIRnRR to renew that beat after our split from Syracuse Community Radio. More than two months passed between our farewell to SCR on 1/7/2007 and our first Westcott Radio show on March 25th. We opened the Westcott Radio phase of our tenure with a spin of "Saying Goodbye" by The Muffs, offered as a bitter kiss-off to our former organization. Yeah, we were still pissed.
For all that, there was always a long-term goal of reconciling with SCR. We all shared the goal of bringing community radio to the Central New York broadcast airwaves, and there was an understanding that programming on Westcott Radio would some day migrate back to SCR once a viable FM signal was in place. But we needed to keep going in the mean time. Westcott Radio was the only way to do that.
2007 sucked. Continued technical issues and ever-present cash-flow woes often conspired to disable the webcast. We were radio-silent for nearly the entire month of September, coinciding with the time of my emergency back surgery, which took me out of commission for months. But Dana only had the chance to do a few shows without me before Westcott Radio was forced to go on another extended hiatus in late October. Those problems were not resolved until January. Other than whatever holiday music I played on my iPod, there was no Ninth Annual This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio Christmas Show.
Westcott Radio and TIRnRR returned in January of 2008, and we all soldiered on to the best of our limited ability. This was our wilderness period, lasting until at least 2010. We were stuck in a rut, unable to expand our audience, barely able to hang in there at all. We were too stubborn to give up. And the power of the music wouldn't let us go.
|A positive moment from June 11, 2009, L-R: John Wicks, Carl, Paul Collins, Dana|
And we wanted to do another TIRnRR compilation CD.
Jeremy Morris, whose JAM Recordings label had released the first two TIRnRR CDs in 2005 and 2006, had already declined to participate in any further sequels. It was a very amicable split, and we remain grateful for all Jeremy's done for the show, before, during, and after those CDs. Jeremy was an integral player in our fundraising, and we can't thank him enough.
That still left us in search of another label. Through whatever sequence of thingamabobs, we wound up talking with Ray Gianchetti at Kool Kat Musik, probably in 2011, maybe as late as 2012. And a deal was struck for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3.
Ray had a hands-off approach, so this was the first collection compiled solely and entirely by Dana & Carl. Over the years since Volume 2, always holding out hope we'd get to do another one someday, we had quietly secured tracks from a number of artists, including Hawaii Mud Bombers, The Richards, and The Tearjerkers (with their classic "Syracuse Summer"). We contacted more friends to get all-time TIRnRR Fave Rave tracks by Mannix and Anny Celsi, plus assorted goodies from Eytan Mirsky, Blotto, Lisa Mychols, Michael Carpenter, Gary Frenay, and more. We prevailed upon The Catholic Girls (left off of Volume 2) to give us another chance. The collection was mastered at Sub Cat Studios in Syracuse--my first-ever visit to a recording studio!--and released by Kool Kat in 2013. My liner notes reflected on our journey so far, and I felt like we'd accomplished our best compilation to date.
I honestly didn't think we could ever top Volume 3, so I put aside thoughts of ever doing another one. But Ray Gianchetti thought the time was right for Volume 4, which Kool Kat released in 2017. Volume 4 was...God, it was magic. I've told its tale in great detail elsewhere, and there are also liner notes, of course. But the bottom line was that this was just something special, a rockin' pop compilation that flows like a great album. I am humbled to have been a part of it. If we never do anything else, I'm satisfied and proud that we did this.
We kissed and made up with Syracuse Community Radio a long time ago. We're still on the web, now at sparksyracuse.org, and also back on the air. ON THE AIR! And you can actually hear us in Syracuse, at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM. At our request, the first song ever played on WSPJ was "Sound Of The Radio" by Screen Test, the same song that had kicked off TIRnRR's first webcast in 2000. Continuity. We still have tech problems. We still have money problems. Both Dana and I have suffered the devastating loss of loved ones, and Dana is now a cancer survivor. But God damn it, 1000 shows later and counting, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl is somehow still here. And we're still The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet.
Is that the power of music? Yeah. Yeah, it is. It's also the power of friendship, the power of belief, the power of radio. The joy of radio. In 2019, a number of performers who support whatever the hell it is we do grew frustrated with the unreliable frizziness of our hiccuping signal, and decided to do a TIRnRR benefit compilation, Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. We were touched beyond our ability to articulate. After all of these years--decades--This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio still has the best fans a little mutant radio show could ever want.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Music can be absolute, but its power doesn't corrupt; it redeems. It can be a shared experience, a solitary experience, something as unique or as universal as our needs dictate. The power is sublime. The power is ours.
And Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, we get to call on that power, and make it shine. Sight gags on the radio. The Greatest Record Ever Made. The American Beatles, Her Majesty's Ramones, our designated House Band The Kinks, and some unfamiliar but irresistible reminder that radio's job is to sell records. All of it, and more. Feel the power; it belongs to you, too.
And if we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times: this is what rock 'n' roll radio sounds like on a Sunday night in Syracuse each week. We're glad to have you with us. Together, we're boppin' the whole friggin' planet.
|In the palatial TIRnRR studio with our pals Rich and Kathy Firestone|
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Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. TIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve Stoeckel, Bruce Gordon, Joel Tinnel, Stacy Carson, Eytan Mirsky, Teresa Cowles, Dan Pavelich, Irene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click Beetles, Eytan Mirsky, Pop Co-Op, Irene Peña, Michael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With Randolph, Gretchen's Wheel, The Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying it from Futureman.
(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)
Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).