Archive for May, 2007

The Dick Summer Connection – May 27, 2007

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

I saw the small print notice on the box with my new propane outdoor grill in it just before the checkout guy ran his magic ray gun across the bar code, and the cash register said ca-ching. It said, “Free assembly available.” I froze. My Lady Wonder Wench was with me, and she said, “What’s the matter?” Not wanting to stammer in public, I simply pointed to the notice. She immediately went into wise guy wife mode. She said, “Don’t worry about that, you can ask Randy next door to help you with it.” “Oh yeah?” I replied… in that incisive, confident, worldly way that is the trade mark of “Louie-Louie Generation” guys every where.

If you’ve been connected with this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that Randy is my next door neighbor… a very nice guy… and a fellow plastic potato pop gun warrior. But if you are a “Louie-Louie Generation” guy, you know damn well there would be a blizzard in August before you would ask your buddy next door for help in assembling ANYTHING, let alone something as simple as an outdoor grill. “Ha,” I said to my Lady Wonder Wench with a disdain verging on panic. Then she did it.  She gave that Lady Wonder Wench Witchy Smile, and purred, “Maybe I can help.” Any experienced wife will do that when she wants something done quickly and she knows exactly where her husband thinks he has his ego safely hidden.

You probably know the rest of the story. Box manufactured in Taiwan, frame from Bangladesh, bolts made in Kazakhstan that don’t quite fit the nuts imported from Nigeria, and instruction manual written in Baghdad, by a terrorist wannabe who took the job because he was seething with anger at the United States but was rejected for a suicide assignment by his neighborhood terrorist organization by reason of complete insanity. His revenge was swift and sweet… helped by the fact that the manufacturer made several models of the grill, but only this “one size fits all” instruction book. Ooohh, you’ve been there, guys…I know you have. But I did it! And the end result bears a distinct resemblance to the picture on the box. Except for the pieces left over. And a wire hanging down. And the kind of rakish angle of the cover. And the propane tank doesn’t fit. But… “Oh, you’re so wonderful” said Wonder Wench…as any experienced wife will do when she wants something else done quickly. The “Something” being that it has been a couple of weeks since I cut the lawn.

I have a question. Why do we cook out? We have a nice kitchen, with a microwave oven and granite counter tops on which we can put our meal. Does hamburger really taste better served with ketchup, relish, flies, bees and moths? And why do guys who never cook indoors, do all the cooking outdoors? I guess women feel that when it comes to smoke, flames and blood on an outdoor grill…it’s a guy thing. And while I’m asking you questions, why do we buy grass seed, plant it, water it, fertilize it, grow it, then cut it, and cut it, and cut it, and cut it…and then throw away the stuff we cut ? I think something has come loose here…besides the handle that looks like it’s about to fall off the propane grill.

Gotta back up a little. If you just connected with this blog, you may be scratching your head and asking, what is the “Louie-Louie Generation?” If you remember record hops… you are a member of the “Louie-Louie Generation.” I mc’d a lot of record hops when I was a disc jockey. And any time the kids stopped dancing, I’d haul out “Louie-Louie” and the party would start cooking again. “Louie-Louie” was the perfect guy dance…no complicated dance steps, and an excuse to get very close to a girl’s ear and softly sing your version of the “dirty” lyrics. I seem to remember that some of the more popular girls liked “Louie- Louie” too…and I think it was for some of the same reasons.

It doesn’t really matter how many birthdays you’ve had…you can consider yourself a member of the “Louie-Louie Generation” if a lot of your conversation these days includes words like “prostate,” “ouch,” “vitamin E,” “cholesterol,” “stress,” “diet,” and…”whaaaatt?” It happened so fast, didn’t it? It seems like just when we started getting rid of our pimples, we began suffering from precocious ab-deflation.

“Precocious ab-deflation” is a highly technical term I just made up in the current PodCast. It comes from the ancient Latin word “pre,” which means “before” … as in “pre-marital sex,” and the ancient Brooklyn-ese word “coaches…which in ancient Brooklyn-ese means “wise people”…as in “good sports teams have wise coaches.” So “precocious ab-deflation” means we are losing our abs before we had a chance to get wise to what was going on. (It works better when you hear it on the PodCast.)

Anyway…the hamburger patties are made, there’s a ladle in the potato salad, a couple of cold brewskies with your name on them on the ice…so it is now time to turn on the propane, hit the igniter, and hope the back deck doesn’t blow up.

Dick’s Details Quiz – (All answers are in the current PodCast at www.DickSummer.com  .

1- What do those of us who are body builders call the “Quasimodo Position?”

2- What lines did Satan swipe from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ?

3- What’s a millipede’s favorite toy?

Scoring:

3 right – 4th of July Fireworks

2 right – Cherry bomb

1 right – Sparkler

0 right – Wet match

3…2…1…0…IGNITION – How cooked would you like your hamburger?  

 

 

 

The Dick Summer Connection – May 20, 2007

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

“No delay, immediate right turn to three six zero degrees!” When you’re flying a small plane, and Air Traffic Control says words like “no delay,” and “immediate”…that gets your attention. So I flicked the auto pilot off… and turned that control wheel over hard… and I watched the compass spin up till we were at about 345 degrees…then I eased her the rest of the way till it said 360…just like the man said.A moment later a big jet flashed by pretty close to where I would have been if the controller hadn’t called the turn. I flicked the mike and said “thanks.” And believe me, I meant it. Pilots around here call that a “Linda Rondstadt” because Linda had a big hit called “Blue Bayou”…as in “that jet just blew by you.”I flicked the auto pilot back on to catch my breath for a moment and I realized… I was looking at an “N word.” There’s no 360 degrees on an airplane compass. Just the letter N. It means North.Maybe there are some lessons here. For example:

1- There are lots of “N words”…which means there is no such thing as THE “N word.” Some idiot long ago couldn’t spell the word “Niger”, so we got the word “nigger”… which became a word other idiots have used to call people with brown and black skin. If a guy describes somebody as a “nigger,” he’s done you the favor of telling you right up front that he’s an idiot. Simply by using that word, he’s saved you the time and effort of figuring him out. Don’t waste any more time/effort on him.

2- Get real. “The N word” doesn’t mean anything. Say what you mean. “Nigger” is a word that cuts. It’s stupid, discourteous, and it hurts. And that means something…it tells you something…something ugly… something that won’t go away if you stick your head in the sand. So deal with it. The phrase “The N word” doesn’t hurt… because there IS no such thing as “THE… N WORD.”

There’s a dictionary full of “N words.” How about Nice, Nude, Naked (I like that one), Nabob, Naah, Nana, Nail, Native, Nose…etc. When that jet was bearing down on my little plane, the controller said “turn north.” That meant something. If he had said “turn to the N word”… the only response I’d have had is…”HUH?” “Do you want me to turn naked nicely like a nabob with a nana who has long nails…naaah, that can’t be… do you want me to fly my plane up your nose?” By the time I got if figured out, I’d have been toasting marshmallows on the jet guy’s after burner.

2a- And while we’re at it, there is no such thing as an “African American,” any more than there is a “European American.” “African American” means absolutely nothing. You African? Okay. You European? Okay. You American? Also okay. Africa is a continent. America is a continent. Europe is a continent. Three different continents. Lots of water in between.

3- Get a grip. When that controller called the traffic, I put both hands on that control wheel and some muscle went into that bank…fast. It happened, as they say, with “no delay.” The lesson ? Let’s cut the crap…now. We’ve got important things to worry about in this country. Let it be the exclusive concern of our very capable American Association of Interior Decorators to worry about how brown, black, white, pink, yellow and red can work together…. what do you care? Get up off your black, brown white, pink, yellow or red butt and get a grip on the things that count. And DO something about them.

Watch the newscasts…if you’ve got cable/satellite, check out the news reports from the BBC and other foreign sources so you know what other people are really saying about us…read the paper…learn what’s going on…make a note of which politicians don’t really answer the questions…tell your friends who they are, then vote them out of office. Raise hell on talk radio, and write e-mails to the politicians… and demand an answer from them by phone if they ignore you. Know what’s really going on…THINK…don’t get led around by the likes of Al “Sharpie” Sharpton or Righteous Rush Limbaugh .

Remember this quote. It’s from Adolph Hitler…and these are his exact words: “How fortunate for those of us who rule, that the people don’t think.” SO THINK. THEN get up off your multi-colored butts and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

4- A sense of humor couldn’t hurt. The thing the papers call a “near miss” is really a “near hit.” If it were a “near miss,” it would be a collision. But pilots call it a “Linda Rondstadt.” As in “Blue Bayou”…as in “that jet just blew by you.” We can all use a laugh… especially when we’re looking at something that can tear us apart…like racism.

4- Help each other out. It was that controller’s job. It’s yours too. And mine. Respect the difference between giving a helping hand and giving a handout. But if you’re on the receiving end, don’t bite either hand… and get off your black, brown, white, pink, yellow or red butt as soon as you can so you can pass some good stuff along.

5- The Air Traffic Control system is highly professional and absolutely courteous. Pilots and Controllers address each other as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” We trust each other with life and death decisions that have to be made in an instant. There’s no time to waste. But courtesy isn’t considered a waste of time.

Courtesy is simply an expression of respect and concern. You may not want to go so far as to call each other Sir or Ma’am, but you can hold a door open for a lady…or even another guy…what’s to lose? You can resist riding a guy’s bumper or giving another guy the finger if he does it to you. And Louie-Louie Generation guys should have the good sense to remove their hats at the table, at least when there is a lady present…unless your religion requires otherwise…in which case you can wear the appropriate yarmulka or turban…not a Yankee baseball hat.

We have a number of pilots who subscribe to this blog, and at least one (ex) Air Traffic Controller. On behalf of all of us pilots, let me take this opportunity to say “thanks” to Paul and all his brother and sister Air Traffic Controllers for looking out for us. You guys are the best.

Dick’s Details Quiz – All answers are in the current “Good Night” PodCast at www.DickSummer.com

1- How did my Mom enforce her order to “Stand up straight”?

2- What makes “Louie- Louie Generation” guys the romantic partners of choice for Super Models everywhere.

3- What did Sean Connery do for a living before he became an actor ?

Scoring:

3- right – You have the “Right Stuff.”

2- right – You have some pretty good stuff.

1- right – Near hit.

0- right – Near miss.

So… what have we learned? I’d say it’s time to get real. Say what you mean. Get a grip. Laugh a little. Say “thanks” when it’s due. Take at least one flight in a small plane on a lovely day. Enjoy living a little before you die.

 

The Dick Summer Connection – May 13, 2007

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

“The nip and tuck to save a buck” movement has just about destroyed radio’s “Huddle Effect.” The “Huddle Effect” is the feeling you got that made you hide your radio under your pillow so you could listen way past your bedtime. I call it the “Huddle Effect” because it’s a lot like a football huddle. The guy in charge calls the other guys on the team into a tight circle for protection against “the other guys”… for encouragement… and to figure out what you’re going to do next.You’ve heard the results of “the nip and tuck to save a buck” movement on your favorite radio station. Most stations have dumped their news departments, and except for some morning guys, they’ve ditched any “personalities” who were making more than rock bottom market wages, and most of all, they’ve automated or voice tracked their evening and overnight shows. That’s because evening and over- night shows don’t make money. And that’s really too bad. Because night time is the best time to “huddle” on the radio. But because of “nip and tuck to save a buck,” there’s hardly any “huddle” left.

I was one of those hide-the-radio-under-the-pillow-late-at-night-kids, back when Louie-Louie was a “Pick to Click.” The guys who called the huddles then were the likes of Murray “The K” Kauffman, Alan Freed, Jack Carney, Dick Biondi, Tom Clay, Jean Shepard, Arnie Ginsburg, Pete “Mad Daddy” Myers, Art Ford, Bruce Bradley, Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins, “Wolfman Jack,” and William B. Williams. Those guys played the hits, of course, but they also called the huddles. They gave you the feeling that while you were in their huddle, you were ok…because they knew all the moves. They patted you on the butt when you did well, and they cheered you up when you goofed. And they were on at night…because that’s when “the Kids” listened.The Guys Running Radio didn’t really understand the impact these D.J.s were having on the “Louie-Louie Generation.” The G.R.R. knew that most of the audience after 8pm were “kids,” and they didn’t like that. They wanted to sell cars and beer to grownups. But they figured that “the Kids” were better than nothing. They didn’t have a clue that it was “the Kids” who would save radio from the impact of tv. And then, of course, those kids would grow up to be… us…the “Louie-Louie Generation.” As Proud PodCast Participant “Angela from Brooklyn” so wonderfully put it…”so much magic came from that little box.” That magic wasn’t just the music. It was also the “huddle.”

The transistor turned the radio into everybody’s friendly little box. It was both a little box and a relatively little business. Westinghouse was considered a radio giant, but to put that word “giant” into perspective, a Westinghouse executive told me once that “the company made ten times as much money making locomotives as it does in the broadcasting business.” Well, radio really is big business these days. And big business is all about the big picture…the big bucks. Everything else gets nip and tucked.

All kinds of big business are doing the nip and tuck to save a buck. Proctor and Gamble nipped about a quarter inch off the width of toilet paper rolls last August. My Lady Wonder Wench says Land’s End is saving money by making their clothes a little less than full size, which means she can’t tuck them in where they’re supposed to tuck. And I just heard from a buddy of mine who runs a highly successful group of Midwest radio stations for a large corporation. He was just ordered to “cut four $18,000 a year D.J.s to save a few bucks,” while the CEO and other company biggies are pocketing 8 figure salaries. Nip and tuck. Big business…big picture.

But “Louie-Louie Generation” “guys and dolls” who are former radio-under-the-pillow-late-at-night-kids like to remember much smaller radio pictures. The ones that poured out of the huddle in that magic box just for us. And those of us who got to actually LIVE in the magic box for a while have memories of things that our kids can’t possibly imagine could ever happen on the radio.

Some of mine were the snowy WBZ Christmas Eve remote broadcasts from Boston Common; sitting in a studio in the middle of the RCA Building in New York, talking to the world (including all the girls in Brooklyn who had turned me down for dates in high school) on the NBC radio network; “Make It Or Break It” from the drive-in parking lot at WIBC; “Softly As I Leave You” for a listener who didn’t want the audience to know that she was dying the night I played it for her; a live phone call from a listener that ended abruptly as a wave swept his beach home away in a hurricane; the notorious “password”; the all powerful “Nurdle of Brooklynite”; Irving the Second…Super Plant Supreme; small stories on WNEW…poems in the middle of the night for my Lady Wonder Wench…hundreds of miles away… when I wasn’t supposed to love her; “Silent Night” played by a scruffy, unknown, blind kid with a beaten up old guitar who dropped by my show un-announced…Jose Feliciano.

We are the lucky ones…those of us who actually LIVED in the magic box…in the middle of the night…calling the huddles…before the nips and tucks.

Dick’s Details Quiz – All the answers are in the current PodCast at www.dicksummer.com  

1- How can bubble gum be turned into fuel to run Hollywood ?

2- From which Brooklyn Language word do we get the first part of the word “Trophy?”

3- Pilots say “Any landing you can walk away from is called a good landing.” What do pilots say is an “excellent landing”?

Scoring:

3 right – “Boss Jock.”

2 right – All Night D.J.

1 right – “Liner Card Reader”.

0 right – Nip and Tuck-er.

Lots of people say radio is dead. They’ve said that before. They were wrong then, and I’d like to think they’re wrong again…I am, after all, grimly determined to be an optimist. But this time…I don’t know. “The Kids” these days are doing other things. And as for yesterday’s “kids”…us…the “Louie-Louie Generation”…well, please remember…no matter what… you’re always welcome at the “Good Night” PodCast. There’s no nip and tuck to save some bucks. And you are always welcome in our “huddle.” If you’d just like to drop a line, my e-mail is:  Dick@DickSummer.com

 

 

 

 

The Dick Summer Connection – May 6, 2007

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

I flew my small plane up to Cleveland a little while ago to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Organizing a museum for a music that more or less celebrates happy chaos must be a tough job. They got a lot of it right. But they got one thing very wrong. There’s not even a mention of the guy who first put the music we now call “Classic Rock” on the radio. His name was Al Heacock. I’ve told his story before on this blog, but it’s worth telling again…for a very specific reason. After you read what happened, if you agree with me that Al belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, would you please send them a note and tell them about him. I’ll give you the address after the story. 

A VERY MUCH OVERDUE TRIBUTE TO THE REAL FATHER OF “CLASSIC ROCK” RADIO – WBZ’s AL HEACOCK 

It wasn’t called “Classic Rock” all those years ago. It really didn’t have a name at first. But it was definitely a new kind of music. It was music on fire… Hendrix, Morrison, Clapton. When I heard it for the first time, it took me a week to get my eyes closed.Here’s the perspective: AM radio was still king. Big 50,000 watt flame throwers like WBZ in Boston, WABC in New York, WLS in Chicago, and KFI in Los Angeles ruled. Almost all of them were built on tight top forty foundations. In fact, the play list at WABC was frequently more like the top twenty, with the emphasis on the top three. “All Hits All The Time.” Jingle, jangle, jingle. The FORMAT was the BOOK. Except at WBZ.

Now it can be told…WBZ never had a format. The guys on the air played whatever we wanted to play, including records from our own personal collections, and tapes from local artists. And in between every single record/tape, we had fun. Oh, we had fun. And people loved it. Today’s top radio stations pull around a ten rating in a major market. WBZ consistently pulled north of a twenty-five. The mouths at WBZ belonged to Carl deSuze, Dave Maynard, Jay Dunn, Jeff Kaye (and later Ron Landry), Bob Kennedy, Bruce Bradley, and me. But the brains, and a lot of the heart, of the station belonged to the Program Director, Al Heacock. 

Al was smart. He was a quiet guy who made a lot of money in the stock market. But he really didn’t care about the stock market. Al cared about his radio station, WBZ. It was a station with “tude.” When we broadcast from our mobile studio, which was most of the time, we proudly wore our station blazers. It wasn’t unusual at all for one of us to drop in on somebody else’s show and kibitz for a while. When you walked down the beach, you didn’t need to bring your own radio, because everybody around you would have ‘BZ turned on and turned up to stun. If you stopped your car for a red light, you could always hear ‘BZ coming out of the speaker in the car stopped next to you.

For those of you who never heard the station, and for those of you who work in radio and are curious about the legend that was WBZ, here’s how Al programmed his music: Each month there was a staff meeting. At the meeting he would always remind us to play some of the top tunes he left in the rack in the studio. And then he’d say, “I don’t want to hear two records back to back. We pay you guys to entertain. Entertain.” What a joy it was… what an honor to be a WBZ D.J.Here’s where the “Father of Classic Rock” stuff comes in.

Because it’s a big college town, Boston has always had a strong Folk Music tradition. At ‘BZ, we were consistently playing original tapes of unreleased songs like “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and “The Urge for Going” by Tom Rush, all kinds of stuff by Dylan, and Baez, and “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” Collins.

I was doing a weekly MC gig at the Unicorn Coffee House, a major Folkie spot in town. And I noticed that some of the artists were beginning to go electric. I invited Al to attend one night…he did… and he immediately understood. The next day, he instigated ‘BZs only mandatory music rule: “One Liquid Rock’ song (that’s what he called the new music) per hour.” Almost immediately the new music picked up the nickname “Underground Rock.” The name was the only thing Al got wrong. He set aside two hours on Sunday evening for the first big time “Underground Rock” radio show, “Dick Summer’s Subway.”

Then Dylan went electric, Eric Clapton formed “Cream” and Woodstock forged a new musical and political conscience for America…and it went roaring out on WBZ’s 50,000 watt clear channel signal from Massachusetts to Midway Island in the Pacific. (I have an air check.) And the suits at Group W Radio were aghast. It wasn’t top forty. It wasn’t anything they recognized. They didn’t like it. They wanted it stopped…right now. Al just very quietly said “no.” For awhile, even the suits didn’t want to mess too much with a 25 rating in Boston.But when Arlo Guthrie did a song called “Alice’s Restaurant,” featuring a line about the “mother rapers and the father rapers on the Group W bench,” the lawyers at headquarters freaked. The President of the Group took a flight from New York to talk sense into this crazy program director Heacock. “Get it off the air now” was the order. Al very quietly said “no.”

It was a classic “Radio Guy vs. Big Suit Guy.” And Mr. Suit blinked. The order was changed to “well, at least edit that line out.” Al very quietly just said “no.” So Mr. Suit decided to drop in on me on the Subway show, “for a friendly visit.” The engineer called Al to alert him to the situation. Ten minutes later, Al was at the studio and asking Mr. Suit to join him for a quick meeting…out of the studio. That’s the last I heard of the problem. Shortly after, Al was transferred to WINS in New York. A few months later, Group W turned off the music at WINS and started a highly successful all news format there. And just a few weeks after that, Al was found dead in his shower. They called it a coronary. But I think they just broke his heart.  

Soon after, the great Tom Donahue climbed on “Underground” music on his FM station out in San Francisco, Classical Music WBCN went FM rock in Boston, WNEW-FM went rock in New York…they even invited me to join them for morning drive…which I did, and in a little while, FM killed the AM king. It probably would have happened anyway. But the point is that when you hear “Stairway To Heaven” or “Light My Fire,” you’re listening to one of the many echoes of the quiet but firm “no” WBZ’s Al Heacock said all those years ago. I may have mixed up some of the specifics…it has been a long time. But that’s how I remember it.

So here’s to the real “Father of Classic Rock Radio.” A guy you probably never heard of. A guy who knew how to “just say no.” WBZ’s Al Heacock. Rest in peace, my friend. You taught me more than even you knew. You set me free on the air. Free. You were a lesson in how to be a real gentleman…a real, powerful and gentle man. And for a whole generation of people who love music, you helped set the world on fire.

If you agree that Al Heacock should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and if you feel that it’s worth a few minutes of your time to set the record straight, please take a moment to drop a (snail mail) note to: President, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, 1290 Ave. of Americas, New York, N.Y. 10104. (They don’t list an email address…but go ahead…dig out a piece of paper and an envelope…you’ve got some stashed somewhere.) 

Dick’s Details Quiz – All answers are in the current “Good Night Podcast,” at www.DickSummer.com

1- What could President Arnold Schwartzeneger do with the Washington Monument if we were attacked by aliens ?

2- What common sports gesture could represent a drunk basketball team ? 3- What’s my favorite bike-riding fantasy ?

Scoring:3 – right – Jimmy Hendrix. 2 – right – Jim Morrison. 1 – right – Jim Dandy. 0 – right – Gym Teacher.