Sunday, March 27, 2011

KCGL - "Modern Music" Radio Station
in SLC (1983-86)

I was thinking the other day about KCGL, an FM radio station in Salt Lake City that was a cutting-edge "modern music" station circa 1983.  (I vaguely remember the call letters "KABE" and thus believe that KCGL may have been preceded by KABE as the "alternative" station in the area; however, for present purposes I'll lump them together.)  I first became aware of KCGL when I went and spent a few days in August 1983 with my friend Bob Maes and his parents and siblings in Sandy, UT.*  Bob was always more informed than I about popular music, and he had me start listening to KCGL while I was there.  The station was a revelation, as I'd never before heard such interesting music, and from such obscure artists, on commercial airwaves -- and it seemed to be a going concern and very popular with young people on the Wasatch Front.  To give some context to this phenomenon, I try to imagine a radio station today, virtually anywhere, playing nothing but the newest, hippest indie-rock music; it just couldn't be, because any business-feasibility study would predict failure due to lack of advertising revenues.

Anyway, for the next couple of years Bob periodically recorded bunches of songs off KCGL and sent them to me on cassette tapes, and I was always grateful to get them.  Ultimately, however, KCGL did fail; I'm not sure when or precisely why -- although the rise of hip-hop and grunge-rock, together with the growing popularity of "classic rock" formats, probably contributed to its demise.  (I'm not sure how it maintained a core of advertising clients as long as it did, when its ever-changing playlist was so far out front of the usual crap one heard on the radio.)  It's common to look back now on the 80s and laugh about what was popular then -- I chuckle when I remember how Bob's younger sister Monica and her friends wore men's pajama bottoms, with the flies sewn shut and the legs tucked inside stockings, in lieu of pants -- but some of the "modern music" from that era is still very interesting.

The foregoing Youtube embeds contain songs that I like even now, all of which I first heard on KCGL during that stay with Bob and his folks in 1983: (1) "The Animal Song" by the Europeans; (2) "All Lined Up" by Shriekback; (3) "(If You Ask Me) I Won't Say No" by Pete Shelley; and (4) "Guitar, Talk, Love and Drums" by Gary Myrick and the Figures.  I like the two live performances (which thankfully sound very different from the studio versions of the songs) a lot better than the two execrable music videos -- the latter "art" form being one of the truly lamentable fixtures of the 80s music scene -- but it's all good.

* Bob grew up in Albuquerque and, though we hadn't known each other previously -- having grown up on opposite sides of town and in different stakes -- we roomed together as freshmen at BYU in the 1977-78 school year, and, later, for an additional semester in 1981 after our missions. Bob left on his mission to Argentina in December 1978 from the Albuquerque 5th Ward (which at that time took in the entire North Valley and the West Side north of I-40, an area that now encompasses 2+ stakes by itself); however, shortly thereafter his father took the job of postmaster of Sandy, and thus Bob went "home" from his mission to Utah.

[Update 3/31/11: It appears from information available on the Internet that KCGL passed from existence as a New Wave station, and adopted a "Christian rock" format, sometime in 1986.  (Apparently another SLC-area station, KJQN, then picked up the "alternative music" gauntlet for a few years, but that's beyond the scope of my experience.)  I'm sure it was a decision primarily driven by finances, but it's difficult to say which was more incongruous with being located in the demographic/political center of the Mormon Church (KCGL's broadcast facility was apparently located in Bountiful/Centerville to the north) -- a gritty "modern music" radio station or a schmaltzy "Christian rock" radio station.]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random Thoughts, Part 6

1. I've become convinced that the federal government's energy policy -- to the extent it has a coherent policy -- has as its sole purpose to drive up energy prices and inflict pain on the citizenry.  Given that our government is supposed to be "for the people," that's a remarkable conclusion to draw.  We're seeing unabated assaults on the internal combustion engine, which is still the key to affordable private-vehicle ownership.  And the greatest freedom an American citizen has is the ability to get in his car and go anywhere his time and resources allow.  However, the Obama administration's stated goal, which cannot be for the purpose of increasing mobility or driving down transportation costs, is to create access -- unprofitable, costly access -- to high-speed rail for 80% of the population.  I regard it as fair to infer from that goal that the government means to restrict mobility by limiting transportation options, essentially so that it can ultimately tell most of us where we can go and when.  The interstate highway system, which greatly increased mobility and drastically reduced the costs of transporting freight by truck, is generally viewed as one of the crowning achievements of the Dwight Eisenhower administration (1953-1961); however, I suspect strongly that if these highways didn't already exist, the Democrats would do all they could now to prevent their being constructed, favoring localized rail lines instead.  Recall this exchange between Sam Neill and Sean Connery, playing Soviet naval officers in the film The Hunt for Red October (1990) and discussing what it will be like to live in America after defecting:
Borodin [Neill]:  [A]nd I will have a pickup truck, or possibly even a...recreational vehicle...and drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?
Ramius [Connery]:  Yes.
Borodin [Neill]:  No papers?
Ramius [Connery]:  No papers. State to state.
I reiterate: Mobility, and the liberty it represents, is a hallmark of an even moderately free society.  High fuel costs, which are largely a function of supply, or rather perceived supply -- which in turn is affected by Middle-East unrest, curtailed domestic drilling, vindictive and politically opportunistic litigation, and overblown (even trumped-up) environmental concerns -- have already begun to erode that freedom in the United States. The government is way too involved in it all for me to believe it isn't by design.

2. I recently watched most of ESPN Films' "30 for 30" documentary The Fab Five, which I found fascinating.  I've always regarded the "Fab Five" phenomenon -- which resulted from the University of Michigan's 1991 signing of what is widely considered the greatest men's collegiate basketball recruiting class ever, consisting of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson -- as having triggered an acceleration in the coarsening of American culture.  Yes, Michigan was a good team, reaching the national championship game in the "Fab Five's" freshman and sophomore years (although investigations into NCAA rules violations later caused the university to forfeit games and vacate tournament results from those years).  However, the fallout from their smack-talkin', baggy short-wearin', tattoo-barin', arrogance-laden influence -- which seemingly has made it impossible for most basketball teams, regardless of the level of competition, to compete with sportsmanship, lose with class, or win with grace -- has been something of a national debacle.  Jalen Rose, currently an ESPN commentator, sparked controversy recently by stating that, at least when he was young, he regarded African American players who signed with Duke University to be "Uncle Toms," or traitors to their race.  The reason?  Simply, that Duke wouldn't recruit him or other black players from the 'hood.  It took a white ESPN Radio commentator to point out what should have been obvious to Rose -- and to all the African Americans who seemed to use the "Fab Five" in their college heyday as surrogates for sticking it in "White America's" face -- namely, that it was always more an issue of social class (never mind academics) than one of race, and that negative responses to the "Fab Five's" antics (probably even the most blatantly racist examples) were more in reaction to a perceived lack of class than to the players' blackness per se.  (I remember cheering when North Carolina won the 1993 national championship game, which it did in large part because Chris Webber called a timeout with seconds left in the game -- when Michigan didn't have any timeouts left -- which in turn resulted in a technical foul and a change of possession.  On the other hand, I was supremely disappointed when the heavily favored [and mostly black] UNLV lost to Duke in the 1991 Final Four.)  The overweening tendency of some people to see a racist behind every rock says much more about their skewed point of view than about their environment.  In any case, I'm no Duke fan, either, but I'd say that time has vindicated coach Mike Krzyzewski's recruiting strategies: the Michigan program has only barely started to recover from what the "Fab Five" did to it, whereas Duke has won multiple NCAA championships in the intervening years. 

[Update 3/21/11: Michigan nearly caused me to have to eat my words yesterday when it almost beat Duke in this year's NCAA tournament; I definitely sensed some added motivation on Michigan's part, related to the timing of the release of The Fab Five, to pull off the upset.]

[Update 3/24/11: I feel like I must add, in fairness, that men's volleyball -- traditionally played in the United States by more-affluent Caucasians -- has always been full of trash-talking and arrogance.  In fact, male volleyball players are significantly more sportsmanlike now than they were in 1978, when my brother Robin took me to El Paso, TX to watch the USVBA national tournament; during the course of that weekend long ago, I saw more on-the-court yapping (even between teammates) than I had seen in my entire life to that point.  Of course, it's a lot "safer" to mouth off to an opponent across a net than in closer quarters; those rich white guys would have been missing some teeth had they acted that way on a basketball court in those days.  However, in a larger sense I think it serves to illustrate why animosity to the "Fab Five" was primarily based on notions of class rather than race. I mean, how much difference is there, really, between wealthy Caucasians behaving badly because they think they're better than everyone else, and poor African Americans behaving badly to compensate for being told they're not as good as everyone else?  It's the bad behavior that middle-class white Americans tend to find obnoxious, not the skin color.]

3. I've been re-reading Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac, the autobiography of drummer Mick Fleetwood that was first published in 1992.  In retrospect, the most remarkable thing about the Fleetwood Mac story was the band's navel-gazing and unspeakable self-indulgence in its glory days of 1976-1982.  The popular-music scene is so different now that one can say with confidence that no rock band will ever reach those depths again; and that fact, combined with the vibrancy and creativity of today's indie-rock sector, tells me the changes have generally been for the better.  Today, it would require only three or four weeks, and a mere few thousand dollars, to record an album of comparable quality to Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album Rumours, which took an obscene eighteen months, and untold millions of dollars, to produce back in the day.  The fact that today's technology enables almost any band to produce high-quality recordings -- in turn rendering expensive recording studios, and all-powerful record companies, virtually obsolete -- constitutes cosmic justice in my mind.  I'm sure that dinosaur bands like Fleetwood Mac can still make a decent living on the "classic rock" concert circuit, but the days of their cocaine-fueled studio excesses are long gone.  Good riddance, I say.

4. I've been experimenting recently with growing the nails out on my right hand for playing the guitar.  It's amazing how much easier finger-picking is when you have fingernails with which to "grab" the strings.  Inasmuch as I mostly play electric guitar nowadays, I generally play with a flat pick, held between my thumb and index finger; however, at the same time I do a lot of upstroked finger-picking with my middle, ring, and little fingers, and the nails definitely help me get a consistent "attack" and tone out of the strings.  The drawback is that having long fingernails is about like having facial hair: it drives me crazy!

5. On Monday, March 14, Kiley, Dorine and I ate lunch at the JB's restaurant adjacent to the Plaza Inn on South Temple Street in downtown Salt Lake City.  It dawned on me as we ate there that the Plaza Inn, then a Howard Johnson's hotel, was where Dorine and I spent our wedding night (and several more nights, which cumulatively made up our "honeymoon").  It was strange to contemplate the passage of 26+ years since our wedding day, which could almost have happened yesterday.  It was even more strange to realize that when Kiley is married this summer, and then when Darren goes back to school in the fall, Dorine and I will be living on our own for the very first time in our marriage.

5. I was reminded recently of Sweetwater Rescue, a documentary of the misadventure of the Willie and Martin handcart companies of 1856 (and the heroic rescue effort that was mobilized to save the survivors), which documentary was written by Heidi Swinton and then filmed by Lee Groberg in 2006.  (I own the DVD, having bought it for a Sunday School lesson a couple of years ago.)  It's a very informative, well-done film that tells the story of the handcart companies -- and the extremities they endured -- from a fairly objective point of view.  That is, the text and commentary are objective -- I defy anyone with even a dollop of heart and human compassion, however, not to be moved by the combination of the written text, the commentary, the visual images, and, especially, the music.  I fell in love with one very plaintive, mournful theme for harp and recorder that provides the audio backdrop for the Martin Company's crossing of the Sweetwater River at Devil's Gate, Wyoming, as depicted in the following segment embedded from Youtube; in fact, I literally cannot listen to it without weeping.  The music director for the film, Sam Cardon, is a nephew of my Aunt Helen S______ (who died in 2004); Cardon really surpassed himself with this project, although I haven't been able to ascertain whether he composed, or merely arranged, the theme mentioned above.  (By the way, he and I aren't related, although we have a set of first cousins in common.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

So Tired

I really haven't felt like writing much lately, despite all the thoughts I've had about the world.  I've suffered something of a relapse concerning my mal de debarquement dizziness; I hadn't realized just how much better I'd been feeling until I started feeling lousy again.  There seem to be two causes: one, I haven't been sleeping well lately due to having developed a tolerance for both prescription sleep meds (Temazepam and Zolpidem/Ambien) that I was using; and, two, I've been feeling a heightened level of work-related stress.  Given that sleep is the one palliative that I know I can count on, and that stress aggravates my condition like nothing else, it's been a double whammy of bad.  I've been using a different "PAP" machine since November -- our insurance company regarded the Resmed "VPAP Adapt SV" as a "lifetime" rental (meaning that it would never simply buy the machine for me); the local medical supply company was still collecting a monthly co-payment from me (which would have gone up sharply in 2011); and my brother Jeff very generously gave me a Resmed "VPAP Auto" machine to use.  The "VPAP Auto" doesn't provide the same sophisticated relief from sleep apnea as the "VPAP Adapt SV" -- moving from one to the other was somewhat like going from a Lamborghini to a Toyota in terms of high-end performance -- but it has all the functionality I need, and it's saving us a ton of money!

Dorine, Kiley, and I went to Utah last Friday evening, spending five nights in Provo and getting to see lots of family and friends, including Darren, all four of my brothers, Dorine's brother Brian and his family, and Bob Maes, my old BYU roommate.  We stayed in the Provo Super 8 hotel, which is (a) kitty-corner from the BYU football stadium on Canyon Road and University Parkway, and (b) less than half a mile from Darren's apartment at Stadium Terrace.  Kiley went along partly to look at bridal gowns at a couple of shops, as -- oh, have I not mentioned it before? -- she is engaged to be married on June 24 to Sam H____, a recently returned missionary whom she met here in Albuquerque.  Kiley only turned nineteen earlier this month, and she seems very young to be thinking about marriage, but Sam is a good match for her: he loves her, and he's got both goals and the drive/wherewithal to achieve them.  I drove all the way up to Utah and all the way back, taking what is now my least-unfavorite route, bypassing Bloomfield, (most of) Farmington, Kirtland, Shiprock, and Cortez.  (If only I could find a way to bypass Monticello, Moab, Wellington, and Spanish Fork, too!)

We intentionally came home in time for birthdays -- Devery's, Maddison and Hailee's (see attached photo), and Nicole's.  And now I've been absorbed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament; I'd like to see BYU go deep in the tournament, and they've won their first-round game, but they are hampered by not having a credible inside-outside game (ever since the dismissal of Brandon Davies from the team for an unspecified honor-code violation) that would otherwise lead to open three-point shots for their star player Jimmer Fredette.  Oh well, so long as teams from the Big East Conference (which I regard as highly overrated) continue to lose; I'm no big Duke or Kansas fan, but I'd much rather see either of them win than Connecticut, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, or West Virginia.

[Update 4/18/11: Of course, Connecticut won the national championship, which is a bummer despite the fact that 9 of the 11 Big East teams lost in the first two rounds.  BYU managed to make it past the first two rounds and then took Florida to overtime in the "Sweet 16" -- which is pretty remarkable given that Jimmer Fredette had to create almost all of his shots off the dribble, mostly against taller, quicker people.  The usual naysayers are pooh-poohing Fredette's NBA prospects, but he's a good enough shooter to do some real damage on a pro team that can consistently get him open, squared-up jump shots.]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 11th Ward - The Past Comes Alive

Ward Campout, August 1981 (near Cuba, NM)
Joe Regulator and the Little Factories, August 1981
Doing the "Time Warp"
Ken Mantlo singing "Planet Claire"; Tracy Carroll on bass
Me playing guitar with Morris Carrillo, Patty McGraw on the right
Danielle Aleman singing "Wedding Bell Blues," April 1983
Out with the girls, ca. 1982
Dancing with Tommy Gallegos
Man, I love the Internet!  Mark Alford, a fellow I knew in the old Albuquerque 11th [singles] Ward, started a Facebook group for 11th Ward alumni.  Quite a few of the "members" are people I didn't know -- or at least not well -- inasmuch as the ward started several years before I got there and lasted several more years after I left. However, once people started scanning and uploading old photos they had from 11th Ward activities in the early 1980s, miracles happened.  Events that I thought were lost to the tides of time -- see my posts from a couple of years ago about the 11th Ward -- washed back ashore through photos that I didn't know existed.  The Facebook group formed for purposes of a reunion dinner, to take place at the Quarters restaurant (on Wyoming Blvd.) here in town this Saturday.  I won't be around to attend the reunion, but the pictures I've posted above are a gift that I couldn't have anticipated.

The top photo is from the ward campout in August 1981, which was at a campground in the forest east of Cuba, NM.  (I'm standing right of center in the overalls and the blue-white-and-red sweater.)  The second, third, and fourth photos are from the ward "gong" show that same summer and document the one-and-only public performance of Joe Regulator and the Little Factories, the "punk" group that my buddies and I formed.  (I'm in white, playing my old Gibson SG; Ken Mantlo is in the tux and is playing my old National Telecaster copy; Tracy Carroll is playing bass and wearing the red "pig" mask [and his dad's "throw-up" sport coat]; Greg Acton is playing drums; Dickerson Watkins and Chuck Stewart are singing in a couple of the shots; and Morris Carrillo played piano/guitar.)  It's seems odd that, at the time, the Boyd K. Packer reference was pretty obscure -- if perfectly suited to our purposes! -- and no one seemed to think much of it; however, whenever I mention it to someone now, they usually act like I'm guilty of blasphemy.  (Personally, I think the comparison of a pubescent boy's private parts to a "little factory" -- one that must be guarded against "overproduction" -- is one of the worst metaphors in the history of the English language and thus merits ridicule.)

The fifth photo shows Morris Carrillo and me playing guitars at an activity -- probably not the ward campout -- in the summer of 1981.  The sixth photo shows Danielle Aleman (and backup singers Doug Porter, Joyce Hodshire, and Pam Aguilar) performing "Wedding Bell Blues" at the Haines Street chapel for her long-time boyfriend Jeff Jolley.  (Lee Ann Morrell played piano -- and I the guitar -- off camera to the right.)  The sixth photo shows the group of us guys who dressed in drag, probably in the summer of 1982, for a "nerd" dance at the Institute building near the UNM campus.  (Left to right: me, Ron Wiser [now the president of the Roswell, NM stake!], Bob Lenberg, Dickerson Watkins, and Tracy Carroll.)  I remember that we all rode down to the dance in the same car; I kept thinking, "Man, I hope we don't get pulled over!"  The last photo, obviously from the same event, shows me dancing with Tommy Gallegos, one-time BYU yell leader; judging from my expression -- which, by the way, was affected for the camera -- I was having fun!

Looking back from the perspective of going on thirty years, I marvel at what good times those were.  If only I hadn't been such a self-absorbed jerk....

[Update 3/17/11: I've found the experience of posting messages on Facebook to other 11th Ward alumni to be interesting and somewhat dismaying.  I think it came down to this: one, when it comes to writing, I'm significantly more prolific -- loquacious, even -- than almost everyone I know; and, two, despite the fact that I didn't start the FB group or seek out people to add to it, I felt a greater draw to the group, and to our common past as members of the singles ward, than did almost everyone else.  I think more than a few people interpreted my comments and attempts to spark discussions on FB as (a) self-centered efforts to draw attention to myself, and (b) being indicative of an unseemly tendency on my part to live in the past (which in turn might suggest dissatisfaction with the present).  In addition, I'm apparently not much less irreverent than I was thirty years ago, whereas some of my erstwhile friends obviously regard themselves as changed, totally ignoring the fact that they were once even more irreverent than I.  Well, I can't deny that I'm more self-focused than is healthy, or that I have a few regrets about both my past and how my life has turned out, or that my sense of humor is still pretty crude; however, the truth remains that most 11th Warders were, and are, pretty guarded and superficial about their feelings -- not to mention the fact that some also lack self-awareness and have become unbearable scolds -- despite their professed affinity for each other.  As has generally always been the case concerning other church members and me, I have noticeably more affinity for them than they do for me. Maybe it was always thus; in any case, I now face the world a little wiser.]

[Update 7/26/11: Mark Alford posted the group shot of 11th Ward members that I've inserted below, which is difficult to date precisely, although there are a few clues.  One, Sue A______ appears in the photo; I'm pretty sure she didn't return from her church mission until the early part of summer 1982, so the photo couldn't have been taken before then.  Two, Phill Auth (who left on a church mission in January 1983) and Jacque Gallion (who married Jeff Rasmussen, and thus left the ward, also in January 1983) likewise are in the photo; therefore, it couldn't have been taken later than December 1982.  Three, the overcoats, dead grass, and what appears to be snow in the mountains in the background fix the time of year as most likely being from November to March.  Putting all this together suggests that the photo was taken sometime in November-December 1982, although I naturally wonder where Tracy Carroll, Ken Mantlo, and I were, not to be included in this group.  At any rate, it's a great picture and includes many of the people whom I regarded as the "core" of the ward (from left to right, more or less): Pam Aguilar, Jeff Jolley, Jeanelle Carlisle, Sue A_____, Bill Carr, Joyce Hodshire, Craig Mortensen, Kathy Katzenberger, Owen Laurion, Erick Brown, Ron Wiser, Carol Jones, Dan Raney, Dickerson Watkins, Phill Auth, Bart Norton, Jacque Gallion, Bob Lenberg, Kathleen Raney, Doug Wallace, Bob Henson, Charlene Alderson, Tommy Gallegos, Cheri Owens, Cathie Thomas, and Jamie Thomas (Cathie's adopted son).]
Albuquerque 11th Ward members, ca. late 1982
[Update 11/25/11: Here are two photos, taken by me on 4/1/11, of the old 11th Ward meetinghouse, which started life as the LDS seminary building for the Albuquerque Indian School (AIS).  I'm not sure when AIS ceased operations, but the seminary building apparently stopped functioning, as such, some years before the school itself closed.  Obviously the church then made other use of it for some years -- it was well-suited to the singles ward (apart from the rather "ghetto" location) -- before selling it.  It currently has no occupant and looks pretty run-down.]
Old 11th Ward Meetinghouse, Apr. 2011
9th St. and Cutler Ave. NW
Shawna M, ca. 1984
Sue A, ca. 1980