Sunday, August 23, 2015

Stream of unconsciousness


Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, Fass proves you wrong. This is not the kind of embarrassment Haskins's ignorance generates five days a week on the morning show, nor is it the cringe-inducing simple-minded "spiritual" blather Kathy Davis exhales. It isn't even the hate-filled, outdated crap Lister Hewan-Lowe regurgitates on "Burn Baby Burn". It's a self-made has-been refusing to let go of a past that froze in time several decades ago, and it is a very painful degeneration: a man who once moved and stirred the culture, mumbling to himself... reciting call letters of distant radio stations that may no longer relay the remnants of a forgotten past.

The question is: WHY?

Why is this and other utterly unproductive air pollution allowed to contaminate the ether and continue long after WBAI has exhausted its raison d'etre?

I rehired Bob Fass, who had been prematurely discarded by my predecessor, but that was back in the era when convention crashed, Brylcreem and Old Spice remained in the bottle, and the blooming flower generation smothered us with ersatz love. Dylan and a mixed assortment of rebels became frequent midnight visitors at BAI, and everything old suddenly seemed even older. Bob Fass did not orchestrate this, but he knew the score and conducted his program accordingly. It would be wrong to dilute his role in the success of Radio Unnameable, but it is also wrong to overlook the fact that none of this would have happened if Lew Hill's Pacifica had not set the stage.

Today, there is hardly a trace of that Pacifica left. A disastrous u-turn has long since killed the spirit of America's first non-profit, listener-sponsored broadcast experiment. Most of the original participants have moved on, some to great success, but even they can no longer reach back and offer, in good conscience, to help an organization run by small-minded vandals.

You probably do not listen to WBAI these days, so here is an unedited, torturous excerpt from last week's "Radio Unnameable." I don't know what triggered the rambling, disjointed recollections that goes from Jean Shepherd to Fass' grandmother via Wanamaker's burned out New York store, but the bumpy narrative's volume eventually sinks several decibels and remains there until Fass fizzles out and we are left with a very confused Bill Propp, who throws fragments of an old Fass show into the New York night.

There is bad radio and there is this sort of thing.

15 comments:

  1. bai .. more like radio unlistenable these days . God awful for the most part .

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  2. "BAI is DEAD - The Dream is Over!" - Yoko Ono

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  3. I'll try one more time. Apparently, my most recent comments haven't gone through.

    I have just returned from a trip and haven't listened to BAI. I might give up on the station altogether. It's become so bad that it's hard to listen even to the programs I like. The problem is that folks like Simon Loekle, Joyce Jones and Chris Whent have no real power in the station. It's run, in fact as well as in effect, by its absolute worst elements and weakest links. When I hear someone like Ivan Hametz, I hear the knives being sharpened in the background. And other hosts I've liked, like the ones of "Off The Hook" and "The Personal Computer Show" simply seem resigned.

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  4. That's actually very sad.

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  5. To tell the truth, I was going to goof on this, but then I realized Fass is like 82 years old, right? Well, I changed my mind.

    In a best case scenario, what Fass needs is a side kick who knows how to keep him on track, if possible, and he has any marbles remaining. Propp, an obvious burnout of his own, isn't the guy for that, since he's just a creep riding Fass' imaginary coattails.

    Radio Unlistenable has it's five listeners, and provides a little on-air weekly hang-out for Fass and his few pals, paid for by WBAI via its electric bill. We know Fass sure doesn't earn enough money for the station to even cover that.

    I guess he may as well take advantage of the situation while it lasts, considering how many worse people do.

    SDL

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    Replies
    1. Granted, age is a factor and it is not realistic to expect it not to alter performance in some way. That is of course not to say that the change has to be bad--it can even enhance that which once was admirable.

      The problem arises when the years have taken too much away and the result is ignored. I have long recommended that Bob retire his radio career and move on to something else--the natural career move for him would have been to put his lengthy, rich experience into a book. Perhaps he is a lousy writer, but there are good potential collaborators around.

      Performers also have the option to become teachers--there are many ways in which people like Fass can continue contributing, lead a useful existence, and avoid the has-been tag. In my opinion, the documentary film gave him an excellent opportunity to leave the microphone with dignity intact. Sure, he had been clinging on for many years, the not so uncommon victim of his own ego, but he would have left broadcasting on a relatively high note. Someone should have advised him, perhaps he just wouldn't listen. It wasn't money that kept him on the air, nor was it a clamor ing crowd... It was pure ego and bad judgement.

      What we hear once a week these days is the painful sound of decay. I am slightly older than Bob (84 in October), but I am well aware of what I can and cannot do, so I stick to what I can--and that works. I don't live a life of luxury, I barely exist on the kind of social security one gets when most of one's life has been spent off a payroll, not enough to pay more than half the monthly rent for an apartment in which I have lived for 53 years. I also rely on food stamps, but I am still enjoying life, my true friends are many, and whatever I eventually will leave behind as evidence of my work is still being augmented, albeit at a slower pace. Do I wish I had been wiser on the business end of my career? Of course. However, when I look around at some of the many people whose paths crossed mine over the years, I see too many like Bob, people who will leave only short lived memories in their wake, but who had the talent and opportunity to make a more lasting impression on future generations.

      All this to say that a life devoted entirely to selfies and looks in the mirror is a life that should have been spent better.

      I will now step out of the confessional.

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    2. Remember a few months back when Jim Freund had that woman on who really knew how to gently step in when he started going off on tangents and keep him focused? That's what Fass needs. Propp, again, isn't the person for that.

      Sure, he should have written a book and still should. As a fan of autobiographies, I can tell you that often "non-writers" or "lousy" writers write the best ones, as they are just putting down information without pretenses to anything more. However, as I said a while back, Fass could do one of those Title by Bob Fass as told to collaborator type deals.

      I think what Fass blew with the film was an opportunity to make a comeback. Had he reinvigorated his show, he may have found a new group of people to tune in regularly. However, I bet people tuned in and tuned out once they heard the stale ramblings and hootenanny music. It was free publicity and he didn't take advantage.

      Ultimately, Fass' failure is a big ego and inability to have left the 1960s. He will fight to the end to remain in his safety zone.

      Personally, I hate the modern world and simply opt out as much as possible but accept it exists around me. No, I don't have a smartphone or any of that stuff. As for a safety zone, I don't have one, not my style.

      SDL

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    3. Remember a few months back when Jim Freund had that woman on who really knew how to gently step in when he started going off on tangents and keep him focused? That's what Fass needs. Propp, again, isn't the person for that.

      Sure, he should have written a book and still should. As a fan of autobiographies, I can tell you that often "non-writers" or "lousy" writers write the best ones, as they are just putting down information without pretenses to anything more. However, as I said a while back, Fass could do one of those Title by Bob Fass as told to collaborator type deals.

      I think what Fass blew with the film was an opportunity to make a comeback. Had he reinvigorated his show, he may have found a new group of people to tune in regularly. However, I bet people tuned in and tuned out once they heard the stale ramblings and hootenanny music. It was free publicity and he didn't take advantage.

      Ultimately, Fass' failure is a big ego and inability to have left the 1960s. He will fight to the end to remain in his safety zone.

      Personally, I hate the modern world and simply opt out as much as possible but accept it exists around me. No, I don't have a smartphone or any of that stuff. As for a safety zone, I don't have one, not my style.

      SDL

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    4. If I may presume…

      I think it’s safe to say from what I know of your bio that your self-assessment is sound – you’ve met worthy challenges, and you’ve accomplished worthy things – and I agree, too, that that ain’t half bad :)

      Now…

      Onward…

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

      Delete
    5. As Laurette Taylor is alleged to have said when turning down the offer of a drink, "Thank you for the vote of confidence."

      Delete
  6. brotha ron ,,, keeping the blackness goin.
    and the listeners goin ... away

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  7. Remember a few months back when Jim Freund had that woman on who really knew how to gently step in when he started going off on tangents and keep him focused? That's what Fass needs. Propp, again, isn't the person for that.

    Sure, he should have written a book and still should. As a fan of autobiographies, I can tell you that often "non-writers" or "lousy" writers write the best ones, as they are just putting down information without pretenses to anything more. However, as I said a while back, Fass could do one of those Title by Bob Fass as told to collaborator type deals.

    I think what Fass blew with the film was an opportunity to make a comeback. Had he reinvigorated his show, he may have found a new group of people to tune in regularly. However, I bet people tuned in and tuned out once they heard the stale ramblings and hootenanny music. It was free publicity and he didn't take advantage.

    Ultimately, Fass' failure is a big ego and inability to have left the 1960s. He will fight to the end to remain in his safety zone.

    Personally, I hate the modern world and simply opt out as much as possible but accept it exists around me. No, I don't have a smartphone or any of that stuff. As for a safety zone, I don't have one, not my style.

    SDL

    ReplyDelete
  8. I tried sending this twice and I guess it didn't get through. Three times the charm?

    Remember a few months back when Jim Freund had that woman on who really knew how to gently step in when he started going off on tangents and keep him focused? That's what Fass needs. Propp, again, isn't the person for that.

    Sure, he should have written a book and still should. As a fan of autobiographies, I can tell you that often "non-writers" or "lousy" writers write the best ones, as they are just putting down information without pretenses to anything more. However, as I said a while back, Fass could do one of those Title by Bob Fass as told to collaborator type deals.

    I think what Fass blew with the film was an opportunity to make a comeback. Had he reinvigorated his show, he may have found a new group of people to tune in regularly. However, I bet people tuned in and tuned out once they heard the stale ramblings and hootenanny music. It was free publicity and he didn't take advantage.

    Ultimately, Fass' failure is a big ego and inability to have left the 1960s. He will fight to the end to remain in his safety zone.

    Personally, I hate the modern world and simply opt out as much as possible but accept it exists around me. No, I don't have a smartphone or any of that stuff. As for a safety zone, I don't have one, not my style.

    SDL

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    Replies
    1. The film proved to be an overdose of ego. Even after all these years, Bob was not prepared to hand a burst of attention.

      I spent many years bringing great forgotten artists back into the light. Most, like Lil Armstrong, were living in the real world. She had played on piano on some of the greatest recordings in jazz/American history and was still performing in 1961 when I suggested that she record an album for a series I was producing. "Who's going to listen to that old stuff?", she asked, amused at the mere notion. We did an album and it sold very well.

      Other's, mostly lesser-known jazz pioneers, had a different reaction. It was all going to come back, they thought,naïvely. That's Bob—wrapped in the past and stagnant. He could not have reinvigorated that show, but there was enough left over to do a good facelift.

      When one falls so hopelessly in love with one's own work, it withers on the vine and drops out of sight.

      Delete
  9. They shoot horses, don't they?

    KGT

    ReplyDelete