Wednesday, December 29, 2010

George Carlin Died Today

June 24, 2008

George Carlin died today. He is being memorialized as an agent of the Counter Culture. It is true, I guess. I saw him in Radford, Va, at Radford Univ. in 1990. His act was unique, clever, and caustic. I liked him, but when I think "Counter Culture", I tend to think of William Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and a few others. They were pre-Boomer, though. Carlin was 71, and his death is probably garnering this much press because of the Old Guard (Baby Boomers) still in the newsrooms of today, feeling their own mortality more keenly every day.

Is it possible that we can finally usher in the era of post-Boomer-ism? I, for one, have been calling for this for oh, let's see...about twenty years, now. I graduated from high school in 1985, and I can remember how the death of Q99 in 1980 meant a sudden loss of all things cool, drawn-out, and experimental. The industry name for that Q99 format was "album-oriented rock", or AOR. But before we knew the word, it could have really been called 'alternative'. How can anyone listen to King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Yes, Steely Dan, Queen, Doors, Cream, The Who, Traffic, The Alan Parson's Project, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, Canned Heat, (early) Chicago, Genesis, Nick Drake, Todd Rundgren, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Styx, Jimi Hendrix,Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, Donovan, Steppenwolf, and the like, and deny that they were alternative for their time?

And there were precursors, of course. Miles Davis, always working to form his own voice, cut his teeth with other alternative artists of his time, like Charlie Parker. They formed the Be-Bop sound of jazz in the 40's. By the time Miles went solo, in the early-mid 50's, he was beginning to push the acceptable duration of single songs, allowing for unheard-of improvisational freedom. Others were experimenting in jazz, also, like Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk, and Bill Evans. And before the age of Jazz there were others, too.

Alternative and counter-culture won't stop because of the Baby Boomers going out to pasture. Indeed, their footprint was large. (Hence the name "baby boomer", 'natch). Hell, I was just listening to the oldies station I quit from last year. Same old shit that it ever was, only sadder. The people out there who actually listen to this limp collection of rock and roll are not too far from the grave.
Maybe that's what most oldies/classic rock is best described as: "Muzak Over God's Waiting Room Speaker System" The format is yet another pitiful example of what the crowd who told us, "Don't trust anyone over thirty", has hammered into our heads for WAY TOO LONG. The same 350 songs which have been tested by lots of people who don't have to go to a job every day, streamed through the best software for maximizing a 'fresh' rotation. Most of the cadre in FM radio that's left standing is the most bitter, burned-out, blearry-eyed bunch of boomers you'd ever want to meet. Not an original thought among them.

I remember going to my boss, "Joey", the program director, for an idea I came up with. See, I was not only a full-time jock there, but also it's webmaster. I had been given some copy from the PD the day before. It was about a young child who was due for an emergency operation soon, needing a bone marrow donation. When I was uploading it to our site that night, I got into the second paragraph, and realized that he was an African American, and, thus, would be requiring donors of the same race only. Our station is Billy Joel-white, skewing white soccer moms.

So I went to "Joey" the next day about a possible life-saving idea that wouldn't have cost him anything but a quick conversation or email. Since the young boy needed only African American donors, I asked "Joey" if he would talk to the pd from another station in our cluster, The Beat, which has a sizeable audience of African Americans in the area, and offer to hyper-link my copy dealing with this call-for-action to help save this young boy's life.

"Joey" is a Boomer, having been a rock radio dj from Boston for the past thirty years before coming here. He worked at the hottest AC stations in the late 70's through to the 90's, then moved here shortly after Y2K. He's a corporate yes-man from way back, always willing to kiss the right ass and talk bad about anyone who isn't a liner jock. Those who aren't liner jocks take risks and chances on the air. It's what radio is supposed to be made of, but isn't anymore. The "Joey"'s survived by stabbing the risk-takers in the back.

I saw it happen to the best jock I ever worked with. He sailed into every break with spontenaity, freshness, and unpredictability. In other words, it was fun. He was a good smart-ass, too. Perfect attitude for American Radio. As our afternoon drive, he was easily the best jock besides the morning guy, surrounded by big market talent. He was so gifted that he could do a network-quality impersonation of Wolfman Jack. He would cut a six-hour show of "Wolfman" for the Sunday night shift.

He was excellent and creative, so, of course "Joey" had to push him out the door. "Joey" lives the persona on the air of a caring, friendly, companion for "your workday". He makes a big production out of the annual "Kids With Cancer" drive our station promoted. He makes an effort to put little kids on the air at our yearly radiothon, and stay excited and positive in front of everyone at the remote. So I thought he would pick up this opportunity to help this kid with Lukemia.

ME: Joey, you know that copy you gave me yesterday, about the kid needing a bone marrow match?"

Joey: [kinda clueless] Yeah...

ME: Well, I don't know if you read it or not, but it turns out that he's African American, and he needs donations from only African Americans.

JOEY: Uh...

ME: I've got it up on our site, but we would do a lot better for him if we had The Beat link to our site--it's easy. All you have to do is tell Scrappy to have his webmaster do it...

JOEY: [look of I-can't-believe-you'd-ask-me-that!] Uh, I don't think so. I don't have time for something like that.

And he walked off. "Time for something like that???" Joey's office is all of ten feet from the other PD's office! He knew how easy it was to offer some help for this dying boy, but because he couldn't make the effort to talk to another radio station's PD, (Joey is older, more accomplished in major markets, and sees himself as superior to the other 3 PDs in our cluster), this young kid's chances for survival were diminished.

And that's the way I see the entire Baby Boomer generation. They start off praising transcendental meditation in the 60's, tried to attach a lot of pride and righteousness to running from the Army, America, and the draft, only to become sullied, poisoned, and murderous, just like the generation they were railing against. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so narcissistic. All things are viewed through the lens of what they saw in their precious youth, the prism of the 60's, Vietnam, and The Establishment.

Their maturation process is stunted, having become stuck on their 18th birthday. Now that they're ready for their dribble cups, they're reverting to that tired, silly, childish attitude which they threw away for their piece of the pie in their middle years. Now that they're bent, cranky, and retiring, they can scream and bitch as if they weren't The Establishment for the past 30 years, themselves. They have turned into the "Still navel-gazing at 60", and can't even see the cliche'.

Maybe Carlin would have seen it.

No comments: