Friday, 27 February 2009

Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation

by Marc Fisher

Fass didn't claim to have anything particularly novel to offer when he asked the bosses at WBAI if he could expand his announcing job to include the hours after 1 A.M., when the station normally signed off before coming on again at sunrise. Sure, go ahead, came the response, and so he did. He thought he might play some music--he was a constant presence at the Greenwich Village cofeehouses where Phil Ochs and other emerging folkies were testing their new songs. Maybe he'd throw in some bits of theater, maybe spin some of the odd records he picked up at secondhand shops in the Village.

No one at the station cared much what Fass did on his show--after midnight, who was listening? So if Fass played a record called "How to Teach Your Parakeet to Talk" just because he thought it was funny, no one complained. And if he took a tape recorder out to the coffehouses and played the results ont he radio, calling his show "Coffee Grounds," that was just fine. Fass's was the first radio show to feature a strange, falsetto-voiced singer who called himself Tiny Tim and sang songs that simulatensouly paid tribute to the a cappella groups of the 1930s and spoofed the corporate music machine. On one of those first nights on the air, the stage manager of an off-Broadway show in which Fass was performing urged him to put a friend of his sister's on the radio, a guy named Bob Dylan who was a gifted parodist and, by the way, a singer too. Dylan came on and pretended to be the chief of a company that made clothing for folksingers.

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