The San Francisco Herald Question:
What Do You Think About the Closing of KUSF Radio?
The other day I was looking for the classical station KDFC normally found at 102.1 but got only static. So, I looked up the station online and found that they are moving to 90.3 FM. I thought this must mean that KUSF is...moving? Oh well.
I haven't listened to KUSF for years and that might have a lot to do with the fact that I've lived in the East Bay since 2004. Also, Internet radio, Pandora, iPods, iTunes, talk radio, podcasts and such have taken over as my preferred audio delivery systems. I frequently listen to 90.7 KALX in Berkeley when driving around town and find the various shows a bit more thematic, entertaining and informative than KUSF. Plus, KUSF DJs always seemed to compete on how eclectic their tastes can be: "Ok, that was Public Enemy's 'Fight the Power' and before that was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass with 'The Lonely Bull.' Up next is a band Thurston Moore discovered when shopping for tires for his car."
R.I.P. KUSF. Peace!
It means nothing to me, as I never listened to radio anyway. Before iPod's, I listened to cd's in the car or at work. Radio might be good for getting info out to the public, but for music? Why should I spend my time listening to what someone else wants to play? I haven't listened to radio since probably around 1989 when I was in the Army in Germany.
I now have Sirius Satellite radio in my Jeep, and it is awesome. 120 channels of music, all across the spectrum. Of course, it's still music someone else is playing, but there's certainly more variety than a local station. However, again, there is a small audio input on the faceplate into which I usually plug in my iPod and play MY playlist, music that I've selected and rated and want to hear. Old style radio formats like KUSF are dead. This isn't 1955 anymore, we all have numbers of options for news and music and I'm so happy about it. Have you heard commercial radio lately and the crap they play nowadays? It's like you can't get a song on the radio unless you use AutoTune or voice modulation. Oh, and have a black guy "rapping" at some point in the song. Both radio and music suck these days, and I am safe inside my iPod.
Herald columnist/Military contractor
P.S. I can guarantee you that yesterday, I was the only person in the entire country of Afghanistan working out at the gym while listening to Billie Holiday. I HAVE to use an iPod at the gym here; they blare shitty top-40 noise from it all day.
Gene & co.,
My strip about the sale of KUSF:
Creator of (th)ink, the Knight Life &
The K Chronicles: 2010 Glyph Award & Inkpot Award Winner
http://www.kchronicles.com & http://www.knightlifecomic.com
I live in SF's East Berlin: Daly City
We don't get KUSF that easily, so we have to use our crystal radio sets so we can hear the same bunch of shit that KJFC plays anyways.
Fuck them, fuck the Don's & fuck you all for having such an asinine conversation.
Move along nostalgia lovers... yer worse than a bunch of old red diaper babies in the home.
I thought my first reply to your email was a little harsh, dissing radio altogether. I also said I hadn't listened to radio since 1989, which is true, but before 1989, it was a lifeline for me, a connection out of the redneck-dominated small town in Arkansas in which I was raised. Of course, the majority of kids my age listened to either of 2 types of music: Country or Rock. My father listened to country, and when he made me go to construction sites with him to "learn the trade", everybody there listened to country. I myself never developed a taste for commercial, mainstream country music. In fact, it irritated me to the point that I wanted to vomit when I heard it. Those whiny steel guitars, those nasally shit-kicker vocals, always singing about some hillbilly problems. This was the early 1980s, not that it matters much, because when I turn on a country station nowsdays, the music sounds the same to me still. To be fair, I'm talking about mainstream FM country, not acoustic mountain music or folk music. I still get up in arms when someone compares mountain music or bluegrass to country music. It's a whole different world.
We lived in the Ozarks, and we often went to bluegrass festivals, and didn't live too far from the Ozark Folk Center, which had live concerts of real old-time mountain music. Even today I have a few playlists of this kind of music on my iPod. Jerry Garcia acoustic, The Carter Family, etc. This introduction to "real" music influenced my musical tastes from then on. Scanning through some of the playlists on my iPod now, I can see bands I discovered based on my love for acoustic music: Ben Harper, Tracey Chapman, Bon Iver, Nick Drake, James Taylor, Beck, CSNY, The Grateful Dead, etc. I doubt I would be into these bands if my father hadn't introduced me to mountain music. But to this day, listening to modern country music is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Country music is so far from its roots, except for the vocalist, you could be listening to 70's rock.
However, back to the radio story...
Growing up in Arkansas, the high school basically had three camps; the "ropers" who were country music fans, the "stoners", who listened to rock & roll, and the "preppies", who listened to top 40. My dad listened to country and my mother did the top 40 thing, so I kind of fell in with the rock & roll camp, although I wasn't a stoner. I bought a Black Sabbath t-shirt and discovered, despite hating my cheap Chuck Taylors, the other kids thought they were cool! When I grew up in the late 70s, Converse Chuck Taylors were what the poor kids wore, and you could buy them at the local feed & grain store for $10 a pair. My dad bought them for us because they were the cheapest things he could buy. Nike had just come out, but those were yuppie shoes and cost around $35 a pair.
But despite being in the rocker group, I knew it was a charade, as I wasn't really into the music. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Ozzy...they were alright, but it was just rock music like my older brothers listened to. I've already heard it all before. I had another friend who was totally dedicated to Queen, but I never liked them. They had a few songs I liked, but I wouldn't pay $7.50 for a cassette tape from them. Then they came out with that horrible Radio Gaga song and I moved them to the "shit" section.
I grew up to the Beach Boys, and my best friend at the time, Mark, was really into The Who, and that was my introduction to British rock. My older brother was a Rush fan, and I liked them, but they had only released a few albums by then. Moving Pictures had just come out, and we jammed to it. AC/DC's Back in Black had just come out, and I rocked to that for awhile, but I never liked the new singer. I've always been a Bon Scott guy. I guess I'm showing my age calling Brian Johnson the "new singer". I was really into Van Halen, they were such a crazy party band, so different from the other rock bands back then...I never liked the big hair bands that were popular then. Cinderella, Ratt, Poison, Aldo Nova, etc. How could you call yourself a hard rock band, singing about chicks and getting laid, when you pretty much looked like a chick yourself?
I was bored, and I wanted...many of us wanted, needed something new!
I used to lay in bed late at night with the covers over my head and play with a little transistor radio I bought at the local Radio Shack. The local station we all listened to back then was KHOG, out of Fayetteville, a college town. It wasn't a college station, but it catered to the college students tastes. It was where I first heard REM and the Dead Kennedys. The big life-changing event happened when, at 11pm one Friday night in 1982, KHOG suddenly started airing a syndicated radio show from England with a British DJ named Graham Dee. It was called "Rock over London", and it got me hooked on British music. Rock Over London was a program of British pop hits and gossip made specially for the trans-Atlantic market.
Thus I was introduced to British pop and new wave for the first time. I "discovered" the Human League, Soft Cell and Flock of Seagulls, Bananarama, Depeche Mode and, of course, Duran Duran. I know it's hard for younger people to read this and laugh, and I'll even admit the music possibly sucks, but at the time it was new, experimental, something the youth of the time could call their own! The vocals, the music...it was all so different from the typical rock everyone else listened to; Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc.
One of my most treasured t-shirts is an original "Frankie Says Relax", which I wore on special occasions. I grew a gay S&M moustache like the one dude in Frankie Goes to Hollywood who didn't seem to play anything, he just danced. It wasn't until later that I realized the entire band was flamingly homosexual, but since I was in Arkansas and no one else knew, I rocked it.
Suddenly, a new sub-group of kids formed up at school. In the morning, before classes, you would see us hanging out by the benches with a small boom-box playing the latest music we recorded off the radio. We had rat-tails, trench-coats, eyeliner, and marked up jeans. We had a few punks who hung with us because they had no group of their own, but they made fun of us for listening to "fag music from faggy England", but we related to each other. Nothing like seeing a 16 year-old in Arkansas with a Mohawk who talks like a hillbilly. Oh well. Luckily I was a transplant from Michigan, so I never picked up the drawl.
Then, on my 16th birthday, my mother gave me a birthday present she suspected I might like, and it set me off in yet another direction. It was U2 - Live at Red Rocks (Under a Blood Red Sky). I threw away all the "top of the pops" new wave stuff like The Thompson Twins and Missing Persons; I had discovered "serious" New Wave and Rock. The friends who went with me brought in Talking Heads & REM, more alternative music. I know it sounds weird, but I even became a life-long B-52's band! This led me, later on in life, to the Velvet Underground and even Yoko Ono.
To sum it up, radio introduced me to all these bands back in a time before the internet and iPods. (Our version of an iPod back them was either being rich enough to buy cassettes, or just sitting by the radio and recording songs onto blanks.) I joined the Army in 1985 and spent the next 6 years in Germany, where I was able to see many of the bands I had listened to: Frankie opening for Depeche Mode in 1986, U2 on the Joshua Tree Tour in 1987, Alien Sex Fiend and the Cure in 1988... If you see a hard to find video of The Cure - Live in Orange (in France), I'm in the front of the crowd, slam dancing. That was August 86, on my first vacation from the Army. I started hanging out with more Punks around this time, going to a hard to find underground punk club (The Downstairs) where, if the doorman didn't know you, you couldn't get in. A little window slid open, a pair of eyeballs sized you up, and the door either opened or the little window slid shut. I went there with friends several times where I would be let in and not the friends, or vice versa. It was such a desirable place to be, that it was understood that if you didn't get in, oh well. All it was, really, was a basement, an old bomb shelter or something in an old building. I remember water dripping down the walls. But if you were Punk or Alternative in Bamberg back in the 80s, it was the place to be.
A funny side story here, I went back to Bamberg to visit family in 2006, and I brought my then 15 year old son by the old Downstairs. It was closed at the time, but the pizza guy who had a little window right next to it was still there, and he immediately recognized me after 21 years! I wasn't friends with the guy, but I ordered a lot of pizza from him back then. When you had the munchies, you would walk upstairs and order a slice or two from Mario, eat it while freezing your ass off outside, then head back into the club.
But yes, I DO have some sentimentality seeing the old local radio stations go away, but it's just an old medium, replaced by the more efficient internet.
I think the whole KUSF thing was unfortunately handled, but also the people at the station should have seen it coming -- their selling of just the FCC license, as far as I can tell (and firing the terrestrial staff). They might get the terrestrial (FM) station going again at some point, maybe with a Low-Power license (much cheaper than a full license, but only covers about a square mile, tops).
Former SF Herald Music Critic
Of course college and national public radio are the main outlets for the type of music I do, and KUSF has featured me several times so my opinion is biased.
USF is also a private institution (I go to UC Berkeley which is a public institution) and I have noticed all the DJs at KUSF who have interviewed me were not matriculating students, so it is hard to comment, as I am not familiar with the internal structure of KUSF. All that being said, I am perturbed by the loss of any non-format/free speech radio stations. Having radio stations that allow DJs the choice to hip us to new and obscure music on the radio waves (not just online) is an important resource to conserve.
Just go online and drop the martyr routine already.
Editor and Publisher
San Francisco Herald
What would you do if you were stuck on a lifeboat with Charlie Sheen?
Siphon his blood and enjoy the buzz until a rescue.
San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist/ Stand-up comic