Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 22

  “If it's too loud, you're too old!” 

It only took a second or two after strolling through the doors of Hastings Music at Fair Plaza, for the strains of “Breed” to stop me in my tracks. Dumbfounded, I idled up to the counter and asked the clerk, “Who is that?” he might as well have responded in gibberish, “Nirvana, they're from Seattle” History in the making, a momentous moment taking shape and there were no copies to be found. Not in any format: cd, cassette, vinyl.......All Sold Out.

To my good fortune, later that same week, my nephew and his homie (who went by the rather unfortunate nickname of N*gger Ray) needed a ride. I didn't dwell long on his hideous sobriquet or its origins as Ray pulled out a cassette and poppedit into the player. “It's Nirvana” he tells me.... Ray's copy was dubbed from a dub (copies of copies were floating around town within days of its release) I quickly arranged to buy a third generation copy for $5, which I received the next day.

“Nevermind” no album info, no tracking order, just Nirvana scrawled on the label in ink. The course of rock and roll changed in September of 1991, although two years later in 'Burque, you wouldn't have know that. Heavy Metal with all its vocal and guitar histrionics was still in full effect, despite “grunge” bands dominating the national charts. All of which justified releasing, “Home Grown” a one-off cd compilation released in 1993 by the combined forces of Senor Buckets, Maloof Distributing and the much lamented Z-Rock 105 FM.

From its humble beginnings as a single rock station in Dallas, Tx., Z Rock (owned by the ABC Radio Network, now Cumulus Media Networks) grew to anchor the network's 24 hour satellite format, also known as “Satellite Music Network” Programming features such as Blistering Leads, Wounded Radio, Back Rockwards, Bad Ass CD Side and Old Stuff For an Hour, kept the dweebs locked in. Loud and obnoxious personalities were the norm, with on air hosts such as Crankin Craig, Sharkman, Dave Bolt, Loud Debi Dowd, Madd Maxx Hammer and Scorchin' Scotty crammin' it down your throat on a daily basis.

Albuquerque's Z-Rock was based in the studio complex at the corner of Edith and Baker Lane NE in the North Valley. At the time I lived at the north end of Edith NE and every so often I would come across some random hesher wearing a black leather jacket in 90+ heat, trudging up Edith towards the station on a pilgrimage to collect some free shit or to loiter at the gate, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of Loud Debi herself.

Z-Rock of course broadcast via satellite from their flagship studios in Dallas, Tx. See race fans, Z-Rock was America's first coast to coast rock network (i.e. radio version of TBS & WGN) marketing nationally for local broadcast with local ads inserted. Z-Rock's network became the template de rigueur for modern over-air broadcast media. So, while these loudmouthed knuckleheads were rebelling against everything we had..... they were also clearing the path for the sanitized, dull as dishwater radio stations that most of us hate so fucking much.

You may recall Z-Rock's slogans “If it's too loud, you're too old!” “Lock it in, and rip your knob off” “Flip us on and flip them off” Even a character on Funky Winkerbean wore a Z-Rock t-shirt and the staff somehow managed to squeeze in several volumes of “Z-Rock Magazine” (I used to get mine at The Sound Warehouse) But alas, the times and demographics, they were-a-changing. Attempts to tweak the format to the rapidly changing music scene ended in failure. In 1996, after ten years, ABC Radio pulled the plug on a great rock radio experience.

Stations that were part of the network (New Mexico had two affiliates that I'm aware of, Albuquerque and Deming) were given the option to adopt the Z-Rock brand and imaging for free. Some stations did and there are still three U.S. stations flying that freak flag high (Chico, Ca., Lexington, Ky. Salt Lake City, Ut.) Z-Rock's spot was filled by the defunct 107.9 The Edge (not to be confused with 104.1 the Edge, an ABQ station that doesn't stray too far from the Z-Rock model) In Deming, KDEM-FM dropped Z-Rock in '96 switching over to an oldies format.

Vinyl and cassette compilations were handy marketing tools and “Home Grown” was one of those collections that rock stations across the country invariably slap together under the pretext of handing out “free stuff” Headbanging like they were fucking immortals, eight motley crews all banging out old school heavy metal beats, updated just enough to draw a few punks and goths into the mix. New trends in music are a way of life. The flow of ideas and influences makes change as inevitable as that old muddy river that keeps on flowing, across this dusty land, like it don't give a shit.

Damage- Kick it Out
Fallout- Shelter
Petting Zoo- Leviathan
Captain Tripps- Live Forever
Conspiracy- The Odyssey
Sly Dog- Naive Little Bitch
Tryax- Crossed Signals
Screamin' Jesse- Scary Monsters
Raging Fury- Traveler in Pain
Enforcer- Cry For the Stranger
Fallout- Drained
Angels in Exile- Eyes to the Sky
The Touch- Looking Back
Angry Babies- God Doesn't Want Your Money
SeventhSign- Beholder
Deceiver- Cutthroat