Flaskaland
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
 
I was in the Bay Area in the summer of 1964, studying classical archaeology because that was something I was genuinely interested in. I met a number of people at that time. I'd encountered Robbie Basho, and I began meeting some of the people who worked at the local Pacifica radio station. Almost everyone was a volunteer there.

One person who'd I met casually one day was named Dave. He was from somewhere else (as was not unusual, as it seemed most people were from somewhere else in Berkeley). But he struck me as someone from the East Coast somehow because he wore a tan cotton raincoat like New Yorkers did and an English driving cap.

As I grew to know him a bit, he struck me as a little odd. Words would remind him of other things and he would connect them in conversation, and sometimes it was hard to relate and justify his associations.

"How did he get there?" I would wonder.

For instance, if you happened to mention the word "singer", he would launch into a discussion of "Springer", a German publishing company which as he continued in conversation he believed had dark and twisty Nazi connections which had deeper scarier roots in the Illuminati. That kind of stuff. But he'd never reveal all of these connections at once in a single line of conversation, they were too dark and scary to do that all at once.

Anyway, he took me into the station one day, and this happened to be the very day that a young student of Segovia named Carlos Barbosa Lima was in process of taping an in-studio performance. As it turned out, that was Lima's broadcast performance debut. The slightly built young guitarist came out to listen to his tape in one of the rooms in the studio, and he was horrified by what he heard. I was trying to encourage him, "People always are surprised by the sound of their voice the first time they're recorded" and the same is true for the guitar. I talked about Segovia and how Segovia said he would practice continuously, "If I go one day without practice, the audience doesn't notice it. If I go two days without practice, I notice it."

So the guitarist was standing there listening deeply to his tape squirming, almost saying "Oh dear ... Oh my GOD! Oh no, this is so very terrible .... " and Dave was a little antsy and would whistle along note for note with the piece as it played, to show he knew about classical music, and that whistling got on both the guitarist's and my own nerves so I would tell Dave to "sh-hh" and I'd put my index finger to my lips to tell him to be quiet.

So that tape was over and Dave even hit rewind before the studio tech could walk over to do it, he knew his way around a radio studio and was familiar with using equipment okay, and the guitarist and tech with tape in hand walked away in conversation about the performance.

Dave asked me if I wanted to really hear something. And I said sure. He walked up and down the hall to insure no one else was about, and he was growing quite nervous, nearly jumping back in fright when someone casually opened a door and popped a head into the hall to see us. That person left, and Dave looked into a room, then he waved me in and closed the door, and put his finger to his lips. He pressed himself back into the door as if to give himself support.

He commanded me to wait right there and to be quiet. "Don't say a word ... don't say a word" he continued as he pressed some big studio earphones on my head. He disappeared out of the room again and returned with a record in a plain white cover. He showed it to me. As I recall it didn't even have a label and it was bright and shiny as if it had never been played. He checked all the switches to make certain, and I think two little lights were on the board with the embossed notation "Headphones only."

He put the record on the turntable and I settled back into the secretary chair and he dropped the arm on the record.

In the world of recorded music, there used to be an expression about "Dropping a bomb" which meant a deejay playing a really hot record for the first time on the air that would become a major hit, and just, you know, kill everyone dead. I don't know if that phrase was in usage at that time.

But Dave dropped a bomb, all right. A big one.

I was listening to the recognizable voice of President Lyndon B Johnson announcing to the American people, or anyone still alive within listening distance of the sound of his voice, that nuclear war had begun.

I struggled with this as the President drawled on ... and turned to stare in disbelief at Dave to ask if this was a joke? Is this for real? And he was smiling broadly and nodding his head as if to say this was the real deal, this is not a test, this is not a joke.

I didn't listen to all of this record. Dave pulled it off and I took the headphones off. He slipped the record back into the cover and disappeared down the hall. When he returned he wasn't carrying the record with him that I noticed.

That was a strange experience, to say the least. I had listened to a record that was made to be broadcast in the event of a future nuclear war. A secret record. That's why Dave was so nervous about it. Dave advised me, "Don't tell anyone about this."

I lost all contact with Dave after a few days, then I ran into him once in Los Angeles a month or so later. Then I never saw or heard from him ever again.
But I heard about him.

In 1969, Dave gained some notoriety by locking himself into a room of a Colorado radio station, at the height of the Viet Nam conflict, and he broadcast the record for all to hear over the airwaves.

The door was pushed in when the police arrived, the record taken off the turntable, and he was arrested, and deemed mentally ill. This was part of an official investigation now, and the newspaper account said he would occasionally play the record for friends. I don't know if they ever found out really how he'd acquired this particular recording. But he'd carried it with him all those intervening years, keeping it hid, obviously determined to do something with it.

Wow. In thinking about it, I much preferred hearing that first Jimi Hendrix record for the first time.
 




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