Rodney on the Roq III

Goddamn, don’t you miss the old sleaze of Hollywood?

Oh it’s still there alright, if you look for it: In the shadows of those nasty little souvenir shops on Hollywood, in the faces of a few bored looking teen hustlers chewing their fingernails further up on Santa Monica.

But in the old days, ah!

Getting off the 101, ready for another night on the town, the electricity of the street palpable as the Coors tallboy sweating between your legs.

Pioneer Chicken, lit up like a circus by the knot of police cruisers in the parking lot.
One poor soul already bleeding through the sheet covering his face.

Glammed out prostitutes would just be pulling on their tops as they walked out of the Tropicana, ready to hook another one in and undress all over again.
The Pussycat Theatre, surrounded by some surprisingly clean 25 cent video arcades, where a hard earned quarter would get you 90 seconds of charming and unshaven porn.

Maybe a late night grilled cheese at Ben Frank’s?
All gone.

Gower Gulch, that Western themed meeting place for overworked pimps, stood across from Rodney’s Denny’s.
Disappeared as well.

A couple times, we got to sit down at the storied table with Rodney himself.
He didn’t have to order, of course, he just sat there as we chatted and the old waitresses would drop off a soft boiled egg, pat him on the shoulder.

I imagined him starting every day at this same spot. Comforting in a way, as well as sad.
But he was always there, just as he could always be found, could be counted on being there! on the radio those weekend nights.

Now Rodney played us, it seemed, at least once a night.
And the gigs steadily got bigger.

Interestingly enough, 30 years later and we're still middle billed!

When we were on those strange first tours, we were the ones who got to call in to Rodney now.
He’d put us on the air, and we would try to sound weary yet terribly exciting.

And though it was probably something rather unfantastic, a rainy night outside of Atlanta with a small crowd still glaring at us from some moldy VFW porch, Rodney would aways say alright and how it sounded amazing.

Like a Mother marvelling at her son’s pedestrian Thanksgiving cutout turkey, just a head of thumb and four stubby feathers, energizing words.
You hung up the phone, and imagined the folks back home going on with their evening, but briefly thinking of you.
And now it didnt seem so bad, being in this fuckin hick hole, and gave us the spirit to go back in there and put up with the abuse once again.

These were what cellphones used to look like, kids! Big, huh?
Writin home from the Miller factory tour. Milwaukee 1983

As with your favorite teacher from Jr High, the one you vowed to always stay in touch with, we inevitably lost contact with Rodney.
Through those gray 90’s, the years we all had to grow up, there was hardly a thought of the man who was still out there somewhere! telling the world who the next big thing should and would be.

But Rodney came back into view: Talk of him finally getting that star, and an honest to God feature film!

The movie was alright, I guess.
Full of Rodney’s brushes with the greats, it showed him standing always in the shadow—- just outside of the spotlight’s glowing arc.
Yeah, yeah I get it: It’s a little indie doc and they had to show what a sad little life it can be as well, is that it?

The big stars come on, one after another, to tell you what Rodney meant to them.
I don’t know.
Maybe the filmakers should’ve talked more to the fans, the kids listening to those stars whose breakthrough on Rodney’s show now dictated the size of their private jets, hmmm?

....insert Adams family joke here:
Gene owns this picture, stop looking at it!

It wasn’t until after we started working it again, you know, the great old school resurgence of 2001! that we finally met Maria Montoya, the voice of Make Me Feel Cheap.
It’s an old story, how we left the studio, Fear of Life in the can, and didn’t hear her emascualting answer vocals until Rodney actually played the track on the air Saturday!

Maria shuts me down once again!

Oh, we liked to complain about it: Man, that’s bullshit! No one told us!
But it was our biggest radio song, even got some daytime airplay.
Alright Posh, you win this one…….but we’re watching you!

Maria was still close to Rodney, and that’s really how we got the call in 2005:
Rodney was finally getting his star on the WALK OF FAME!

If you’ve ever been down that sticky stretch of land, and puzzled over the names under your sneakers, you know it can be a hollow recongnition at its worst.
I mean cmon! Ryan fuckin Seacrest?

But this time, yeah, they got it right.
You just knew that to Rodney, and what he loves and what he stands for, it would be a perfect fit, the only logical honor.

And it turned into a whole thing, ya know?

We even recorded a new track with Maria just for the occasion, this nifty update of Sonny and Cher’s It’s the Little Things:

Backstage at the Walk of fame show with Rodney and Maria
Rare photo of Pete Adict Dee in earth tones!

Rodney’s still out there, still doing it.
Buried now, Sundays at midnight.
Though really, does it even matter?

We’ve gotten used to our own shitty playlists now.
Isolated by ear buds, with the ability to scroll to the next mp3 at a flick of the fingertip, we await the next song to pop up after giving the the last track only 15 seconds:
Lab monkeys awaiting a peanut after pressing the green button on cue.

As our attention span shrinks, so too, correspondingly, goes our soul.

A recent rainy Sunday night I vowed to stay awake and catch up with Rodney, the number of Manhattans leisurely sipped onboard the California Sun be damned.

Must’ve nodded off during Scarface, but I jerk myself awake as that sweet theme song comes back through the radio, and Tony pushes an eighth ounce of cocaine into his nose with his forearm.
Rodney’s back on!

....this could be the night....!

Rodney comes on after the first block, says hello and tells us what’s in store for the night. It feels just like it used to, it is.
There’s no pause button, and damned if I know how to record off the radio.
Rodney is talking to me, right now, in the middle of a cold night.
He’s talking to every other lonely soul still up, can’t sleep, even after a long weekend.
Under his voice, we are a community again.

Rodney plays a few tracks, takes a call from London, and, swear to God, bless his heart!—-plays You Make Me Feel Cheap!

And a fifty year old man gets up off the couch and raises his hands over head.
With only a snoring dog and a bleeding Al Pacino as witness, he smiles and laughs.

They’re playing my song on the radio!

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Rodney on the Roq II

“Will you stop it? Please. Fuckin Duane—–
We’re sitting at the worn dining table in Kimm’s house, or the drinking table as we referred to it.
Hand painted, classic French farmhouse in design, this piece of furniture becomes something else altogether when we gather in the room:
This table becomes as dangerous as a vehicle or weapon.

Kimm and I, we’re holding down opposite ends of the table like Mom and Pop.
Chris sits to my right, arranging the pyramid of mismatched beer cans he has constructed on the table: A centerpiece dedicated to the various Korean liquor stores around town that would sell their meager stock of beer to us kids, no questions asked.

Duane, sitting on the bench next to Chris, battling the same wicked head cold for a month, has spent the last 2 minutes blowing his nose into his bare hands.

We watch him honk again into his fist, examine the charge, then wipe his hands casually into his levis.

“Disgusting,” Chris says.
He adjusts his pile of beers once again, so all the Olde English labels on the bottom row face Southwest. He completes a moat of Lucky Lager bottle caps around the structure, the ones that used to have the picture riddles printed on bottom.
“You are a disgusting pig, Skanker.”
“So?” says Duane. “So don’t look, fag!”

Chris and Duane during healthier times.

Kimm’s parents, semi-retired and probably burnt out from raising Kimm’s four elder siblings, have left for vacation once again.
As they embarked on the leisurely travels of the recently retired, we inherited a fine Cerritos tract home that Kimm somehow managed to invite us into, kick us out of, and keep impressively clean.

Sitting there with the chums, maybe Tbone and Hetzel, the DC Boys! smoking out back. There was no better way to start a Saturday evening in the Summer, the day holding stubbornly onto its last light, Cerritos finally exhaling the heat it had sucked into its ribbons of cement the whole scorching day.

And we’re gathered there, in the shadow of this beer castle, to expound on the affairs of the day, get steadily blasted and yes–listen to Rodney.

Can you imagine it now? Five or six knuckleheads getting together on a Saturday night, to sit around a table, not a girl in sight, just to listen to the radio?

“You’re the fag, Skanker. Yes, a dick smoker.”
“You are.” Duane grins that gap tooth grin and pauses. “You’re a …..cock…jumper,” Duane says.
Cock jumper? Cock jumper, what the hell does that even mean?”

Now Larry walks in carrying a six of Mickey’s Big Mouth and a Naugles bag.
We look hopefully at the bag, but Larry squashes it and burps.
The bastard’s been eating in the car.

“Blob. Gentlemen. Good evening?”
Kimm: “What, you just walk in? Do you knock?”
Chris: “Duane just called you a cockjumper, Larry. What do you think of that, hmm?”
Duane: Fag!
“Wrong, ” says Larry. “Very incorrect.”
Oh, it was the Algonquin round table alright.

“Shut up , Rodney’s on, shut the fuck up!”

We all actually look toward the speaker, and here comes that chiming theme song. Rodney is back on the air for a Saturday night…..
And we might hear our song on the radio tonight!

Just 3 days earlier, we had first met with Robbie Fields: Posh Boy.

I'm gonna make you a star, kid! Have I told ya how sharp you guys look in red?

After presenting us with the contract, one of the first things we asked is if he could possibly get us played on Rodney’s show.
The hell with the record, we wanted to be on the radio!

I think the Hated had actually got a track off their demo played on Rodney a month earlier, and we simmered with envy.
We weren’t scheduled to go into the studio to record the black and white ep til the next weekend, but that day Robbie had called and casually mentioned that Rodney might be giving the demo tape a spin on the show!

Because that’s how Rodney’s show went: You might hear a Bowie track, followed by a Black Flag song, and then a phone call from someone on the road. And then Rodney would come back and announce that a cool looking band had just dropped off a tape at the back door of the KROQ studio.
And then , note unheard, he’d proceed to play it!

So we listened closely, knowing Rodney had no problem playing a rough demo.
That Robbie had some close dealings with Rodney—well, that probably didn’t hurt either!

Robbie and Rodney

Because it wasn’t just the radio show, no.
There was that first glorious compilation on Posh Boy:

ROTR, Volume I—has there been a better comp album since??
Oh, I know the hardcore crowd whine, it’s a little too new wave, and what the hell is with Brooke Shields doing the intro??, blah, blah….

But by God, those first three tracks! Three frenzied classics, back to back, no breathing room here, brother!
Agent Orange’s Bloodstains, followed by the real version of Adolescents’ Amoeba, and then The Circle Jerks finish ya off with Wild in the Streets!

We played the hell out of that record; it became a soundtrack to a season.
And later, though unimaginable, we’d get a track in just under the wire to appear on Volume II:

.....did I not tell you to clean up this room, missy? Yer grounded!

And jaded old punkers by 1983, yeah, I guess we’ll be on Volume III—but you owe us!

Guess who's up at the blackboard, hmmm?

But for now, sitting here in a Cerritos living room among friends, just the small chance that we might hear one of our songs on the radio was enough.

Duane sneezes again, this time deliberately turning to moisten Chris’ ear.
“Goddamn you!” Chris slaps Duane on the back of the head.
Duane cackles, jumps up and goes out back to bum a smoke off Tbone.

Chris just shakes his head and puts another Schaffer Light can on top of his structure, holds it in place for a moment as the tower adjusts to its new impressive height.

I look across the table, raise an eyebrow to Kimm. He shrugs.
It’s been 90 minutes into the show, nothing yet. As a Saccharine Trust song ends, now Rodney serves up Sloop John B.

A garage band, you get use to disappointments: The party got cancelled, the drummer doesn’t feel like practicing tonight, the bass player’s girlfriend is on the rag.

So we don’t get on the radio tonight, so what? We crack open a goddamn Meisterbrau and toast another night.
Rodney has brought us all together again. And though the night is long from over, and we may all go our own separate ways in search of fast food, drugs, or easy girls who promised to leave the kitchen window unlocked, we started it off together.

But then…..wha? Turn it up, shut up! turn it up! we hear the familiar throbbing bass line, that’s Larry’s fingers playing back and forth over the Fat E string of a telecaster bass! It’s our song!!!

We all shout once and then go silent, we almost hold our breaths as we listen to our song being played over a commercial Los Angeles radio station.

And when it ends, Rodney comes back on, says alright, mentions that we are the latest signing for Posh Boy. It goes to commercial.

“Whoa, did you–that was us! Mother fucker!!!” Kimm raises hands over head,does the happy Snoopy dance. We all yell, laugh, yell again.
I notice that we’re all on our feet now, and we stand over the drinking table, warm beers in hand, too excited to sit.

Kids, just boys, we’re not about to hug each other. And I doubt the high five has been invented yet.
Rodney starts to say goodbye for the night, and as if on cue, we all dive for the pile of beer cans in the middle of the table.

Beer cans go flying, and Rodney’s voice is drowned out by the hollow aluminum rattle.
A sound full of chaos and hope, like noisemakers on New Years’ Eve:

Click to join us at the drinking table, 1980. The demo version of Manzanar:

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Rodney on the Roq I

Ah, the mid nineties.
Has there ever been a more vital period for American Cinema?

Oh, you can keep all those bullshit renegade movies of the late 60’s into the 70’s, when the supposedly young outlaws finally took over Hollywood.

Bonnie and Clyde? Easy Rider?
The Last Detail? meh.

How about some real classics from just 15 years ago, hmmm?
Oh gee, the hits make the mind reel!

......hey, Tarantino--Thanks a lot for reviving this hack's career!

But when I’m sittin there, mindlessly letting the DirecTV guide scroll down the LCD widescreen on an endless loop, I always stop whenever this little gem pops up on VH1’s Movies That Rock! series…..

Forest Gump meets Phil Spector...hijinks ensue!

Alright then, ya fuckin film students, so shoot me for enjoying a little mindless fluff, ok?
We’ll get back to watching Warhol’s Sleep at the Nuart next week, hipsters, but for now let’s venture back to the innocent days of pop music:

Where the musicians are badly acted men-children, the suits are sharp and crisp.
An as-of-yet unbloated Liv Tyler actually looks pretty good, and we weren’t dreading the day we’ll inevitably hear of a Mackenzie/John Phillips type scandal pop up concerning her game show host father!

Forensic artists have come up with this projection of Rachel Ray at age 84

Besides, this baby was filmed right there in the Orange Circle!
See? I always told ya downtown Orange was good for more than just Labor Day food fairs and late night Nazi rallies!

Anyway, I’ll sit through most of the dreadful dialogue and those goddamn Sarah McLachlan starving poodle commercials just for one scene:

It’s the one where our kids first hear their song played on the radio!

I’m tellin you, Hanks got it right with this scene.
I mean, the joy of hearing your own song on the radio…..well.

And though I don’t recall me or Kimm jumping around the appliance store or kissing any cardboard cutouts, it is a sweet memory, that first time one of our songs came out of that box!

And no, I’m not talking about yer XM/Sirius or even a College station, or for fucksake!, Pandora….. no.
We got to hear our song played on an actual radio station, like, you know…!

......what now..? Did that man just sing fuck on the radio, Mother?

When I talk about The old Rodney on the Roq show, and what it meant to us all back in the early 80’s, a lot of kids cock their heads, the dullard’s tell, and shrug:

Ya mean the radio station, the one that plays Enter Sandman and old Guns and Roses every goddam hour?
The one all the Bros listen to? That piece of shit?!

Ah, but it was different back then, see.
Kroq was actually a pretty great station back in the early 80’s, a place where Richard Blade would give ya your fix of Duran Duran and Culture Club, and they would actually play the odd Adolescents or Vandals song during the day as well!

But it was on Saturday and Sunday nights, brother, that’s when the airwaves were speaking just to us!

Rodney Bingenheimer: Man about town, bon vivant fixture of the LA scene for a million years, subject of a fairly recent and melancholy documentary.
The spiky little chap of Zelig-like appearnces at the elbow of whatever Rock God happened to be passing through LA.

He had his own club, probably banged groupies and runaways, (not to mention Runaways), by the dozen……

Goddamn, what would it’ve been like to rock the Sunset Strip back in those days, eh?

Ah geez, I'm hungry for a Quaalude now. Anyone else?

With his affinity for the pure pop that speaks only to the teenage heart, and not the corporate dreck of the day, you could imagine how Punk Rock appealed to Rodney.
Here was a new music, raw enough to harbor a tiny, fierce tribe—- yet explosive enough to inspire a generation.

And though he hardly had a voice that made you think–hey! this cat belongs on the radio!!–you really just can’t think of anyone else doing such a show.

Rodney would come on the air to the strains of MFQ’s Phil Spector-produced This Could be the Night, but that dreamy song would end, you were often given a crazy jolt:

The Weasels’ Beat Her With a Rake!
Or maybe even a test pressing of Motley Crue’s Live Wire…….

Whoo!—and we’d be all, crack the Lucky Lager boys, ’cause the night just started!

The pre-Elektra pre-suckage days...

And that’s when radio could truly come to life in a way that connected all of us drunken brats, from the Valley to the tip of Orange County.

You couldn’t believe you were hearing this on the radio, the vitality and truth, guitars out of tune and singers shouting, the joy crackling.
And then Rodney would come back in with a friendly alright or Amazing! and you could only smile and nod in agreement.

Rodney in the studio with Penelope from Avengers

I always think of those interviews with rock pioneers that namecheck the Grand Ol Opry show back in the day.
They would huddle close to the speaker and listen to the stars of country music broadcast across a ridiculously expansive territory.

Again and again, these old hicks would wax poetic about being alone in their bedroom, often on a dusty acre of farmland, with only the icy stars and the sound of Hank Williams to see them through the night.

But there, in the darkness, they were connected to a world bigger than their own and granted the hope of someday seeing it.

Or hell—they could wish, couldn’t they?—-maybe even being on the other side of that speaker, and making the music themselves.

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