Anarchy in the Airwaves
|Photo by Larry Hirshowitz|
Three things in life used to be certainties: The sun rises in the east, everyone dies someday, and commercial music radio in L.A. is overwhelmingly atrocious.
The former are inevitable conditions of nature, the last a result of corporate consolidation, tighter-than-a-streetwalkers-jeans playlists and the played-out state of most musical forms theres nothing much to get excited about on the airwaves today.
One rare bright spot on the dial, though, has been the amazing Indie 103.1, an unpredictable outlet whose format changes have run every conceivable gamut, including that of the late and much-lamented 90s MARS-FM. With babbling-idjit hawkers replaced by endlessly exhumed rarities and out-of-left-field segues (Xs Devil Doll following Thems 1966 take of Its All Over Now, Baby Blue one recent Saturday morning almost caused me to rack up my wheels), Indie harks back to the great days of early FM and the AM of the pre-clampdown 50s.
And 103.1s game just got raised into Valhalla: Welcome Jonesys Jukebox. One of the oddest additions to the L.A. airwaves ever, Jonesys is a lunch hour of vintage punk, accompanying stories, wry asides and absolute genius from a rather unlikely source, Mr. Steve Jones. The Sex Pistols guitarist has never been an on-air personality, and it shows in the best way imaginable: Hes fresh, absurd, conversational and listener-friendly a natural.
I never went to broadcast school, he says with a slight smile, as if anyone would ever accuse him of such a crime. Hes sitting in the corner of his tiny Mid-Wilshire studio, leaning against the wall, ribbing his producer and various station employees as they drop in and out. All I wanted was a steady job, and I love to spin records. As it happened, Michael Steele, the stations program director, was looking for a non-DJ with a reputation as a straight shooter. So here I am.
Jones one-hour turn constitutes some of the greatest rock & roll radio ever. Unconstrained by experience, he turns every potential disaster into an asset. When he screws up the stations formatics (as in repeating the call letters at the top of every block), he goofs on the idea: Do I have to say it the same every time? He announces commercials (my favorite part of the show) with a heavy dose of sarcasm. He plays whatever he wants whenever he wants. And occasionally he even does the unthinkable by slopping over into the next hour as happened on a recent Fun With a Face on Friday with star guest Johnny Ramone. The fact that these gaffes would be career suicide anywhere else only reinforces the obvious: Punk-rock radio can be performed punkily, by a punk.
And the music! Kicking off his on-air career with threefer Tuesday blocks (a mock on rock radios twofer Tuesday, and besides, hes absent on Mondays), Jones threw down three vintage Bowie numbers that seldom see the new-millennium light of day: Jean Genie, Drive In Saturday and Jazzin for Blue Jean.
I saw Bowie recently, and he was tellin me he dont get played on the radio no more, says Jones. So I did it for him. Considering the legend that a heist of Bowies PA gear back in the early 70s kick-started the Pistols career, its the ultimate amends.
Bowie carries more star power than most Jukebox selections; Jones never neglects former radio untouchables like the New York Dolls, Status Quo, the Saints or offbeat reggae. I have no boundaries on what I can play, he says. The only thing I cant do is swear Ive done enough of that already. (One of Jones promos features his heretofore most famous moment, the string of curses on English TV that got the Pistols kicked off their first label, EMI, in 1977.)
Anything this wackily eclectic could disappear quickly. Jones, however, has an undeniable appeal; hes the radio equivalent of a great reality-TV show, an everyman who loves his music.
Im turning kids on to stuff theyll never hear, he says of punk rocks first wave, the meat of his hour. Id like to make this thing happen, to syndicate it I mean, why the fuck not? He laughs and rolls his eyes. Sorry, mate, there I go again.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.