Tag Archives: frampton

Chickenman, Signing Off

Two weeks of every summer of my pre-teen and teen years were spent on Long Beach Island, following a script that reflected the 1970s in so many ways: fresh pastry for breakfast, a quick jaunt off the beach for lunch, and before the advent of smart phones and digital music, entertainment in the form of magazines, books, puzzles, and broadcast radio. Each and every weekday — ten of the fourteen, the quieter days when most of the fathers you saw were truly on vacation and not shuttling back to a (hopefully foreshortened) work week — we tuned into WJRZ-FM at lunchtime, ostensibly to hear the news, somewhat ironically to hear Paul Harvey’s meta-news delivery and the ultimate entertainment, an episode of Dick Orkin’s “Chickenman”.

Here’s what I remember about listening to WJRZ: It provided me a sense that radio could really be that “companion unobtrusive”, and yet the top-40 format left room for Peter Frampton and Genesis. I cherished the local ads (“the Ship Bottom Motor Lodge, the one and only circular motel on the island”) to the point that I believe many hours spent in the 1980s producing ads for WPRB-FM were the by-product of knowing that a 10 second intro could capture the sights, smells and tastes of a favorite place with description alone. Marking time through the wide range of music, syndicated news, national and local advertisements and relatively unknown DJs, for the extent of those summers, was the daily episode of Chickenman. Like clockwork, you could count it on for moving along a story that was basically about nothing — no super powers, no crimes real or imagined, no serious tension. It was Seinfeld and The Office before we knew that nothing could be funny.

Listening to Chickenman, a campy send up of Batman and the radio serializations of a prior decade, my sister and I decided that we could write and record our own episodes and have some fun. So my love of recording and production began with a cheap cassette recorder and a pencil to precisely wind the tapes. Chickenman had a brief fling with environmental consciousness as the series wound down in popularity, but Benton Harbor (Chickenman’s Clark Kent) couldn’t make social justice trendy. And the next summer I brought a portable stereo to LBI with a milk crate of vinyl, choosing the music and the pacing and slowly fading WJRZ and Chickenman into the wonderful, sunset tinged memories of endless summers.

But as the outro squawked, “he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere” and we never really forgot the feathered non-crime non-fighter, not until today when Dick Orkin died. Indirectly, those five minute intervals of his shared creativity — less than an hour of each summer — led me into college radio, music production, advertising, public speaking, sales, and through a transitive closure that would make Godel blush, these very blog entries.

Deadhead Sticker On A Cadillac: Labor Day 2014

Summer 2014, we hardly knew you. Foreshortened by calendar cruelty that landed Labor Day in its earliest possible slot, you lost half a week off the top. Despite the half-month earlier start brought on by the gravitational lensing of college tuitions, this one just flew by, but not without its moments. Four Phish shows, one with the Bubba, three with George, one with a new phan. One pop show with the nieces (not to be named here), one rap show with the nephew. Animals As Leaders as a summer kickoff in a sweaty low-ceilinged dump on Long Island, a bit of Deep Tank Jersey transported east and forward in time. The EP release of Flux Fortena’s September on which the Bubba plays bass and yours truly has a producer credit. Fishing in Cabo with good friends. Four trips to Boston, three of which involved moving and boxes, all of which included good local fare. Our first Pride Parade in NY, with our daughter who was working for Lambda Legal. Two Broadway shows, a 30th college reunion, a lot of time with cousins and friends. We lost my oldest aunt, and one of those family gatherings was under difficult circumstances, but also served as prelude to a fun afternoon splashing in the pool with my newest cousin (technically first cousin twice removed but we have always relied on the willowy whippiness of the Stern/Shteir family tree for geography, genealogy or gastronomy).

Perhaps the summer seems short because of what I missed: No swim in the Atlantic; no elephant ears from the Crust & Crumb in Beach Haven; no fireworks viewed from the suspense of a rickety lawn chair. I realized these errors of omission in the middle of a cinnamon and sugar bagel at Bruegger’s, sensing it was as close to an elephant ear as I’d get in 2014. It made me think of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” a song that I love for its layered keyboards and its kicking and screaming refusal to open a new 16-month calendar out of fear that you’re leaving the summers of your youth.

Summers are defined as much by their soundtracks as by the live action sequences. Even as we age, and the memories are filtered and sharpened inappropriately, the songs remain the same. Elephant ears are always accompanied by Bob Seger, Peter Frampton, The Sweet and WJRZ in Ship Bottom, replete with the Adventures of Chicken Man at noon and 6 o’clock. Labor Day brings an urge to ignore the signs of aging and just extend the current tour. In my case, the Deadhead sticker is affixed to my Cadillac of a laptop and says “My Other Car Is A Flying Hotdog.” Sometimes the soundtrack bridges the seasons and Labor Day isn’t such a daunting calendar milestone.

< Summertime >

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.”

The first nice late spring day of the year yesterday, and I’m thinking about summer. Maybe it was attending a customer event in Long Branch, and having dinner on the beach, barefoot (I was shocked at the number of people who stomped through the sand in expensive shoes), listening to The Boss.

Memorial Day weekend starts the 99 days of summer if you remember summers listening to 99X (WXLO, NY).

“Barefoot girl, sittin’ on the hood of a Dodge, drinkin’ warm beer in the soft summer rain.”

Summer tours start this week, with the Phish Summer 2011 tour opening tomorrow night. I’ll be checking Phish From The Road for set list updates pretty much every night for the next few weeks. Also on the roster: Soundgarden with Coheed and Cambria and Peter Frampton. 35 years ago, a cut from Frampton Comes Alive stamped each day, a mark on the summer calendar.

Will have both kids at home for about 6 weeks, for the first time in a year. I’ll object to the noise regarding resource contention for the bathroom for about three minutes until I remember how good it is to be surrounded by the sounds of family.

I’m going to rollerblade the Atlantic City boardwalk, end to end, twice, without wiping out, because I’m in better physical shape than a year ago, and because skating with a bit of early morning ocean air mixed with early morning/late night hangover casino exhaust is a Jersey experience. Can’t do that in Vegas.

It’s time for summer romance. Hug your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, spouse, significant other, or partner close.

Work tomorrow, then I’m going down the shore.

Frampton’s Soggy Guitar Auction

I got to see Peter Frampton open for Yes at Bethel Woods back in June. It was 1977 revisited, but the musicians had less hair and more equipment. Except for Frampton’s equipment bus, as he lost quite a bit of his touring kit as well as his personal guitar collection in the Nashville floods during the prior month. He brought this up on a break between songs, and it was clear that the loss of life and property deeply affected him. He sounded like he had found his childhood teddy bear in the bottom of a water-damaged box.

Guitars, like other wooden instruments, exist in a precarious balance with moisture. Some resident humidity is a good thing, as it prevents brittleness and potential cracking. Too much moisture – especially floodwaters tainted with chemicals and run-off — is deadly. Bodies crack and shatter, necks warp, electronics are ruined, and depending upon the toxins in the water, finishes are ruined down to the wood’s pores. While we think of electric guitars with the emphasis on the inorganic – metal strings, wire wound and magentic pole pickups, plastic pickguards — it’s the wood in the neck and body that give the guitar its feel and its sound. Sustain, harmonics, and the guitarist’s ease with the instrument are all governed by the organic stuff. The guitar was once a living thing, and the player-guitar relationship is as unique as the provenance of the fretboard wood. The teddy bear analogy was intentional, but perhaps not deep enough.

What Frampton and many other musicians lost in the Nasvhille floods was part of their relationship to their own personal and musical history. It’s not something that can be replaced by “buying new.” It’s not a question of money; clearly most touring artists can afford new guitars or even arrange for custom or semi-custom axes to be ground by their sponsoring shops. But while Frampton can tolerate the disaster financially, others were not insured, and face a personal financial crisis.

That’s where NasH20 comes in. Frampton, Brad Paisley and others have donated their water-damaged guitars to a charity auction that will benefit musicians, music industry professionals and the Nashville emergency responders. It’s an amazing opportunity (starting October 12) to own something road-used, not a picture-perfect autographed wall hanging. And it assists those truly have a right to sing the blues.

[Sidebar/Rant] Why must some people use their keyboards before thinking? Reading the comments on Frampton’s Facebook page you’d think he was doing this to self-promote. He’s an artist who has never taken himself too seriously (Sgt Pepper film and guest appearance at Homerpalooza offered herein as evidence). Charity motivated by a shared loss is powerful stuff.