DAVID BOWIE’S ZIGGY STARDUST ALBUM


August 19, 2010

This is dedicated to Mark, the bartender at Bloom’s Bar, “downtown” Potrero Hill on 18th Street in San Francisco when I dropped by there after work last Monday night.

They’ve always had a great jukebox at Bloomies, and a song from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust came on. I asked who selected “Starman,” and it turned out to be Mark! The beautiful thing is, he wasn’t even born when the album was released in 1972.  It reminded me about my early days as a teenage DJ. (Cue flashback sfx here and warp the video…see young man with long hair and beard driving a new gray Volvo 164 cross country to San Francisco, then in Los Angeles a year later.)

At the FM Rock Stations in the Bay Area, we used to champion bands and sometimes try to beat each other to play a new artist or album first and exclusively. When I moved here from NYC, there were five progressive rock stations; KSAN, KSFX and KMPX in San Francisco, plus KSJO and KOME in San Jose.  After four years of college radio, I applied at all of them, and was given encouragement by one Program Director (who did hire me a year later), but no gig.  My brother Stuart was a grad student at Stanford at the time, so I volunteered at 90.1, KZSU.  Within six months, I became the station’s Music Director.

On a trip to LA that May, to get familiar with the hub of the music biz and visit the record company offices, I was listening to the Blaupunkt radio in my Volvo, driving down Sunset Blvd., when one of the DJs played a track from the new David Bowie album.  Bowie was still rather unknown, but the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars showed him standing on the street under a sign that said K-WEST…which was something the Los Angeles FM Rock station of the same name was proud of and instantly gave it a spin.  I was blocks from the RCA Records office, so I drove right over and went up to their floor.  At the front desk when I identified myself, a woman told me that the record reps were out to lunch.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the open door to a record closet off the reception area, with about 50 copies of the new David Bowie album sitting on the floor.  I wheeled around, picked up two of them, and as the stunned woman tried to sputter a “Wa..wa..wa..wait!,” I jumped back into on of the elevators, pushed the button to the lobby, and as the doors closed said; “When they come back, please tell them I was here, and I took two of them.”

That night, I drove back up Interstate 5 to Palo Alto, and played the whole album on my show on KZSU Stanford when I got back…before it had even been shipped to anyone else.  In October of that year, David Bowie played Bill Graham’s Winterland.  Maybe 500 people were in the crowd, and most of them to see Sylvester, a San Francisco Drag Queen singing with his band.  I enjoyed watching the jaws of their fans drop when David Bowie came out on stage in his glam-rock inspiring Ziggy persona, with Mick Ronson and the bass and drums shaking the old hall.  That band ROCKED!!

Thank you, Mark for proving what my radio mentor John Bybee has long said; “With music, like cars, it’s not when it was, it’s what it is that makes it a classic.”

 

Tawn Mastrey given postumous LA Music Award


November 21, 2008

Tonight in Hollywood, Tawn Mastrey was given an award presented to her sister Cara by Kenny Ryback.  Had a  few words to add to it, and appreciated Kenny calling to read me what he had written.  What I said to him was that Tawn had a voice like honey being poured in you ear.  Tawn was my radio buddy at KSJO San Jose in the late ’70s and KNAC in LA in 1986.  More than cohorts, we shared the same spirit, love of music and many adventures.  This very talented, bright, loving, warm and beautiful woman lost her life in October 2007 due to liver failure brought on by Hepatitis C, a disease that has no cure and is more widespread than most people know.  The Bob Dylan song “Simple Twist of Fate” comes to mind and the lyric “I do believe she was my twin…and I was born too late, blame it on a simple twist of fate.”  There are Lobster Tales to be written with Tawn Mastrey playing a part, and I’ll share one with you in her memory on this occasion.  I was working at KQAK in San Francisco in 1982.  Tawn had been fired from KSJO the year before, for the third time, but that’s another story.

In search of work, Tawn had taken a flight from SFO to LA and was late, so she parked it in the short term garage…for several days.  When she drove to the gate upon returning, she told them she had lost the ticket.  Apparently, they had marked her back bumper each day with paint you can only see with an ultra-violet light and when they checked it,  they wouldn’t let her take her car out without paying nearly two hundred dollars for the time, which she didn’t have.  I picked her up at the airport that afternoon and had a plan.  We hung out at my house until after midnight, and then returned to the airport.  It would be well after a crew shift, and they wouldn’t know about the confrontation earlier in the day.  The car, by the way, was a big early 60’s pink and white Plymouth Tawn had named “Christine” after the haunted one in the horror movie of the same name.  It was a bit recognizable.

When we returned to the airport in my car, I pulled up to the automatic ticket gate at the entrance to the garage at the airport and pulled out the ticket, which triggers the gate to go up.   I turned to Tawn and said “On second thought, let’s not park in the garage.”…and backed away.  Tawn smiled as she realized what I was up to as we circled the terminal, returned to the entrance where I pulled a second ticket, this time going in.  We parked my car near hers and went and had a drink at an airport bar.   When we walked back to our cars, I handed her one of the tickets with less than an hour on it, and followed her and Christine to the exit gate in my car.  When she handed the attendant the ticket, he looked back but I was right behind her, blocking his mirrored view of her bumper, scowling at him with my best “Hey buddy, hurry up and take her money, I’m in a rush to get outta here” look.  He didn’t bother to ask me to back up so he could see her bumper.  She paid, I recall, $1.50 and was out.  We pulled over after we were clear of the garage and got our of our cars laughing like partners in crime after a heist.  Tawn thanked me, we hugged, kissed each other goodnight and both drove off, having bailed Christine out for pennies on the dollar.

 

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97.7 The River is the show’s flagship radio station. It’s home base to the program every Sunday, 10 am – 3 pm, hosted by legendary radio personality Paul “The Lobster” Wells.