More Anecdotes From the Basement

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Last week, KCRW held a celebration and launch for our new “Morning Becomes Eclectic” photo book, From the Basement, which features musicians and artists who have visited our basement studios over the past 30 years. (Big thanks to Bill Turner for letting us use his gallery at Bergamot Station for the party. And it was great hearing the train whistle and the Expo Line rolling by.) At the event, Chris Douridas, Jason Bentley, and I were each asked to share one anecdote from our days as music directors and hosts of KCRW’s signature daily music show.

imagesI kept my presentation short and sweet, and talked about reggae giant Peter Tosh, who walked into our middle school classroom in November, 1982, smoking a giant cone-shaped spliff. Then Ruth Hirschman (later Seymour) walking in, smelling the ganja, getting mad, then seeing Peter (6’5″ tall, dreads down to his waist) and deciding against reprimanding him and just hurrying out of the studio.

It was hard to pick just one story to share, as you compile a lot of great memories hosting “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” If there had been more time, there were many other little stories I had jotted down as possible anecdotes to tell the assembled crowd. I thought I’d share them here while they’re on my mind.

  • There was Sun Ra, talking about shopping for socks on the planet Neptune
  • John Cage doing an I Ching radio happening
  • Gil Scott Heron in shock because he visited MBE the morning after John Lennon was killed
  • Paul Simon telling me how the members of Zulu choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo reacted (after flying on a plane for the first time) to having a white chauffeur drive them around New York City
  • Nina Simone breaking down in tears
  • Fela Kuti reacting to my calling him out on the carpet for being sexist
  • Astor Piazzolla speaking perfect English (I hadn’t known the Argentine tango composer spent his first decade in New York)
  • Ruth coming into the studio telling me to take the awful music off…in front of Steve Reich, whose music I was playing
  • Cleaning master control and putting out fresh flowers for Ravi Shankar on his first visit (and my first MBE interview)
  • Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks, and the Manhattan Transfer all performing live in our new studio opening party in June 1984
  • Russian conductor/lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky playing our piano standing backwards, then playing Chopin with oranges instead of fingers

imageAnyway, these were the other memories that ran through my head. I’m sure Jason, Chris, and I could have each talked for hours. By the way, the book is now available for purchase and proceeds help get us into our new studios next December after 30+ years in the basement at SMC. It’s expensive, but unique and limited. Plus, it goes towards a great cause.

Here is a little trailer about the book:

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