Mike White

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Mike White is the co-creator and star of HBO’s new series Enlightened. He decided on a theme for his Guest DJ set – songs that scared him when he was a kid. The “School of Rock” scribe has certainly grasped the life-changing power of music, but his hilarious guest DJ set looks at the dark side – from a 70’s sex symbol to a frightening musical and a couple other surprises.

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1. Carl Anderson (from Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack) - Superstar


2. Rod Stewart - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?


3. Carole King - Pierre


4. Terry Jacks - Seasons in the Sun


5. Eagles - Hotel California

Dan Wilcox: Hey there, this is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I have the pleasure of sitting here with Mike White, co-creator and star of HBO’s new series Enlightened. He also wrote the movie School of Rock, a celebration of music if there ever was one. Today, we’re here to talk about 5 songs of his choosing as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Mike White, welcome.

Mike White: Thank you, thanks for having me.

Dan Wilcox: I understand that you have a running theme going on with the songs that you’ve selected to share with us today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that theme?

Mike White: There are a couple songs, when I was growing up, that really freaked me out and still stay – it’s like I want to listen to it, but I’m also afraid of whatever…whatever it was that they were getting into, it kind of just tripped me out.

Dan Wilcox: Why don’t we start with the first one, what have you brought to share with us?

Mike White: The absolute scariest thing to me when I was a kid was actually Jesus Christ Superstar. That movie, of all the things sort of religious, the story of Jesus’ life and death, seemed like the freakiest thing. And especially because Jesus Christ Superstar, it had all that hard rock – it was actually a pretty heavy rocking soundtrack.

I remember Jesus was so…he wasn’t zen. He was like really uptight and he’d flip out over the littlest things and started yelling at people. And something about the way he looked, the long hair, it was kinda I guess sexy but kinda androgynous. I like God in “Oh, God!”, George Burns. Someone a little more avuncular and more mellow. Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, it’s just like, I would not follow him anywhere, he is like mentally ill!

And everyone else…the whole movie was full of these, they all seemed like they were diabolical characters. I was both fascinated by it because it was telling all these Sunday school stories, it was bringing it to life, but in this kind of upsetting sort of way for the eight year old that I was.

Dan Wilcox: have you ever tried or thought about writing one of these five songs you’ve selected into a movie and try to share that very creepy experience that you had with them as a child?

Song: “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar

Mike White: I think School of Rock, in a sense, was that. When I originally thought of it, it was like when I was a kid to have a teacher like that come in and give me a different sense of association with all the music and sort of liberating me from wanting to be the perfect altar boy kind of kid was something that would have been a good sort of recipe for me. I don’t know if these particular songs will ever emerge in one of my movies but the spirit of it is there.

Dan Wilcox: Sitting here with Mike White, our guest who is going through a number of songs that scared him as a youngster. What do we have next?

Mike White: The next song is Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”

Dan Wilcox: Frightening.

Mike White: It sounds like I’m just joking, but I remember back in the late 70’s he was a sex symbol. And I remember there was some story about him, about how he was admitted into the hospital for an overdose and they found semen in his stomach and they pumped it out of his stomach. And I was like “what the hell!” And in all of the pictures of him he was sort of ugly and freaky looking and his shirt was always off and it was my introduction in to the sexy rock star psycho. It was just so over my head so this song seemed so sick and almost satanic or something. It was like, stay away from Rod Stewart.

Dan Wilcox: Its Rod Stewart asking the question “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” Answer no – according to Mike White.

Mike White: No, not now and not then.

SONG: Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”

Dan Wilcox: Ok we just heard Rod Stewart with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” What do you have next?

Mike White: I’m sure most kids who grew up in the 70’s had a mom or a dad or both who was into Carole King and my mom was no exception. And so when Carole King – she did this soundtrack for this Maurice Sendak book called “Really Rosie.” It was a kid’s album but there was some really crazy creepy dark stuff. It was weird because this song was about this kid that is really blasé about everything and he’s got a real bad attitude and ultimately he ends up getting eaten by a lion because he just…the lion comes along and he’s like, I don’t care. It’s kind of a cautionary tale -- if you have a bad attitude and are so blasé about life. It’s sort of -- oh shoot, there IS such a thing as conditional love. If you don’t mind your manners and you don’t have a good attitude, even your mom will let you get eaten by lions. It tripped me out.

Dan Wilcox: Well, let’s get into it, here’s “Pierre” by Carole King.

Mike White: Listen if you dare.

SONG: Carole King’s “Pierre”

Dan Wilcox: OK, alright, that was “Pierre” from Carole King as selected by our Guest DJ Mike White. Mike, what disturbing song do you have next for us?

Mike White: This is “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks. I just remember we had a little 45 of this single. I must have been 7 or 6 year old. It was mid 70’s. It seems like it’s about a guy who’s dying. He’s singing and he’s like, I’m going to die and I’m going to remember the times…it’s kind of a sentimental song but its something about him dying. It seemed like he was already dead by the time so it’s like listening to someone’s song and he’s already dead and he’s singing to this girl and he’s like I’m dead now. I just remember like, get this off my record player! I made my sister take it into her room, I didn’t want it in my room. It just seemed haunted and it was just spooky.

SONG: Terry Jack’s “Seasons in the Sun”

Dan Wilcox: Mike. I can’t wait to hear the explanation on this one. Why don't you go to the next one?

Mike White: Well, this one is kind of obvious. At my house they had a book, that my sister -- she went to a religious school -- and they had this book about how rock music was a gateway into Satanism and everything bad, that kids shouldn't listen to rock music because it had all of these negative influence and it was both interpretations of big rock songs plus insights into the lifestyles of different rock singers and whatever. Even at the time, I thought this just seems bogus, but I went to a school where, for some reason in middle school, every school dance or every party ended with either "Stairway to Heaven" or "Hotel California." And people would kind of slow dance to "Hotel California" and I was listening to the lyrics and I was like, this is actually proving all of these religious haters of rock music right. It's literally a paean to Satanism, it was about California, which I lived in, and it was all about these people, you can't leave … It was like a "Twilight Zone" episode. It is a nightmare. It is a nightmare song come to life and so it was just one of those songs that I was like, I don't want to listen to this, I mean I appreciate it now, but at the time it just seemed like, stay away.

SONG: The Eagles’ by Hotel California

Dan Wilcox: Mike, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com.

Mike White: Thanks for having me.





Dan Wilcox