Music as Time Capsules: Joe Cocker

Awhile back, I wrote on vinyl about LPs as time capsules. As an ardent collector of vinyl, I’ve regularly find all sorts of random paraphernalia inside: newspaper clippings, handwritten personal notes, mementos, etc. Once, I even found a $5.09 receipt that had somehow made its way over from Platterpus Records in Easthampton, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles.

Radio airchecks (demo tapes made of on air radio programs) also bring back memories for me. The other day, I was reminiscing about English-borne blues-rock singer, Joe Cocker, who recently passed away, so I pulled out an old cassette from the archives of an interview that I had previously done with him, dated April 2, 1982. Joe was sober, shaky, honest, and totally vulnerable with me. It was the only time Joe Cocker ever visited the KCRW studios.

Flipping the cassette over to hear the end of my interview with Joe, I found a separate aircheck that I’d done with Roger Steffens, the host of what was once a very popular, long-running show on KCRW called, The Reggae Beat.  In the fall of 1979, just a month after KCRW added The Reggae Beat, Roger did his very first interview with none other than Bob Marley himself. Roger actually owns the Bob Marley Archives, a huge trove of the legend’s memorabilia and artifacts.

Also on the flip side of the cassette, still sounding fine 30+ years later, was a Senegalese guitarist named Papa Yoro Diop on our first African show, Morning Goes Makossa, which debuted in 1980. Back then I didn’t know very much about African music, as there wasn’t a whole lot of it that had made its way to LA. (King Sunny Adé and Fela Kutiwould soon change that). So I asked Yoro to give some background on Senegalese music, its social and ritualistic functions, and list the best bands of the day. He brought in somegriot music as well as Orchestre Baobab, the biggest tropical Latin band at the time in Dakar. I’d never even heard of them. He also sang and played some Senegalese ballads for us that day on his guitar.

We didn’t take any pictures that day of Joe, nor of Yoro. It wasn’t like we had camera phones back then, so I’ll just these KCRW airchecks tell you their stories in their own words.





Tom Schnabel