Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Answer Letters In 2007 Too!

I got this email, actually, in 2006. But it went like this:

Hi, Gary. I sometimes hear you on the radio saying this band or that band wrote the song for Self Help Radio. Does that mean anyone can write a song for Self Help Radio? Do you have to be your friend to write a song for your show? I am a local musician who might want to write a song for a theme next year... Please let me know.

This is a good question. Early in the summer of 2006, I asked a few folks in Austin (& a friend in Dallas) if they would like to write songs for the show, since they were creative as fuck & since I liked to hear the music they make. I also supposed, since I announce my themes far enough in advance, that there might be something that might inspire them in the future... Hopefully.

A few of my friends have decided to help - CJ Buchanan, Anonymouse, Energy Club, Luxuriator & the Licorice Whips, the Ramonalisas - but I understand that it's a lot of pressure to write a song on demand. I am extremely glad they're able to help me make me show as good as it is, & I am (as always) in awe of their tremendous talent.

But the letter writer above is someone I don't know, & why shouldn't I ask others to write songs for Self Help Radio? If you're able, why not Take The Self Help Radio Challenge? (I am in negotiations to see if Bill Cosby will host commercials for me.)

This is an open letter to musicians who would like to write songs to be played on my radio show.

Over on my website,, I list a month's worth of upcoming themes. Some of them, obviously, you can't write a song for, especially if they're restrictive (this week's show, for example, is my favorite records of 1971 - you can't really write a song for that, can you? unless, of course, you're Lee Hazlewood & you already have). But if you'd like to write a song about Owls (next week's theme), you certainly can.

The best thing to do is to write me first & tell me your intention. I'd also recommend you listening to my show, if you haven't already, to see what kind of music I normally play. I don't want to be a dick, but if I don't like the song, I probably won't play it. So if you write music that wouldn't be out of place on an episode of Smallville, I probably won't think very much of it. But if it's indiepop - now we're talking! If a person says, "It sounds a lot like Wilco," I probably won't like it much. But if someone mistakes it for an Echo & The Bunnyman or Julian Cope song - wow wee!

If we talk & you want to write & record a song for Self Help Radio, you may send it to me via email as a decently-encoded (I prefer 192 kbps & up) mp3. (You can also send me copies of songs you've already recorded, if your song fits the theme.) You can click here to send me an email. The email address is also at the site.

The show airs Fridays from 4:30 to 6:00pm CST & can be accessed live at I usually archive the show within a couple of weeks & put it on my site. By sending me the song, you're giving me permission to archive it. I may also use it to help KOOP raise funds - by giving it away on a CD as a premium for a membership drive. But otherwise, you own it & can do with it what you will. I will mainly be flattered you wrote a song for Self Help Radio!

It's now up to you. Are you a creative sort who writes songs in your head five times a day? Now's a chance to have someone hear a few of those songs. Let's start talking!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Whither 1971?

Another day stuck in the house while it's icy. When I was a kid, I loved these days. Now all I can think about is all the work that's piling up...

But enough about the goofy Texas weather. Why do a show about the year 1971? & what does that mean, anyway?

Travel back with me, if you will, to the dawn of Self Help Radio. I believe the show started in 2002 - but I'm not always sure. I'm not entirely sure where I was in 2002, so it could've been earlier. Or later. But I do know that I have a birthday, & that birthday happens around the middle of January pretty much every year (I still don't know what happened to my 15th birthday). I also know that I absolutely love to have date/event-specific shows - like my recently ended "favorites of the year" show & Christmas show, which happen every December. I wanted to do something to commemorate my birthday, especially since my friends, family, pets & insurance agents hardly ever remember it. Or if they remember it, they never commerorate it. If anything, they disrespect it. They set a box of dog poo on its doorstep & ignite it. Then they run away.

So, about four years ago (I think) I came up with the idear of using the show on the the week of my birthday as an opportunity to play my favorite music from the year of my birth - which was/is 1968 - & then slowly, year by year, move up a year as the week of my birthday happens. I did 1968. I did 1969. I did 1970. Somewhere along the line, I'm pretty sure I skipped a year (you can look through my playlists on my website if you want to be a completist) but I can't remember why. It must have been because of a particularly heavy George W. Bush State Of The Union Message. Or maybe that year my birthday laid me low. I will be 39 in a few days & I can't be expected to remember that far back. Plus, Austin is covered in melting ice. Can't you hear the drip drip drip?

This year, it's 1971. As a matter of course. What records came out in 1971? This list isn't by any means complete, but I used it as a starting place. I mean, who the hell knows the records they like by the year they came out?

I will not reveal what my favorite records of 1971 are today, but I will list a few records that I won't be playing (because I don't like them):

David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name
Led Zeppelin: IV
Jethro Tull: Aqualung
Chicago: III
Emerson Lake & Palmer: Tarkus
Black Sabbath: Paranoid
Alice Cooper: Love It To Death
Yes: The Yes Album
Grand Funk Railroad: E Pluribus Funk
Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells A Story

But I guess if you've heard my show it's not much of a surprise that I wouldn't play hard rock or prog rock or saccharine "adult contemporary" rock. There are other shows on KOOP who'll play that stuff.

Some stuff I won't play because, frankly, I won't have the time. I apologize, because these are good motherfucking records that make me wish my show were three hours long so I could honor them. These especially include the record "Mirror Man" by Captain Beefheart & "Faust" by Faust. The shortest song on either of those records is as long as one of my sets. Alas! Alack! What's a poor deejay to do? Apologize & move along.

As well, there as some records I may not play as a matter of principle. In particular, the Who's "Who's Next" is not necessarily a bad album, but half the songs are now theme songs to "CSI" television shows, so I don't much feel the need to play anything from that records. & it's got an absolutely awful album cover. Did anyone really ever think that was photo was cool? Really? While sober? Are they the same people who expected to turn the record over & find the same group of hairy British dudes who took a leak together to be blowing each other? Because I certainly did.

I may also play a single or two from a record that I don't really like. I'll let slip a secret: there's a record by an incredibly overrated band called the Doors that came out in 1971 called "L.A. Woman," & I've only listened to that record because I wanted to score with the chick who was playing it. But it does have my favorite Doors single on it, which is "Love Her Madly," & I'll probably play that. It's just a great goddamn song.

I'll talk a little about 1971, including updates as to what I was doing that year (I turned 3 & was just beginning to read symbolist poetry), so the music & the talk should make everyone feel like 1971 has returned. Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Preface to 1971: What The Hell?! It's Snowing In Austin?!

The past few days have been weird.

I caught a cold in Cambridge, which existed as sniffles as we trained our way (from Cambridge to King's Cross, King's Cross to Gatwick) to our flight. But once in the air, the seventeen-day plane ride (or was it fourteen years?) provided fertile ground for my sniffles to blossom into utter misery. I am guessing it had something to do with the fact that a good percentage of the passengers had some form of cold, & also that the rude bastard next to me seemed completely unable to cover his mouth when he hacked, which he did roughly ten times a minute. (I guess he doesn't have to worry about carpal tunnel.) I developed a sinus headache at thirty thousand feet, with the entire top row of my back teeth feeling like they were rotten to the very nerves. Helpful waitresses - er, stewardesses - er, flight attendants - informed me that they couldn't dispense medication, which made the reruns of "I Love Lucy" I was watching without sound even more unbearable than the fortieth time I watched them, when I was eight. With sound.

We arrived safe & warm in Dallas, last Thursday, & Magda gave me Nyquil pills & immediately I felt better. Why couldn't the waitresses on the plane give me medication? If my heart had stopped (Magda's sister pointed out) they are allowed to defibrolate me. Ah well. I will always self-medicate before any flight I take from now on.

A key word up there (keyword?) is the word "warm." It was nearly 70 degrees (Fahrenheit - in Europe, it'd be an unimpressive 18 or 19 degrees "Celsius"). Our hotel room in England wasn't that warm. We got the car & Magda drove me, all runny nosed & delerious, to my mom's, where we spent the night. I can't be sure, but the moms might have had the air conditioner on at her place. For fuck's sake.

After a medicated night's sleep, we drove home & I did my show with an adenoidal accent, & then the weekend came. It rained like a motherfucker on Friday night. (& by the way, as an idiom, the phrase "like a motherfucker" is easily translatable & even more easily exportable. I gave it to my friends in Belgium & I hope they are using it most agreeably.) It was insane. Temperatures dropped. & it got worse.

It's fucking snowing outside. Actually, it's more like it's raining/sleeting/snowing. Like a motherfucker. It's absolutely bugfuck crazy. They closed the University (so I didn't have to work - so my vacation is extended - it's like the damned Energizer Bunny, this vacation) & I've been sitting at home listening to music & occasionally wandering outside to let little pellets of frozen water bounce off my head. They may even close the school tomorrow, as well. Probably because Texans can't drive in the ice. But mainly because IT'S CRAZY THAT IT'S SNOWING IN AUSTIN.

My show this week has something to do with the year 1971, before they invented snow. Before, I believe, they invented Austin. I'll have to write about why I'm doing a show about 1971 tomorrow. I have an uncontrollable urge right now to go swat icicles off my eaves. Excuse me.