A good sense of the rock and radio personalities of the era, though Neer’s surfeit of detail may turn off all but the truly...




A warmhearted memoir-cum-history of rock ’n’ roll radio’s glory days.

Neer, a New York–area broadcast veteran, was fortunate to begin his career just before simultaneous explosions in the national counterculture and in FM radio’s commercial potential. (His techie-oriented tangents explain how “frequency modulation” broadcasting with superior sound quality, available for decades, was shunted aside so that companies like RCA could maintain their AM-based monopolies.) “In 1966,” he writes, “free-form radio was in its infancy on commercial airwaves.” While the payola scandals of the 1950s had hobbled the earliest rock DJs, the low expectations of corporate license owners for their nascent FM subdivisions fueled a brief, ultra-subversive era in which the antics of low-budget stations like the infamous WFMU stoked competition among corporate-owned, Manhattan-based competitors WPLJ and WNEW (Neer’s home). Neer depicts with nostalgic relish the glory days of free-form radio (through approximately 1980), which coincided with the prime years for what’s now considered “classic rock.” Because FM radio support was then essential to “breaking” records, DJs like Scott Muni, Pete Fornatele, Vin Scelsa, and Neer himself enjoyed substantial clout in the industry and palled around with groundbreaking musicians from Bruce Springsteen to Gene Simmons. (The celebrity anecdotes—George Harrison turning his home into a hostel for stranded DJs, Elton John’s salacious on-air improvisations—offer some funny moments.) Later, he maintains a cold restraint in detailing the short-sighted, bean-counting programming strategies handed down by broadcasting conglomerates that grew powerful thanks to 1980s deregulation. Companies like Infinity first revoked the DJs’ prized creative autonomy, then tinkered endlessly with tightly circumscribed formats, alienating listeners. Ultimately, Neer’s generation of pioneering jocks were fired en masse in the 1990s, as WNEW pursued a ridiculous “half-alternative, half-classic” format that sounded its death knell.

A good sense of the rock and radio personalities of the era, though Neer’s surfeit of detail may turn off all but the truly obsessive.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-46295-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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