In the early days of radio, canned music wasn't the only thing whizzing through the ionosphere and into the boom boxes of America. Comedy, drama and adventure programs ruled the airwaves, and radio was every bit as compelling as television would eventually come to be. Despite the sad fact that radio theater has not enjoyed the revival it deserves, local writers Jamie Foehner and Doug Golden have just released Soloman Carver, a hee-larious play on CD depicting the travels and adventures of Soloman Carver, a misogynist, Mark Twain-like character. Rounding out the cast of characters (and performing the soundtrack) are a handful of our favorite local rock stars, including Highway Matrons drummer Fred Friction, who portrays Susan B. Anthony in the play. We spoke with Friction of his involvement in the project over dry Club crackers and Stag as he attempted to wrestle his long-ailing toilet out of disrepair late one night last week.
B-Sides: As is in evidence tonight, you're a very busy man. What made you interested enough in this project to get involved?
Fred Friction: The fact that Jamie Foehner was spearheading this is what made me want to get involved. Jamie wrote for the Brand X comedy troupe, and the Matrons used to play shows with them in church auditoriums. That guy's a goddamn genius. The project reminds me of Alfalfa and Darla from the Little Rascals saying, "Hey gang, let's put on a show." It was very seat-of-the-pants, very do-it-yourself.
What does that tell us of the production standards?
Well, there was very little direction. They just handed me a script and put a mic in front of me. I didn't know whether to go natural, gruffly or feminine, and they gave me free reign to do what I wanted. The only direction I received was "Just be yourself, Fred."
Does that mean you wore women's underwear during the recording process?
To get into character, I did wear dainty women's undergarments during the recording session, but they were covered by a very butch leather affair.
It certainly comes through on the CD. There's a strong message about woman-hatin' amid the play's humor. What does Fred Friction have to say about misogyny?
There are many women who've labeled me a misogynist, but I'm here to tell you it ain't true. I've never given a massage in my life.
It looks as if you're massaging the ballcock on that toilet mechanism into submission.
And you know what? [Fluuushh] I think I finally fixed the damn thing.
Praise beyond praise to the Residents! Bow down to the Talking Heads! These are the true rock gods of the 1980s, and it is in their name that we hand down a critical fatwa to the pop-punk band Bowling for Soup for its horrible song "1985."
Not since Bryan Adams vomited "Summer of '69" out onto the world has there been such a foolish piece of faux nostalgia. Just one snippet of the chorus will show you the massive scope of Bowling for Soup's crimes: "Bruce Springsteen/ Madonna/Way before Nirvana." Have they no shame, these pasty-faced boys whose real memories of 1985 consist of the flavor of paste and nose picking? Worst of all, the song is as catchy as the clap, infecting your brain with its whiny-boy melody.
Fatwa! Bowling for Soup, you will be forced to watch Over the Top again and again until you realize the error of your ways! It is written. -- The Ayatollah of the Rock
Boxing the Rock
Since the advent of downloading and CD burning, the humble little CD has fallen from the ranks of "Nothing says I love you like..." gifts to the mere stocking-stuffer department. These days, for a gift of music to make a real statement, you have to dig deep into your wallet and pony up for a hefty multidisc box set. Here are a few of this year's more notable efforts in the genre, just in time for your flurry of last-minute shopping.
Various Artists, Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground
The skinny: The precursors to grunge, alt-rock, indie rock, ska revival and today's "nü-wave" stud this four-CD treasure trove of Reagan-era underground glory, which does as much to show today's kids who today's bands ripped off as James Brown's and other vintage soul-and-funk box sets did to our rap-attuned ears back in 1990.
Drawbacks: A little too catch-all for some listeners. As one Amazon.com poster points out, "Great box sets like No Thanks! and Nuggets have unifying musical themes. The closest Left of the Dial has to a theme is that these artists weren't Madonna or Michael Jackson or any of the other zillion-selling money machines of the '80s."
Advantages: On the other hand, we see the scattershot approach as a (D.) boon. Where else would you find the Cure, the Pogues, the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and the Butthole Surfers' "Moving to Florida" in the same package? That was the way radio stations played 'em back in the day; that's the way they should be packaged now.
Corny verdict: "Going Underground" sounds "Just Like Honey" on this "Teen Age Riot" that will keep your "Senses Working Overtime."
Various Artists, The Hip-Hop Box
The skinny: Get your old-school fix anytime you want with this four-CD set that spans the history of hip-hop from Kurtis, Afrika and the Sugarhill Gang right up to Fiddy and the Roots.
Drawbacks: Way too much focus on the East Coast, even if LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, the Beastie Boys, Slick Rick and Jay-Z were left off, no doubt for some legal reason or other. Also, there's an error of inclusion -- MC Hammer's "Turn This Mutha Out." There are hundreds of better choices.
Advantages: A pretty decent rundown of a portion of the genre's history.
Corny verdict: Even if there's relatively little from south or west of "Tennessee," this "Rapper's Delight" can still "Fight the Power" with its "Body Rock" and put plenty of "Flava in Your Ear."
Various Artists, Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion
The skinny: A three-disc set that has a pretty broad definition of disco. The Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" always seemed more like funk, while Bananarama's "Venus" struck us as pop/new wave. Between those extremes, though, the mainstream of the genre is well represented by the likes of "Y.M.C.A," "Get Down Tonight," "Fly Robin Fly" and "The Hustle."
Drawbacks: A disco box with no Bee Gees? You must be jivin'.
Advantages: With the exception of the Bee Gees, this is all the disco you'll ever need, packed into one slim volume.
Corny verdict: A great set to spin long "After Dark" on one of those "Boogie Nights" to keep the "Boogie Fever" high among those of the "Super Freak," "Dancing Queen" and "Disco Lady" persuasions.
Bon Jovi, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong
The skinny: Oh, yes, they can. They can, and they are.
Drawbacks: Its very existence.
Advantages: Surely there's some ne'er-do-well on your Christmas list who deserves this musical lump of coal.
Corny verdict: "You Give Love a Bad Name" when you give someone this box for Xmas. -- John Nova Lomax