AROUND THE STATION
Me in tights and tard sitting in a wheelchair in my USC dorm room. My theater major roommate was Gary Wissman, who became an accomplished theatrical stage set builder. Because of affirmative action, I was turned down at every other station I applied to, who all said I was the most qualified for the job, but sorry. A friend Robyn suggested I try KROQ. Before I started the name Jed The Fish.
Edge and Bono did their first-ever streamed podcast from the KROQ control room in Burbank. They brought along Guinness, which was promptly consumed by non-air station personnel. I got Bono to imitate William Boroughs. Smoking like mad. September 19, 1997.
We had whiteboards in the Burbank control room. Notes for the jocks and Kevin and Bean. Evidently on this day, I was overdressed. Andy Fletcher in the Burbank control room.
Jed The Fish in the KROQ Control Room, Pasadena, 1983. The ubiquitous Sennheiser 421 microphones.
The ancient Sony CD players on the right, the ponytail — up — and the visor. It was amazing that we had an extra oscilloscope at all, and that it was in the control room a miracle. It told us if the signal was in phase, important to avoid cancellation (bad sound). As in most control rooms, a music log and a program log to keep track of played commercials. Koss headphones. Turntables to the left.
What was cool about Emily is she had good judgement about who to let in to visit. Fan after fan would ask to see the DJ, and it was actually possible until 2001. There was no way we could see everyone, or we would never be able to work, but Mle would know which exceptions I would appreciate. Bless her heart! I think this was in my kitchen.
These guys were as weird as their music. Accomplished jazz musicians, they almost created the group as an insult to the music industry. Very fun to talk to, they relished their mystery. Mystery is something missing from today's art in general. Movies especially. So here I am destroying it. Their real names are Don Fagenson and David Jay Weiss. There was a certain elegance to physically exhibiting an artist's product. There I am with it in my hands. No more.
I must have met with Richard Butler a half-dozen times, and we always had laughs. One night before a show at the Forum he asked if I had decent seats, and I said, yeah, not bad. When he came onstage and saw me dead center in the front row, his eyes jumped out of his head. Later he said, he remembered me saying I had decent seat, but he never expected me to be right under his nose whilst singing. I explained that, yes, I can always get free seats, but if I really want to see, I always purchase tickets. On this occasion, I actually asked Goldenvoice if I could buy front row center and they let me, knowing I never ask such things. Note long-time Music Director Lisa Worden on right, left below me is Assistant PD Gene Sandbloom, who today runs Roq of the 80s.
Rick Rippey was my producer for 12 years, in my opinion my best years. He encouraged diabolical ideas. Suggests things in just the right way to inspire me. Burbank KROQ control room. Now THIS guy could fix any piece of equipment put in front of him. Note the overbridge, which he and Scott Mason installed. It allowed the cart machines to be places directly over the control board for smoother workflow.
Rodney Bingenheimer’s first question would be why does Jed The Fish get to hang out with Mila Jovovich. Kind of trying to not be attracted here, but the Reid Fleming shirt probably sabotaged me from the word go. At the time, it was fashionable to be clean and sober, but I actually did it to save myself. NA keychain. Mila came by the Burbank studio so she could be the movie star who was in Blue Lagoon. The 2000’s had Paris Hilton, and the nineties had Mila. But Hilton wasn’t really in a movie. Here she’s pawing my flab. What a face.
Girl harvesters Depeche Mode with three winners at varying stages of innocence. I'm sure at least one wound up at the Sunset Marquis that evening. A truly legendary KROQ group -- and a favorite of Richard Blade's -- they did perhaps the most concerts for us. If guys thought they were gay, it was just fine with them.
Jennifer Beals, eventually a Yale graduate, could carry herself well in an interview. Aside from Return of the Jedi and Terms of endearment, Flashdance was the highest grossing film of 1983. She impressed me so much, I asked her to take her bra off under her shirt like she did in the movie. It looks like she's dipping me!
I got to meet the captain of the QE2. People said, "Oh, Jed, you're going on a cruise!" An Atlantic crossing is no cruise. Waves the size of hills made it feel as though we were sleeping on Viper. Robert Smith of The Cure at that time refused to fly to America.
He was always such a genteel person. Shortly after this interview in 1982, he led a crowd of people from the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach across PCH into the Pacific Ocean. His last encore song that night was I Go Swimming, to be release the next year. Here, he's like a scraggly-headed vampire.
The day I asked him about the lyrics for Hungry For You. The part in question says “Mais non pouvons faire ce que nous voulons.” I asked him why the line said must I pooo poo fester on the poo poo lawn. The way he corrected me indicated it was a serious question. Very English, he said, “No, no, no...,” dramatically descending in pitch. This was before their September 6, 1983 appearance at Hollywood Park, Synchronicity Tour.
This is the band I was most chummy with. We would get together at Farmers Market, their old hang, and I remember they would talk to their stalkers. Girls would go to FM to see them. They told me it’s important to approach them to humanize the relationship. You want them to know the impact they can have on your normal life just being famous. Not just being a quest. At Ron’s house one night, they played me Interior Design. It was an album devoid of bass parts. Some upper bass synth, but that’s it. I tried in vain to help them justify it. It was a tough listen, because I liked them so much. Rock needs bass if not guitar.
I know, how many photos of me in the Pasadena control room can you stand. But there I was with INXS shortly before the first US Festival in 1982. Great smile on Michael Hutchence.
From left: Poorman (what a name) Van Johnson, Dave Gahan, April who couldn’t keep her clothes on, below her Martin Gore, whose guitar skills are vastly overlooked, Alan Wilder, Freddy Snakeskin (never one to push forward for photos), Andy Fletcher, Jed The Fish below Andy, some schleb who ripped off KROQ, and long time WB promoter Chris Crist.
Working at KROQ was fun, and I’m sure it sounded like it on the air. In back of me, albums, below my right elbow 7” 45rpm singles, the rest hundreds of carts, to my right and in front of me, shelved and stacked. The Grace Jones poster, seen in many photos, was directly to my right. We had creepy green carpet and awful green and red curtains which were never open. This control room had soul, the walls were covered with notes, flyers and photos. Ask me about Sly Stone.
Kate and Fred stopped by for an interview after I had carved a jack-o-lantern in the KROQ control room. It was a sad time for the band with Ricky having passed just months before. They did not tour for the album. Warner Bros. Promotion person Paul V. was outraged at my criticism of the album.
My very funny girlfriend in 1989 had Calvary Baptist parents, who once had a sermon villainizing KROQ. Coincidentally, we had the first and only billboard campaign. (KROQ has never advertised since) But my billboard, located near her parents’ house was vandalized. By Jesus Freaks. One of them risked life and limb to remove my name from it. It was a dumbass campaign anyway.
For a short time in 1978-79, I was actually the KROQ Music Director. I had only heard about the station less than a year before. It was my responsibility to gain the trust of the record company promotion people, wary of giving us product because so much of it had been stolen by former KROQ DJs. Four scoundrels stealing albums meant I needed twenty meetings with promotion people. One of my first “adds” as MD was to begin playing Dire Straits, which I hated but knew would be successful. Devo’s first album was a no brainer.
My first radio boss ponders the decision of putting a sixteen-year-old on the air. I had a Saturday show where I played what I want, at that time a lot of Chicago, Jethro Tull, and Frank Zappa. He was a most kind and thoughtful individual. KPIN was sold my senior year, and the person who took over was Kevin Weatherly's father, who hurled records at me when I played George Carlin's album track Shit, on the air.
Jed The Fish and Dusty Street at a party in Santa Monica. Photo Debbie Leavitt.
One of my true heroes, Zappa wasn't especially kind when I interviewed him. I honestly was not great at it. He insisted I got into radio to get laid, and actually it was because even as often the best qualified journalism graduate, the news stations were obligated to not hire white men. I simply did not know what else to do. When you meet your heroes, you're often let down. This did little to diminish my admiration and enthusuasm.
Baseball shirts were a thing. Jed The Fish, Pasadena KROQ control room. There were carts everywhere. Similar to the old 8-track cartridges, these had a continuous loop with a stop tone (to stop the machine the last time someone played it) just before the beginning of each recording. So when you plugged it in to play it, it was always ready. It was quite a reliable system, which is why the cart machines such as ITC existed for 50 years. Hassle recording the cart in the first place, but I did it for the Go-Gos, who gave me a demo lacquer of “Cool Jerk.”
Whadday know. Amazing who you run into in the KROQ control room. I can't figure out why Bonnie Raitt was there, other than to sniff something with our program director. I'm sure he did her the courtesy of actually playing her album for a week. She was sweet.
This guy wound up doing 22 studio albums and he is a famous songwriter. John Hiatt is still one of the most popular singers and writers for other artists.
In probably the best shot of the Pasadena control room, a 28 mm lens reveals Devo judging the Rhino Devotees album, for which KROQ listeners submitted their own versions of Devo songs. With phenomenal luck, two of my own made the album. Rhino at the time was known for their wacky, Dr. Demento tastes. Richard Bronson and Harold Foos went for the Warner Bros. payday. I would. The reason in 1978 I was so excited about working at KROQ, is that it was the home of Devo.
As you see, Fish is my real middle name. I was 17 when I took and passed the exam for the First Class Radiotelephone Certificate. Issued in Long Beach. This enables one to do technical work on TV and radio transmitters. I just got it to exceed the requirement for a Third Class license. As I had no interest in this, I allowed it to expire. I framed the license, and it became a chopping surface for nasty drugs in the KROQ control room in Pasadena on Los Robles Blvd.
Once established as Talking Heads members, Chris and Tina ventured out with a solo project. Tom Tom Club had an instant hit with Genius of Love, and I was still wearing free tee-shirts. This was their first son.