ROCK OF THE 1980’S
I would have loved talking with the band I was introducing, but I was having too much fun seeing everyone again. The 2014 crowd seemed to have heard of Jed The Fish.
One of the bands I had forgotten I interviewed, Big Country, except for this Debbie Leavitt photo. The Scottish must find it oppressive in the US these days, particularly if they smoke.
photo by Debbie Leavitt
Original artwork from Jed The Fish tee shirt, created on the floor during a KROQ music meeting in the 90s. Features the "Dooley" prototype (spermy guy).
We did KROQ beach remotes weekly for several years, where Joqs would broadcast their radio shows. I probably did the most, and even coming to the same beach several times over the years to give out these towels, they were all unique. Many conversations with listeners and artists. As Jed The Fish, it wore me out, but it was always fun.
Likely the most embraced version of the KROQ logo, it was co-designed by KROQ Promotions Director Quay Hays.
Darrell Wayne organized this Pasadena Hilton event in 2006, where all the gory stories were told. Darrell hired me in 1978.
Quay Hays was the 1983 KROQ Promotions Director, and organized this wacky photo shoot. He oversaw the logo transition from line drawing (a sticker just above the "Nov") to full color, which was the most beloved logo of all time.
DMode I began playing on KROQ because the producer was Daniel Miller, of The Normal (TVOD, Warm Leatherette, 1978). Mike Zampelli from Zed Records/LBC brought the single New Life to Pasadena with a dozen or so other records he wanted me to play on the Jed The Fish import show. Not a huge response but the band showed promise. Once Speak and Spell arrived, everyone on KROQ was playing it.
This is the most concrete example of Jed The Fish having an impact on an artist's success. My Catch of the Day feature allowed me to choose one song per day. One Tuesday in 1988 Anthony Smith and Matt Dyke talked their way past reception and brought me Wild Thing. I spent most of my shift talking with them and sent them off expecting to hear the single at 4:40 pm. The phones blew up, and I made the rare decision to play it again the next day. The day after that it was a mid-week add to KROQ (most radio stations do their music meetings on a Tuesday, where they decide what is 'added' to the playlist). By Thursday it was on KIIS-FM. A most memorable instance of watching a piece of vinyl setting the radio waves ablaze in a matter of hours.
My first week at KROQ -- before I was even called Jed The Fish -- my favorite band arrived in support of their first album. To meet them was an amazing experience, but to speak with them on the air was a dream come true. I blew the interview, but started a long relationship with the band, which I think made the biggest impact on 80s music. Constantly cited as inspirational by so many bands of the era, DEVO made a crazy instrument like the MiniMoog profoundly essential. And no one will ever play the MiniMoog like Mark Mothersbaugh.
One of the few distinguished examples of Duran Duran ephemera signed by the entire band, Capitol Records gave me this for my support of the first two albums. Funny thing, the label actually had unpaid interns promoting the band. I think his name was Danny, and he brought me my first copy of 'Duran Duran' in the summer of 1981. Money well spent?
There was nothing left to say when your band leader, after 10 years of scoring movies, is calling it quits. No more gold records to be had, hearing going bad, and bandmates so sad, they all autographed this poster from the site of the departure, the once-heralded Universal Amphitheater. Music and movies have never been the same since.
Although this is the bitty Fender model -- and I doubt Tom ever played it -- to have this in my studio still making sound is amazing. Sadly, the 'soul power,' written in silver Sharpie, rubs right off with very little effort, you get the idea. Rock's best guitar player of the 90s? Come on! That's why KROQ even bothered to call it 'Roq of the 90's.' I haven't been gentle with it.
Massive Attack is a band I have long supported out of passion. I'm sure, had they achieved gold record status, they would have acknowledged me, so they did what they could.
The Album Network was a radio industry trade magazine which annually gave radio host awards. This went on until they were purchased by Clear Channel Radio (aka I Heart Radio), evidently because the CC personalities were so bad they weren't winning any awards. At least Clear Channel had the decency to not continue giving out awards -- to themselves -- and the tradition was discontinued.
Right about the time the world was getting busted for counterfeit shoes, Van's did a promotion with KROQ, and all the Joqs got free shoes. Deese are dem. Cir.1989
This was the night I was hired at KROQ. It was the first time I had seen the band, and I was sitting in my Ball Road apartment GLOWING because I had finally seen the greatest Rock and Roll band in the world. The phone rings at 1:15 a.m., it's Darrell Wayne asking if I could get to Pasadena by two. "Sure," I said. And later I climbed those back stairs for the first time.
This was when David Bowie came by the station in advance of the 'co-headlining' NIN show, and I GOT TO INTERVIEW HIM. Thing is, as anyone will tell you, he is as kind and disarming as could be. It was near Halloween, and I had decorated the Burbank studio with oodles of scary, and one of my props was a battery-operated, undulating heart. He made sure I noticed that he had crammed it in his pants, power on, just as I opened the mic. To say I laughed is an understatement, as I'm sure you recall what I was capable of. This was when we were both in recovery. Meeting him in the Station to Station days might have been different. And yes, I asked him if he had ever been fat.
Don't be fooled by the smile. This was torture for David Byrne, and he's only smiling because the interview was over. He is one of the truly fascinating artists I have ever spoken with, and I am a huge fan. Not necessarily of the Red Momo album, which he was there to promote, but his work continues. I can't say that about all the greats. Sometimes being a fan does not serve the discussion.
Way before I was Jed The Fish, my mother remarried and I moved to Arizona. I was an object of ridicule in Laguna Beach, but once I lived in a town of 35,000, I was conferred star status, because I was from LA. I kept explaining I was NOT from LA, I was from Laguna Beach. "Yeah, sure, you're from LA," I heard back. I had some experience doing light shows, so I did one for a high school dance at the first opportunity. The art department liked the concept, and with the guidance of teacher Robbie Robertson and other students, we created one of the first multi-media events. Our only mistake was not making it interactive.
Warner Bros. obviously remembers the November 1989 interview as a harrowing experience for David Byrne. It was. I asked questions about creativity, which are the most difficult for an artist to answer. At One point, he replied with a distressed whine. "I - I - I don't know," uptoning on the last syllable.
Here is an example of hunting down your heroes, and they turn out to be wonderful. Armed with a Strawberry pie, I got the security guard to call them up and come down to the lobby. The creator of Beaking Bad, Vince said he would have me up but for all the notes on the wall for Better Call Saul. Which is a show he created with Peter Gould, whom Alice immediately liked. If you work in this building, you know immediately where it is. KROQ used to be in the neighborhood.
Sarah and I having an intense conversation backstage at the old KROQ Acoustic Christmas. She has more teeth than I do. Funny girl.
Moments before Bean fell off the stage, all of the joqs gathered. Just after Bean fell, I thought I heard someone sarcastically say "Bean fell off the stage." Absurd, right?. I laughed my ass off. But he really fell, as they introduced No Doubt. Sorry Bean.
Locked in a cheesy trailer at the KROQ Weenie Roast with then-newcomers Foster the People, I do my best to scramble their name. They were in a good mood.
My wonderful visit to NYC with hosts Allegravita. This young lad made it a funny shoot. Very cold and I forgot my gloves on a train.
Off-the-cuff fizzlebutt sound effects for Out of Order, my Westwood One syndicated radio show. Ron Harris thought to give you a behind-the-scenes video.
91X personality and smoker Mike Halloran at a 1997 Prodigy concert at the Spruce Goose in Long Beach, Ca.
The dawn of professional CD players. You cued them up by hand, almost like vinyl. Sony “Digital.”
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.
Jed The Fish and Dusty Street at a party in Santa Monica. Photo Debbie Leavitt.
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.
This photo was taken as we were initiating the new studios in 1996. I believe that is Cynthia Takahashi with me in the control room, moving the equipment from the Pasadena studio. As you can see we had already begun to decorate. The filled cabinet was CDs, the empty ones for tape cartridges, or carts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Debbie Leavitt contact sheet from 1982, KROQ control room in Pasadena. Never a fashion trendsetter, somehow the DJs picked up on the medical scrubs look.