Shift Change (Second Chapter of KILL THE MUSIC)


 

“Home from college doing laundry…in my ‘wifebeater’ no less, circa 1988”

 

By Michael G. Plumides, Jr.
 
It was shift change at WUSC-FM in Columbia, South Carolina;   6:00 P.M. on Sunday, January 2, 1988, to be exact. I was finishing up my weekly radio show as Sharon, the Program Director, stood in the doorway, her arms filled with albums. I was on the air.
 
 

 “That was music from Motorhead, the title track off of their latest, aptly entitled Rock and Roll,  playing tomorrow night, opening up for the legendary Alice Cooper, at the Charlotte Coliseum, and I will be there. I’m Jack Corn and I’m out of here. It’s six o’clock.  Sharon is up next. She’ll be taking requests at 777-4165, and remember you’re listening to music commercial-free from your friends here at 90.5.”

Sharon smiled as I gathered my effects. “You know you have to be there at six-thirty, right?”

 “I know,” I responded as I threw my book bag over my shoulder. “I’ve been reading liner notes for days.  No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, No Remorse, magazines like Rip, Kerrang, Circus…”

 I held up the latest Sounds Magazine, a British import.  Motorhead graced the cover with the headline, “The Godfathers of Grebo.”

 “What’s Grebo?” Sharon asked.

“I don’t know.  But I do know that they’re England’s loudest band.”

 “I thought that was Spinal Tap?”  She walked past me and took a seat behind the console.

 “You have entirely too much time on your hands, anyway,” Sharon quipped.

 Defensively I reacted, “Listen. I don’t want to sound like every idiot deejay out there in radio land, posing the same stupid questions to a rock god. ‘So you guys are Motorhead, huh? So how did you come up with your name? Super! Bob Seger’s up next!’  I’m taking this a little more seriously.”

 Sharon laughed as she prepared to go on the air.

 “I want Lemmy to know that we’re not just a bunch of yoyos down here in the South, and that some of us watch Young Ones.  Even a few of us know he banged Samantha Samantha Fox.”

 As I exited the studio, Sharon asked, “Who? The Page Three Girl?”

“That’s the rumor,” I responded.

She put on her headphones. As I walked down the hall,  Sharon shrilled, “Hey, six-thirty!”

I passed Lorna’s office on the way out.

 Lorna was our husky and brooding Music Director who always wore black,  as if that would shield her obesity from onlookers. I felt her eyes on me as I passed. I saw Lorna scowl as I quickly glanced into her office. The smell of her clove cigarette had resonated into the hallway. She poked her head out for a moment, like a restless tortoise, and muttered to herself. I hit the exit, down a flight of stairs and stepped out into the student parking lot.  As I approached my car, I reached into the front pocket of my book bag, grabbed my keys, then opened the hatch to my Celica. Campus was bustling with students on bicycles, and in cars looking for parking spaces. The spring semester was about to begin. I deposited the book bag, slammed down the hatch, and noticed a ticket on the windshield. I retrieved it and threw it into the floorboard with the other tickets. I started the engine, and proceeded to drive home.

In case you’re wondering, I was Promotions Director at one of the top college radio stations in the country, WUSC-FM, located in the Russell House at the University of South Carolina. In the 1980’s, college radio meant something. I went by the handle of Jack Corn. Some thought it was a reference to Tennessee Williams. I wasn’t that much of a literary high brow in those days. “Jack my corn” was actually a phrase that my Wrightsville Beach surfer buddies used affectionately toward one another.  If you were an asshole, they would say something like, “Jack my corn, dude.”

WUSC-FM had been featured in Rolling Stone college issue the year before, with an interview with our then Program Director, Johnny Fish, along with several others:  WUOG-FM in Athens, Georgia, Emerson University in Boston, and Ohio State, to name a few.  We were the new taste-makers.  The industry kept watch on what was going on in college radio, tracked what we were playing, and followed the trends through College Media Journal and other trades. It was because of college radio you now have South By Southwest in Austin, TX (SXSW), and similar big media events. It was an exciting time for music, and I was really dug in deep.

 As I drove passed two cute coeds, they smiled and waved. I said to myself, “God Bless America,” as I examined them in the rear view. Anyway, you see, I loved alternative music. It was one of my passions. There were two things that I loved most: music, and pussy.  Now don’t take me for a total pig. My attraction to the opposite sex was more like a curse. When I was six, I fell victim to the kindergarten kissing team, and basically was cheated out of my latency period.

 Plus, Michael Sr. owned the first topless nightspot on the east coast back in the late sixties, called the “C’est Bon Club” in Charlotte. Take that for what it’s worth. I spent New Year’s Eve there when I was four because my parents couldn’t find a baby sitter. I was sleeping in Dad’s office on a chaise lounge, when I awoke to the crowd noise and loud music. I wandered out in my underwear, t-shirt and socks, and remember women in beehives with their hands on me. My father asked me, “Do you want to stay up and see Morganna’s show?” I opted to go back to sleep, and Dad rubbed my back until I dozed off. He loved his children.

 Over the years, the authorities tried to shut the club down,  but since he was an attorney, Pops usually prevailed, until the Alcoholic Beverage Commission finally had enough infractions to revoke the C’est Bon’s alcohol permit in 1970.  Before the ABC Board had the satisfaction of closing its doors for good, someone mysteriously torched the building.

I remember the night my father lay drunk in foyer of the mansion my parents had just recently bought on Carmel Road that spring. My mom sat at the top of the steps, with me there next to her.

 She informed my father, “Mike, the C’est Bon is on fire.”

 My father responded in a low gurgle, “Let it burn.”

 There was an underlying madness that ran in my family.  There often is.

Subsequently, Dad won his Supreme Court case against the ABC the following year that would allow lawful brown bagging and topless dancing. This decision was the precursor to 1973’s Miller vs. California, which opened the south up to exotic entertainment everywhere. In addition, Dad introduced me to all of my first music: Tom Jones, The Mamas and the Papas, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, and Chuck Berry. 

 My college digs were right at the bottom of Barnwell and Greene. It wasn’t the most beautiful house on campus, always with an empty keg and a Brady Bunch couch on the front porch. But my place was cheap, centrally located, close to everything and everyone.

 Throwing the “Gods at 1800 Greene Street” parties was how I first learned to promote. The first one we threw was in October of 1986. Cliff was a tall, good-looking guy from Hilton Head, who’s now Vice President of Pinkerton. Back then, Cliff was also the President of the Young Republicans which incited many a debate between him and me.

 One evening Cliff and I were having a discussion in regard to some random female who had blown him off, and he was a little down about it.

 I suggested, “Let’s have a party.”

 “What’s the point?” Cliff bemoaned.

 “Fuck that chick, man,” I told him. “If she can’t see your quality, then the problem is with her, and not you! Cliff, you are a god. We are gods. We are ‘The Gods at 1800 Greene Street’ and don’t you ever forget it!”

 “I like it, Michael. Let’s do it.” Cliff responded.

 I drew up some fliers, printed a hundred or so at Kinko’s, and went around in my car, my bike, or skateboard, putting them up all over campus with the greatest promotional tool ever created: the staple gun. I learned which staple guns were good, which ones sucked, and the best staples to use, and which ones not to.

 I inherited the house when Cliff graduated in December of 1986. At the time, there was also a guy named Kip living there, so in a sense, I inherited Kip as well. 

 Kip was like Pig Pen on the Peanuts, and rarely washed his clothes. Kip was slightly cross-eyed, with red hair and pale skin. He worked as a bus boy at Yesterday’s in Five Points, and his room always smelled a little funky. He also had a stack of porno magazines three feet high next to his bed. There was a sweat spot against the wall were he would rest his head, to scrutinize the lovely ladies on his sheetless, weathered old mattress, while beating it.

 When I moved in, I brought maybe a handful of various issues of  Playboy and Penthouse with me, for reading material in the can. Eventually, one by one, they all disappeared into Kip’s room. He did leave me one in the bathroom, with the pages all stuck together.After I transferred the lease to my name, I had a whim to look under Kip’s mattress. Not shockingly, I found several kiddie-porn magazines, so I had to let the potential pederast go. I replaced Kip with Brett and Rob-O, a couple of good ole’ boys from Mullins, South Carolina.

I had been living there for two years, and when I had “The Gods at 1800 Greene Street” parties, all walks of life would come: frat guys, sorority girls, hippies, punks, rastas, jocks, death rockers, geeks, and cheerleaders. Sometimes the crowd got so big, it would stop traffic on Greene Street. The beer was always cold, and the music was always loud.

 I ran the parties like a business and I never lost money.  We’d tap kegs around 7:00 P.M., and end around 1:00 A.M. or until the cops showed up. I would walk on a sticky floor with a pocket full of greenbacks.  Going on twenty-three years old, I loved the college life. It was incomprehensible to me that people could ever say they hated school, and that’s the reason they never went.

College was a unique and enlightening experience.  Plus, there was always a multitude of girls, of all shapes and sizes to choose. With close to thirty thousand students, I can promise you I had my pick of the lot. I had my womanizing down to an art form. To give you an example, I was waiting in line to register for classes that semester, and I ended up having sex with the beautiful, big breasted, twenty-year-old blonde who just happened to be registering in front of me that afternoon.I had sex a lot in college, with my youthful good looks, and the stamina of Ron Jeremy.

 I’m not trying to suck my own dick or anything, as “The Hedgehog” would. That’s just the way it was. My popularity went hand in hand with my convenience of living just a rock’s throw from campus. Sometimes I would have two or three girls a week over.  Sadly, I was graduating in May.

 I entered my apartment, turned on the TV, and sat down on the couch. A story was running on CNN. There was a clamor to control artistic license from both sides of the political spectrum. Senators Fritz Hollings of South Carolina and Jesse Helms, of my home state, North Carolina, and distant relative on my mom’s side, were incessantly pontificating on all the networks about federal funding and the censorship of art and music.

  In 1988, Reagan was a lame duck, although the “legislation of morality” was still on the forefront of the Conservatives’ agenda, right up there with Star Wars, and the Communists. James Watt, then Secretary of the Interior, protested even the likes of the Beach Boys playing at the White House.

 Several years before, Congress had initiated the “Music Rating System Hearings” at the behest of the “Washington Wives” led by then Senator, Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, who spearheaded the Parent Music Resource Center (PMRC).The PMRC was a watchdog service for concerned mothers, hell bent on rescuing America’s children from the gyrating hips of heavy metal, punk, and rap music, specifically targeting the genres. The group even commented on the vulgarity of teen idols such as Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson; the precursors to Brittany and Christina.

 The old ladies were concerned with offensive lyrics, and sexual innuendo, considering they weren’t getting any, married to a bunch of no-dick politicians. This new age of music video had them targeting MTV as well. They called for a label on releases that contained language unsuitable for children. Unbeknownst to the moms, their attempt at censorship would only leave the kids wanting more. Inadvertently, all the “Washington Wives” really accomplished was making the artists and record companies excessive amounts of money by slapping a “Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics” sticker on their shit. Kids sought out the music that was forbade them, as any curious, healthy-minded American teen would.

 I continued to watch the piece in disgust. Then I pulled out a few albums from my book bag, and a clipboard, and began taking some notes for my forthcoming interview with Motorhead. The University only paid me eighteen dollars a week but I took pride in my work. I was only taking eight hours that semester, so I had plenty of time to fuck off.

Anyway, it wasn’t really like work because I enjoyed it. And as a pseudo-professional media journalist, I didn’t want to show up, and look like a total jack-ass.
 

 

***

 The second edition of KILL THE MUSIC is now available for purchase on www.amazon.com in paperback (three day delivery) or Kindle (delivered instantly through whisperjet). Prices vary.

 You can join the KILL THE MUSIC fan club on Facebook by clicking on this link:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/KILL-THE-MUSIC/103538850629?ref=ts

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2 Responses to Shift Change (Second Chapter of KILL THE MUSIC)

  1. smartard says:

    “There were two things that I loved most: music, and pussy.”

    This is good stuff, I think I might buy your damn book!

  2. Charleston Post and Courier

    New memoir on music business has roots in S.C.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    ‘KILL THE MUSIC.’ By Michael G. Plumides, Jr., J.D. 225 Pages.

    The music business is a strange beast.

    The fact that an individual or group can either manipulate their vocal chords or play any number of musical instruments, record and distribute the results, and have so many different people come away with so many different opinions and feelings is endlessly fascinating.

    Michael G. Plumides Jr. is well aware of this. Like many lifelong music fans, Plumides found a way to get closer to the music he loved.

    “Kill the Music” is Plumides’ memoir of his wild ride through the music business, starting in the late 1980s at WUSC-FM, the campus radio station at the University of South Carolina, and continuing through the early ’90s, when the author ran several nightclubs in the Charlotte area.

    The book definitely pulls no punches as Plumides describes his experiences with controlling program directors, overeager vice cops and less than scrupulous nightclub owners.

    Readers also get to read stories about an impressive array of well-known artists.

    Plumides’ story about his attempts to interview Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine for WUSC is particularly hilarious. But there are also great yarns that involve Soundgarden, Danielle Howle, GWAR, Glenn Danzig and Hootie & the Blowfish.

    Any prospective nightclub owner could probably use this book’s climax as a lesson in how not to open and run a club.

    The author’s way of playing fast and loose with the rules makes for some interesting moments with artists, patrons and local law enforcement alike.

    If you followed the music scene in Columbia or Charlotte 15 or 20 years ago, or if you’re just looking for a good read about the weird, wild world of the music business, then “Kill the Music” is highly recommended.

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