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Charles Laquidara
Charles Laquidara

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 17 - Charles Laquidara: Electric Matzoh Ball

(c) 1973 - Charles Laquidara

It was still fun, but something was going wrong. Being a radio announcer in 1969-1970 had its sinister underside. Hendrix, Joplin and Canned Heat's Alan Wilson has all signed to gig the Great Festival in the Sky. The Beatles' break-up was official now with the release of Harrison's solo album. And the guy responsible for turning WBCN into a palatable alternative to ugly radio had come down with a bad case of chronic megalomania. (I'm the boss, and you Hot Dogs remember that!) At the time I was program director, and we were working hard at trying to make BCN relate more to the community it played to. Norm Winer, Maxanne Sartori and John Brodey were hired, and the volunteer switchboard was being formulated.

John Brodey had never done radio before, and he was nervous as shit his first few times on the air. But the way he could put music together made us all confident that everything would work out nicely in a short period of time. One Saturday afternoon in July, Andy Beaubien asked me if I wanted to do some acid with him and his wife Carol. Early the next morning we sat at the table for a breakfast of toast, coffee, orange juice, and Owsley sunshine. The day was spent under the most pleasant circumstances. Riding the cat, falling in the park, sit- ting paranoid in the shade, listening to Let It Be and Bridge Over Troubled Water on the stereo, drawing pictures, philosophizing, and finding easy solutions to problems that had stumped the world's greatest minds. (Of course! God, why couldn't they see that?)

About 5 pm it was time for me to go on the air. I hadn't fully crashed yet, but Sunday radio was a snap: just throw on a little James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and, if you need time to organize, put on a side ortwo of Woodstock. Driving in, I was really getting off to "Do What You Like." Good old John Brodey was playing the Ginger Baker cut from the new Blind Faith album. Thump- thump-tha-thump. "What a mothafuckin' drummer!" I thought, "I really never got into him before. That dude's even better'n John Bonham." Thump-thump-tha-thump .(Put it louder, Chas. Don't drive too slow, you look suspicious!)

When I walked in the studio, Brodey looked pale. He was visibly shaken. He explained that the station president had just called him on the hot line (red lights flashing) and blasted him for playing a long drum solo. "Nobody wants to hear a drum solo on a Sunday afternoon... what the hell do you think you're doing, felluh? This is a professional radio station! Get your shit togethuh, boy!"

"Oh, John, I'm sorry," I said, "he's not sup- posed to do that. He should know better." I didn't know what to say. John went home totally deflated and there l was, all alone in that studio, my head still spinning from breakfast.

I put the long version of "Toad" on the turntable and turned on the mike. "Good afternoon. This is WBCN in Boston. " (What's that noise? Helicopters! No! Just a truck. Lower your head- phones ... ) "My name is Charles Laquidara." (Good so far, Chuckie. God, my mouth is dry.) "We have this boss who thinks he has impeccable taste and he sometimes likes to impress his friends so he calls up the announcers on the hot line and makes requests, or gives orders, or yells at us. The other phones only light up when people call, but the hot line rings loud and a red spotlight shines right in your face and it's really scary, It's hard to do a good show after the boss calls and poor John Brodey, the guy who was just on before me, got this call from our boss and was yelled at because he played a drum solo because our boss says nobody wants to hear a drum solo on a Sunday afternoon. The announcers have begged him not to criticize us on the hot line, to wait until after our shows to criticize - but he doesn't care so I guess we should settle this once and for all." (God, Charles, wait! What the fuck are you saying? People listening out there must think you're crazy. Here comes another helicopter. Retreat! Okay, Charles, relax now. Settle down. Play the record. Push the purple switch. It's not purple. That's okay. Push it anyway!) Tha-thump, thump thumpity thump. Fifteen minutes and fifty-three seconds. Next record, push switch for turntable No. 2.

"Uhh... this is WBCN in Boston. Uhh... that was Ginger Baker's "Toad." After that -uh -we played "Mutiny" - a - uh - long drum thing by Ainsley Dunbar. We followed that with an interesting thing by Buddy Rich called -uh -"

(O God, where can I hide? Please, turn me into a turtle and I'll owe you two favors. Two for one, God. How can you refuse?)

When they found me two hours later, I was wrapped around a beanbag chair in a corner of the air studio. Side four of Tommy was just ending. "It's okay, Charles, it's okay. Man, that was beautiful. The whole town's talking about it. You're a hero!"

"A hero? An unemployed hero. A hero on welfare. You got any spare change, mister, I'm a hero. Big deal. I can't even work at the Phoenix. The son-of-a-bitch owns that too! Get Art Linkletter on the phone - quick."

A few days later I was asked to resign, but before any kind of a crisis came our boss left BCN and Boston for bigger and more challenging business ventures. John Brodey got promoted to full-time and the Bonzo Dog Band broke up. There was a call for me on line 10. Michael wanted me to try his fresh-picked I homegrown.

I was leaving to meet Michael when Robert the photographer called. Robert is a Greek who speaks with an English accent. He lives in sin with a woman named Randi who also speaks with an English accent, although she's never been further east than Martha's Vineyard. "Randi has just cooked up some delicious home-made matzoh-ball soup and Stu is here and we'd like to have you over for dinner, Charles."

"Great. I'm starving. We'll be right over." That was luck. I didn't have any bread. Neither did Michael, who wasn't working then. We both wasted no time getting over there.

IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU'D BE HOME NOW the sign said. That sign I hate the most. (When the revolution comes, after the BANK OF AMERICA and HONEYWELL, that sign goes.) We parked and went upstairs to Robert and Randi's suite.

"Boy, Randi, I really underestimated you," I exclaimed, "can I have another serving? This is dynamite."

Four servings later we all sat back and smoked Michael's homegrown. It was giggle-dope, no question about that. Stu was giggling, Michael was giggling, all except Randi. Randi was chortling, which is quite different from a giggle, if you want to know the truth.

It was time to leave. I had to be on the air in 30 minutes. Randi initialed my parking ticket, and we thanked her profusely and left. At the parking lot downstairs the attendant looked at Randi's initials and snarled, "This ain't no good, felluh. What the hell kinda validation is that? It's $1.50 for two hours."

"I - we - don't have any money ... the girl upstairs said..."

"I don't care what she said," he sneered, walking to the front of the car, "lemme get your registration number!" He began writing, stooped in front of the car. "Don't you ever come back here again."

"God, Michael, that's strong dope," l said as we drove away, "l was flashing on letting the car roll right over that guy while he was writing."

"You probably just had too much," Michael said. We both giggled.

Twenty minutes later I switched on the microphone to read a commercial for Newsweek magazine. They were analyzing the Kent State tragedy. As I was reading it, it seemed like the funniest thing ever written. What the hell did Newsweek know about the Kent State tragedy?

"Michael, I almost laughed during that ad, man. This dope of yours is too strong. I shouldn't have had so much."

"It ain't my dope. My dope is good, but it ain't that good. I only had two hits myself and I'm - I'm... it couldn't be the grass."

"My record's over!" I quickly put on the microphone.

"Well, happy Saturday night, everybody. Well ... here we are ... just me and you... all of you ... out there... I... I... uhh... guess I don't have my next record ready, do I? Well... uh... let's all go retreat for a bit... we'll regroup and meet at the big CITGO sign at midnight... (The microphone was malting). I'll... uh... be right back right after this commercial?" I reached for the closest tape I could find, pushed it into the cartridge machine and hit the start button. "Michael, I know you don't believe this, but the microphone was melting."

"You're melting, Charles." His face was pale. "Fucking Randi! FUCKING RANDI!" I screamed. I ran out to the front office. "Kate, get somebody in here to do my show, please! I've been drugged - electric matzoh-balls!" Those people that answer HUBFELT really got their shit together. Kate didn't even blink. She just picked up the phone and started dialing...

When my replacement arrived he said I was playing tapes of commercials one after the other. No songs - just commercials and IDs. He said Michael was comatose in a corner. I don't remember....

This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
(c) Charles William White III

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