Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The way back machine when 'alternative' was colored lime green

I've been thinking about the '90s for an upcoming story and the only thing I can remember about those years was writers were actually paid for a living. That, and Pearl Jam and lime green as the ubiquitous signifier of alternative chic. Better bone up. The 1990s. 1990s. Wasn't Bill Clinton president running a child kiddie porn ring or something?

The heat here is sapping my memory.

Oh. I was there. KUKQ on the AM out of Apache Junction. Such hits as "Dad, Have You Ever Been Arrested?." Bands like Pop Eats Itself and tons of B52s and David Bowie as filler. The deejay was Jonathan L. and the Bone Mama. The peak of all that was came out of KUKQ culture in the Valley was a show at Big Surf in Tempe. People hanging off the palm trees to get a view. The bands were the Gin Blossoms, the Sidewinders (one of the best bands ever out of Tucson), Camper Van Beethoven and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And then there was the Sun Club in Tempe, where the Meat Puppets, Giant Sand (another Tucson fave) and Dead Hot Workshop ruled. Nirvana and Public Enemy. Peter Murphy and the Levellers and Crowded House and Janes Addiction. People all dressed in black at the Mesa Amphitheatre for Love and Rockets and New Order. Morrissey out at that dust pit south of Phoenix called Compton Terrace. When KUKQ went FM it codified the whole thing. They were sold to a corporation and that pretty much sums it up for quote "alternative" in Phoenix. That's the pop process in a nutshell.

I had my column Radio Free Arizona in Scottsdale Life, the arts and entertainment weekly for the Scottsdale Progress, an early prototype of what Flagstaff Live does now, especially with the free distribution in addition to the subscriber delivery. Then I took a big risk and went to work for a local rock publication called Where It's Hot. I took the Radio Free Arizona column there with me. People thought I was crazy, even though it paid more, because they used to have all of these scantily clad women on the cover. It was basically a hair band rag at that point. But I took over right as alternative was hitting and we put all of the new bands on the cover. I think the first one was Live. Also U2 for the "Achtung Baby" tour. I put the Gin Blossoms on the cover and the hard rock oriented owners of the mag hated that. Within a few weeks the Gin Blossoms were on Letterman. Anyway, the publication became much more professional and I became known to all of my mainstream journo friends at the time as the guy who "got the bimbos off the cover" at Where It's Hot. But all that only lasted a year or a little more. There was too much conflict between me, the straight journalist, and the hair band owners there who thought the whole thing had lost what they called "cool." I call it my year of living dangerously.

I went to Catalina Island to write a book when that all fizzled ...

But I still wrote for them after that, even though I had moved on to sports magazines like The Diamond (the official history magazine for Major League Baseball) and Harnett's Sports Arizona. But my future x-wife at the time didn't like me writing about music at all. Was threatened by it. So I wrote under the name RFA for Where It's Hot. But it wasn't much of a cover. The guy who owned Zia Records, Brad Singer, figured it out and called me, which I thought was cool. Especially since he's dead now.

And so are the 1990s. And so is "alternative," which is in the dustbin of history just like "classic rock." But hey, dad still rocks ... dad rock.

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