Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rock Avenue

          I’ve come damn close to starting a new project to make a KUNV Rock Avenue music mix but I've held back because it reminds me of the time I was tempted to write a book about the differences between Punk and Metal.  It occurred to me that someone’s gonna write that book eventually so why not wait for them to do it so I can just enjoy reading it without the years of hard work that would go into making such a book.

            Within two years of having that idea this punk/metal book did come out just like I figured and I had the pleasure of kickin back and reading it with a critical eye.  I'm glad to know the future of academia will eventually be dumbed down to the point of where it's the kinda shit people have talked about in bars for years.

         Maybe someday I’ll make that mix.  I mean if I wait for someone else to do it they won’t do it to my satisfaction anyway.  Right?

            In case you’re out of the loop I should mention the Rock Avenue was a program on the college radio station broadcasting in Las Vegas, NV that ran from the mid 80’s through most of the 90’s.   It happened from the late afternoon until about midnight when they would switch to specialty shows like the Hardcore, Metal, or Hip Hop.  Pre-internet this was the only way Las Vegas could learn about the dynamic world of music happening outside the valley.  I think the Rock Avenue is partially responsible for my obsession with hearing new music several times a week. 

           It’s astounding how important a lifeline the Rock Avenue was for those of us who needed that music fix.  It was a huge world of art, culture, politics, ideas and emotion that played out like friends sharing secrets on the phone.  If you were clued in enough to dial in you could discover lost continents of pop that no one else could ever believe.  While the world around me droned on with their Night Ranger or Duran Duran I could stumble into the violent melody of Husker Du or the psychodelic mindfuck of Sonic Youth.  I was a huge fan of Iron Maiden, still am, but this was around the time Seventh Son of A Seventh Son came out and that shit sucked.  I was trying to figure out what the fuck punk was about in 1986 and it was being roasted every night alongside the alien sounds of Echo and the Bunnymen, Eric B and Rakim, Lords of the New Church, New Order, the Cult and many more I'll never be able to remember.  It was unchartered territory and it couldn’t have been more welcome.     

          There weren’t a whole lot of outlets back then.  We received music and culture like a hamster sipping at an upside down water bottle in a cage of mundane bullshit.  It was a trickle and I absorbed it and worshipped any of it I could cram into my psyche.   It was an antidote to mediocrity which seemed to get more and more prevalent and even poisonous as I got older.  It was precious and rare because I had to work to find it.    Not like it was all gold but when I’d capture it on tape I could spend hours pouring over it to find the sounds that really spoke to me. 

           Probably the best part was the complete lack of regard for genre that some DJ’s would have.  It was cutting edge to hear hip hop tracks being played alongside guitar rock followed closely by synth pop.  But the Rock Avenue was rarely limited to just those types of music.  All sorts of strange hybrids of music seemed to swirl around the Rock Avenue playlist and you could never tell what was coming next.  The eclectic nature of Rock Avenue was ballsy and sometimes challenging to me.  No commercial radio station would dare to pull such stunts.  Ironically enough the other bullshit radio stations in town would eventually follow KUNV's lead.  There were tiny hints that the Rock Avenue would and could change the cultural landscape.  As timid as it seems today it was a real coup to hear West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys on 98.5 KLUC after it was completely played out of KUNV for well over a year.  

          Today it’s at our fingertips at the press of an ibutton and I couldn’t be happier but there’s no denying we lose something without the human element.   I have access to every obscurity ever conceived and I’ve got a steady stream of music that can go on into infinity so long as I've got the hard drive space.  What was once a trickle is now a raging river of music in which I can drown.  It’s a mixed blessing.  Technology has democratized the music industry but it’s also cheapened that exhilarating moment of discovery now that it's everywhere all at once.  What was once precious and rare has now been multiplied a million fold.  It's not nearly as big a treasure as it was when it was just a kid staying up late with a tape deck and a radio signal.  

          Perhaps the most important aspect of KUNV was the fact that it was broadcast to the whole community.  So everyone was plugged into the same signal.  It gave a focus to the community and made me feel connected with the community.  Even if I was mostly just listening for the announcement of upcoming shows.  Now that there is a unending horizon of niche outlets for every musical taste there is no longer a central meeting place where the community can all meet up to hear the same message.  It's remarkable how powerful that central meet up spot tends to be huh?  Then again that's always been a problem with Vegas.  A problem that may never be resolved?     

        I'll never bitch about having access to a huge gaping world of musical shit like I do now.  I never want to go back to the tiny umbilical cord that KUNV represented but I’m glad I was able to live in a time when those cassette tapes recorded off the airwaves were the whole world to me.  It was a special moment in my life that I will always treasure.  I always loved Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, still do, but man does not live on bread alone.  

       I think my idea for a Rock Avenue mix would still be very guitar heavy.  I can't believe how hooked I am on that shitty 80's production style!  Reverb that goes on for days.  Drums recorded in a pit three miles away from the rest of the band.  It's good shit.  I'm still discovering all the wacky 80's bands who were trying to amp up that 60's sound.  I love bands from the 80's who ripped off the Byrds!   

       I still dig the hip hop from that time period as well.   Hip hop was still finding out what it was as a genre.  When it finally solidified it became a turd in many regards but that early experimental sound is still exciting to me now.  Those experiments that keep me on edge.  Shit that tries to be different with no regard for convention.  I know it when I hear it.  And I heard it first on the Avenue.  
        I tried reaching out to people on Facebook looking for old cassettes from that time period.  It’s been a fruitless endeavor and I don’t see much promise on the horizon.  I was looking mainly for station ID’s, the Rock Calendar, or other local announcements.  I was thinking it would be a fun project to add those elements to the mix.  I still think it'd be fun I'm just hoping someone else will do it.  Or maybe I should just get Pandora?  

       Here's a present for those of you who might've appreciated and loved the Rock Avenue as much as I did.  

You will be very glad you clicked here.


  1. If you're curious to hear the whole album go here:

    Classic KUNV.

  2. Thank you! Yes, very glad I clicked here! I loved hearing that song on KUNV, and it's one that I had completely forgotten! I have so many fond memories of cruising around and cranking up Rock Avenue...I wish I could find my old tape recordings...or kept in touch with DJ Bazooka Joe...
    I also have that TxPxUx 7" #83! Saw them at the Henderson Elks Lodge when I was 15...that's over 20 years ago...can't remember a thing! But I think it stands for The Punk Underground.
    Anyway, thanks for the good reading :)