Thursday, November 13, 2008

Idle Hands and Idol Worship

A long time ago, a good friend of mine turned me on to some music, the likes of which I'd never known existed. We were at his mom's apartment after school one day back in 1981 or so, and he had put on an LP without showing me the cover. It turned out to be 'Oxygene' by Jean Michel Jarre, and it absolutely blew my mind! Over the ensuing years, we became the best of friends and hunted down albums of electronic music to share with each other. He'd find LPs by Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and Michael Garrison, I'd find albums by Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Edgar Froese, and Synergy. We taped each other's collections (as well as our own, because you just didn't want to take that chance that your kid brother or sister was going to take out your LPs when you weren't home and use them as frisbees for the dog to chase).

We made it through college, or whatever passed for higher learning, and moved out into the real world. He moved into it a bit quicker than I did, go-getter that he was. I ended up getting married and sprouting children a lot quicker. Sooner rather than later, my disposable income was now necessary, so the additions to the LP collection became fewer and further between. Of course, LPs were starting to see serious competition from CDs, so it wasn't long before there weren't many LPs to be had anyway. But I digress...

Back at the end of the 80s, when Tangerine Dream was recognizable enough of a name here in the States to be able to mount a 30 to 40 city tour and realize a profit, I decided it was time to meet the man behind the band, Edgar Froese. At this time, I'd already amassed about 50 LPs by him and his band, had written to them and received press kits and autographed photos of the band's members, and was, in short, a bit of a fanboy. I figured it was high time I met my idol.

I discovered the phone number and contact for the label Tangerine Dream was signed to at the time, called her up, gave her my name and told her I was a college kid working for the campus radio station with an assignment to conduct an interview for airplay. About the only part of this that wasn't a big fat lie, of course, was my name. After getting my brother-in-law (who WAS a campus radio station DJ) to sign off some sort of credentials on my behalf, and submitting a list of potential questions, I was approved for the interview.

By phone.

"Uh-uh", I remember telling the label rep. "I want to conduct this interview in person." I already had tickets in hand to see the band perform in Boston, so why not get together before the show and do it then? After a bit of hemming and hawing on her part, we agreed. I ended up sitting down with Edgar Froese and a tape recorder for about 20 minutes, going over his views on music technology (presaging by about 10 to 15 years the advent of compact flash drives), analogue vs digital instruments, and several other such inanities as he's covered in countless better interviews conducted by folks a lot less gormless than yours truly.

Following the interview, my brother-in-law and I strolled over to Newberry Comics and found a rare Tangerine Dream CD that I just had to add to my collection. Meanwhile, I think my extremities felt somewhat numbed at the excitement of it all. We had the privilege of meeting the full band backstage after the show as well. I also traded a transcription of the interview for a membership in the Tangerine Dream North American Network, some members of which made me seem quite casual about the whole thing by comparison.

Eventually, the editor of the Network's newsletter must've had a falling out with Edgar's management or something because the direction of the newsletter went from covering all things having to do with the band to covering everything close to the band but not the band itself. Yeah, odd, I thought. One particular band the editor had become very fond of during this transition was an electronic music band from the UK with the strangest sounding name I'd ever encountered, considering the music they played: Radio Massacre International. Shame on me - it was years before I actually found anything of theirs to listen to. And what a revelation it was for me, too! Unfortunately, much of their music is privately pressed, meaning it's recorded to CDR and distributed through limited channels til the supply runs out, then it's 'tough luck, Charlie.'

The connection was made for me a few years later, when upon listening to a BBC recording of Tangerine Dream live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975 (and incredible recording if you can get ahold of it!), I heard the radio announcer mention that the concert was being broadcast from the vaults at the request of one Steve Dinsdale - - who, as it turns out, is a member of RMI. I guess I wasn't the only fanboy out there after all. I'm glad Steve did that, though. What a great recording! And an obvious inspiration to his band in their formative years.

And even though RMI has played various shows in the US at least four times over the past several years, I have yet to get out to see them. I kick myself, too, because they're right up there among my all-time faves now, right alongside Redshift...

...but they're a subject for another day.


twobeans said...

awesome story!

OvertheTop said...

Ahhh, Oxygene - a staple of my youth. I was in Paris on Bastille Night in 1979 and was lucky enough to see and hear Jean Michel Jarre play this music in the Place de la Concorde, accompanied by a light show. I haven't heard that music in a long time - high time to! Thanks for the story.

24db said...
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24db said...

Great story, as an avid collector of all things TD I can relate to it :) I got to meet Edgar and the group last year for the first time, very down to earth people...although slightly surreal for me I should add especially being in a nightclub with one of the keyboard players and their guitarist :)

Don't suppose you've got a copy of that interview? I collect them