We’re going back to March 1990 this week for a series of interlinked audio clips from the original Radio Free Charleston radio show. Once you get the chance to hear all of them, they’ll make perfect sense, really. This exercise in nostalgia is designed to provoke my readers to come out in huge numbers for our big night at the La Belle Theater this Saturday, Dec. 1. I’m still not clear on how posting clips from the old radio version of the show will convince people to come out to a retrospective of stuff from the video version, but it’s been a blast sifting through these old tapes, so I’m not complaining.
Three Bodies (above right) was one of the most popular Charleston-area bands during the original Radio Free Charleston era of 1989-90. Kris Comandy, Brian Lucas and current RFC Big Shot Brian Young made up this dynamic trio who had a sound not unlike that of Nirvana, who made it huge a couple of years later. During Spring Break 1990, Comandy and Young made the trek to Key West, Florida, which that set into motion a series of events that culminated in the clips I’m bringing you here in PopCult today.
This was in the days of the legendary Charleston Playhouse, the Bohemian supernova that burned brightly at the center of the Charleston arts community for almost a year before being consumed by it’s own intensity. (That may be a little more poetic than it has to be–they really went out of business because they weren’t making any money and the twenty-or-so owners were no longer all on speaking terms.) But it was a very special place that people still recall fondly nearly 20 years down the road.
But the playhouse doesn’t really factor into this clip. This was the week Brian Young and Kris Cormandy went to Key West for Spring Break. By this point, I did a nightly “Radio Free Charleston Preview” at 11:35 PM, during my top-rated regular shift as an oldies DJ at WVNS, 96.1 FM (back in the days before it was “The Wolf”). I’m still remarkably proud of what I accomplished during the short life of my old radio show. I was able to play tons of local music, and I also got to play some of the hippest artists in the world over the air, right here in Charleston. Listeners could hear Captain Beefheart, Kate Bush, The Cure, REM, Van Der Graaf Generator, DEVO, Wire and more. With the nightly preview, we even managed to sneak some of that stuff into prime time.
But during this week in March, on Thursday night, instead of playing previously-recorded music, I took a phone call from Key West on the air. I knew that Brian and Kris were going to call in and play a song over the phone. I thought that they’d do it from their hotel room. I was wrong. You can hear the results in the clip below.
Three Bodies Phone Call
That was a wild night. The song, “Broken Vase” was a tune Kris had written for a previous incarnation of the band called “Atomic Cafe.” But he and Brian re-worked it and played it, busker-style, at a pay phone on the street in Key West. And it was broadcast live in Charleston, West Virginia. There were so many requests for me to play it again that I replayed the entire phone call during that week’s regular Saturday-night episode of RFC. Later in that show (which featured various Swivels in the studio milling about–you’ll hear from them later in the week), Brian Young called in to extrapolate about the events of the previous Thursday.
As you’ll hear, Brian and Kris performed the song on Thursday, then Brian flew back into town on Friday. Brian had fallen asleep in the sun during his stay and was sleeping off the mother of all sunburns, but set his alarm so he could wake up around 3:30 a.m. and call into the show with “The Rest Of The Story.” You can tell he was still wiped out from the trip.
You can get a hint of the controlled chaos that I kept in the studio during Radio Free Charleston broadcasts. There was a certain amount of shtick at play here, but the wild unpredictability was part of the fun. By way of explaining the context of some of my and Brian’s remarks, this was near the end of the run of the radio version of the show. Among the trumped-up complaints that the new station management had was the accusation that we were glorifying drug use and drunkenness. So that’s why we started making so many sarcastic remarks about those things on the air. We weren’t afraid of repercussions, since we knew that the powers-that-be at the station weren’t actually listening to the show. If they had been, we probably would have caught some flak for all the f-bombs that went over the air live and unbleeped.
Tomorrow, check back at PopCult for another video classic from the web version of the show and an audio montage of America’s Test Kitchen’s Sweetheart, Bridget Lancaster, singing the RFC jingle and cutting up in the studio with yours truly. Wednesday you will bow down before the musical supergroup juggernaut that was Beckner, Price, and Panucci. Thursday we’ll see how just exactly how inebriated members of The Swivels could be on the air. Friday is “Anything Can Happen” day.