Listen: Wipeout Beat / Alan Vega
1983, the year before Howard Thompson offered me my first real job doing A&R for Elektra, I was finishing an electrical engineering degree at RIT in Rochester. I was part of a popular local punk band and apparently a good candidate to anchor a two hour weekly show on the town’s AOR station. The program was called ‘Import/Export’. The point being to play all the very happening music the college and underground kids were devouring and giving the station a touch of needed cred, as well as allowing them to sell spots to local clubs promoting those bands as they passed through town, and charging the labels for some time buys on these releases without really having to play this uncommercial music during the earlier hours, when people actually listened. I was thrilled and should have appreciated it more, as no one has ever offered me a similar opportunity since.
When visiting town last year, I gave the station a listen. It’s an interesting, but sad, time warp, still playing ‘Iron Man’, Styx, J. Geils Band, things I can’t even remember now that dropped my jaw when they came on, a playlist that recently put some of the employees responsible for this programming out of jobs. Oh well, they stifled music culture for long enough. My show, hidden at midnight on Tuesdays. was hosted jointly by Roger McCall, a more wonderful person you just will never meet.
Roger and I would play ‘Wipeout Beat’ weekly for months. Like Marianne Faithfull’s ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, it constantly gets overlooked when the press sites early music that helped start electronica and dance are sighted. Produced by Ric Ocasek, as was Alan’s band, Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’, Roger and I would not answer the constantly ringing request lines as we blared this on 11, a high point of the evening for us always.
When I joined Elektra a year later, Howard and Michael Alago, who signed Alan to the label, introduced me to him and we became amazingly close friends quickly, closing Danceteria almost nightly with booker Ruth Polsky, visiting UK bands like Sisters Of Mercy, The Smiths or New Order, Joey Ramone, Arturo Vega, Mickey Leigh, Monte Melnick, Marina Lutz, Duane Sherwood, a then, unibrowed, Madonna, and of course Howard and Micheal.
With Marty Rev, his other half in Suicide, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by seeing one of their very occasional New York shows. You won’t need to spend either much time or money on going out again. They are so powerful, it’s almost unbelievable. How the likes of Beyonce etc. aren’t lining up to get Marty’s beats onto their new recordings is shocking. Why acts get out of bed in the morning trying to compete with Suicide is quite baffling to me.
Unfortunately, the reality is that a few years back, Roger was cruelly and needlessly murdered. His killers are still unfound. Given that he worked at the station I refer to above, WCMF, for something like 30 years, I heard he may have been the longest employed DJ at any US rock radio station, I’m shocked that, despite the large voice and influence WCMF had in that market, they didn’t use it to bring any attention or help to finding the people who did this, not stopping until justice was served. But no, only more archaic music numbly being broadcast as though nothing had happened.