When I lived up in rural Oregon back in the eighties, I lived in the middle of nowhere. That’s not strictly true. You had to drive a half hour and then you would find the middle of nowhere. Popular culture was a rumor. One of the only ways for me to get music to listen to that wasn’t adult contemporary AM junk was to tune in a local student-run radio station, which was right at the edge of reception. Overnight, the usually deadly dull station would let volunteers run it and they would broadcast the good stuff.
Me and my friends would hook our radios up to tape recorders, get a super-long cassette and then record it overnight and then listen to it in the morning when we woke up. Sometimes you could even get half the cassette filed as it faded in and out. One day, one of our friends came in with a bizarre recording of something that had Russia, call-in radio, and strange references to time zones. Oddly, it had no music.
We were totally obsessed with it, and listened to it over and over. Amongst my friends, we can fully communicate with each other using only terms from that track and know exactly what we mean. A year later, when I was on my own in college, I made several trips to record stores to try and find this recording – but it wasn’t easy, as we had no idea who made it or what the title was. Eventually, after four or five dedicated trips, combing through racks and racks of vinyl, I finally got it. I was ecstatic. It was actually one of the most fulfilling moments of my life to find a needle in a musical haystack.
That song was Time Zones by Negativland from the album Escape From Noise
Six years later, I’d find myself moving to California and trying to desperately find a place to live. I ran it down to the last second and found a tiny apartment that I still live in, twenty years later. Out of pure random chance, it happened to be across the street from a radio station where Negativland did a weekly radio show called “Over the Edge.” More accurately, it was a show done by Don Joyce, a principal member of Negativalnd. So over the last several years, I’ve walked by the station and looked for a burnt ochre Chevy Nova in the parking lot, which was Don Joyce’s car, and knew that he was on tonight.
I never did talk to him, as I could not explain my accidental stalker-like presence very easily. As of today, that Chevy Nova will no longer be in the parking lot. At 71, Don Joyce passed away and I’ll never be able to explain to him how much that track he made meant to me, but I think that’s okay. He did something he loved to do and I got to listen to it. That was enough of a relationship.
Please take a minute to explore their records. They are fantastic and unique.
Below is a track I put together, editing down the “Time Zones Exchange Project” CD into ten minutes. I did it for my own amusement, as a kind of sequel to “Time Zones.”
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