I worked at a radio station as a high school student, (sneaking out of my window to record commercials) while I was in college, and in my early twenties. I enjoyed creating characters for the morning drive, compiling countdowns and talking to the masses over the airwaves. But readers, I will let you in on a little secret…radio does not pay well. Unless you are hosting a morning show in a large market, you barely make minimum wage. But I loved the work. In 1991, I started working for a local oldies radio station. I was the youngest DJ there and the only female who worked nights. You would not believe the calls I got in the middle of the night…that’s another post in itself.
Working the midnight shift, you are often left with a list of assignments. Most of the tasks are simple. You do the mandatory EBS test. You check the levels/calibrations each hour. You announce the weather. You record commercials and tracks for customers. It’s pretty easy stuff. The management noticed that I was one of the few overnighters who always finished their assignments. Did they reward me? No. They gave me additional work. I became the unofficial historian/researcher at the station. (I bet you are starting to see where my geek comes from..stay with me…there’s more). I was happy to help. Each week, the morning DJ (an over-egoed prima donna named Don) would meet with me and give me the theme for each day. I was to research the music and compile a countdown, a program, a radio version of Storytellers, for the artists/songs/eras he’d selected. Remember the date…it was 1991…long before Al Gore invented the internet. So I was given a small library of books, Rolling Stone magazine periodicals and a host of other “tools” (old album covers, concert ticket stubs, etc). From these pages, I created some of my best work.
While doing a countdown of the psychedelic sound, I came upon Tommy James and the Shondells’ song, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”. I loved it. I’d heard it before, but never understood the lyrics. And there was no time to look into the words. My task was to illustrate the change in the sound, not dive into the meaning, so I stayed on course and completed the countdown. Like most people, I assumed the lyrics were about drugs as so many of the songs were at that time.
I later learned that it has more of a biblical origin. Yes…you read that correctly. Tommy James has been quoted as saying that he was reading the book of Revelation and the concept came to him…hopeful for a world like the New Jerusalem, with peace, love and brotherhood. Pretty cool, huh?
From a melodic place, I feel transported when I hear the musicality of this tune. It has the opening drum beats. That 60’s organ. The bass. And that intricate guitar. It’s a dreamy sound. I especially love listening to it when I am outside, by a pool, contemplating life…trying to remember to reapply sunscreen, wondering if it’s been 30 minutes since I ate…so I can swim again, solving the world’s problems while sipping something cold and frosty.
Speaking of world’s problems…we really need ‘peace and good and brotherhood’ these days. Tommy says it so well…love is the answer.
A new day is coming…people are changing…ain’t it beautiful. .