The Great Elusive “Get Back” Radio Search: Part VI
The California Context
No one knew where Steven Clean/Seagull Segal was these days. Joe Rogers wasn’t returning my e-mails. Sources were drying up. It was time to explore the history of alternative radio from the West Coast point of view.
Came up with the name of Ted Alvy, who was B. Mitchel Reed’s assistant, then soonafter his producer. Ted and I then carried on an intense 2-week e-mail tutorial of the early days of alternative FM radio at KPPC and KMET and his close association with the legendary BMR, who also worked at KPPC before moving over to KMET. Again all relatively off-topic to the present project, but Ted provided a rich context for the times and the people who were instrumental, who went where, who worked with who, all that.
But there was this comment from Ted when I asked from where he thought KPPC might have gotten the copy of the 1/69 acetate, assuming that it was that station that had sent their copy to WBCN:
– “i suspect it was from derek taylor.”
I asked Ted to elaborate. He did. Ted writes in a stream-of-conscience manner, so bear with him. The elipses and paragraph breaks are mine for some sense of clarity; punctuation is Ted’s:
– “bmr knew derek taylor from his daze at wmca nyc (february 1963 thru february 1965); … [BMR] help[ed] to start rock music on fm from the pasadena presbyterian church basement[*] (on december 31st 1967 he rang in the new year 1968 while people camped out for the new years rose parade outside the church)…
[* Pasadena Presbyterian Church = PPC]
“i met bmr at monterey pop and became his producer a week later (kfwb then kppc-fm then kmet-fm). derek taylor ran the june 16-18 1967 monterey international pop festival press office (two
us us l.a. valley college radio deejays got press passes from him after he recognized my radio free oz button [a knowing reference to Firesign Theatre] … and he cut press passes in half for some publications like life magazine on the second day of pop fest due to too much crowding in press areas; we had tickets for all 5 concerts).
“bmr’s old lady and future wife worked with derek in that festival grounds office. derek brought bmr the promo copy of first procol harum lp at kfwb in 1967 with a surprise refreshment inside;
“i last talked to derek circa march 1968 when he visited kppc before his send off party, as he returned to england in april 1968 to head apple for the beatles after doing publicity for the likes of
the byrds, who were good friends with bmr, especially crosby and mcguinn).”
Ted also confirmed on bit of information suggested by all of the former BCN announcers:
– “at kppc, we did exchange stuff with wbcn folk; i believe they got us the studio version of don’t you do it that todd rundgren engineered for the band (issued in poor condition on band cohoots reissue), but sam [Kopper] might know for sure.”
And as for Steven’s return to California a few months after his 9/22/69 BCN broadcast:
– “steven clean returned to l.a. at kmet before the stones altamont fiasco. he then joined pd[*] les carter at kppc again april fool’s day 1970 (i returned to kppc in mid-may).”
[*pd = program director]
So, according to Ted’s amazingly detailed memories (once you get these guys going, the floodgates pour open), BMR and Derek Taylor had an association with each other that extended as far back as 1963. No smoking gun, no evidence even that BMR had ever aired the 1/69 acetate — indeed, Ted wrote that he “never saw get back (whether lp or tape)” — but an awfully tantalizing bit of information.
Ted _did_ recall that BMR had “received the beatles get back lp from one of his sources, but then he was warned (via telegram?) not to air it.” Ted was referring to an aircheck of BMR explaining to his listeners of this precise event on KMET. The aircheck exists on a web site and on a CD collection of radio airchecks.
The aircheck can be heard here:
And It comes from the CD “The Golden Age of Underground Radio, Vol. 2” (track 12):
In the aircheck, BMR says that he was in NYC “Tuesday and Wednesday,” and the album had “arrived” at the station “yesterday.” But also awaiting him at the station upon his return was a cease-and-desist telegram (yes) from an attorney at Northern Songs, who refers specifically to several song titles that were on the banned LP.
BMR read the telegram:
– “The undersigned is the attorney for Northern Songs, Ltd., copyright owner of the musical compositions entitled ‘Teddy Boy,’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down,’ ‘Dig a Pony,’ ‘I’ve Got a Feeling,’ ‘Two of Us
on Our Way Home,’ ‘Dig It,’ and ‘All Across the Universe,’ some of which are contained in the new Beatle album, ‘Get Back’.”
Why “Don’t Let Me Down” is banned seems at first rather bizarre, since the song had already been released as a single months earlier, no matter when this telegram was written. It makes sense only if one considers the blind ignorance of music attornies who don’t know one song from another, who don’t know the proper titles of songs, and, most importantly here, who appear to be basing their titles on what they’ve seen on a bootleg LP they’re gotten their hands on.
And that’s the key: BMR had to have been referring to a bootleg LP and not a tape of an original acetate, since there _was_ no actual legitimate vinyl LP of “Get Back” that had found its way to
the States; just copies of tapes of acetates.
The date of this aircheck was a mystery until Ted listened to track 14 from the above CD aircheck collection (this track wasn’t available on the web), which was on the same day as track 12. (Track 13 was Harry Nilsson’s “You Can’t Do That” montage.) (In other words, Tracks 12-14 comprised one uninterrupted aircheck.)
According to Ted,
– “track 14 [0:58] bmr talks about 2nd annual kmet free clinic marathon on saturday january 31st (1970); he says this saturday between twelve noon and 2 a.m. and also saying he might have mentioned it before his ny trip.”
Aha — we now have a relative timeframe for the aircheck: the week before Saturday, January 31, 1970.
Because the attornies included “All Across the Universe” [sic], the bootleg in question was most likely “Silver Album” or, as John suggests, “a variant thereof”; it was one of the first, if not the first, to include ATU. (“Kum Back,” which contained tracks from the 1/69 acetate, did not.)
Thus, despite the close relationship BMR evidently had with Derek Taylor, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Derek had passed along the 1/69 mix to BMR. BMR never played that mix, nor was he allowed to broadcast the bootleg LP of what was most probably the _other_ (5/69) mix (plus ATU) over four months later. Sure, it’s possible that Derek might have given BMR, via KMET, the bootleg LP, but by this period — early 1970 — bootlegs were, relatively speaking, beginning to become widely available (far more widely available than, say, copies of acetates being sent to selected radio stations). Derek’s connection to KMET’s acquisition of a bootleg LP in late January 1970 appears very slim.
There’s little doubt that had he access to the tapes; BMR would have aired them (before any cease and desist order from Capitol). But he didn’t (Ted said he saw neither a Get Back tape nor an LP; his recollection of BMR wanting to air an LP was based on that CD aircheck), so he didn’t.*
[*Note — all of these “Parts” were written months before Rizzler’s post in here re a West Coast station airing “For You Blue” 9/69. To be elaborated later.]
Having exhausted the source material on the West Coast, it was time to return to the East and hope for something to turn up.
On to Part VII.