A rock 'n roll apocalypse, 'dead-head' style.....taken from the novel 'Half Past The Witching Hour'.
Musical landscapes seem to change with a stiff wind as dictated by the increasingly fickle tastes of today’s hip-hop worshipping teens, with the most recent casualty being Classic Rock & Roll, a 20th Century dinosaur whose effigy might well read ‘the prognosticators were wrong!…Rock & Roll has indeed died!’ Join one of the last surviving R&R DJ’s on the eve of a permanent format change that he, nor the world for that matter, never saw coming…
Our tale begins:
(MUSIC SLOWLY FADES INTO FINAL STAGES)
Ah, yes…a tune truly reflective of the times, man….BOC’s ‘DON’T FEAR THE REAPER’. No doubt the demon with the sharpened scythe is out there, dude, and he’s havin’ a red-letter day.
This is Stormin’ Norman K. on Classic Rock ninety-nine five, at least for a few more precious days that is. As usual, turnin’ the knobs on the broadcast is my partner in crime, Twisty Pete. Clock on the wall reads eleven-forty PM in the big city. Make that the steaming, sweltering big city. The scorching big city. The humid big city, and alas, the big city of insanity as well, so it seems. Whatever homemade fortress you find yourself locked into on this less than serene night, I wish you nothing less than a working air conditioner.
Eighty muggy degrees as we near the witching hour, after a one-hundred three degree high. Seven straight one-hundred degree days, good people, if you’re counting. Hot enough to bake brain tissue and scald skull-caps. Although the multitude of eggheads across this great land fitfully deny such a theory, I personally believe this damned heat, not that earthquake in South America, is behind all the craziness spilling across the TV screen these past forty-eight hours. Man, I even saw on the Weather Channel where it was ninety-eight degrees in Minot, North Dakota. That’s Sci-Fi channel crap, man. Remember if you will, or possibly can, it’s only May. This isn’t Mid-July or Early August, you know? The prime flesh-burning cycle don’t arrive for at least a month…normally. Normally…now there’s a word quickly going the route of low-carb diets and G-Rated movies, right? But, the owners of the Phd’s…the ones supposedly in the know, keep babblin’ about ‘planetary shifts’ and ‘electrical pulses’ to explain away the plague of nut-ball behavior.
As my former mentor in this business, bless his demented soul, Wild-man Wilt Walker used to spout, ‘keep those toilet grabbers off that dial’, as I have an updated news flash from CNN just around the corner. In the meantime, let’s squeeze in another tune.
Oh, just a sad reminder, good people, the format switch is only two days away, and classic ball-shakers such as these will be replaced by candy-pop and bone-rattlin’ rap guaranteed to bleed the ears. Remember to send all hate mail to, not to mention all profanity-laced phone calls, to the station manager, care of WCBL radio. Sorry Boss. Well, not reeeeealy.
Meanwhile, on with the music…
(OPENING GUITAR RIFF ENSUES)
Uh-oh…I feel a theme building, man…one with a rather apocalyptic tone….
That be John Fogerty’s ‘EYE OF THE ZOMBIE’. Haven’t played that old chestnut from the year of our Lord nineteen eighty-six in eons, but figured it damned appropriate for the full moon antics brewin’ out there this night. Stormin’ Norman K., self-proclaimed last of the Dead-Heads, with ya on this joyful Thursday night with the old ticker reading eleven-fifty eight. According to the station roasting gauge, the temp has actually rose to eighty-one in the past five minutes. I tell ya, the eternal oven is almost past pre-heat stage, man. Our news feed from CNN was interrupted, no big shock, so I have the distinct displeasure of passing on this latest cheery little tidbit personally.
There’s a report out of DC that sixteen travelers abroad a Greyhound headed to Detroit were killed when an explosive of some type detonated inside the bus, sending it careening off the roadway and into a nearby ravine. Also, a rash of random shootings continue in and around Los Angeles, where local authorities have reported over seventy cases of homicide in the past twenty four hours alone. Not to be outdone, Metro Police within the city limits of Cleveland, Chicago, St Louis, and New York have been inundated with reports of rampant looting, stabbings, and shootings, to the point where National Guardsman have been strategically placed within the main trouble spots.
Man, somebody definitely handed the patient population the asylum keys. Some seriously cracked eggs bein’ hatched. My moneys still on the heat wave as the main culprit in this wave of hysteria, but then again, I’ve rarely been labeled as stable myself.
Speaking of lunatics, I see Twisty Pete gesturing wildly from the engineer’s chair that another update is on the way. May I fit in a tune in the meantime, old sultan of the airwaves? With a sweaty face and shaky hands, Twisty says I most certainly can. I gotta tell ya, good people, ol’ Twist is less than ecstatic concerning the prospects of spinning ‘Snoop Dog’ and ‘Brittney’ tracks within the next few days. Sorry, Twist, but I personally consider suicide by rat poison enema a more appealing option. By the way, the old turkey thermometer now reads an un-freaking-believeable eighty-two. Nature gone amok, anyone? I know all you doomsayers and preachers of the coming Apocalypse are wearin’ bibs about now, am I right?
Hooo-kay, in fitting with our running theme…
(MUSIC FADES IN)
An oldie but not a moldy…as the pendulum swings slowly past midnight….
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
10CC and ‘DREADLOCK HOLIDAY’…again, a ditty dead letter perfect for the occasion. Damn, not sure ‘dead letter’ was the best choice of phrases, especially with this latest report out of Dallas/Fort Worth.
It seems (SIGHS HEAVILY) that several units of the Texas National Guard have been activated to deal with at least two dozen cases of random, there’s that damn word again, violence to include a standoff between police and rival gangs. In addition, a shocking string of killings has been reported in Williamson Heights, an affluent suburb of Fort Worth.
Geez, the fun and games escalate, boys and germs. The Twisty one is just forwarding to me a report of criminal insanity right here within our very own city limits. Couldn’t expect to be immune for the duration of whatever is causing this nationwide shit-storm. Whooops, sorry, Twist….got that one just under the wire, like the FCC is actually monitoring at this point. More than likely got their own lunatic fringe to deal with. Is it National ‘Go Postal Day’ or what, people? Seems a triple-homicide has just gone down in the Winterhelm District, right in the middle of the damn street if I’m reading this correctly. Also says that police and ambulance personnel arrived on the scene and were taking fire themselves. Winterhelm? Isn’t that mostly upper middle class slash ‘blue blood’ country? Twisty nods affirmative, people. When the rich start plugging the richer, total anarchy cannot be far behind.
I see from my high perch atop Mount Rockmore that a heavy rain has begun to fall, accompanied by the periodic lightning strike on the distant horizon. Again, ya can’t help but find it ironically poetic, in a ‘goin’ bananas and enjoying the feelin’ kind of way. Hell-o-ween in May, as it were.
What say we toss on another classic blast before the latest wave of dementia reaches its crescendo, loyal listeners? So sit back, relax, and ensure that there’s food and water stashed away in the basement and that a locked and loaded firearm is easily within reach….he he haaa…
(MUSIC FADES IN)
….juuuuust in case….
(MUSIC GRADUALLY FADES)
That was Judas Priest with ‘LIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT’. Stormin’ Norman K. at twelve past midnight as the walls around me shake and quake from Mother Nature’s fury. She’s one pissed off lady on this night, man, but at least the wet-works might drop the temp a few precious degrees.
My right hand puppet, Twisty Pete, was summoned from the building a few moments ago due to an urgent call from the station head; a man I lovingly refer to as ‘Weathervane’, the definition I will not divulge due to the necessity of the bi-weekly paycheck the man signs. A single clue, however, I will reveal. In less than forty-six hours and counting down, WCBL Radio, Ninety-Nine Five, shall switch formats for the fourth time in six years. As I’ve repeated numerous times before, and sat through many an ass-chewing for stating such, its not a decision I nor Twisty quite agree with. Hey, I understand the business aspects of such a decision; that being to go with what’s popular in the moment, but as a confessed baby-boomer who grew up on classic rock, its gonna be the hardest challenge of this old dude’s career to spin boy bands and crap rap without upchunking on the console.
If the boss man is listening, so be it. He knows where I stand, good people. That last statement won’t exactly be a shock. Then again, I’ve had my palm greased by many a pink slip for such remarks, most notably during the late eighties/early nineties ‘grunge’ period. Yeah, I played it. It was either that or live in a garbage dumpster or…Lord help me, acquire a real job. Alas, I face a similar dilemma as the 21st Century sails by and my mind and body begin to sag as one.
Before departing for parts unknown, Twist left me still another news update that I’m only now pulling up onscreen, so take five to ‘security check’ the grounds of your own abode for roaming bands of psychopaths while I scan it over.
(LONG PAUSE – DEAD AIR)
Um, folks… I’m…I..uh…shit…I’m hoping this is Pete’s….uh, Twisty’s version of one sick Mo-Fo of a practical joke, and I pray to God it is… but I…I don’t really hold much stock in wishes at this point. This… bulletin was just issued by the State Emergency Broadcast Network, time listed as twelve-nineteen AM, 25 May 2008. They are advising that all citizens remain inside their homes or places of business until further notice. This is, and I’m quoting here…due to baseless acts of brutal violence being perpetrated city-wide.
Since approximately seven-thirty PM this evening, there have been nineteen verified homicides and countless others unverified, as well as sporadic cases of arson, vandalism, and widespread theft. The downtown area has been shut down and barricaded due to numerous reports of flagrant looting within the shopping district. State officials have declared the county and surrounding counties as ‘unsafe zones’, thereby instituting mandatory shutdown of all federal and state facilities until further notice. Civilian population is hereby ordered by federal mandate to find suitable shelter to avoid potential strife. Translation good people is this: hunker down til the smoke clears and COA, that’s cover your butt-cheeks, ‘til you hear its safe to do otherwise. I’m going to play a tune or two while I do some personal checking on friends and family. Might even check the station’s locks while I’m at it (nervous giggle). I advise my listeners to do the same if you haven’t already done so. Back in a few…
(MUSIC FADES IN)
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
….Stormin’ Norman K. still with ya as the end nears…HA HA….(coughs)..
that was a double-shot of AC/DC…HIGHWAY TO HELL and HELL’S BELLS. Come to think of it, I guess I could’ve spun something a bit less in tune with the overall mood, but hey, what can I say? It’s force of habit. Hope you find your loved ones safe and out of harms way on this night of as of yet unexplained horrors. From my lofty perch high above the eastern part of town, I can see the fires burning in what I think are mostly residential areas. The precip’s still falling, but it’s lightened up somewhat from a half- hour ago. Sirens are blaring from every direction, man. It must be one seriously nasty war zone out there ‘bout now. All I can really say to you good folks is to heed the federal warnings. Get your rear ends home and stay put. If you have a weapon, keep it handy. In other words, ain’t but one thing matters when fecal matter such as this sails into the spinning fan blades. Survival, good folks; to simply survive to see another dawn. Cut and dry…plain and simple.
Our computers just went down and I’m running on generator power as of a few minutes ago. Back-trackin’ to the dark ages, it seems…ha ha haaaaaa…Sorry ‘bout that, dear audience. Your cordial host may be slippin’ a brain cog or three, as you might well understand at this point. Besides, all this man really needs to survive is a pack of smokes, a pint of Jim Beam and an ample supply of toilet paper. Just the essentials baby…he ha heee…um (clears throat noisily) …rain’s p-pickin’ up again, and I saw a fairly large flash of light originate from what might be downtown a minute ago. Not sure, but it looked like one hell of an explosion…..a real TNT moment, and I ain’t talkin’ Turner cable network here. Tell ya what, folks. I’m gonna attempt to get on the horn and obtain any new tidbits about what’s going down out there, so bear with me. In the meantime, I’m gonna try like hell to change the pace music-wise. How’s about some classic Boston with ‘DON’T LOOK BACK’…and no, before ya even ask… …
(MUSIC FADES IN)
….I flat refuse to toss in Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry...Be Happy’ as a follow up….(giggles nervously)..
(MUSIC ABRUPTLY HALTS AT MIDWAY POINT)
‘….t-this…uh….I…Nor…Stormin’ Norman K-K still with ya, man…but the shit ain’t lookin’ good for my n-next broadcast…ha he haaaaa….(hacking coughs). I…um..c-check…I went to check the locks…t-thought I was BS-ing about that, didn’t ya? A-anyway….I get…get to the main double door e-entrance and the damn thing swings o-open r-right as I…as I’m reachin’ for the knob. Man, I ain’t ashamed to admit that this old boy made malted m-milk in his Jockey shorts for the first time in abou…about forty years.
(POUNDING NOISES IN BACKGROUND)
B-better cut to the c-chase here. The na-natives, actually n-native in the plural sense, is growin’ restless. I just wanna ask if there are any authority types out there listening; cops, national guard, hell, I’d even welcome a couple of armed cub-scouts r-right about now….I c-could use some help here at the sta-station, good people. We’re…at 245 Willowbark Lane at the tip of M-Mount Rock-Rockmore. At the pre…present time, my boss and station manager, Henry Green, is outside the control room d-door. He’s…he’s appa…apparently k-kill….murdered Pete W-Weber…and is..is trying like hell to do the same to yours truly.
(POUNDING NOISES GROW INCREASINGLY LOUDER)
…crazy son of a bitch is..is chopping away at the door with wha-what looked like a lawn mower blade. He…he…swear to god, man, he w-was haulin’ Twisty’s head around in one hand…just swingin’ the damm thing from side to side like a big ol’ gourd, s-spraying blood a-all over the walls like.…dar-dark red p-paint. I…I guess he was waiting on poor old Twist in the p-parking lot. Must…must have called ‘im on his cell phone. Looney bastard has definitely contracted the same bug-out virus that sweeping the nation. The man’s eyes are y-yellow…I swear this…bright freaking canary yellow…and they’re spinnin’ like…like roulette wheels in a Vegas casino.
(POUNDING CEASES – A DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT VOICE EMERGES FROM THE BACKGROUND)
You have to be reprimanded, Norman, don’t you UNDERSTAND? There has to be DISCIPLINE! There has to be RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY, DAMN IT! Change is inevitable…those who cannot adapt…must be SHOWN THE DOOR!
…s-stay away…just stay out..outta here, man! I’ll wrap this c-chair around your skull, man…just stay AWAY! I’m warnin’ you, man……D-DON”T….!
(CRASHING NOISES, FOLLOWED BY A LOW, MUFFLED SCREAM)
(A WHISPERED VOICE OVER THE MIKE)
…rock and roll is indeed…very, very dead, good people of radio land….and change….however temporary, is equally inevitable…
(THE HEAVY BASS THUMPING OF A POPULAR RAP TUNE ENSUES)
The novel 'HALF PAST THE WITCHING HOUR' can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as Barnes & Noble. com. It contains twenty-eight tales of horror, suspense and mystery, with just a tint of black comedy.
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"Dead Heads "
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|Reviewed by Chrissy McVay
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
This is an awesome write!!!!!!!!!!!! Love the radio magic you bring back in captivating diologue...and terror rules the airwaves! Thumping excellent!!
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Cool write, Terry; very well done!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|I played around with a radio station years ago, but never allowed it to get off the ground. This is a cool concept. This is almost the kind of station I could see my main character from PASSENGER listening to if he didn't have a tape player in his Greyhound.|