Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The best of Radio Free California 2020

 So over the course of this stupid, stupid year I put out a new stream nearly every week of almost entirely new music (and I have to admit, a couple of songs I only discovered in 2020 that came out in 2019). Thousands of songs. It's only in looking back now that I see that this was a pretty good year for new music and new artists.

Yeah, it sucked that we couldn't see anyone live. We lost a few greats, including a couple who are actually on this list. Toots Mayall. John Prine. A few people put out songs directly influenced by the Pandemic, like Ben Folds, Sparks, OK Go, Drive-By Truckers, and even me under the name Chris Reed and the Anime Raiders.

Some musicians took this time to remake other people's songs. Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Billie Joe Armstrong, Scary Pockets, Dave Alvin, and Molly Tuttle among them. Some bands we didn't expect to hear from put out new music, like Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney. Midnight Oil! Cherry Curie!

Danny Elfman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A couple of artists just did as much as they could - no one more than Cory Wong, who put out 7 solo albums and two more with Vulfpeck and John Baptiste. And one more with his side-band, The Fearless Flyers.

And then there's simply all the new stuff. Brand new stuff. This year was so different from all prior years that a lot of artists you probably would have never noticed otherwise rose up. From a list that took me a year to curate, from Phil Broikos' concept album meant to start the year at the first minute, all the way to discovering at the end that Yacht Rocker Randy Godrum had put out a new album and so many stops along the way. I took those thousands of songs and narrowed it down to 453. Alas no, I'm not including "Prisencolinensinainciusol" even though like many of you I only discovered the song this year. 

Stylistically this list is all over the map, although I will admit there is almost no rap or country. I'm really not qualified to tell apart good from bad in either category so I tend to stay away. There are a couple of exceptions but as a general rule those styles just aren't my thing. There is some jazz on here though - I love good jazz and a couple of artists I really enjoy put out new material this year.

I discovered new artists this year. Cody Fry. Charles Jones. Kacey Johansing. beabadoobee. Drew Citron. El Ten Eleven. Lady A. Infinity Song.

Anyway, we all want 2021 to be much better than 2020 was. I want that to be true for music too, and musically this was a pretty good year. Here is my curated list, almost 30 hours of music. 

I recommend playing it in random order. Enjoy!

Here are a few of videos I enjoyed this year. They're all on the list above.


Be safe out there. May 2021 be better for all of us.

Friday, December 25, 2020

I hate Christmas Music. So I came up with an alternative.

Several Years ago I created the Radio Free California Xmas mix, because I HATE Christmas Music.

I have created a Spotify version of the same list, but alas have lost several songs because they're not available on Spotify. I created the original before Spotify even existed, and a couple of the songs were grabbed from bad recordings of TV performances. Anyway - here's the Spotify version. Feel free to leave in the comments below any suggested additions. Traditional music will not be accepted.

Yes, the last song isn't a Christmas song, but I couldn't resist putting a New Year's song on at the end. Finally, you can click on the link below if you like to download the original version, put together like a podcast.

The Original Radio Free Xmas

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Radio Free California Episode 2050


Although it's traditional in the music business to hold back new music at year's end because of all the Christmas programming we do have new music this week, including a couple of heavyweights! Taylor Swift, Ringo Starr at his best, Paul McCartney, Meg Myers and much more. Enjoy!

Next week will most likely be my year in review for 2020. But in the meantime because I love you, here is the video for the Ringo Starr song, so that you can see just how many people contributed to it:

Monday, December 14, 2020

Radio Free California Episode 2048 - Oh, and Biden won.


New music, including a final track from the late John Prine, and a surprisingly eclectic selection even with established artists like The Pretenders, Guided By Voices, Ben Folds, OK Go, Eddie Vedder, plus experiments by The Ooh Sees, Boyo, Fish, and much more. Enjoy!


I am reminded today that when the Electoral Collaege met in 2016, 2 of the votes were faithless, meaning that instead of 306, this year's loser actually only got 304 Electoral Votes.

There were no faithless votes this time. So Biden wins again.

And because I love you, here's how to make Hot Buttered Rum:

Sunday, December 6, 2020

How I wound up on the Doctor Demento show, plus Radio Free California 2048

This is going to be a long post, but the story is worth it, I promise you.

Ever do something so audacious that even you don't believe it? Well let me tell you the story of how I wound up writing a song with Bill Griffith, the creator and comic artist/genius behind the great Zippy the Pinhead.

I have been a fan of Zippy since the 1980s, when the strip ran in the UCLA student newspaper. I had read a couple of long-form works featuring him before but it was the daily strips that I fell in love with. The absurdity of the humor, the skewed social commentary, the homages to old cartoons and television. I liked that a comic strip knew all the same Marx Brothers quotes that I did.

For a very long time Bill Griffith was notoriously anti-internet technology. He had no website, didn't use e-mail, and made fun of how fast social media was climbing in his strip. The only times you would run into his work on the internet was his syndicated strip and weird sites - like the one I ran into that generated random Zippy quotes.

This site was great. I began to realize that this random Zippy quote generator was like watching David Bowie write lyrics, then jumble them up. So I picked a few at random and turned them into a song.

And that should have been the end of it.

I never considered even recording it. How would I get permission? He has had issues with people stealing his work and taking credit for things he wrote before too, so no way in hell was I going to do this without permission. The line "Are we having fun yet?" is HIS.

And then appeared, complete with a store and contact information. So what the hell!

The following is some of the e-mail conversation we had over the course of a couple of months:



Thanks for asking---sounds intriguing .I have no problem in principle with  you quoting lines from my strips, as long as credit is given. But before you go ahead, how about this---send me the lyrics, as text in an email. And an MP3 of the song, if you have one. Then I'll read/listen and consider permission then---- 

-Bill Griffith 


Mr. Griffith: 

Thank you for replying so quickly. You replied so fast in fact that I  wasn't ready for you. I have the lyrics assembled below, but the song is only a  very rough mix. I haven't recorded the vocals because I wanted your permission  first - because if you said no I would have to write something else. As a  general rule I prefer to write my own lyrics, but this idea (using your words)  just fit and every once and a while someone who does what I do needs to remind  themselves that we got into this line of work because it was fun. You can listen  to the song itself by going to:  - it should play automatically once the web page loads. If not please let me  know.  (This link no longer works, but the song is in the video above)

I have no idea if you will like the music, and I'm actually guessing it's  not your taste based upon the occasional musical references in the strip. If I  could sing like a member of the Manhattan Transfer I would be doing that, but  I'm not quite that talented (vocally). That said, I'm not one to confuse your  characters with you yourself so I'm retaining some optimism. The lyrics will be  sung in complete earnest (no funny voices - although there may be some musical  grimacing) over the rock chords, while the sections that sound like The Ventures  having a nightmare will be left instrumental. In other words, no chorus. I am  also planning an instrumental introduction that I haven't written in yet to be a  prelude to the song itself. 

I may cut the line referencing Phil Silvers - It's kind of forced coming  from me as I was always more of a Grouch Marx fan (hail, hail Freedonia). I  haven't yet decided. Anyway, the lyrics: 

A shapely Catholic Schoolgirl is fidgeting inside my costume... 

My pants just went to high school in the Carlsbad Caverns!!! 

The Highway is made out of Lime Jello and my Honda is a barbequeued Oyster!  

I always have fun because I'm out of my mind!! 

They collapsed... like nuns on the street... they had no teen appeal!  

Jesus is my Postmaster General... 

I want another re-write on my Caesar Salad!! 

I'd like my data-base Julienned and stir-fried! 

A can of asparagus, 73 pigeons, some live ammo, and a frozen daiquiri!!!  

Hold the Mayo & pass the cosmic awareness... 

I'm going home to write the "I Hate Rubik's Cube Handbook for Dead Cat  Lovers"... 

I wish I was on a Cincinnati street corner holding a clean dog! 


I hope something good came in the mail today so I have a Reason to live!!  

I'd love some Junk Food... and then I want to be alone... 

Look into my eyes and try to forget that you have a Macy's charge card!  

Uh-oh!! I'm having too much fun!! 

I request a weekend in Havana with Phil Silvers! 

-Lyrics by Bill Griffith and Zippy,  Used with permission of Bill Griffith, © 2008



Lyrics look good--I have no problem with you using them, as long as you give credit to me and Zippy (and include a "Used with permission of Bill Griffith, © 2008") somewhere on anything you create (CD, DVD, case for either, etc.). 

Send me a finished product! 

-Bill Griffith 



Mr. Griffith: 

The album will be coming out on September 23. It will be available in  electronic form from a number of sources (itunes, amazon, rhapsody). I want to  be sure you get a copy, so I want to send you a certificate for a free download  of the entire album. How would you like to receive it? 

<<here is a paragraph about royalties and how they will be accounted for. I'm not sharing that part but I assure you that Bill gets his fair share>>

Finally, to be sure that your fans have exposure to the song, is there any  format for free listening/downloading that you prefer? Any restrictions? I am  not going to promote the song at all without your permission, but at the same  time, other persons who have written songs about Zippy or featuring your words  have links from your site and I'd love to give the same exposure. So is there  any way you would prefer this to happen? 


-Chris Reed 



I'll leave the technical stuff up to you---but if you send me an MP3 file  of the song, I'll be able to listen to it and post it on the Zippy website, if  you like.

-Bill G.


The album was released, and then I sent him a download link for a free copy of the whole album. The following two e-mails came back to back:



Thanks--can you remind me which song on the album includes the Zippy lyrics? I just downloaded it... 

-Bill Griffith 


Yes, I figured it out (and I read the liner notes)---thanks---great stuff. I played it so loud, the space-time continuum was temporarliy reversed. I hope that was OK. 



For a while the song was on his website, then the site was redesigned and it disappeared from the site. I've never received so much as a dime for the song, but there is one more part of the story...

Dr. Demento: 

We released an album last year that features a song with lyrics by Bill  Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead. The song, called "Throwing Three  Rocks", is actually a random series of quoted lines from the comic strip  itself, which Mr. Griffith himself signed off on. 

Would you be interested in hearing it? 

I feel like a bit of a idiot - I've listened to your show since the early  1980s but it wasn't until my son brought it up that I even thought about submitting the song to your show. I guess I just don't consider myself all that funny. 

I've always concentrated on my more serious music, but perhaps this song  would make the cut on your show. The album is commercially available at all of the usual websites, but I'll send you a copy directly. 


-Chris Reed 


 Chris - I'd be very happy to check that out. You can send a CD to me at (address redacted) and/or send an mp3 of that song to this address. I'll watch for it! 

Best - Dr Demento 


And that's how one of my songs wound up on the Dr. Demento show. Dr. D is my Postmaster General.


As for the song itself, it was a lot of fun to do, with crazy sound effects, a pretty wicked guitar solo and keyboard solo, and those instrumental parts that sound like The Ventures having a nightmare.

Oh and by the way, here is Radio Free California Episode 2048. An eclectic mix this week from stalwarts like Steve Lukather and Todd Rundgren to new music from Band-Maid, Half Japanese, Greta Van Fleet, Bleachers (with Bruce Springsteen), the live album Deafhaven had planned before the Pandemic, a couple of trips into the sounds of the 80's and more! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The roll-out

I imagine that most of you aren't old enough to remember what it took to wipe out Polio, Measles and Mumps. What you know of the world is that there are vaccinations for these diseases, and until recently everyone took them when they were young, creating herd immunity for the diseases. When the anti-vax movement came along we lost that, and all three diseases have made small comebacks.

But what most of you probably don't realize is the astronomical effort and time it took to get everyone to get these varied vaccines. There were two vaccines for Polio, one oral and one given as a shot. A lot of people in my age group that I know got the shot, usually in the first grade at school. That shot was developed in 1951, and it left a distinctive scar.

I don't have that scar. I got the oral version of the vaccine, developed in 1961. I was born in 1964. I got the vaccine in 1972. I was in the third grade. It simply took that long to get distributed to the rural areas, where I lived in those days.

The measles vaccine was first developed in 1963, and improved in 1968. The mumps vaccine was developed in 1971. I got the measles vaccine in 1976. I got the Mumps (MMR) vaccine in 1978. I had to get them from my doctor, as they way I was forced to get them is that they were requirements for me to enter Middle School and High School respectively.

I've never had the Chicken Pox vaccine. I had Chicken Pox instead. So yeah, I stand a 30% chance of getting shingles. I was 31 years of age when the Chicken Pox vaccine was distributed, 23 years after I had already had the disease.

The point I'm getting to is that in each of these cases it took years to fully roll out the vaccine, and they were eventually easy to make and get. The vaccine that has been developed to deal with COVID-19 has some pretty horrific side effects, requires two shots, and must be refrigerated; none of the other vaccines I've mentioned need any of that. Not only do we need a solid distribution system, but we need a brand new infrastructure to cope with the distribution, storage, and eventual treatment of people who get the shots.

And by the way, you need to get both shots, and each shot has side effects so powerful that experts say that you will need a day to recover. From each shot.

This is going to be a very difficult road. It needs to be paved and maintained, planned out, and a staff of thousands just to handle the logistics. Don't look for that to start until Biden takes the reigns of government, and I expect the road to be on fire. I expect Loser's followers to keep setting fires, because he's asking - ordering them to.

And then there are the anti-vaxers as well. We live at present in a country full of people who think that those shots and treatments that wiped out disease in this country will kill their children or give them autism (it won't), and even many who think as they wheeze their last breath that COVID19 doesn't even exist.

There are millions of us who want the country to burn, simply because they didn't get their way. Because they don't want to be told what to do, even if it will save their life. You know, MORONS.

Incapable of learning a truth staring them right in the face.

So you need to understand that simply having a vaccine isn't going to save us. We have to want to be saved. We have to spend a bloody fortune to build the infrastructure quickly, we need to make it available FREE to everyone, so that many more people actually get it. We have to CONTINUE wearing masks AND social distancing AND washing our hands AND avoiding crowds AND working from home if possible for MONTHS AND MONTHS after we get our shots.

But there is one more thing we don't know, and it could be a game changer. All of the other vaccines we all (mostly) get have a permanent effect. We maintain the anti-bodies, which is why we don't get these diseases as adults. Thing is, it hasn't yet been proven how long anti-bodies are maintained for COVID-19. The best known cases are a few months. 5 to 8 months.

So this vaccine isn't like the others I've discussed. It's more like a flu shot. The flu shot is also a vaccine, but it wears off. That's why you get one once a year - which gives you a vaccination for the various types of flu that are anticipated for the upcoming year. It could very well be that the COVID-19 vaccine will be like this. We simply don't know. Herd immunity only works if the antibodies are Permanent. It's why there is no such thing as herd immunity for the flu.

There is a reason that it takes years to develop these things. It's not just about the efficacy of the medication, although that is paramount. It is about how long it lasts, and there simply hasn't been enough time or study for it to be possible to know where we stand with this disease. There hasn't been enough time to explore other avenues. The measles vaccine was improved upon after five years, and I got that vaccination another 8 years later.

Believe it or not, we've been going through the COVID-19 nightmare for less than 1 year. I myself went into quarantine on March 12th and I locked down before almost everyone I know. It's been a nightmare of a year, crawling along one dead body at a time, but still it hasn't been a full year yet.

Remember when Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed all those ages ago? That was THIS YEAR,

It feels like an eon has passed but that's only because we're Americans. as diseases like this go, it hasn't been all that long. Even if everything goes perfectly and I honestly hope it does, it's going to be another year minimum before we start to feel anything that resembles a recovery. And remember the place that we used to use to manufacture these things in bulk?

That was Puerto Rico. We abandoned Puerto Rico.

I want to be optimistic. I do. I've lost a friend to this fucking disease. But I have yet to see reason to be.

The craziest part of all of this is that it didn't have to be this way. The government had all of the tools necessary to create the infrastructure that we need to get everything done. It could have been planned for, executed long before we had a treatment of any kind, so that all we had to do to implement everything is just say yes. All of the puzzle piece could have already been in place. The plan existed. 

But it was the Obama administration that came up with it, and because the man who lost the election in 2020 couldn't stomach keeping anything the black kid did he threw it all out. Because the country elected a racist motherfucker in 2016 we doomed ourselves to be where we are now, even though a number of the people who did the grunt work of coming up with the plan are still in government. Like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

America is the worst advanced nation on Earth to live in, and that's who we are as this rolls out. This will take a while.

UPDATE (December 7, 2020): The New York Times is now reporting that Pfizer offered more vaccines than the outgoing administration wanted to buy. As a result, they didn't buy enough and Pfizer, being a business in a firmly autocratic capitalistic country made commitments to sell vaccines to other countries instead. So now if we need more, and we do, we have to wait until June 2021.

In other words, the outgoing administration has created a shortage that will occur once Biden comes into office.

These motherfuckers.

Update (December 11, 2020): Turns out that the Pfizer vaccine can cause an anaphylactic reaction, so people who have had issues with that in the past shouldn't take it. That subset of humanity would include ME.

Also, Australia has abandoned their version of the same vaccine after people who had taken it started reporting false positives for HIV.

And there were some votes against approving the vaccine in the US, because the test group didn't include enough minors and the FDA wants to approve it for people over 16 instead of 18. Of the 22 votes on the advisory board it was 17 yes, 4 no, 1 abstain.

We have a long way to go.

Cheap shots (Wednesday is Rum Day!):

I think not, but Bill Barr joins the resistance?

This is why you don't leave your trash in the desert. A thread.

Major Biden breaks his silence.

Signorile's Law. You have google, look it up.

The Oscars disagree.

I cracked the code. Mnuchin is a cunt.

#Loser will defund the US Military if twitter doesn't stop being mean to him. He said so on twitter.

Elliot. He/Him.

Brian Williams for the win.

By the same token, I sometimes think that most TV reporters do what they do because they're not good enough to be in print. Face it, a great deal of them are terrible at this.

And because I love you, the lovely Chuck Mangione piano ballad you didn't know you you needed in your life: