Monday, November 8, 2010

NU107: There is a light that will never go out

NU107: There is a light that will never go out
by rick olivares

"My my hey hey
Rock 'n' roll is here to stay.
It's better to burn out than to fade away.
My my hey hey."

Listening to those lyrics, I felt as if my world had been rocked by a most powerful hurricane. I went to watch Neil Young and Crazy Horse and their live and electric performance of "My my hey hey" just blew me away.

I knew then that I was never going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or some business professional that my parents envisioned me to be. 

Most people know me as a sportswriter but those who really know me well will tell you that the one thing I am more passionate about is music. And when asked if that's true, I'd always offer the same answer: "sports can go away forever and I won't feel bad, but music... now well that's something else." Say something uncool about music and them's fighting words.

Honestly, I feel fortunate enough to have experienced first hand many of those early vehicles for musical expression. Even better, I was able to participate or contribute something. I was in Grade 7 when I put up my first band with a few of my classmates in Ateneo (hey, XL Tajonera remember those days). We sure were awful but who cared? It's one of the best things a kid of 12 years of age can ever experience. All my friends were into music and putting up bands. It was truly a magical time.

I first listened to DZRJ that was the only station then that was playing rock music. When I was home, the radio was on all the time. Can you imagine what it was like when Punk and New Wave became all the rage? DZRJ played the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones, and X while other stations played MOR crap. My dad nearly purchased DZRJ (pre-EDSA I) but the deal fell through. 

Then I began to buy Jingle Magazine and hung out at their editorial offices in Cubao at times. The writers and editorial staff were liked music gods to me. That is until one of them tricked me to part ways with my vinyl album of Rockpile's Seconds of Pleasure. I used to send letters to the magazine and one of those that I was printed ignited a war between metalheads and new wavers. In case you were a part of that, that was where I rebutted writer Tony Maghirang who trashed Rush's Moving Pictures album while comparing them to the Jerks. Apples and oranges, man. Yeah yeah I know. I love the Jerks too, okay? Then Jingle Magazine ceased publication.

Howzabout Club Dredd? I lived near the rock club when they relocated from Timog to EDSA. I watched many a band there and was a habitue. My brother's band (which won a Battle of the Bands contest in UP) performed there as well. It was there where I "discovered" Datu's Tribe and Parokya ni Edgar and helped sign them to their first recording contracts. There were other bands that I wanted to get but office politics got in the way. One time I hung outside Dredd with Parokya's Buwi Meneses (who is a good friend to this day) when I first heard the strains of a hauntingly beautiful voice that was singing the Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends". I rushed back inside and that was my introduction to Sugar Hiccup and Melody del Mundo. When I moved to the United States, I brought only a few OPM CDs with me and they were the first two Sugar Hiccup albums. There were other great Dredd memories such as watching Betrayed, the Eraserheads, Tropical Depression, Color It Red, Teeth, FrancisM and Hardware Syndrome, Tame the Tikbalang, and Put3ska to name but a few. Then Dredd went away.

As RJ went stale, the best source for radio music was Capital Radio -- a two-hour radio show on DZXB by the people behind Jingle Magazine. They played stuff that you'd never hear on RJ or anywhere else. They played the Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedys, X, and lots of other music you wouldn't hear anywhere else in this deprived country. The good folks of Capital Radio also ran A-Z Records in Anonas where I would go with a blank cassette tape so they'd record stuff I couldn't own back then.  I'd save my allowance just to pay for a tape of all this great stuff coming from the western world. Then they closed shop.

And that leads to NU107. Sorry but I never listened much to LA105. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I'd do before my morning rituals was to switch on the radio. I listened to the station when I was home, as soon as I arrived from school, and at night where sleeping with the radio on was something I kept from my parents. 

I watched the first NU Rock Awards and was able to get a few of those early live recordings of the artists who performed during the awards night.

I remember when Rivermaya performed and they tossed free copies of their CD that was titled -- "Free". Rico Blanco even wore the Ateneo Blue Eagles jersey of his classmate Olsen Racela to the Rock Awards. 

I wanted to be an NU107 jock. Who didn't right? So co-hosting Halikinu Radio in the past two years is something I will always cherish. It was the closest thing to be a regular NU jock. While waiting for our show, it was certainly fun catching up with an old friend, schoolmate, and neighbor like Papadom as it was talking music and life with new friends like Cris Hermosisima and Pontri who was always impressed with my being up to date with so many new bands. 

I first heard of the impending demise of NU107 sometime in the middle of the college basketball season when we'd do Halikinu Radio. I didn't pay too much attention to it thinking that it was either a hoax or maybe it wouldn't go down. So imagine how I felt when I confirmed the bad news the other week. 

How do I feel? It's like taking something for granted and just when it's about to go away, I'm in denial and all emotional about it. Like many others, NU107 was a soundtrack to my life. I may have not listened as regularly as I did before but that was because work and life got in the way. The mini-components at home was tuned only to one frequency. If someone changed it, I would angrily put it back to where it rightfully belonged. With the days slipping away fast, I really tuned in. 

I passed by yesterday afternoon at the station. Pontri was there as was former morning jock Roxy and it was the one bright thing in an otherwise horrible day for me. Going to the station, I felt like I did when we left our old home for our current place in Marikina. It held so many memories both good and bad. Yet in spite of the bad, it's something I will not trade for anything else in the world.

Inside the booth for the last time, I shared my memories on the air. I snapped pics. I signed the greeting cards. I tried to stay cool but it was difficult keeping all these emotions bottled up.

The first song that came to my mind that summed up NU107's demise was The Smith's "There is a light that never goes out" (from their The Queen is Dead" album). The second was Neil Young and Crazy Horse's classic. I am not sure if they played the Neil Young song from that great album "Rust Never Sleeps" but am so glad they played "There is a light..."

When NU signed off for good at exactly 12:09 in the morning and the rock music was replaced by static, I didn't know whether to switch off the radio or not. 

After a few awful seconds, I turned the radio off. But the light it lit for local music and the music that I love will never go out.

The last time I'm in the booth at NU107 and below with NU jock Pontri.

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