Friday, January 20, 2012

No. 867 – Mistral Wind

Performer: Heart
Songwriters: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Sue Ennis, Roger Fisher
Original Release: Dog & Butterfly
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: Greatest Hits Live, 1980

Eric was the one person from the Fiji house at Wabash who stayed friends with me after I left, and our junior year, we decided to fill one of the radio slots for WNDY, the 6-8 a.m. shift on Wednesdays. OK, really, I volunteered to help out my station, and Eric said he’d help me out.

Usually, I got there first about a quarter to 6 to turn on the transmitter and get everything up and running, and Eric would roll in sometime around 6 or thereafter. The program director of the student-run station decided to make it a top-40 station that year. Fine: WNDY was a for-profit station, so we had to sell commercials, which meant we couldn’t just experiment.

But what seemed ridiculous—even at the time—was that everything was programmed, even what songs were to be played at what times. What that meant to me and Eric was the song list format usually went into the trash at about 6:02 after we played the on-air welcome. I don’t know about the listeners, but I sure as Hell don’t want to hear Dexy’s Midnight Runners at 6:15 (or any other time, for that matter).

Actually, it was fun. Although I’d never heard Steve & Garry before, our show was similar in the sense that we just went in and did what we wanted unscripted. If anything, Johnny Fever was my model. Our show was called Psych and Mike in the Mornings. Psych, as in Psycho, was Eric’s nickname. I dubbed myself Mike Early, Mike, because it rhymed with Psych, and Early as a tribute to an episode of WKRP, where Johnny dubbed himself Heavy Early when he worked the graveyard shift.

Our best bit was that at 7:06, we’d play a song backwards—yes, we had turntables in those days. Why 7:06? That was also 66 minutes after 6, or 6:66, man. This was shortly after Judas Priest were sued by parents who complained that their son killed himself after being driven to do so by hidden backwards messages in a couple of their songs. Jerry Falwell and others of his ignorant ilk (the PMRC) also had taken up the cudgel that backward masking was Satan’s latest tool. (When in truth, I think we all know who the real tool was. man.)

Anyway, Eric and I were game to go along with it. Maybe they knew something we didn’t. So, we’d play records backwards. We’d play the Priest and Stairway to Heaven and KISS and Cyndi Lauper and Gods knows who else, and when we didn’t hear anything, we’d use that to poke fun at the nincompoops.

On our last show at the end of the year, I brought in Face the Music and played Fire on High, which, of course, has backward masking. You should have seen Eric’s eyes light up when, clear as a bell, the words, “The music is reversible but time is not. Turn back, turn back, turn back,” came on. “IT’S THE DEVIL!! But why is he telling me I should have studied last night instead of playing Thumper?” OK, so it was funny at the time.

Anyway, Eric’s favorite song at the time was Heart’s Dog & Butterfly, which was a mild hit. We played it every other shift for a change of pace. One day, I was recording it in the studio booth for my own use, when I flipped the 45 over. On the other side was Mistral Wind, which I didn’t know, but at nearly 7 minutes had to have something good going for it.

Dog & Butterfly might have been good, but I know a great song when I hear it the first time. I bought Greatest Hits Live at the Wabash bookstore soon after, and I’ll always think about my time as an early-morning drive-time jay when I hear this song.

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