Only sleeping | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Only sleeping 

During my undergraduate years in Greensboro, I was repeatedly given the privilege of speaking into a live microphone in a darkened room, late at night, while I searched for threads connecting some very disparate and willfully eccentric tunes. I was a college DJ at WUAG-FM, University of North Carolina-Greensboro's student station.

Late-night shows were about giving something back. I vividly remembered the contraband of news, intelligent conversations and music I'd found as a child on many nights, long after I should have been asleep. By a thin white wire that ended in a single earbud, I'd finally connected to a world that was quite a bit larger than my own at the time. That's why I listened; it's what I was listening for. "Wednesday Evening News" with Leon Smith. Occasional AM broadcasts on clear channels from Cincinnati, New York and, one night, Montreal. Deaconlight, very new music from a college station 45 miles away in Winston-Salem. Those were my lifelines.

By college, I knew that any people who were up that late had their reasons. So did I. I stayed up with them.

It was the first week in December, and our station was planning its exam schedule. Everyone was being urged to take an extra shift. I selected 1–3 a.m., on Tuesday, Dec. 9. The year was 1980. I was on the air the night John Lennon was killed.

As it happened, I went on just over an hour after his death had been announced, between 11:40 and 11:45. During that hour, I impatiently scanned the radio dials, both AM and FM, for news. Friends materialized, wearing the gravest expressions. "Have you heard?"

I dashed across campus, talking with people. I got to the station, checking the news wire, a reel of paper feeding into a printer tied directly to United Press International. That was our CNN, our Twitter, our lifeline to the outside world.

Yellow paper spilled across the floor. The horrible story grew more horrible with each bulletin, advisory, update and correction: Seven bullets. Striking the back, arm, shoulder and head. By a man who reportedly was smirking. And who waited patiently to be arrested and taken away. Lennon was dead immediately on the scene. No, strike that—alive at Roosevelt Hospital.

I felt an irrational shock of hope as I read the words. But not for very long. As I grappled with the spilling information, Terry said he was going to close his hour with a news update from the wire. "Fine. I'll do the editorial," I said. I feverishly re-edited my copy as the top of the hour approached. At 1:02 a.m., I keyed the microphone and said what was on my mind. It was my first public critical commentary in the service of arts journalism.

That night I wanted everyone to hear a few songs by John Lennon that the syndicated stations were never going to play. I spoke my peace and cued the first selection on Turntable 1. Imagine was the album, Side B, Track 3: "How Do You Sleep?"

Latest in Front Porch

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Drawn to Durham (Peripheral Visions)
  2. What Makes a Farm a Farm? (Back Talk)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation