Anti-Imperialist Rock

Thanks to northeastairchecks.com and Jon McDermott for this WBCN aircheck from around December 1, 1971.

Do you know what an aircheck is, dear reader? Sometimes recorded on 1/4″ tape, this one, as you can tell from its poor quality, was made on audio cassette. The tape only ran when the mike was on. Airchecks were made as a backup to the log that was kept of all advertisements (or “spots”, for “spot announcement”). They were also used to review a DJ’s rap. In this aircheck we can contrast the smooth, compelling rap of Charles Laquidara to the disorganized, wheezy performance of John Hochheimer (“The Hawk”).

Charles reading spots: Uriah Heep on Mercury Records; available at the Harvard Coop and all Lechmere Sales stores. Roberta Flack on Atlantic Records; Ossie Davis on Ampex records and tapes. Jordan Marsh. Charles carefully and slowly reading a Public Service Announcement: “protesting companies right here in America working for the war effort”. Non-violent Direct Action Group (against the war in Indochina) “and we’ll remind you about that , uh, next Wednesday”. Neil Young “Heart of Gold”; Simon & Garfunkel “Silently for me”; Spots: new Byrds album on Columbia; Faces (Rod Stewart) A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse on Warner; $3.49 available at Sound Scope and Minuteman. Set on marijuana: “This is Attorney General John Mitchell. I’d like to spend sixty seconds of your time talking about a problem that is vital to all of us. There has been a lot of misinformation spread about the dangers of marijuana…” segue into “I like marijuana! I sure do like to get stoned, stoned, stoned! You’ll like marijuana!”. Spiritual song with list of dozens of code names for “pot, marijuana, ganja, cannabis indica, gage, boo, tea, hash …” Alice Cooper , I’m a gambler And I’m a runner . And then the Hawk: “Charles ended his show with Pearls Before Swine then we heard David Bowie, Space Oddity then we heard Paul Kantner… and the Steve Miller Band” Then Hawk feebly reads a few spots and tries to get out of it with Dylan. Some song about crushing the bourgeoisie – see Lenin’s statement on the same. Out of breath Hawk – can you tell how fat somebody is from their presence on the radio? Probably not on AM, anyway. Spot for the Criminal Court Boutique.

Poor Charles. He had to read the Vietnam War protest spot and sound sincere, and nice. And, because he never sounded sincere or nice, because his success was based on satire and sarcasm, it is only convincing because of the obvious effort he had to make. Much better is the John Mitchell – marijuana set. Charles at his best could juxtapose and segue without a peer, unless it were Maxanne. And the tired, evil, authoritarian Mitchell made the best straight man ever.

We must forgive John Hochheimer for his strained, feeble delivery. He had not really recovered by 1971 from his prolonged, debilitating draft-dodging. Always inclined to be heavy, he decided to get heavier. He ate and ate until he was over the Army weight limit: 278 pounds, as I recall, for the Hawk’s height of five feet eight inches. He flunked the physical in 1968. Then he had to wait 6 months for a second physical, keeping his weight up. He flunked the second physical. He was out of it. He did not have to go to Vietnam. But he did not stop eating. Even when the mic was on he was chewing and swallowing. Because his bulk crowded the mic you could hear his disorganized, weak breathing. He was always covered in crumbs. Surprisingly, Hochheimer eventually recovered, lost quite a bit of weight and has a normal, successful life today as a media professor at Southern Illinois University.

My friend Ted D. got out of the draft by being underweight. He was about Hochheimer’s height. The limit was 114 pounds. Ted was a slender guy and he decided to get skinnier. He did not eat for weeks. He needed to be at least 5 pounds below the limit, he felt, to compensate for any weighing errors or unforeseen eventualities. On the appointed day in 1967 he walked from Cambridgeport to Central Square to take the bus downtown for his physical. While waiting for the bus, he fainted. When he came to a stranger was placing a cup of orange juice to his lips. Ted turned his head away and got up and on to the bus. He flunked the physical. Then in 1968 he had to do it again. This time he ate a dough nut before walking to the bus. He failed the physical for the second time. He did not have to go to Vietnam.

Ted was in his mid-twenties, thin and weak, when I got to know him three years later. He had never learned to drive, and in the summer of 1972 he paid me to give him driving lessons. He stayed with me in my place in Harvard Square, 122 Mount Auburn St. Having been fired from WBCN and discharged from Cahill 4 by that time, I had plenty of time to drive around with him in my 1959 Chevrolet Impala. This was the car with the rotted out holes in the front seat floorboards through which I used to discard my joints when the paranoia crept up and I figured the cops were right behind me. The Chevy had a big V-8 and a 4-barrel. I could see the slender white marijuana cigarettes in the rear view mirror, near the imaginary police car, scattering in the sun as I accelerated on Route 128.

The Chevy had power steering, but those were big cars, and Ted struggled with the wheel, sweating, weakly trying to thread the narrow, twisted Cambridge streets. He paid me $100 to teach him how to drive, and he flunked the parking part of the driver’s test. So we went back to work again, day after day, parallel parking on Broadway between VW Beetles and Peugeots. The second time he passed the test. God bless him. Where are you now Ted? I hope you got your strength up.

My dear friend John Haworth also stayed with me that summer while he was in town to see his son Ethan and his ex-wife Tina. Like all of us, John was a protester. He had been kicked out of high school for starting an anti-Vietnam war riot. When the draft got close to him in ’68 he stepped up his drinking and began using amphetamines. The night before his second physical he stood on a chair in the bedroom in his parents’ house in Oklahoma City and took a hefty manila rope and put it around his neck, having secured the other end to a lighting fixture above. He had carefully calculated the length and stretch of the rope so that when he stepped of the chair his toes just touched the floor. So he did not die. The next morning the examining Army physician pointed at the ugly rope burn around his neck, asking “what is that”? John truthfully, crazily answered “that is where I hanged myself”. He did not have to go to Vietnam.

My close college buddy Henry Digiacinto had been going to UCLA, and when he moved back to the Triangle to finish his degree his draft notices never caught up with him. This was in 1966, when we both had just graduated but were still living in the obscure college town. Henry was supporting himself by working for the Post Office as a mail carrier. One day he was walking down Main Street in his gray Post Office uniform, carrying a bag of mail, when two FBI agents appeared on either side of him. “Report to your draft board, Digiacinto,” they told him.

When he got leave, after getting out of Officer Candidate School in 1967, Henry told me that his plan was to go to Ranger School; to get as much advanced military training as possible in order to delay going to Vietnam. Then I did not see him until the winter of 1972, just after I had been fired from WBCN. Once during that time I got a letter from him, including a black and white photograph of smiling, handsome, mustached Henry in tropical uniform, wearing a beret, standing next to two heavily armed short southeast Asians whom I dimly recognized as non-Vietnamese, perhaps Hmong. Maybe they weren’t that short – Henry is about six feet four.

Henry showed up at 122 Mount Auburn Street. We tried to talk. It was very hard. We had grown apart. The Bangladesh War had just taken place, and we tried to talk about that. Henry was a captain. He had served a tour in Vietnam. I didn’t have much in the way of accommodation for my guests at 122 Mount Auburn Street. Henry slept on a piece of foam in the kitchen. He slept with his automatic under his pillow. I asked him what he was going to do. He said he was going to go back for another tour, that his life was going to be with the “slant-eyes”, as he referred to them. He left after a couple of days. God bless you, Henry.

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