The last few chords struck and hung in millions of cars in the tri-state area. Stuck in traffic, some drivers played air piano on the dashboard until it ended, receiving air applause from their friends, or an auditorium filled with people, or whatever they had imagined.
“and rounding off our set that was Eric Clapton with ‘Layla’. Ya know every time I hear that outro I think of that scene from Goodfellas. Something about that song with mobsters dying, hah, I don’t know it’s just a classic scene with a classic song. We’ll be right back with Shelly O’Neil’s 5 o’clock traffic update and more great music, only on ‘The K’!”
Jarvis turned off his microphone, took off his headphones, and wrapped them around his neck. He pushed his weight against his swivel chair and let go a heaving sigh before spinning himself half a circle to a table piled in stacks with CDs. His hands were mechanical; they knew what to reach for, load into the old ward beck machine and play after the 30 second traffic update. When he opened the Agents of Fortune jewel case and readied track 3 for play, he let out another sigh. It wasn’t always like this; when he started in ’73 he had free reign over what he chose to play. Jarvis thought it was serendipity, he was meant to play music over the radio, especially with the classics that came out that year: Dark Side of the Moon, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Band on the Run, and Quadrophenia. Holy shit, Quadrophenia. He remembered smoking weed outside right before playing it in it’s entirety, hearing the waves crashing and the piano intro of “I Am the Sea” cut with clips from various songs and finally Moon’s drums just under a synth opening. it changed him. Jarvis always loved music, but this was an experience so new. He was doing what he had ritually done in his parent’s basement but could finally experience with millions of other people. It was his 1st broadcast. It was meant to be. When it ended, he was silent on air for about 6 seconds. He shared it with his listeners before finally letting out a very high “whoa … wow.”
Jarvis grinned thinking back on it. Still one of the best records he’d ever heard, though now he was only allowed to play 3 songs off the double album. He sighed again and went on air.
“Thanks Shelly! Now we turn to Blue Oyster Cult to kick us off for the next set of classic rock, only on ‘The K’.” The guitar riff had already begun under his promotional script. He took off his headphones again and massaged his ears with the palms of his hands. He’d heard the song hundreds of time, saw the Cult live at the Palladium with Thin Lizzy in ’78. Now it was part of the rotation. Just like all the other songs he smoked to, or had sex to, or drank with friends with in the park blasting from his Firebird Trans Am. Just songs to play almost every day, an artist’s entire discography whittled down to 2 or 3 songs approved for play. Even The Beatles only had 10 approved tracks.
Back to Quadrophenia, Jarvis thought Why should I care? Why should I care?
After “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, he played “Hell’s Bells”. After that, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. All songs that once had a memory glued to them, played so often and mechanically he felt nothing. They didn’t even sound great anymore. They sometimes barely sounded good. When Jarvis realized that, he decided to take his headphones off during play. The songs weren’t for his ears anymore. He was oversaturating himself and losing the affect the songs once had on him. He was always tired at work. Always ready to go home.
When Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down in ’77, Jarvis crafted a tribute set met with little red tape from the station. When Lennon was shot in ’80, he played everything he could get his hands on by the man. Back then he still had a lot of say over material used in his sets; his death tributes were another way to show affection for the artists who made his dream possible. Now, it’s the only time Jarvis is allowed to play anything outside of the 3 tracks signed off for airtime. It’s the only time the station isn’t breathing down his neck over radio plugs and pleasing sponsors. He doesn’t look forward to their deaths, but he had caught himself prepping a tribute for Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Stevie Nicks, and a host of other performers more than once. He always felt guilty and stopped when he became aware of his thoughts, but they were the only ones helping him escape the reality of his prepared set lists.
Jarvis built a living on DJing for The K, made enough with his wife Deb’s accounting to buy a nice house in the NJ suburbs. Sometimes he thought of leaving the station, joining some pirate radio thing and playing what he wanted again, or maybe he could teach some people about rock music history. Deb’d kill him. She’d understand, sure, but she’d kill him. Jarvis was relieved daily by Lindsay Rourke, a Led Zeppelin fanatic who managed to keep her headphones on through most of her broadcast. She was given a daily 8 o’clock segment devoted to Zeppelin, something to give her passion an outlet. Jarvis ended his set with Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”, a song he never really liked to begin with.
“She’s all yours, Lindsay!” Jarvis said as the song clanged out and he plopped the headphones on the chair.
“Thanks, Jar! Great set, listened on my way! How’d you sneak “Dr. Jimmy” in there with cursing? God I love that song! Ya still got balls, Jar. They’re gonna try and tear ’em off, but love ’em while you got ’em haha!”
“I … what?” His memories back in the ’70s, Jarvis lunged for the grey CD and automatically set it to track 5 off CD 2. Holy shit, he thought. How did that happen? They’re going to murder me!
“I don’t know what came over me Linds, I really don’t.”
“Whatever it was, bring it back tomorrow. Fuck ’em, Jar. They’re not gonna fire you, I was just joking. Play another one tomorrow. God knows we need it.”
“I’ll, uh, try. Thanks Linds. Have a great show.” Jarvis left the studio, entered the elevator, punched the *L button, and hummed bars from “Dr. Jimmy”.
“Is it me, for a moment?”
Out the revolving doors and halfway down 36th, his phone vibrated in his pocket.
KROK – Jim Leevers
“Fuck.” Lindsay was right, the station was going to tear him a new one. He thought while the phone lit up in his palm, watched the name flash across the screen. He thought of Quadrophenia and all the artist’s he’d made death tributes for. The memories detached from songs he lived for. The vibrations stopped. The phone went dark in his hand. Jarvis smiled.
Now how the hell do I tell Deb I quit?
He had a subway and train ride to think it over.
She wanted to kill him, but she understood.