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Mikey & London dread March 1980; I-Witness reports/music from Mighty Moe Armstrong; Midnight Dread radio show #11

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33 years ahead! Mikey Dread’s custom-made Midnight Dread theme song debuts at the top of this March 17th, 1980 now weekly program. Moe Armstrong, one of the most unforgettable human beings I’ve ever met, joins me as crucial co-host packing big vinyl fresh from a trip to London & 5 live Clash shows with Mikey Dread. The 2 Tone t’ing is blooming, punky reggae parties hardy. Militant Barry toasts about ‘murderer’ Sid Vicious. Moe reports on the scene from LKJ at Race Today to a new Black Repertory Theatre play in California regarding Marcus Garvey’s influence & much more. For years a life-size wooden street sign of Moe, the Reggae & African music buyer for top East Bay dub vendor Leopold’s Records, stood on historic Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley California, site of several major protest rallies & riots during the Vietnam War including The Peoples’ Park fiasco where the authorities fired buckshot, killing an innocent bystander while wounding various ‘uppity’ hippies & students, many who had dared to venture out for a cup of coffee that turning point day, Bloody Thursday, May 15th, 1969.

A decade later Moe was doing wild radio shows on ace campus station KALX at the University of California Berkeley, where Mario Savio’s prescient Free Speech Movement talk on the Sproul Hall steps on December 2nd, 1964 told students “we’re a bunch of raw material that… don’t mean to be made into any product… We’re human beings! (cheers)” Then most famously Mario added “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, & you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears & upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, & you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhFvZRT7Ds0

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-Moe on-the-air & we do mean on! At KALX, UC Berkeley, California 1970s-
“Remember how we were told…We have great music, we have great Culture, we need Corporations running our airwaves to ‘Free us so we could be creative’. That was my first contact with Corporate Thinking….Letting Metro Media dictate to KSAN (San Fran’s legendary ‘underground’ radio station)….While I bopped around KALX and Leopolds…The jury is no longer out…Corporations are not so good. We might have gone bankrupt by being too loose. They went bankrupt by sucking the good out & maintaining the bland.” -Moe Armstrong

A sense of melancholia drapes those days to these times since popular progress is nearly always infiltrated & undermined by underhanded government forces. Moe suffers Post Traumatic Stress from being an early Veteran baked in Vietnam (it ain’t a disorder, it’s a result). Like many who returned from the controversial 1960s-1970s war he was drawn to San Francisco, about the only place in the entire USA where Vietnam Vets found solace, the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco an oasis of overstanding & assistance. Today Moe works for Vet to Vet in SF, going out into the community & bringing depressed & damaged veterans from isolation into the light with hope, advice, & experience. All part of blunting a system so afraid of the truth getting out it will do anything & did, as has been recently shown in hideous detail in this new book of dread Bay Area revelation 1967-1982:

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Like today’s Afghan/Iraq vets many learn to ‘keep on movin’ just to keep their mind off the memories. In Moe’s own words about his time as a member of the band Contrabando in the early 1970s “I had come to Colombia to die. I saw no end to the war in Vietnam. I had seen too much death & destruction from my part in the war. I had seen too many screwed up people after the war. I was screwed up also. Went to the mountains to die by going out in a flash on endless dope. I almost died but really got very very very sick. Besides the drug overdose – parasites went into my liver. Went to Bogota & started a Rock & Roll band. We all lived together, Colombians & North Americans. Practiced our music & wrote songs. I was very happy. I also finally began to understand the deep & older culture that I had been exposed to in New Mexico. I began to appreciate Latin Culture. Made my first contact with the Cubans. Celebrated the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Bogota. Played our music in hotels & theaters & even the Coliseum. We also did television in Colombia. We were very popular. We identified with the emerging alternative culture in Colombia & the world. We were artists & musicians… part of the art community in Colombia at the time. We all shared our lives & our ideas together. Those were special & magical days.” Armstrong later took Bay Area reggae faves The Titans to Cuba, an historic breakthrough in musical diplomacy. The Titans were led by Ron Rhoades (video here) formerly of The Shakers, the first US reggae band signed to a major label. Moe’s the dude in the oversized hat in Contrabando:

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“GOING OVER GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TO MARIN COUNTY”
All we had in those days were some radio stations
That gave us some air time,
Kesey had already taught us we were up against the Combine,
Thinking music could get us over to the other side
Went over Golden Gate Bridge middle of night,
To see Doug Wendt To spin records with Doug Wendt
To talk with Doug Wendt and the whole Bay Area,
Talking about Revolution
I had come back from Cuba
I had come back from London and the Clash,
There was an immediacy in sharing the news
From the control tower every hour at every midnight
Every Sunday,
We thought that the Combine would GIVE OUT
GIVE UP…
Never realizing this Babylonian Combine,
Would come back and grow,
Would take more and give back less……..
We thought this music that sang about injustice
We would get rid of injustice,
Strummer and myself talked about seeing
Beginning and the end,
Got to get the message to Doug Wendt
Midnight Dread,
We talked about the travels and the new day,
Got a recording of those radio shows,
Listen up The future is here
The future is yet to come,
Joe Strummer said
The Future is Unwritten
-poem by Moe Armstrong March 19th, 2013

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-Moe Armstrong with his buddy Joe Strummer of The Clash-

Moe contacted me last year wanting dubs of his enthusiastic Midnight Dread co-hosted programs, setting I on this path to get my vintage shows on Mixcloud where the first ten episodes’ main segments already reside, joined just this week by #11, the first of 3 shows in 1980 I did with Moe: http://www.mixcloud.com/midnightdread/

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-Moe outside City Lights Bookstore with friends in North Beach, San Francisco 2013-

Midnight Dread erupted from its mid-1970s Reggae Explosion KTIM radio show, debuting in September 1979 on the same commercial North Bay Area spot on the dial before moving to KQAK & KFOG, major San Francisco rock stations. Midnight Raver’s Midnight Dread page: http://midnightraverblog.com/midnight-dread/ Broadcast regularly from San Francisco’s KUSF & KFOG into the 1990s, Midnight Dread now airs new shows: http://worldOneradio.org/ Every Day Pacific Time 12am

4 Comments

  1. More evidence why Doug Wendt was and remains one of America’s greatest all time dj/vj’s, ahead of his time as ever, revealing that America’s has no future except for a swiftly gaining past. Listen and learn, the best head-u-tainmeant going. Thanks Doug!
    Roger Steffens/Ras RoJah

  2. Today, I ent to tthe beach wiith my kids. I found a sea shell
    and gave it to my 4 yeear old daughter and sasid “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her eear annd screamed.

    Thete wass a hermit crab inside and it pinched heer
    ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely
    off topic but I had to tell someone!

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