Thursday, April 12 — a day that will long live in radio infamy. Imus? No, this injustice hit decidedly closer to home.
After 23 years, community radio station KABF (88.3 FM) pulled the plug on “Sunglasses After Dark,” the best (we think) and strangest radio show to ever grace Arkansas airwaves.
Hosted by Oleo Magneto, “Sunglasses After Dark” debuted in 1984 the week the station launched and aired weekly for two hours, first on Tuesday nights, and for the last 17 years, on Thursdays, from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Oleo’s sole guideline: never play the same song twice. He said recently that, except for the few times when he wanted to make a point or when he simply forgot, he figures he played at least 95 percent of the approximately 40,000 songs he spun (all from his own collection) only once.
He embraced the nearly extinct mixed-genre format. Like any good artist, he knew the importance of juxtaposition — he’d buttress pre-War blues with dissonant techno and Stax soul, follow krautrock with reggae, and pair hip-hop with swamp-boogie. And like any good Arkie, he represented his state, regularly highlighting obscure and fledgling local talent.
Oleo had a booming DJ’s voice. Every 30 minutes or so, he’d run through a list of what he’d just played in a kind of South Arkansas lilt, spiking his pitch enthusiastically if somewhat randomly. He used “of course” often, as in “That was, of course, from the extremely rare Japanese pressing of Pere Ubu’s third album.” Few DJs could rival Oleo’s musical knowledge, and he never failed to pass it along to his listeners.
Word of the decision of KABF’s board to replace “Sunglasses After Dark” with Hispanic programming, which is being underwritten for enough money to help pay for much-needed studio repairs, reached Oleo secondhand after he’d already done what turned out to be his last show. While friends of the show gnashed teeth and tore clothes, he took the news with equanimity.
He said, via e-mail, that his chief regret is that he won’t be able to play a Dylanized parody of “Green Eggs and Ham.” He asked that we remember: “Every noise I ever broadcast is still in circulation, in its original form, somewhere in the ether, and, as a result, has a better claim on eternity than humans are likely to have.”
We chewed on that for awhile, and then we heard that Oleo had recorded every show he ever broadcast. Now we’re joining the chorus of friends of the show to lobby for a digital archive. Until then, we’ll have Oleo’s weekly farewell echoing in our head: “Good night, good luck, and remember, the bird is the word.”
This is what happens in Hogland when you have runner-up for the Heisman Trophy on the team: A line TWO football fields long wanting tailback Darren McFadden’s autograph.
It was the UA’s Fan Appreciation Day last Saturday in Fayetteville, and the line was in the Walker Pavilion practice facility. We’re told it had run down Razorback Road an eighth of a mile before officials opened Walker at 10 a.m.
With a couple of hard-to-please 5-year-olds in hand, we were glad we hadn’t been in that line. But after we purchased a couple of $55 No. 5 jerseys and a $40 kid-sized No. 5 at Bud Walton Arena and hit the Walker facility a little after its opening, we learned we were too late to join the line; we’d never make the noon cutoff.
Other friends standing in line several yards ahead of us took our jerseys to get autographed by the star while we took the kids and met the rest of the lesser-known Hogs, who sat at tables along the sides. Houston Nutt had his own line but our kid — following everyone else along an assembly line sticking hats, calendars, footballs and shirts in players’ faces — was oblivious; when he reached Nutt the coach stopped to sign his poster. We were rebuked by a security guy who noted we had “broke in line.” So what? The organization was slipshod, and it sort of fit with everything else we’ve heard coming from Fayetteville these days.
Our friends were still 40 yards away when noon came and McFadden was whisked away for a TV interview. The understanding Hog merchandise people back at the arena refunded our friend’s money for the two adult-size McFadden jerseys. We held on to the kid’s red jersey. Our child will wear it proudly, even if it doesn’t have McFadden’s Sharpie-signed signature on it.