Frequent Portland performer, Olympia resident and rock legend Calvin Johnson was terrifically injured in an auto accident in Montana in 1993, breaking ribs and his shoulder, and injuring his brain.

Johnson, the genius behind K Records, a frequent contributor to the Lost Music Network and to OP Magazine, also fronted the seminal Beat Happening (which as I loosely remember was named after a painting by drummer Heather Lewis, Beatnik Happening), Dub Narcotic Squad and the Halo Benders, and there most likely are more I don’t know about.

Travis Nichols
writes, A punk-rock legend is back from serious injury with a new intensity, for the Seattle PI.


Black Candy – Beat Happening, from March of 1988.

If you’re unfamiliar with this genre, sometimes called lo-fi, or DIY, your might think, huh – are they retarded? No, all college graduates, and that might have been part of the issue.

Joey Ramone and Iggy Pop may have started punk rock, but both signed to major labels and veered immediately in the direction of higher sales.

KAOS radio’s station manager John Foster, in about 1980, redirected the station’s format to being largely non-commercial. Located at The Evergreen State College, KAOS marked all it’s LPs (that’s what we used to call CDs kiddies) with red tape on it’s spine for a commercial release, and green tape for a non-commercial release. The colored tape allowed DJs to quickly assess the amount of commercial music in their stack. Foster’s goal was to keep airplay of red line records to 20% or less per hour.

Foster argued a dominant percentage of radio came from a small number of sources creating a creative monopoly, pushing out new sounds, international music, music from minority groups, and anyone who didn’t kowtow to corporate culture. He was stunningly right.

Many and soon most DJs grokked this revolutionary notion and commercial airplay evaporated. Instead Olympia was treated to eclecticism, and with Calvin Johnson’s radio show, excellent pop music from all over the world and every eccentric garage.

There were other stations using the same method; I remember one at Fordham University, and another at the U of Washington. Foster wasn’t alone; pinpoints of radio revolution were happening at college stations across the country.

The punk rock ideal was access. Lower the stage – we can all get on. Lower the necessity of high musicianship – make it simpler. Get rid of the theatrics, the costumes, sets, lights, and fancy instruments of the time – a voice and a drum would do. Be simple, encourage the kids to join, make it fun, make money a non-issue, be emotional, be human, be alive, be collective.

The result was not only Beat Happening, but thousands of other kids started bands and took them on tour, wrote zines, made artwork, gave parties, opened clubs, started businesses, made movies, made apple pies, wrote books, and carried the message in an overtly non-commercial and subtly anti-authoritarian way.

EXTRA – INFO: FAQ from K Records
EXTRA – Wikipedia, The Music of Olympia
EXTRA – HistoryLink.org Rock Music–Seattle

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