June 1970 – Summer School has started. You heard that if you crammed as many classes between the end of June and August, you could graduate early. You like that idea. But Summer School is Summer School – it is not exciting and you are not thrilled to be there. But you are good with electronics. You and your buddy have figured out a way to get KMET on your headphones in the Language Lab. You’re a genius. It doesn’t sound great, but it beats listening to the same Spanish phrase over and over until your ears bleed. The trick is to make it look like you’re really paying attention to the class and not falling into a trance over Workingman’s Dead. You look around to see if people next to you are mouthing phrases and you pretend to do the same thing. Nobody suspects – well, not right away. It’s when BMR plays The Beatles Within You Without You that it happens. The lesson is over and everyone has their headphones off – but you. You don’t hear the teacher calling you, and one by one, your classmates turn and slowly get up – leaving you blissed out and unaware that you are now being stared at by everybody in the room.
Maybe the idea needed a little more work – maybe Summer School isn’t such a hot idea. You have decisions to make.
When L.A. radio started making the big change in 1968, it took some time for people to transition over from AM to FM – from Top 40 to FM Underground. It helped that some of the personalities synonymous with Top-40 radio in L.A. during its heyday were now on FM, doing not quite the same thing, but being the same winning personalities they were when AM ruled the airwaves. One of those was B. Mitchel Reed – a mainstay at KFWB, Reed found himself largely out of a job when the station went from Top-40 to All-News on day in 1968. Fortunately, his association with Bay Area Radio legend Tom Donohue made for the perfect transition over to the newly transformed KMET – which went from Automated middle-of-the-road to Underground FM in June of 1968. With Reed’s encyclopedic knowledge of music, he was the perfect guide for an audience just getting its feet wet with this new and adventuresome music and he was largely responsible for cutting a wide swath of musical styles and turning people on at the same time. Underground FM was important for a lot of reasons – for fans it was the extra added knowledge of being exposed to a whole world of music – a world which served a lot of people (myself included) very well over the years. Reed and many of the others at KMET, KPPC and several other FM stations at the time did a lot for the cause of music for the mass audience – because they happened to like it a lot, and their enthusiasm was infectious.
Here is a half-hour of BMR, as he was on KMET, June 25, 1970, sounding roughly just as it did if it came over Language Lab headphones.