Bizarre. Hilarious. Annoying. Just a few adjectives to describe this nostalgic offering from experimental music and art collective Negativland originally released on cassette only on SST (1990). Now re-edited and expanded, the two-CD set features 155 minutes of weird radio talk, from prank phone calls to off-air surveys and goofy commercials (there is no music except for ‘70s snippets).
The character of Dick Vaughn was “a radio super jockey” who took over Negativland’s Over the Edge radio show on KPFA-FM in Berkeley in the early ‘80s, unleashing two controversial episodes, “The California Superstation” and “Dick Vaughn’s Moribund Music of the ‘70s.” This new collection is a gold mine for people who love sound bites and sound effects, not to mention pranks ("Ringo is Dead” features a number of angry callers pissed over reports of Ringo Starr’s demise). Granted, this is before Howard Stern and the shock-jock era; some of the jokes ring a little tame, but the callers are the real characters here.
Negativland’s Mark Hosler is an expert on intellectual property rights and recently appeared on a panel at Duke University’s Conference on the Public Domain (check out www.law.duke.edu/pd/papers/hoslerjoy.pdf). He has some interesting things to say about the current aesthetics and politics of appropriationist art and the role of public domain in the digital age (well-versed, no doubt, after being sued for the famous U2 recording Negativland released with overdubs from the secretly taped, profanity-laden rants of Kasey Kasem—a modern cult classic recalled from shelves).