Psaying goodbye to Psyd

Two weeks ago, in the January 5 issue, I broached the subject of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law and its upcoming review before the U.S. Supreme Court. That review, as you probably know, has already up and come, and the Supremes got it right, ruling 6-3 in favor of leaving Oregon alone.

There was, however, a slightly ominous undertone in that vote. Predictably, Clarence Thomas (the most dangerous black man in America) and Antonin Scalia (the most dangerous white man in … well, there’s some stiff competition for this particular title, but he’s right up there) voted to overturn the law. The third robe to vote against Oregon? New Chief Justice John Roberts. Uh-oh. (Speaking of uh-oh, noted cyberspace cowboy and song lyricist John P. Barlow came up with the best nickname I’ve seen yet for the present decade. He calls it “The Uh-Ohs.”)

And yeah, the old pal I was referring to in that same column, the guy who was dying from cirrhosis, was indeed, Tom Heckencamp, a.k.a. Psyd Marley a.k.a. Tommy Useless a.k.a. Kevin Forbid (all air names he used during his radio career). Psyd’s “Search for Soul” got real serious a couple weeks ago (I keep thinking of that great Wilco disc, A Ghost Is Born), and I just wanted to acknowledge his passing to all the old X-heads who still check in here on occasion.

Psyd Marley (his name was a psychedelicized amalgam of Sid Vicious and Bob Marley) was the first mid-day man at the X, strappin’ on the headphones from 10-3, and the guy truly turned out some high-flyin’ moments of electric music radio. He called his show “The Mess,” and that was a particularly inspired name, accurately describing the wide-ranging musical goulash that was his forte as a boss-jock. For many listeners, it was a bit of a gas to listen to Psyd slide down some musical rabbit hole and then try to work his way out of it. One of the more colorful “Psyd psegues” I remember took place while I was driving around one day listening to his show. He was playing this very nice Joni Mitchell song—one of her quiet, introspective songs (can’t remember which one) that finished with a long, slow piano fade. At the very end of its single, dramatic piano note, the listener was blasted with the maniacal laughter that kicks off The Surfaris’ classic surf instrumental “Wipe Out.” I swear on a stack. I’m sure this particular transition startled the hell out of a lot of folks, but all I remember is cracking up out loud and thinking it was somehow quite perfect.

For every time he drove me crazy (I was the program director in charge of the loony bin back in the early ’90s), there was a time that he made me applaud. I guess that’s what we were about back then. And so, like a steam locomotive, rollin’ down the track, he’s gone, gone, and nothin’s gonna bring him back. Adios, amigo, adios.