It's not very often you live in a neighborhood with a radio station in your own backyard. This may not matter to a lot of people as they are use to hearing stations coming in from the other side of town or, in todays case of corporate media culture, on the other side of the country. Another factor is if the station in question is either independent with actual people running the place or one of those satellite stations that run on computers that sound more creepier than Hal 2000 on a very bad day.
Westchester is fortunate to have a local independent collage radio station within its borders called KXLU-FM, which has been broadcasting from the campus of Loyola Marymount University since its inception in the 20s as an AM station.
Despite the stations many years of service to the area, I wasn't familiar with it, much less aware of it, thanks to my radio preoccupation of Top 40 radio and Dr. Demento.
Around 1990, I was slowly beginning to sub-consciously pick up on things tiki, thanks to years of bumping into those strange and cool 'urban statues' and the surrounding environment they inhabited. The musical allure of Tiki really took hold as I began to bump into vinyl sides by Martin Denny at used record stores like Second Time Around in Torrance and Rhino Records in West LA. At first, I didn't know who Martin Denny was, but I certainly knew the lady on the cover (Sandy Warner)!
Very soon, the potholes of the road towards lounge/tiki knowledge were about to be filled in. I bumped into the radio schedule in the LA Weekly and it mentioned a radio show on KXLU-FM that was playing 'tiki records' on Tuesday nights and it was called 'The Molotov Cocktail Hour'. I decided to tune in and check this deal out.
LEFT: MCH hosts Cyrano & Senor Amor mugging it up
ABOVE: The show's ad from a program
The hosts, Cyrano and Senor Amor, know their material quite well and took its aesthetic and history seriously. They also have a lot of fun, too. The recorded introduction that starts each show warns the listener that this was being broadcasted from the Mahi Mahi Room in Encino and it is populated with the likes of Nancy Sinatra and Tom Jones in heat and an army of insanely drunk Shiners. Once this introduction exploded Mission Impossible-style, the musical travelogue starts off.
However, calling the program a 'lounge show' is way too limited. The closest 'format title' might be found in their ad from an old KXLU program guide: 'A finger poppin', tail-waggin', concoction of: Questionable Tastes, Nefarious Jazz, Exotica, Mysterious Electronics, Sultry Vocals & Latin Rhythms'. Not exactly a simple description in todays highly homogenized and programmed radio, which is fine with them and the fans alike.
The show itself goes back to 1988 and to its original host and creator, Karina Santos a. k. a. Tallulah Breakwater (right), and its original time slot of 1 to 2 a. m. Monday mornings. Soon afterward the shows debut, friend Cyrano became co-host and when Karina decided to move back to her home in Guam, the DJ who had the follow-up behind The Molotov, Senor Amor, became co-host number two. The show then moved to Tuesday nights a few years later.
Considering the areas history with tiki apartment buildings and related urban culture (check interviews with Stuart Swezey & Brian King of Amok Books in the first Incredibly Strange Music book from Re/Search Books and their liner notes for Rhino Records 1990 'Best Of Martin Denny' CD for details), this little show had very soon became the soundtrack to Westchester.....well, to me that is.
Soon, MCH wasn't the only show on the KXLU airwaves that I ended up listening to; Bomb Shelter with Uncle Tim (a more raw mix of old dusty vinyl than MCH), former Headspace (ambient/trance), former Surfwave (former surf show) and, if my nerves and eardrums can take it, the not-so-former Psychotechnics (nuttin' but noise, folks!).
I was so jazzed with this goldmine discovery, I began to record the one-hour show on a semi-regular basis. To make this audio obsession even worse, I'd edit the shows into a compilation series of choice bits of the show; both music and the occasional interesting banter the two hosts tossed around. This taping habit, which was a carry-over from my Dr. Demento show years, continued to the point that I had 16 MCH 'volumes' on tape. In the early '00, I bought my roommates CD-R burner, hooked it up to my receiver and carried this off-and-on tradition into the digital age that reached volume #22.
By now, my connection with the show and its musical landscape was firm and, thus, like any fanboy, drove my roommates and co-workers nuts; while my two rommies swam deep into all things prog-rock and co-workers with their rock/top 40/rap shtick, I was polluting THEIR ears with the soothing sound of Denny, Miles Davis, lounge, garage band noise and whatever interesting sounds Cyrano and Amour were uncovering.
My audio war with my immediate victims may obviously smack of sharing my rude obnoxious behavior with theirs, but I figured, it's better that they fell asleep to my shit than yours truly having his head and heart simultaneously explode by theirs; it's called self-preservation by forcing those who'd harm me walk through my weird imaginary goofball fantasy world of tiki and Tomorrowland in order to claim me and high cholesterol level down.
Due to reasons too ridiculous to go into here, I moved out of LA and KXLU's radio range in late 2004. Even though I'm in a calmer yet hotter corner of Arizona, I missed checking into the show on a regular basis until I got DSL in 2006 and managed to record the show over the net and my 'Best Of' set is currently up to number 32.
The show has been a stable one for fans and for KXLU with only a few minor changes; in 2009, they went to two hours and in 2013, Amor went 'underground' to Austin, TX on a mission to keep that fare city 'weird'. In his stead, Special Agent Lotus was recruited to fill in. Two years later, Amor returned and all three have been keeping it festive and 'weird' since.
All of this is to say nothing for their stable of yearly shows which includes the William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy Birthday, the x-mas The Solstice Of Soul special where they play four hours of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, Tiki Oasis special where DJ Duke plays sides related to T. O. convention theme of that particular year and visiting guests like Martin Wong, Heino, Haywire Duke and the ever mysterious Oatboy.
One particular special is a traditional staple for the show and the fans, The Martin Denny Easter Special! In honor of Martin Denny's birthday (April 10th), this special erupts around early April with 4 to 8 hours of all audio forms of exotica, both old (Denny, Arthur Lyman, Yma Sumac, etc.), new (The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Ding Dong Devils, Tiki Joe's Ocean, etc.) and whatever interesting whatnots that falls into the cracks. Occasionally, regular guest Strike (of Strike's Kitsch Niche on LuxuriaMusic.com) would show up and play a marathon of covers of Martin Denny's signature tune, Quite Village.
In recent years, they began to do occasional live broadcasts of this special from The Purple Orchid tiki bar in downtown El Segundo, CA and, as live audiences are invited to join this special event, the whole deal ends up as a party with MCH and tiki fans from around the L. A. area.
....and, yes, I have recorded many of these shows as well. In fact, I managed to record and, with Cyrano's generous permission, posted the 8th edition of this event from 1997 in Internet Archive......all 5 hours and 45 minutes of it. Can you take it?
Radio's Gang O' Fun: (L to R) engineer Maki, Senor Amor, Cyrano, Special Agent Lotus and Strike
Cyrano's musical chart that explains everything.....we think.