Determined DJ Set to Risk Life and Conquer Radio Broadcast Record
by David Lee Beowulf
If ever a man deserved to be heard by the entire world, certainly Glen Jones is somewhere in the pack. Being a WFMU freak, I was contacted by his agent and the hook up was successful. Jones even treated me to a Buffalo burger at a midtown diner for lunch!
That's a great tie!
Thanks! Can I have your autograph? (Jones signs the latest issue of WFMU's program guide, the Lowest Common Denominator, over an article detailing the excruciating training regimen necessary for breaking the radio record.) I must caveat this interview with my mention that your radio show is most problematic for me. I dig your between-song ranting, or rather, the show itself, rather than the songs. But it's the only WFMU show my girlfriend can listen to! She knows all the songs you play and sings along! Thus, I have a new reason to listen to your show. She wears earplugs at night when I'm listening to Bill Zebub…
Sounds like you've found a perfect match!
Please tell me your history with the station, to begin…
It's a rocky one. I started in June of 1986, started doing mornings. I had a job where I could get off during the day and they needed a morning person so I told my boss I'd quit if I couldn't have mornings off so I could do the shift. Basically, I did a similar show to what I do now, I'm not the most loved DJ there but…
That's your appeal!
Well, a lot of people weren't too crazy about me when I started playing "Kung-Fu Fighting."
A ten-year offset… Was your partner X-ray Burns with you when you started?
He joined me in 1995 or so.
Is he officially a DJ at WFMU?
No, he's part of my show. I'm the one who has to answer to the powers that be.
So if he curses, you're the one who gets in trouble...
Right. I've mostly been in trouble for smoking cigarettes and drinking beer in the studio, though.
I saw you at the record fair with X-ray Burns dressed in that costume...
The Louis XIV attire?
That'd be it... Seriously, though, your show is unique in that you don't necessarily play music associated with "free-form" radio. But on the other hand, you can play whatever you want.
I consider it free-form. It's just that my ideals of music are different than the next guy's, and that's what free-form is, really. They give a guy a three-hour block and he can...
…howl like a maniac and play lots of Frank Sinatra?
The endeavor: the current record is 73 hours and 33 minutes… That's about two weeks.
How do you figure?
Oh, I'm thinking in terms of eighty-hour work weeks. Hmmm, right, that's about four days.
You're going to actually do this.
You have been training?
I'm going to it through sheer will.
The photos of you in training are pretty impressive. You're drinking some concoction that requires putting a fish in a blender and smoking constantly...
The smoking constantly will keep me awake.
What are you going to smoke?
Tobacco. I can't bring myself to try anything during the show as I'm afraid it'll tire me out.
Good point, but have you looked into any special high-nicotine cigarettes? Like a "Jolt Cola" of cigarettes? Are there "Jolt Cigarettes"?
I haven't thought about that. Too much nicotine will flush me anyway. As a smoker, after a while it starts to weigh you down.
When will you start this?
Friday the 23rd of May, at nine AM.
As far as the other DJs go, the station will sacrifice a lot of shows. Will there be guest appearances?
There will be and there won't be. Those shifts were given up for this event. Even JM in the AM [A morning show of Jewish music, current events discussion, etc.].
Wow! That's pretty impressive.
It's pretty impressive, but it's a Jewish holiday anyway.
When did you come up with the idea for this?
About seven months ago, Station Manager Ken Friedman e mailed me a wire copy story of some DJ that stayed on the air for a very long time and attempted to break the record. And Ken wrote to me in his message "get in training." I think he was kidding, but I picked up the phone right away and told him at the office that I was serious and thought I could do this. He then presented the idea to the staff, letting them know that they'd have to pre-empt their shows. They allowed it and we started planning.
How long do you think you'll go? 73 hours and 34 minutes?
No, I'm going to try and take it a full day after that, just because, if I'm going to break it, I might as well try and make it stand. I'll be happy if I make 73/33, because that's the record, but I would like to make an additional 24 hours.
I heard Keith Richards once stayed awake for nine days straight.
Did he really? Was he on all kinds of amphetamines and stuff?
I doubt it; he's Keith Richards. Hmmm, you're right, probably. I think he was "waiting for his man" for nine days. He didn't recommend it to anyone in the interview where he confirmed this feat.
I also would imagine that he didn't plan it. It just sort of happened.
Good point, he's an amazing guy.
Oh yeah. And he's still alive and he looks great.
What will you be doing during the broadcast? Is it going to be The Glen Jones Radio Programme for the entire time, or what?
It'll be a variation of the Glen Jones show. It'll be the Glen Jones show because I'm on the air, but it won't be the traditional format that I do. I can't mix music. I have to come on between every song and announce each song. I can't do sets.
Is that a rule set forth by Guinness?
Yep. So I won't be doing my usual show.
Can you kick in with "In a Gadda Da Vida"?
I can't do it! The songs have to be under six-and-a-half minutes!
Have you already picked all the songs?
I hope to go in there with an idea with a list of most of them because I think I'm going to lose the power to think at some point and I'd better have stuff prepared.
What's the longest you've ever stayed awake?
Probably like 36 to 40 hours. I used to work in a recording studio where we'd do overnights and 24-hour sessions with no problem.
I worked with everyone from Mick Ronson to Ian Hunter to Bonnie Tyler, Nelson (sons of Ricky) -- they were pretty cool; it was a world-class recording studio. I was little league, I was a gopher, but I had to be there the whole time.
What kind of training have you been doing other than putting fish in blenders and drinking the mess?
I didn't actually drink the fish. I did tongue it as I was holding it, though. Mostly mental training, thinking about it, thinking about how I'm going to do it. Researching things that might help. Someone told me that pure oxygen is good. Like, they pump oxygen into casinos to keep people awake and gambling. So I was thinking about trying to get an oxygen tank. Physically, I'm in terrible shape, but I've been riding my bike to work every day, but I don't know how that helps.
You get to work faster.
Yep, it's fun, too. I really enjoy it.
Do you have to keep playing songs or can you talk as long as you want and rant and rave.
There don't seem to be any limitations on how long you can talk, so I think I can talk as long as I want. I think there will be times when I just say the name of a song in between records and times when I talk as long as I want.
How much renown do you think there is for WFMU and your show since you're on the Web?
It's hard to say, WFMU doesn't get ratings, you never really know… I get a lot of fan mail and recognition when I meet people. I get e-mail from all over the country. A lot of transplanted FMU listeners. I think it's word of mouth that's helped us a lot.
What kind of press coverage will you have?
I just did an interview with The New York Times, that's why I was late.
Who did it? Jon Parales?
Steve somebody, he does the New Jersey section. It'll get picked up on the wires.
What planning have you done?
Well, a lot of stuff like getting "handlers" to help keep me awake. [NOTE to readers: they're looking for help! Go to the Web links above and check it out!]
You're allowed that?
Yeah. We have a crew of people. The DJs that I pre-empted have pretty much volunteered to come in and slap me around to keep me awake. So things like that, trying to gather together a list of songs, talking to medical people. A lady I know works at a sleep depravation center. So I can try to figure out what to expect. Trying to get psyched for it.
How do you get psyched for your regular show?
It's just kind of a patter each week. I reflect on it then I immediately start getting ready for the next one. I'm very passionate about the show, so it's very easy to get psyched for it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he would train calves with Franco Columbu, in preparation for a big Mr. Olympia contest, they had an oxygen tank with them. They'd inhale between sets to keep them going for five hours.
The more I think about it, the more I think I'll get a tank.
Are you a SCUBA diver?
You do know that oxygen is explosive…
So if you smoke while you've got the oxygen going, you'd have a big problem.
I'd go up real good.
That would be an interesting angle to all this. You might not make the record book for world's longest radio show, but…
"I can only do this trick once…"
Do you think you'd do this stunt if you were still in the East Orange, NJ studio?
Yeah, one thing about radio is that it doesn't matter where you are. You could be on a mountain top…
I mean as far as the facilities go.
The facilities there would be better. There was a shower and stuff. There's no shower at the new studios.
I'm surprised. I've been to both and the new place is big enough you'd think it had a shower... Well, that would be a pretty short shower, anyway, since you have to talk between songs.
Yeah, I wouldn't have a lot of time.
You could wash half of your body or something.
Yeah, it would probably keep me awake, more than keeping me clean.
You could also broadcast from the shower. You could bring in a remote mic.
This is true.
You could smoke, too. They could make a T-shirt for the station of you in the shower, smoking a cigarette, being blown out of the roof due to the explosion caused by pure oxygen in the presence of sparks... The "Glen Jones Memorial T-shirt" or something like that.
Then you'd be finally rid of my music on Sunday…
Dude! Now don't get on me for that! I listen! I'm a listener! I can't turn off WFMU! What else is there to listen to, except my own record collection? I've been a listener for more than fifteen years! I never turn it off. Besides, your between-song banter is more than worth the agony of listening to the music you play. I mean, a DJ screaming like a madman really appeals to me. And besides, my girlfriend really digs your show, so it's not like I'm going to turn it off. I like all the shows, from JM in the AM to Music to Spazz By to…
[Fellow WFMU DJ] Dave the Spazz and I once did a show together called Elvis vs. Frank, where we screamed at each other, him Elvis and me Sinatra, between songs. It was basically two guys screaming at each other at the top of their lungs.
So when did you eventually migrate to Sundays?
1990, and I've been there ever since. I've been lucky to have the same slot for a long time. I think it's got a big following, too. Officially, it's open to schedule changes. It makes a nice fit between Jeff and Bill's shows.
It's the most eclectic day for WFMU, I think. Then you have Diane, who plays death metal. Then Stork, who has live noise bands, then Fabio, with recorded noise bands…
The station does a good job of shuffling around the music where it should be.
I think that's why you got a record donation of five hundred grand this year! How did you do, donation-wise? [That's true: WFMU received more than $500,000 in pledges from listeners during their two-week 2001 marathon.]
In one shift, I did $24,000; in two shifts, I made $34,000, which is phenomenal. A lot of it is due to this. We made an announcement that If I made $20,000 on this show, I'd attempt to break the Guinness record on Memorial Day weekend. And the listeners came through with $24,000! It was huge, amazing.
Will your regular job suffer with you being away during the broadcast?
I don't think so.
It'll be a weekend, anyway…
I work at Court TV.
Really? Are you a judge?
No, I work in the radio department.
Do you ever bring anything interesting from there into your show?
Once I recorded some publicly-accessible John Gotti soundbites, I used those, but they were filthy and I had to cut them.
I remember one of your shows years ago where all you played was samples of Jeff Spicolli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High going "You Dick"! You played it over and over again… Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?
There's not much else after Spicolli.
And there you have it, my friends. The words of a madman. Between you and me, I think Glen Jones is going to do it. However, I think he's going to die, or come as close to dying, as a result. Keep your dials and/or audio browsers tuned to WFMU this weekend, and for added kicks, they've archived all their past shows, and thusly, I recommend exploring to your heart's content. I wish Mr. Jones much success!