It has been 20 years since the death of radio personality Deirdre O’Donoghue.
But like the signal from a distant radio station late at night, her memory lingers on listeners, musicians and friends who marveled at the magic she did night after night from 1982 to 1991 with her program. KCRW-FM (88.9). BREAK!.
She is now back thanks to the podcast “Bent by Nature: Deirdre O’Donoghue and the Lost SNAP!” Archives ”, a series that KCRW describes as the story of“ America’s most influential DJ you’ve never heard of until now. (Southern California listeners may know her as the founder of “Breakfast With The Beatles,” which she hosted on various stations from 1983 until her death in 2001.)
The 10-part podcast, already available on most podcast sites, will also air in full on KCRW starting at noon on Saturday January 1. It will be followed by two releases of SNAP archives! of New Years Day in 1982 and 1988.
Hosted by Tricia Halloran, who first met O’Donoghue in the late 80’s as SNAP! volunteer and co-produced by Bob Carlson, who designed many of the show’s studio performances, the podcast explores what made O’Donoghue such a unique radio presence then and today.
“I think when Bob and I started talking about the podcast – when we first started watching the tapes – that’s why it took a little while to come to fruition,” said Halloran, who has hosted his own KCRW show, Brave New World, for 15 years, and now works as a music supervisor in film and television. “It was kind of like, ‘What’s the angle, what are we saying? And I don’t know if there is a clear answer.
Halloran and Carlson both say that when O’Donoghue sat down at her microphone and started talking or playing music every night, it was like magic.
“I think the fact that she was so all-in, that it wasn’t like her job or just one of the things that she did,” Carlson said. “It was her completely. It was the only thing that interested him, music, arts and literature.
“And so I think you could feel that in the passion of it,” he said. “There was no sort of, you know, playing the role of a DJ. It was the thing that interested him, the music he cared about, on and off the air.
Halloran also notes how impeccable O’Donoghue’s taste was in a pre-internet decade where the underground, alternative, and avant-garde of rock and pop were exponentially harder to come by.
“It wasn’t really available elsewhere,” she says of SNAP! which meant Saturday Night Before Pop or Saturday Night’s A Party, before the show became so popular that it eventually expanded to four nights a week.
“It was also something about her honestly, her vulnerability on the air,” Halloran says. “She wasn’t afraid to just say, ‘Well, my day has sucked. “She was a lot more direct about the things that can go wrong in life than most other DJs back then.
“So I think all of these things combine into an alchemy that makes him just special. “
Unearth the past
In many ways, Bent By Nature might never have been possible.
Donoghue was famous for his protection against SNAP! and her right to accommodate her as she pleases, which at one point in the late 1980s resulted in her being fired and then quickly rehired. She jealously guarded her playlists and recordings, storing them in her Santa Monica apartment. And after her death, it all vanished, shipped across the country to her family in Florida.
“I always knew about these tapes, that they existed,” says Carlson. “Because I was there at the time. I would give Deirdre these tapes; she would take them away.
A decade or more ago, O’Donoghue’s family offered to give KCRW the tape archives, which the station agreed to. For years the boxes sat in storage, until a few years ago Carlson, who hosts and produces KCRW Unfictional’s storytelling and audio documentary program, decided to revisit them and see if there could be any. have a history of reel-to-reel, DAT, and tapes that have survived.
It wasn’t easy, Carlson said. Most of the reel-to-reel tapes had absorbed moisture, causing them to decompose enough to become unreadable. “You put them on a reel machine, they’ll scream and stop,” he says.
There was a workaround, however. Audiophiles had discovered years ago that you could put them in a convection oven for hours and dry them enough to make a new copy.
“Turns out the updated version of it is a food dehydrator, so I went on Amazon and got this $ 50 food dehydrator that almost looks like it was designed for this purpose,” Carlson explains. . “And then for several months at KCRW, I would just run tapes through a food dehydrator and dub them on a computer in the studio. “
And listening to the shows brought back a wave of memories, says Carlson. “It seems like almost a distant memory, like any other old song, you can immediately stop it. It was something that feels like a memory, when you hear Dierdre’s voice.
A living and loving tribute
For Halloran, hearing the voice of his friend and mentor again on the tapes was exciting – and uplifting.
“It was painful at first because I deliberately didn’t listen to anything from her the whole time,” she says. “One of his fans sent me a whole box of Deirdre O’Donoghue checks after his death, and I just thought, ‘I can’t bear to hear his voice right now. “
“So it was painful to go in, to be honest,” says Halloran. “I mean, I literally think about her every day. But that was good because I had to sort of go through that painful reopening and then come to this place of joy to share what it meant to me and to Bob and some of the other people, and to share that with the world.
The 10 episodes of the podcast include interviews with such famous musicians as Michael Stipe of REM, David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Henry Rollins of Black Flag, who in recent years has hosted a weekly KCRW show.
There are also episodes with lesser-known artists but O’Donoghue’s friends and favorites such as singer Syd Straw, Mighty Lemon Drops guitarist Dave Newton, and English musician and author Julian Cope.
But KCRW has hundreds of hours of interviews and live performances of O’Donoghue, which producers like Myke Dodge Weiskopf of the station’s Lost Notes podcast are now using to create an online archive to complement the podcast. himself.
There are already interviews with artists such as Brian Eno, Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Clash frontman Joe Strummer, filmmaker Jonathan Demme, Paul Westerberg of Replacements, and an all-new interview with Jesus and Mary Chain.
The plan, say Carlson and Halloran, is to do kcrw.com/bentbynature a living tribute to the late O’Donoghue, with links to podcast episodes, more interviews and live performances.
There are a Bent By Nature playlist on Spotify, featuring 100 tracks from O’Donoghue favorites like Blue Airplanes, Jazz Butcher, Peter Case, Paul Kelly, Blue Nile and Lloyd Cole across the cream of indie music in the 80s and early 90s .
“At that time, KCRW had a little sense of belonging,” Carlson says of what the Bent By Nature project reminded him of. “It was amateurish, but in a good way. There was a little “Put on a show!” Feeling, as opposed to, you know, that finely honed diffusing entity. “
For Halloran, the project is a living monument to a person and to a time and place that no longer exist.
“I think with anyone you respect so much, there has to be something that documents who she was and how fantastic she was,” Halloran said. “Relive those days when things were so different and document them for future generations. “