I did one of those Facebook games the other day – the kind where you post three outlandish stories and challenge your FB friends to find the one that’s false.
Well, here’s the story behind one of the “true” stories.
It’s 1984, and as a college student, I spent most of my free time at the college radio station, WHCL. The running joke on campus was, if you were looking for Chuck Miller, go to WHCL first, then go to the college computer center next, and if he’s not at either spot, then he’s either in a class or in the Root Glen.
Being part of the radio station allowed me to attend several college radio broadcasting seminars and get-togethers – there were the IBS broadcast gatherings in Boston and/or Washington DC, there were the New Music Seminars in New York City. Fun stuff, you get to interview artists, you return home with a bagful of new records and swag.
And I think it was at one of those conventions – I’m going to say the New Music Seminar in 1984 – where I met John Lydon. Or Johnny Rotten, I can’t remember which name he was using. I think he was actually there as part of a cross-promotion with rapper Afrika Bambaataa, the two had recorded a track called “World Destruction” under the group name of Time Zone.
Lydon was on a panel of artists and musicians, and the discussion involved trying to find new means and ways to get an artist’s music sold.
Of course, I’m sitting in the audience, hoping for a chance to ask a question. You never know, there might be that one question that can burst through and cause the artist to say something to the level of, “Damn, that’s a very thoughtful question. Thank you for asking that. Let me explain how that came about.”
So I waited for my turn. The moderator pointed at me. I walked over to the audience microphone and asked the panel, “Isn’t it hard enough to get your music on the radio without at least one 7″ single to promote your work? In that not everybody can spend $10.98 for an album, where they can get a quick introduction to an artist’s work with a 45?”
I can’t remember who was going to answer the question – but Lydon jumped in. “Are you serious? You’re talking about singles? About fucking singles? Go sit down, you stupid, filthy sod.”
And he glared at me with that John Lydon gaze that looked like he was ten seconds away from walking down from the panel table, entering the audience, and punching me in the nose.
Yeah, Chuck’s going to sit down right now. Right now.
And the crazy thing is … I don’t even remember if anyone answered the question. All I remember is sheepishly returning to my seat, and another radio person from another college radio station looked at me and said, “Jeez, that had to be the dumbest question I’ve ever heard anyone ask.”
Well, I made it through that music convention, and I returned back to the college with the customary bagful of LP’s, 7-inchers and assorted swag. I think the bag also contained a copy of the “World Destruction” single. It did get some decent airplay at WHCL, so that’s a positive.
But if I learned one thing from that quick interaction with Mr. Lydon, it was this. Always plan out your first interview question and NEVER go for the most obvious question first.
And always remember … if you don’t make it as a superstar in the world of music … you can always fall back on a career as a butter salesman.