Monday Memo: Spring Cleaning

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — You’re expecting a metaphor. When a consultant says “Spring Cleaning,” you brace for a checklist of tough choices when Spring ratings come in. Seems quaint, with so little programming now local.

 Take me literally

My utterly cluttered home office was long overdue. During the four-plus years an abruptly concluded TV career ate three days of my week, that room became a catch-all I swore I’d catch-up-with…eventually.

When email slugged “post-RT world” from Michael Harrison was thoughtful to ask, “How ya doin’?” I instantly rendered him green-with-envy announcing that I had filled my car with vinyl and was en route to a used record store; something he confessed he too was overdue for.

It pays to advertise (on radio)

I had heard spots for The Time Capsule on WPRO, where much of what I sold was acquired from the record guys who bopped-in every week when I was music director during “Pro” AM’s 1970s double-digit days as “full-service AM.” And if that format name doesn’t make you wistful, picture this: Many of the 45s were adorned with hand-written call letters of other stations allegedly playing the songs being pitched.

Undaunted by telltale white labels and “Not For Re-Sale” stickers, 19-year proprietor Bob flipped through the LPs, many still sealed. When I asked him what-moved-best, his quick reply was, “You won’t be surprised.” Hits. Which I expected. So I packed boxes accordingly: three virgin Doobies albums, then I slipped-in a A&M Liza Minelli “Four-Sider,” then a couple Manilows, then a Tavares 12” disco-mix single, then Tammy Wynette, then Bad Company, etc. Like a DJ or host angling for just-another-minute-of-attention, I kept Bob flipping. He perused boxes of 45s as deliberately.

“I’ll give ya $100 for the albums, and $100 for the singles, and I’ll give you $20 for the videos…I can probably sell a couple of ‘em.” VHS classics included “Casablanca,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Graduate,” and “Annie Hall;” and a handful of DVDs, “content” now available “non-owned.” SOLD.

Remember that Ampex tape smell?

When you opened a fresh 10” reel, and removed it from the plastic bag, that aroma meant something cool was about to happen. So, yes, I felt wistful discarding THREE unused reels; and another I had saved from WTOP: “JFK Inaugural – 15IPS.” Because President Kennedy’s speech was merely PA system quality, 7 1/2 would have sufficed, but it seemed THAT precious at the time.

RSVP if you’re still using a DAT recorder. I’ll send you some never-opened disks.

 Ready for the metaphor?

When I asked, Bob acknowledged that the vinyl renaissance is partly driven by people too young to have owned turntables back-when. And he said don’t count-out CDs, which, like cassettes, ported our music into the car. And he chuckled when I told him that, to me, that low-level percussion at the very beginning of “Wooden Ships” just didn’t sound the same without some needle-drop surface noise.

While prominent network radio advertiser Legacy Box is taking forever to digitize the pile of video and audio I sent months ago, Spring Cleaning continues here.

And somewhere, out there, some Time Capsule shoppers – fellow salt-N-pepper Rhode Islanders – will see my name label stuck to their purchase, and feel like George Costanza buying Jon Voight’s car. The one station from which I had no vinyl souvenirs was WSPR, Springfield, which Michael Harrison later owned. So, recalling the great library there, I know that his Spring Cleaning envy is genuine.

I departed The Time Capsule with eleven $20 bills from a huge wad in Bob’s pocket, and spent the first one on half-a-tank of gas. As I drove away, talk radio was blaming that on the president, “who shut down the pipeline!” I told my dashboard “play classic rock,” and TuneIn tee’d up the Doobies.

Holland Cooke is author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available exclusively from Talkers books and “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here. HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke