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Radio Daze: Deejay's Sgt. Pepper coup a sheer disaster
As it appeared in The Denver Post, 8/31/97 on the 30th anniversary of the "Summer of Love"

Editor;s Note: Thse days, Mike Flanagan spins Mozart on public radio's KCFR-FM in Denver.  But in the Summer of Love, he was a teenage rock 'n' roll deejay at a tiny station in rural Oklahoma.  Here, Flanagan recalls the most ardently awaited album of 1967--the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"--and a radio misadventure.


In the Summer of Love I was 17, playing rock 'n' roll on the radio, awaiting the arrival.  Sgt Pepper was due.

 I was working the 7-10 shift at 1,000-watt KWSH in Wewoka, Okla.--the rock jock who came in after dark.  The general manager refused to listen at night, the only time we played the rock music he loathed.  So, it would be no problem to do the unheard of, to become the first in my universe of Okie radio to track the whole Pepper.

In those days, radio station tonearms were weighted like cinderblocks, mercilessly grooving records with their 10-penny needles.  Could I ruin the only copy of Sgt Pepper for miles around in my attempt to be the first to play it all?

 I could not.  I had to figure a way around the sacrivice of Billy Shears.  So I decided to lay my home stereo over the air.  I spliced together wires to make a patch cord and wrapped the whole mess in a tourniquet of black electrical tape.

Night at the radio station.  When the guy who got off at 7 finally left, I stole out to my car, got the stereo, the mutant patch cord and "Pepper."  Back in the control room I hooked my creation into the main board and listened through the cue speaker.  All seemed fine.

FInally, about 8:20, I made the big announcement.  "First time anywhere," I proclaimed.  The opening crowd noise and guitar that would move into the brains of a generation began.  Sgt Pepper was on the air.  Sitar in Oklahoma.

Then all turned to dread.  As the tonearm reached "A Day in the Life" I smelled something.  Not incense or burning banana peels.  No, this was the troubling odor of electricity gone wrong--an ozone burn.

Suddenly, my splice popped in a great blue flame.  The turntable stopped.  Another pop from the transmitter room and boom!  we were off the air.

I feared for my life.  Immediately I yanked the charred cable, then stashed it, the stereo and the Beatles in the trunk of my '63 Pontiac.

 The never found out what caused the mysterious zapping.  Sgt Pepper ascended into pop mythology with just a little help from his electronically challenged friend.