The Sound of Silence

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Okay, so I’m driving along in Pennsville on the way home from an expedition to Delaware, and sick of talk radio, I switch over to WMMR, home of the original progressive DJ Pierre Robert, who never goes home anymore but sits at the microphone reassuring old Boomers with Classic Rock.

Where was I? Driving home from Pennsville. Pierre starts one of what he calls his Workforce Blocks, meaning they’re meant for people who actually work for a living, plus musicians and writers. Led Zep. Chili Peppers. And then I hear this.

Good God Almighty. I LIVED through the sixties, every pretentious, bloody, snotty, drug-infected POS moment of them. I heard Simon and Garfunkel in girls’ dorms till I thought my ears would bleed. All my life, till today, ask me what Sound of Silence was about and I’d tell you a hippy moonbeam chick was so stoned she thought she could hear the sound of silence. Which for the rest of us meant the sound of her not talking for once.

This is a magnificent performance. We all know that heavy metal vocalists do their obligatory ballad to prove they can and aren’t just rapists who didn’t get drunk enough to do it yet. They growl and roar in their hits and simper in their love songs. Yadda yadda yadda.

But here we have both voices and more in between. He begins in what is obviously an homage, not a mockery, of Art Garfunkel, but then he transforms the song, turning it into an emotional recapitulation of Ravel’s Bolero, which repeats and repeats, growing more insistent in every frame, until we experience the full-throated grief that must lie at the heart of every heavy metal head. The roaring is an attempt to defeat the silence. And it concludes, fittingly and humbly, with a diminuendo played by those same husky guitars. Kettle drum? Good God Almighty.

I’m crossing my fingers, just hoping they don’t dump us to a commercial after the song ends. The song ends. They dump us to three or five commercials. But the Pierre, bless his heart, returns and tells us who we’d been listening to.

Disturbed.

Why I’m sharing it with you. So you don’t have to drive with crossed fingers. Thank you, Pierre.

Pierre. Robert.

Pierre. Robert.

Oops. Forgot, like a lot of other people (though I really didn’t) the number one original voice of progressive rock, an adenoidal nerd who could play the hottest music of the sixties all night long and never let a drop of stardust befoul his plain black suit. WMMR in Philadelphia. Your host of the century? Michael Tearson.

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All of which is a long way of saying, the antique radio station called WMMR made me feel twenty again for a quarter hour today.

  1. Frank’s avatar

    I often felt that Michael Tearson. I stayed up to hear his take on anything. He was there with me. He recognized the difference between what was real and what was bs. He created context with such economy. He was passionate, but he was always in control. Intimacy from the radio. Who knew?

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