In one ear 

LEFT OF THE DIAL

Dave Dixon – the Culture Czar – broadcasting from the "Tesla Center in beautiful downtown Southfield" has abdicated this mortal coil. He was found dead in his Royal Oak home over Memorial Day weekend of an apparent heart attack. He was 60. The legacy of his reign: a continuing undercurrent of radio that can be heard across college and (the few remaining) underground radio frequencies that defies the now firmly entrenched corporate hold on the radio dial. As lead pilot of the legendary "Air Aces" on Detroit’s freeform rock station WABX (once heard at 99.5 FM where now "Young Country" rules), Dixon played an integral role in Detroit’s FM revolution in the late 1960s. He was to Detroit’s underground rock movement what the Electrifying Mojo is to Detroit’s techno world – that is, a touchstone among those who locked into his frequency as he unveiled the revolutionary sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Iron Butterfly, the Grateful Dead and many other artists now taken for granted in pop culture that, then, couldn’t find a radio home. (He, incidentally, shared co-writing credit on Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit tune "I Dig Rock & Roll Music" with friend and fellow native Birmingham-er Paul Stookey.)

Dixon left WABX in 1974 as the station was beginning the inevitable turn toward commercialization. By all accounts, Dixon was never one to back down from his often-adversarial relationship to authority. This certainly didn’t win him any warm fuzzy feelings from program directors and co-workers with whom he didn’t see eye-to-eye. He had just such a tempestuous stint at WDET – after a 10-year gig hosting an overnight movie program on Miami, Fla., TV. Dixon landed at the Detroit public radio station where his wildly diverse playlist and trademark gruff, cynical radio persona won him a loyal audience but, coupled with frequent confrontations with management, didn’t score him any points with the station’s brass. He was fired amid a storm of controversy.

It was soon after that, in 1996, AM talk station WXYT hired him, warts and all, to host "Dave Dixon’s Radio Magazine" where, though flying without music, he opened the airwaves to Detroit’s arts community, tempering his cynicism – but not his gruff, no-bullshit ’tude – with a good-vibes community forum, often sharing the air with friends, fellow former-Air Ace Jerry Lubin and acclaimed rock scribe Ben Edmonds.

So – whether or not the demographic masses realize it, between spoon-fed bits of musical pabulum – there’s another path to finding musical connections and cultural nuggets on the dial. Dave Dixon lived to prove it, damn the Mr. Popularity award. –Chris Handyside

POLYESTER PROM

It almost feels like the real thing, but the Gold Dollar’s Second Annual Prom this Saturday, June 12, sports some nifty differences from the high school ones. The attendees will all be 21 and over, well past their prom primes. The few chaperones always look the other way. No one’s going to look stare if you’re dressed to depress, or you decide to go stag. And there’s a cash bar.

Last year’s prom jumped the 1999 gun with its Purple Rain theme. This year’s theme is the ever so cringe-worthy Night on Disco Mountain, though I doubt that the ad hoc supergroups will be playing polyester-friendly licks. The bar itself may be done up in Studio 54-style duds, but this prom promises to be a brief peek into the true bar band potential of some local faves. Various combinations of some of Detroit’s trash, garage and street-rock luminaries, such as the Wildbunch, the Go and Rocket 455 will be performing short sets filled with covers of glam-rock nuggets and frat-rock classics, some brilliantly chosen, others painfully obvious. Returning from last year’s festivities are the Regulators, who combine hard-rock moves of both the biker- and frat-rock varieties. Somewhere in there is Moustache Ride, wherein Detroit News Beat Girl Wendy Case will teach us all a thing or two about rock ’n’ roll with help from members of the Go. Also appearing are the foxy ladies of Super Model, and the bad girls and their Hentchmen of the Lolitas. And filling in the "true tribute band" void left by the absence this year of Bryan Adams (the band), comes Young – as in Angus and Malcolm. Will this AC/DC tribute group bring some miniature cannons for those about to prom? Fire your inquiries away at 3129 Cass Ave. in Detroit. Call 313-833-6873 for more info. –Greg Baise

Speaking of In One Ear

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