HE’S CRUSADER AGAINST INDECENCY
Sometimes on the weekend, Nathan Post pedals his 12-speed over to Storke Tower and gazes at the broadcast beacon that used to play the Pork Dukes, before the Federal Communications Commission condemned the British punk band as the very essence of indecency.
Besides being the tallest building on the University of California campus here, Storke Tower also houses the studios of KCSB, the college FM radio station.
Post, 34, is a devoted fan of KCSB. He’s also its biggest critic. It was his letter to the FCC a year ago that prompted the regulatory agency to put KCSB on notice that it could lose its license if it ever plays indecent recordings such as the Pork Dukes’ “Makin’ Bacon” again.
As a result, Post is despised or pitied by virtually everyone who works at the station. They peek at him from the Storke Tower windows, but never invite him up to visit.
“He’s really thrown me,” said student deejay Eric Stone. “Recently he’s been coming by the station like he’s our friend after all of this and talks about getting involved. At one point, he wrote the station asking if he could get his own show.”
Echoing Stone, fellow KCSB deejay Doug Miller expresses a distaste and even a little uneasiness about Post. Miller says he once joked over the air that he was broke and had no place to sleep except in his car, and Post sent him a check for $50 and offered to let Miller move into the house that Post shares with his mother. When Miller devoted one of his programs to drug abuse, he says, Post wrote him a congratulatory note.
Last Christmas, Post sent a Nat (King) Cole record album to Miller.
“And I have never met him face to face,” Miller said. “It’s just too strange.”
Post, whose complaints to the FCC prompted an indecency ruling against KCSB last April, sees nothing contradictory in his behavior toward his favorite radio station.
“Why did I attack a small, defenseless little college station?” Post asked. “Basically, what I see developing here is a trend that, if not stopped, is going to spread to where it’s the point of no return, and since college stations are at the cutting edge of music and everything, I thought it was important to make the point here.”
The point, he said, is that KCSB should not broadcast obscenity. That is why he launched a letter-writing campaign three years ago to force the station to censor its music. It wasn’t just the Pork Dukes. There were songs by Black Flag, the Rotters and the Angry Samoans that he found equally distasteful. “Women From Sodom” and “I’m in Love With Your Mom” are among the few song titles played on KCSB that Post feels he can repeat in polite society.
The trouble for him was that the songs were not interpreted as being legally obscene. They were merely foul, vile and ribald. Further, they were played late at night when youngsters were not generally believed to be in the listening audience.
So when Post wrote to the station manager, the UCSB chancellor, the president of the University of California and the governor of California, it was all to no avail. Two years ago, he complained directly to the FCC, which also did nothing.
It wasn’t until Post wrote to the Arlington, Va.-based Parents Music Resource Center that he got anywhere. With a board of directors headed by wives of several influential national politicians, including Tipper (Mrs. Albert) Gore and Susan (Mrs. James) Baker, the resource center delivered action where all the others that Post had written to had only delivered rhetoric.
“It shocked me when, kaboom! they took my letter to the White House and sent Patrick Buchanan to the FCC where he read them the riot act,” Post recalled.
That was August, 1986.
“Almost a year passed,” Post said. “They must have studied it from every aspect they could to make sure they were legally within bounds. Then they acted and KCSB got a nice little letter.”
KCSB doesn’t flaunt the Pork Dukes anymore, Post said. He knows, because he monitors it.
“The thing is that a lot of people don’t understand or want to understand that the lyrics to these songs are almost totally directed toward young people,” Post said. “And it astounds me that we are a society that has become so insensitive that we don’t give a damn about our young people.”
Post describes himself as an “environmentalist Republican,” a devout Roman Catholic, an unpublished short story author and an actor. He sells Florsheim shoes--the latest in a string of jobs he has held since he was a UCSB history and economics student several years ago. Before selling shoes, he was a bus driver. But what he really wants to do is write and act, he said. He is currently enrolled in three acting classes at a junior college.
He likes Eric Stone, Doug Miller and the rest of the KCSB on-air personalities he has come to know vicariously, over the airwaves.
“I’m not opposed to KCSB, I’m not on a vendetta and I’m not interested in seeing somebody thrown out,” Post said. “If you want to buy a song like ‘Makin’ Bacon’ and take it home to play it, fine. But when you broadcast the Pork Dukes, you’re opening a whole other door.”
Pork Dukes Defender
The Pork Dukes, a British punk band of the late 1970s, is no more. The four musicians used aliases on the two albums and three singles that they put out in 1979 on their own labels, Wood and Butt records. There were a few Beatles songs on “Pig Out of Hell,” the original Pork Dukes album, but the cuts that raised the ire of Nathan Post and the FCC are original compositions with names such as “Bend and Flush,” “Throbbing Gristle” and “Telephone Masturbation.”
Deejay Stone, a 22-year-old philosophy major, admits that “Makin’ Bacon” is rank and in awful taste. But it should not be censored, especially late at night when children are not likely to be listening to alternative rock ‘n’ roll on a college radio station, he argues. Stone is host of “Strictly Disco,” the Saturday-night new wave rock program on KCSB where Nathan Post first heard the Pork Dukes. It was after 10 p.m., and impressionable youngsters who might not see the satire in the Pork Dukes had already been tucked into bed, Stone says.
Not so, says Post.
“I just took a surfing class with my nephew, and the little 12-year-olds in the class were talking about how great KCSB is at midnight,” he said. “Quite often the music they play is very questionable, even now.”
The lyrics to “Makin’ Bacon” contain none of the so-called “seven dirty words” defined as obscene by a 1978 Supreme Court decision. Nevertheless, the song is loaded with imaginative euphemisms for oral and genital intercourse and the male sexual organ.
“It’s silly stuff is what it is,” Stone said.
But even if “Makin’ Bacon” is satire, the most ardent defenders of the First Amendment are hard put to find any redeeming social value in the song. Even an avant-garde music critic such as Ira Robbins of “The Trouser Press Guide to New Wave Records” has this to say about the Pork Dukes:
“Whoever the four no-good rotters masquerading behind pseudonyms were, they had good reason to hide. Except for musings by children of the revolution like the Meatmen, the Pork Dukes’ pink-vinyl LP is the most vulgar, offensive, rude, disgusting, infantile, noxious load of puerile rubbish ever released commercially.”
Far from viewing “Makin’ Bacon” as silly or satirical, FCC Secretary William Tricarico wrote in a five-page finding against KCSB released on April 29 that the lyrics of the song “would be actionable under the indecency standard as clarified” by the FCC. Further, according to the finding, “the song was broadcast at a time when there was a reasonable risk that children may have been in the audience,” even though Stone’s “Strictly Disco” airs from 10 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays.
Just what constitutes indecency, according to the finding, “is largely a function of context and cannot be judged in the abstract.” Nevertheless, the commission found the Pork Dukes to be indecent, if not legally obscene.
Now, thanks in part to the KCSB controversy, the Pork Dukes--whoever they may be--are enjoying something of a revival.
“I have everything they recorded now except for one album and I’m going to trade somebody something I’ve got for that,” Stone said.
Rare- and specialty-record stores such as Zed Records in Long Beach and Rough Trade in Berkeley get regular Pork Duke inquiries, and college stations across the country are getting requests for both the original “Makin’ Bacon” and a Berkeley student’s edited version meant to conform with the FCC ruling.
“My theory was that the FCC was basically redefining what is indecent and what is not indecent, because the song itself doesn’t use any of the seven dirty words,” said Lawrence Kay, a student deejay who goes by the name of Joe Six Pack at KALX in Berkeley. Inspired by the FCC decision against KCSB, Kay edited “Makin’ Bacon” by bleeping out those euphemisms that might be interpreted as indecent references to sexual organs or intercourse.
“And you know what?” said Kay. “It’s actually worse than the original. People listen to it and say ‘Gee, what were they saying in the blank spot?’ ”
Last month, Kay’s expurgated version of “Makin’ Bacon” made the No. 69 spot on College Music Journal’s weekly list of the 100 most popular records played on the nation’s college radio stations.
Two weeks ago, Kay was notified by the National Community Broadcast Assn. that he had been nominated for the prestigious Golden Reel award for producing the “FCC version” of “Makin’ Bacon.”
“Who knows?” said Stone. “Thanks to Nathan Post, the Pork Dukes may have to come out of retirement.”
Listeners who call KCSB get the following recording these days:
“After the following message from Nathan Post, please leave yours: ‘It bothered me quite a bit that apparently no one seems to care or no one seems to be in control of that station. They play what they want. . . . “
Post said the station recorded his voice from a TV newscast on the FCC decision and, though it bothers him some that the KCSB staff continues to condemn him, he tries to take it in stride.
“There are more rights than just an individual’s rights,” he said. “You don’t have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. We simply don’t live in a vacuum. We have to realize that we are part of a society and we have responsibilities that extend to others. There’s the rights of parents, of society, and we have a right to live in a decent, humane, loving society, or try to.”
Post is unmarried and not a parent, but he can still be offended by indecent songs, he said. He keeps a list of them and writes the Parents Music Resource Center from time to time with updates. He didn’t want to be the one to force KCSB to clean up its act, he said, but nobody else would do it.
“I think they’ve definitely been trying to watch what they play, but not willingly. (KCSB deejays) are acting like wounded victims of an assault on the First Amendment, which I think is a lot of malarkey,” he said. “I just wish KCSB would grow up and quit acting like an ass and start acting like an adult.”