"Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst" originally aired early 5-7 a.m. Central on Thursday mornings but has recently moved to 10 a.m.-noon on Thursdays. In Reese's opinion, the change has give him a new burst of energy while on the KDHX airwaves.
Between bonding over our mutual vegetarianism during lunch at MoKaBe's Coffee House, Rich shared the history of his radio show, what loving the Beatles has taught him and grappled with the challenge of choosing a favorite Beatles' song.
Brian Benton: Could you talk about where the concept for your show came from?
Rich Reese: Sure. My original idea was to have a show built all around the music of the Beatles, called "All Things Beatles." I have a few thousand Beatles cover songs, and Beatles novelty records, Beatles parodies, Beatles solo records, and I thought there was enough to go with, but the [KDHX program committee] that makes those decisions didn't think so, and probably, looking back now, it would have been a little too repetitive and a little too narrowly focused.
So I broadened it, and went more with '60s rock and British invasion and Mersey beat and trace those sounds up to the current day with all the different kinds of music that have influence from there. It allows for a lot of leeway and gives me a lot of freedom in what I play, and is definitely a show that is much better than that first concept.
It's certainly a lot broader. You play music from five or six different decades in a handful of different genres.
Right. I kind of broke it down into subgenres that have that influence. Jangle pop came out of folk rock, neo-psychedelia came out of psychedelic, obviously, power pop is a direct descendent of a lot of that. It opens it up a lot.
How much of the music you play were you familiar with prior to starting the show and how much have you learned during the process?
That's a good question. I would say I knew a good chunk of it. If I hadn't heard the music, I'd at least come across the names or the performers. But there are always times when I find bands I've never heard of, or suggestions from listeners who say, "Hey, have you checked this out," and when I say no, they're just aghast. It would be arrogant to think that you know all that you need to know, so I'm always looking for new old sounds, and new current sounds that sound like the old sounds.
Are you from the St. Louis area originally?
I'm not. I moved to St. Louis in 1989 from Peoria, Illinois. My wife and I met in Columbia [Mo.], at college, and we kind of thought we'd settle between her family and my family so that we'd be close enough to drive either way, but wouldn't be right there. I'd done a couple of radio shows in Columbia, and right when I moved here, I tuned in to KDHX and first heard and got into the blues shows and I was like, "Oh my god, this is what radio should be like." It's opened up so many different types of music, and now I almost have an anxiety attack if I get in a car and there's a commercial station on.
Was the show you were doing in Columbia similar to what you're playing now?
Not at all. It was like, play three new releases within the last six months each hour, play three songs from within the last year, and then whatever else you wanted to play you could play. You would go through the albums there and pull things out. You weren't really allowed to bring in any of your own stuff. To give you an idea of the time frame, they had just gotten a CD player at the station and they had about ten or twelve CDs and the player was this animal that I had no idea about. I think I played two songs from CDs in the time I was there.
But now you play almost entirely from CDs, right? I know you mentioned today that you're starting to play more vinyl again.
I've always played a few songs from vinyl each show, usually six or eight. I did one show which was all vinyl, right after [KDHX DJ and musician] Bob Reuter died, which was all 45s, but I didn't think it through all the way because you can't cue up a record while you're on the air, but I figured out a way to do it.
Do you remember what the first record you purchased on your own was?
My first 45 was an Elton John song, "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," which I still love. And my first album I want to say was "Band on the Run." But I inherited lots of music from my older brothers and sisters, so I had plenty of records.
So music was a big part of your childhood?
Definitely. I remember going through my brothers' and sisters' record collections. My brother, who's about 11 years older than me, probably had the best collection. I remember going through and finding "Straight Up" by Badfinger, Yes albums, stuff that I probably wouldn't play now, but that really pulled me in. We still talk about music a lot and trade a lot of music, and now I've got nieces and nephews who I try to turn on to new music as well.
It's interesting because my parents were really not into music at all. My mom was a little bit, but they were both hearing impaired. My dad didn't really have anything to do with music. He supports the show, though. He pledged on today's show, so that's cool.
Yeah, that's great.
Could I make a suggestion about a topic?
I'd like to talk about how music is so interconnected and how I came to that because I was this Beatles freak when I was in high school and nobody else was, so I had to know about music so I could argue about the Beatles.
Go for it.
It just wasn't cool to be a essay writer Beatles fan when I was in grade school and high school, so I thought I should learn about music so when we were arguing about who's the better guitar player or who's the better bass player, I could say, "You know, their influences are the same." Jimmy Page and George Harrison were both huge fans of rockabilly music, so now you've found some common ground. Just finding more about music and all the connections kind of was a way for me to state my point about why I liked the music that I liked. I just love those connections and I'm always looking for them.
And now you kind of go away from the Beatles in both directions and look at who they were inspired by and then who they inspired.
Is there an example of someone you can think of who you were really surprised to see was so heavily inspired by the Beatles?
There are lots of people who I was surprised to hear were huge Beatles fans. Ozzy Osbourne is a huge Beatles fan. You can't really hear that in his music or Black Sabbath's music, but if I can find some influence I'll go ahead and play them, even if it doesn't seem like it would fit on the show. I've been trying to get ahold of this band Beatallica, which is basically a Beatles cover band that does it in the style of Metallica. I do a segment in my show where I play obscure Beatles stuff and that would be a perfect candidate for that.
This might be too hard of a question to answer, but do you have a favorite Beatles song?
Not really a favorite, maybe a top 10 or five that tend to trade places, but if I had to pick the one that's probably in the top spot the most, probably "Strawberry Fields Forever."
That's a great song. How long have you been doing your show for?
I just had my five-year anniversary in August, and I was subbing for about two years before that. Prior to that, I was sitting in with Tony C who did a blues-based show, and I did a blues-Beatles connection on his show. But I've been off and on the radio here for about 10 years.
So if you've done your show for over five years and you play at least a few Beatles songs a show, have you had to repeat songs?
I really do not repeat a lot. I could go for years with Beatles and Beatles-related music.
Do you think that switching from 5 to 7 a.m. on Thursday mornings to 10 a.m. to noon changed what you play at all?
I don't know if it's a conscious thing, but it does seem to me like the shows definitely do have a little more energy, and I don't know if that's just because I'm more awake. I've been telling people though that it feels like I hit a reset button. It reenergized me. Maybe it's a little more upbeat, maybe the tempo is a little bit higher. I've always enjoyed it and I always looked forward to Thursdays and to getting behind the mic to share this music with people. I didn't think I could enjoy that more but I really do now.