KPFK

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In high school he had some more harmony training because he was an unruly senior, and was given permission to take some harmony classes "to occupy his mind with". In fact, he found the training very boring. The first time he had any of his music performed was at Mount St. Mary's College in 1962 - an "all oddball, textured weirdo stuff", that "didn't sound at all like music is supposed to sound"; still, "the thing was actually taped and broadcast by KPFK".
-extract from the Frank Zappa ZWJ Biography

Zappa elaborates further on his composition, first aired on KPFK, in part of an interview with fan and comic artist Matt Groening.

MG: Can we talk about some of your pre-Mothers Of Invention composing? I'm remembering one of the mystery disks from the early '60s, something you had done at Mount St. Mary's College. What was that?

FZ: "Mount St. Mary's was the first time I had a concert of my music. As with most of the other concerts of my music, I had to pay for it". MG: What year was that?

FZ: "That was 1962. That was a bargain, though, because it was only $300. It was a student orchestra. There were probably about fifty people in the audience, and – for some strange reason – KPFK taped it, and I got a copy".

The course of KPFK history, in providing entertainment with a social conscience, provides a similarly checkered pattern of causing American outrage as that of Zappa.

With a 110,000-watt transmitter atop Mount Wilson, KPFK is now one of the most powerful FM radio stations in the US. It began broadcasting in 1959, funded by the Pacifica Foundation created by pacifist Lewis Hill, and its operation was managed by Terry Drinkwater- who went on to become news anchorman and correspondent for CBS News.

From the start the station always had a left-wing stance, airing controversial views and items which many of its critics considered 'communist'. Despite this, it won the Peabody Award for broadcasting excellence in 1961 but, shortly afterward, had its license withheld by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)[1] pending investigations into "communist affiliations".

In 1963 KPFK ran the very first Renaissance Faire, a fundraising outdoor weekend gathering open to the public and generally commercial in nature. Chicago journalist Neil Steinberg said of the event,

"If theme parks- with their pasteboard main streets- reek of a bland, safe, homogenized, whitebread America, then the Renaissance Faire is at the other end of the social spectrum. A whiff of the occult, a flash of danger and a hint of the erotic. Here, they let you throw axes. Here are more beer and bosoms than you'll find in all of Disney World."

The Patty Hearst Tapes were delivered to KPFK by The Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and its manager was jailed for refusing to turn the tapes over to the FBI. The station caused further controversy in 1986 when they aired Robert Chesley's 'Jerker', a play dramatising the reflections of a man dying of AIDS. Its frank and graphic sexual language immediately stirred the FCC to rewrite its rules governing the broadcast of "questionable" works, citing 'Jerker' as the test case because it violated an indecency policy.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo made their first live U.S. radio appearance on KPFK in 1987 and, 5 years later, the CPB[2] Board member Victor Gold filed an FCC complaint targeting the station for "strident African American programming and controversial speech aired during Black History month".


[1] [The (FCC) is a US government agency, created, directed, and empowered by Congressional statute with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current president. It is charged with regulating all non-Federal Government use of the radio spectrum (including radio and television broadcasting), and all interstate telecommunications (wire, satellite and cable) as well as all international communications that originate or terminate in the US. Its jurisdiction covers the 50 states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.]

[2] [The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is a private non-profit corporation created by an act of the United States Congress and partially funded by the United States Federal Government to promote public broadcasting, created when U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. CPB initially collaborated with the pre-existing National Educational Television network, but in 1969 decided to start its own network, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)]