In 1959, famous rock 'n' roll DJ Alan Freed signed off his last New York broadcast by saying it was not goodbye, it was just goodnight. Which will it prove to be for AM 1500's eccentric savant T.D. Mischke? After 17 years spent on our most potent bandwidth, Mischke's career with the station died suddenly of unknown causes in early December, just hours after he had released his second full-length CD, That Kind of Day. An on-air personality of peerless intellectual and emotional complexity, he leaves behind a legacy of delirious sounds—a breadcrumb trail of haunting ideas that leads to a daring and absurd nook of our collective imagination.
The broadcast dial can often seem to be a discarded coloring book—a colorless world where the lines of conduct are inviolately delineated. It can be an echo chamber where a low-decibel din of commentary, popcorn news items, and commercialism does little more than make the rush-hour commute a noisy affair. What Mischke offered was an outlaw world, which reminded his listeners that the sumptuary laws to which so many adhere so strictly are paper-thin and transparent. For nearly two decades he terrorized airwaves and eardrums with stunts ever more bold, poignant, and thought-provoking. He forcibly extracted impromptu songs from his callers. He interrupted national newscasts with sound effects. He composed poems and songs of the daily news and turned the detestably grown-up world of major-market media into the playpen of an indomitable, brilliant child.
The future is uncertain, but the past is not. While Mischke may be absent from airwaves for the time being, his career has been extensively catalogued by his league of devoted listeners. In a time of such right-brain famine, Mischke remains our inviting oasis, a small, lush patch where the pleasures are anything but empty mirages.
David Hansen is a frequent contributor to City Pages, in print and online, and a member of the local hip-hop band MC/VL.
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