Dick Vaughn’s Moribund Music of the ’70s
Negativland honed their sampling chops way back when it meant fumbling with razor blades and tape, splicing together bits, pieces, and loops into audio collage, long before the process was digitized and sterilized. At the same time, the collective perfected the art of creating slightly askew audio programming. Blurring the area between reality, media coverage of reality, and corporate culture into a sort of roiling fog, the band’s complex worlds sometimes last a single segment, sometimes span records and decades.
Such is the case of radio announcer Dick Vaughn, a Negativland persona whose output spans decades both real and imaginary. This double-disc set is actually several different acts in Vaughn’s illustrious career, from his stint at the California Superstation, through his radio specials (“More On Music,” “Moribund Music of the ’70s”) and a couple of other strange moments, including “Dick Is Dead” and the subsequent “Dick Vaughn’s Memorial Concert.” Often, we hear Vaughan’s patter bookended by segments of music fading in and out. Moribund music of the ’70s and ’80s indeed. Already Vaughn is melancholy, and in turn, that makes me cynically nostalgic for his innocent nostalgia. Ads from the egg council. “Ringo Is Dead” hoax. “Private Duty Nurses,” now playing in town. Ron Bailey’s School of Broadcast. Christopher Cross. The Cubulax. “Don’t Touch That Dial — It’s Got Dick on It!” Dr. Oslo Norway, PhD (who incidentally claims responsibility for releasing this disc, as an attempt to alleviate some of Vaughn’s debt to him)…
On this set, Negativland crams the glimpses, characters and moments at a fast and furious pace, and though it all hangs together on first listen, repeat visits consistently unearth new jokes and gems. Not your typical non-music album.