The kitschy topical songs that Art Bell played were never as interesting as the bumper music, for me. My now spouse, then good friend, and I used to drive around listening to Coast To Coast, sometimes stopping and climbing up on the water towers, really mountain top fire cisterns, to sit, eat strawberries, shiver against the wind, and listen to the show with better reception. It was mostly giggles back then, and depending on the radio station we pulled in, the bumper music might be played in its entirety.
I love the wacky Dr. Demento type songs, but they will never be as memorable as Cusco, or Vangelis, or Gershon Kingsley’s Pop Corn from Music to Moog or *Some Velvet Morning (Phaedra) by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.
I am conflicted about Art Bell and Coast To Coast AM. This giant world of disinformation is amplified by shows like that, and part of me thinks this helped normalize conspiracy thinking. It seemed harmless at the time and there were great guests like Dr. Michio Kaku that attempted to dispel ignorance or reframe peoples beliefs. I loved hearing Big Foot “experts” (yes, I am aware that I should note that they were talking about the North American Skunk Ape ) and UFOolgists argue with each other. The call in lines were sometimes the most enjoyable part, and perhaps the greatest and most diverse sampling of crazy that any talk show has ever had.
I have fond memories of Art Bell, who sometimes pushed back when people were too out there, but those are memories that can’t be replicated, and I don’t think there will be a show like that again- and perhaps there shouldn’t be. My spouse and I, on our honeymoon, streamed an archived show for fun, while driving around some fields in Hawaii. We held hands and it was nostalgic, and that bumper music is ingrained in our heads, but I am happy there weren’t too many songs like The Ballad of the Grays, fun as they are.
I always liked that Art would engage with his guests to keep them talking without overtly endorsing their stories or viewpoints, so it was like listening to ghost stories and being allowed to form one’s own opinion on the subject.
Then the current host took over and the show became Conspiracy Central with guests like Alex Jones on regular rotation. That’s when I dumped it.
Art Bell seemed more like that old T.V. series In Search Of where we knew that-
This series present information based, in part, in theory and conjecture. The producers purpose is to suggest some possible explanation but not necessarily the but necessarily the only ones to the mysteries we will examine.
I don’t remember this song, but that’s probably because I wasn’t listening to the show by then. Previously, I was working the graveyard shift & listened every night.
I don’t think it ‘normalized’ it, so much as it make people aware of it.
Granted, the audience was large, but it aired in the middle of the night, which would tend to limit its influence. I remember that Art Bell [and his show] was regarded as being a bit whack-a-doodle at the time.
He was one of his guests that I always looked forward to hearing. Others… no so much.
I remember one of 'em… a dude was driving to work & talking on the phone and witnessed an auto accident. The man who caused the accident was pummeled by a carload of old ladies… the dude’s running commentary & laugh was hilarious.
Ah, found it!
True, that. The show lost a lot without AB at the helm.
Alex Jones was a paranoid loon then, & has got far worse over the years.
I wouldn’t listen when the loons were guests, & finally quit listening when I stopped working overnights. Haven’t listened to a full show since & even those few times were like ‘meh’…
like @vernonbird above, i worked a late-night shift in a printshop and listened to art and his (then) replacement, george noory. i would get a kick out of the totally wack topics and guests and even ventured onto their website which was some synopses of past shows, listener “paranormal” photos and other off-the-wall discussions.
i used to think it was funny, richard hoagland describing “artifacts” in satellite photos of mars and the moon, jim marrs seancing the ghosts of roswell, the came the likes of jones, icke and some other little known (to me at least) total losers and i lost the sense of fun play.
of course now we can all see how this added a level of “legitimacy” to conspiratorial ideas that has morphed into thos “q” idiots and how anything goes as far as opinion = fact.
You summarized my feelings as well. I used to love listening to Coast to Coast with my roommates. We would mostly get high and listen to the interviews and callers. It was late at night. For a period of time, we were in a liminal space that allowed us to disconnect from the real world for a while.
Now, I think you can trace a line from Coast to Coast to The Big Lie, Instagram gurus espousing crystals and astrology, and Qanon believers.
To be clear, I don’t think Coast to Coast created that culture. It’s fun to entertain Fortean ideas and a fascination with the paranormal has always existed. But weak-minded people have a tough time discerning fantasy from reality, and the internet and social media make it easier for them to get lost in the rabbit hole.
He was a master of inscrutable active listening such that it was very difficult to know if he thought his guests were spouting nonsense or revealing great truths. Guessing his take on people/ideas made the show more interesting. Less so with the callers–but he let most people be heard, something no longer fashionable.
On Saturday evenings, most stations who air the modern C2C also play “Art Bell, Somewhere in Time,” replaying shows from the 90s. These provide a peek into how people thought the world would turn out, but also how it’s changed.
Agreed, though I think there are far more unexplained/anomalous things in this world than most folks care to admit. Your last sentence reflects the general state of affairs today–rabbit holes pepper the landscape for people of all levels of education and belief systems.
Yeah it was a lot easier to enjoy when it was mostly-harmless nuts musing about UFOs and Bigfoot rather than psychopaths trying to terrorize the families of murdered children and tear down the foundations of a free and democratic society.
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