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The Return of the Last DJ

Former Lunar Rotation host David Sadof could be back regularly on the FM dial after a seven-year hiatus

If you're a regular reader of this column, you know that this writer is of the (widely shared) opinion that Houston radio sucks. But, brothers and sisters, I'm here to tell you today that the commercial dial could soon get a little less sucky. David Sadof -- formerly the host of the Buzz's Lunar Rotation and, before that, KLOL's Exposure Sunday-night shows -- could be back on the air regularly very soon. Sadof's new show, High Fidelity, was given an on-air audition on June 5 on Houston's mostly news/talk station KFNC/97.5 FM, and probably will be airing at an as-yet-undetermined time every Sunday on that station from here on out.

"We're still formalizing that," says KFNC manager Pat Fant. "We're negotiating prices and terms; it's kind of like getting a star pitcher or quarterback."

Fant preceded Sadof's show with one of his own, and all told, the two spun eight hours -- from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. -- of music long gone from Houston's airwaves. With the help of his panel of experts -- his teenage daughters Casey and Mackenzie -- Fant spun selections from the Meat Puppets, Savoy Brown, Folk Implosion and others, before handing off to Sadof around 20 minutes past nine.

On Sadof's playlist was a ton of classic, left-of-the-dial music that was fondly loved in its day, that remains influential now and that you just can't hear anywhere else on Houston radio. (Unless, of course, you're willing to sit through the amateurish DJs and avant-garde pretensions of most of the KTRU jocks.)

Stuff like Television's "Marquee Moon," with which Sadof ended his seven-year vacation from Houston's airwaves. "That's a ten-minute song," Sadof says, adding that his return to radio was hastily arranged by Fant. "A lot of new technologies had come in while I was away. I had to play something long so I could learn how to run the stuff, and 'Marquee Moon' is my 'Freebird.' "

Stuff like the Replacements' "Left of the Dial" and songs by My Bloody Valentine, Spoon and Guadalcanal Diary; Pavement, the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Jam. But he didn't just play yesterday's influential cult bands; he also dug deep into the catalogs of chart-toppers and came up with relative obscurities like album cut "The Wait" off the Pretenders' debut, Blondie's European hit/American bomb "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear," the Nirvana rarity (and Wipers cover) "D-7" and "Glass Onion" off the White Album.

"It's the same type of music I played before," Sadof says. "Back then I was kind of a station within a station. I had my own playlist, and sometimes I would create my own hits. In my little universe, 'I Wish' by King Missile" -- also on his relaunch playlist -- "was a huge hit."

He had plenty of fans. Looking back through Usenet's archive on Google Groups and elsewhere on the Web, you can still find people who posted things like "I've always wondered what the crap happened to Lunar Rotation... It rocked. Then when I went to California for school everything went to shit"; and "The best music show ever was David Sadof's Lunar Rotation, which used to run Sunday nights on KTBZ in Houston."

Well, according to Sadof, what happened was this: "After the station got sold for the sixth time, I was not hired back." To elaborate a little, he was a victim of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed for greater-than-ever consolidation of radio station ownership. Media groups, of which there were then hundreds, went on a big-fish-eats-little-fish feeding frenzy until only a few fierce sharks remained, one of which was Jacor Communications, which bought the Buzz and handed Sadof his walking papers in 1998. (A few months later, Jacor was gobbled up by Clear Channel, the Jaws of this scenario.)

Jacor told Sadof that he didn't fit into their long-range plans, which apparently were to run modern rock radio into the ground, as the Buzz has been a heinous station ever since, an abominable wasteland of Korn, Creed and Hoobastank clones. And Sadof has been out of radio ever since. He worked as a buyer at Soundwaves until he was let go in their recent purge and now is a computer salesman. He could have found radio work in another city, but Houston is home, and until this month the right opportunity had never arisen. "I didn't want to be a Dr. Johnny Fever, up and down the dial, moving from town to town," he says, practically quoting the theme to WKRP in Cincinnati. "I also didn't want to have my playlists dictated to me. The only job I would be interested in would be one that was like early-'70s radio, where the DJ picked the music and the fans knew which DJ they liked best."

While Sadof did garner a lot of popularity for his shows at the Buzz and KLOL, he also got plenty of criticism in his roles as music director at both of the stations. He was often assailed for not decreeing that more of the Lunar Rotation-style music be played at other hours, and also for not playing enough local music, both on his show and at other times. Not that he ignored the homegrown stuff -- Sadof probably played more local rock than any jock on the commercial dial in the last ten years, but a little is not enough for many on Houston's exposure-starved scene.

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