WCBN's Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa offers up Sproton Layer and Ramones rarities


Sproton Layer

Left: Sproton Layer guitarist-singer Ben Miller cuts vocals for a Sproton Layer song in the basement of his Ann Arbor family's home, 1969. Right: Trumpeter Harold Kirchen, drummer Laurence Miller, and bassist Roger Miller rock the Little Theatre at Pioneer High School in May 1970. Photos courtesy of Sproton Layer.

Frank Uhle's Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa on WCBN 88.3-FM always features a treasure trove of vintage rock 'n' roll and punk, and he's one of the great historians of 1960s and 1970s underground Michigan music. Uhle also re-released the ultra-obscure and totally rippin' lone 7-inch by Ann Arbor 1960s garage rockers The Beau Biens, which we talked about in-depth here.

Because the pandemic has kept DJs from going into the WCBN studio, the station is rebroadcasting a lot of shows, though some hosts are broadcasting live from their homes while others are preparing their programs there and uploading them.

For Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa, which airs 10 pm Mondays, Uhle has been digging into his vast archive of shows, as well as his personal collection of rare recordings (plus photos and other memorabilia), to produce programs that offer a little bit new, a little bit vintage, and a whole lot of fun.

For his October 26 show, Uhle put together a collection of Ramones recordings from December 4, 1979, that includes a WCBN interview as well as a portion of their show that night at Second Change (now known as Necto). Uhle wrote the following on his Facebook page:

On December 4, 1979. Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee (all RIP) chatted with WCBN music director Michael Kremen about the putrid state of rock radio, the split between punk and new wave, and more. Following that, we'll hear a solid chunk of their gig that night at Second Chance, recorded by our own Floyd Miller & Steve Poceta (all taped off the air on my handy cassette deck). In between, the band went to Schoolkids Records, where I gave Johnny a copy of The Rationals' "Respect" 45 on A-Square Records, which he dug a lot. Never-before published photos from the Michigan Daily attached.
Stay tuned after that, because the rest of the show (til midnight) consists of an aircheck of my own young self, taped September 21, 1983. Dig the vintage carts, events info listings for a variety of long-defunct acts and venues, and a rundown of the fall semester WCBN schedule. A bit clumsy in spots, but I'm happy to share it warts and all.

This post is public, so go over to Uhle's Facebook page to see the unpublished Michigan Daily photos, which includes shots of the Ramones at Schoolkids Records. You can see the two Daily photos by Paul Engstrom that the newspaper did publish on December 7 here, the day after the publication printed its Ramones concert review.

While the Ramones episode of Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa hasn't been posted online. Edit: The Ramones sections are available to download now right here.

Uhle also made his November 9 show available for download because, as he wrote on Facebook, "it got such a good response when it streamed last night." The show features a 2013 interview Uhle did with Spronton Layer, the Ann Arbor psychedelic rock band featuring the Miller brothers—Mission of Burma's Roger and Destroy All Monsters' Laurence and Benjamin (among many other bands)—and trumpeter Harold Kirchen. In the Miller family's basement, these teenagers recorded one unreleased album in 1969, With Magnetic Fields Disrupted, which finally came out in 1992 and was reissued in 2011. The Miller brothers and Kirchen gathered once again in Ann Arbor for a 2013 reunion show at The Blind Pig, and Uhle brought them all into the WCBN studios on June 10.

Here are videos from the June 14 show at The Blind Pig:

Check out Sproton Layer's website, which is strictly Web 1.0 on the tech side, but it's also a nice, comprehensive collection of reviews, interviews, photos, and more of the band, including a long chat the group did with Psychedelic Baby magazine. The brothers have worked together occasionally over the years, most notably in M3 (The Millers 3), but they've all carved out remarkable solo careers.

Roger Miller has lived in Boston since 1979, and in addition to the worldwide acclaim he received with post-punk giants Mission of Burma, he's been active as an experimental chamber-music composer and performer, as well as a soundtrack artist, including live scores that he performs for silent movies as part of Alloy Orchestra.

Ben Miller is based out of Detroit and has been involved with all sorts of experimental outfits over the years; here's a Pulp preview for his December 2019 show at Ann Arbor's Lo-Fi club.

Perhaps the most prolific brother, Laurence Miller has been involved in a mind-boggling number of groups that span everything for punk and free jazz to experimental and new wave—plus punk-free-jazz-experimental-new wave cabaret craziness in the form of Larynx Zillion's Novelty Shop. From his home in Ypsilanti, Laurence has been posting a lot of his old bands' music on Bandcamp as of late, including a bunch of Larynx material, as well as new works under his own name.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.