But the L.A. music icon isn’t calling it quits just yet
By Joe Piasecki
Rodney Bingenheimer has broken more bands on American radio than you’ve ever heard of. But you’ve heard of a lot of them: The Ramones, Blondie, Oasis, The Bangles, Duran Duran, No Doubt, The Smiths, The Runaways, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Venice natives Suicidal Tendencies, just to name a few.
A lover of music loved by musicians, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a 2003 documentary about his life was appropriately titled “Mayor of the Sunset Strip.”
For 40 years, Bingenheimer has introduced new music to the world — always his own playlists, often from demos sent directly from the bands — over the airwaves of KROQ 106.7-FM. That is, until next week. Over Memorial Day weekend, Bingenheimer announced the station will be letting him go after one final installment of “Rodney on the ROQ” from midnight to 3 a.m. on Monday, June 5.
Bingenheimer, 69, is taking the high road about being taken off the air, but makes it clear he’s not going to quietly depart from public life.
“They retired the show,” he says. “I’m not retiring.”
What’s your favorite rock ’n’ roll moment?
When I did my first trip to London, I attended the David Bowie recording session for the whole album of “Hunky Dory.” It was incredible. But my girlfriend at the time, the moment she met [Bowie’s] manager they ended up falling in love. He ended up marrying her. [Laughs.] Well, while all that was going on I got to fill in on bass for Rod Stewart and the Faces doing “Maggie May” on “Top of the Pops.” Of course it was lip-synched, but it was “Top of the Pops”!
What about in L.A.?
The parties, and a lot of recording sessions. The Stones, Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys’ “Smile” album. The Mamas and The Papas’ “I Saw Her Again” — I suggested they leave the mistake [a false start on the third chorus] in the song. And they did.
A lot has changed in music and broadcasting since your first show in August 1976. What’s stayed the same?
My show’s basically stayed the same. I always play new music that’s coming out locally, from the U.K. and from Japan.
With so many ways to find music online, what can a deejay offer that can’t be replaced by an algorithm?
Personality, I guess. [Laughs.] Telling stories and anecdotes from [being with] the band. And I play [a song] usually before it comes out — the demo, or a test-pressing.
What can listeners expect to hear on your farewell KROQ show?
A lot of new music. There’s a new one from The Fontaines. I really like this band The Atomics — they’re all models, three sisters from New York and the drummer. They’re going to be playing The Roxy June 21. There’s a new girl I’ve been playing, Fiona Silver. I think I’ll do a couple drop-ins. The Ramones on my first show, I’ll play that — they were my in-studio guests.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a new Christmas album coming out: “Santa’s Got a GTO 2,” on Gearhead Records. It’ll have The Woolly Bandits, The Dollyrots, C.J. Ramone, Franky + the Studs, The Donnas.
I’m going to miss KROQ. It’s been a second home to me — late at night, kick back and play whatever you want. My own playlists. I’m looking at offers from different people [to do radio]. Hopefully I’ll get on earlier.