Monday, September 20, 2010

Alex Farkash - our Music Maestro

I first met Alex Farkash late 1993 after I was tasked with managing the music on Primedia's newly acquired station Today FM. One of the programme directors for Primedia, John Taylor, had heard about Alex's great collection of music through Alex's sister-in-law Jeanne of Mai FM, and gave me the phone number to make contact and see what he had to offer. Well, what a treasure trove of material on CD covering then, mainly all the major hits from the mid fifties through to the mid sixties - just so right for Today FM aiming at the more mature market.

Alex was really enjoying being able to help a station build up its repertoire and so initially he would come over from the North Shore with a pile of his CDs to 107 Great North Road, Grey Lynn in the weekends and we would load these into the automated 'Dalet' system used at the time.

After most of the big hits were loaded into the system, we changed to my going via Alex's place mid week to sort out the Tonight At Seven artist features for the next week and plan Alex's inspired segment of lesser known numbers to be played from 7:30 to 8pm Friday nights.
Alex got special pleasure from hearing Jacqui Taite of the morning/afternoon show playing requested songs from the previous Friday Show. This meant Alex's picks were striking a chord with some of the listeners.

These were the days before the prevelance of the internet, so I would have a carry case for CDs and Alex would note what CDs I had borrowed. That list was very useful to remind me what I still had to return - especially where he had spent hundreds of dollars on the rarer imported collections (Including the Sony Japan collection of 9 Nat King Cole CDs). Alex's box sets of his favourite artists also had so much biographical material, with the Bear Family collections being especially full on (with more information than you ever thought you would need to know). The information was great for building the Tonight At Seven features on various artists - and adding to my knowledge of the music and artists.

With so much artist information swirling around we would each remember different segments of an artist and song. Thus sometimes I would remind Alex it was him that shared a snippet of trivia that he had since forgotten. Graeme Andersen was a name that came up from feed back on our Features on Today FM and it seemed logical to introduce Graeme to Alex as a fellow music collector affionado.

Thus developed our Saturday Music Lunches, probably after Today FM had closed down and the Unforgettable Music Society was formed to fill the void. Alex even came to a meeting at Eric Allen's place about our options in acquiring our own frequency but we were up against some major players in the changing and competitive radio market.

With Errol Baker of Auckland Jazz Radio and myself with Unforgettable Music we hired time on Soo Lee Lim's Radio Asia Pacific, on 1593AM.
One of the bereft listeners of Today FM, Brian Cumber, put me in touch with Ayden Wolf, as a young man, who had some very useful computer skills. Ayden quickly had us moving from CD players and Alex's CDs to things being computerised and music being converted to mp3 files on a computer hard drive. Through Ayden needing his father to meet the learner driver requirements we had his dad Jim Wolf come on the scene as well.
We managed 10 years on 1593AM until dwindling resources forced us to stop. During the heyday of our time on 1593AM we had Saturday evenings as well as Sunday afternoons.

With Unforgettable Music on 1593AM being mainly run by volunteers we were needing to introduce radio students and new people to radio and getting them to plan Feature Artist programmes was a good learning process. Alex remained ever helpful finding the songs requested by these 'young uns' that they learned about from their research, mainly on the internet.

Another feature of the Sunday Show was the Comparison segment, illustrated by playing the hit version and the orginal release. Alex developed this further as a new focus for him in working Dick Rosemont of the US and his website Originals Project. Alex also worked with some fellow music collectors in the US, (Wayne Swickley, Kaarlo Rintala and that he caught up with when visiting with sister Clari.
Even after the winding down of Unforgettable Music's Sunday programmes, and less need to search out songs, myself, Jim Wolf, occasionally Ayden and even ex neighbour Don Stuart continued meeting at Alex's place for our Saturday music lunches.

Which brings us to the day of Alex's funeral 21 September 2010 and unfinished projects of completing the Billboard Top 100 to the end of the 1970s.

We still have work to do and with the help of the Farkash family, we can press on - in honour of one big heart that might have stopped beating but the melody lingers on.