For years, Beau Phillips regaled friends and colleagues with crazy stories about rock radio’s heyday.
As program director and later general manager of beloved Seattle hard-rock station KISW-FM from 1978 to 1992, Phillips had plenty of tales to tell, most of them funny, some poignant.
Phillips’ self-released “I Killed Pink Floyd’s Pig,” subtitled “Inside Stories of Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll,” is a tell-all collection of more than 30 tales about an era when rock radio thrived on outrageous stunts, backstage shenanigans, clever promotions and outsized personalities. The book is available from Amazon.com.
It’s a fun, fast read that covers Phillips’ days at KISW as well as his subsequent career with MTV Networks and other companies. It also touches on his acquaintances with rock celebrities such as Sammy Hagar (who wrote the book’s forward), Joe Walsh, Robert Plant and Paul McCartney, as well as other Seattle radio personalities.
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The book takes its title from an infamous promotion that could have cost Phillips his job at KISW.
When Pink Floyd’s final tour came to Seattle in 1987, Phillips (with the help of concert promoter John Bauer) persuaded the band to let KISW tether its giant inflatable pig — a 40-foot-long prop dubbed Algie — to the roof of the station’s Seattle headquarters.
The promotion was a huge success and was visible for miles.
But on the morning of Pink Floyd’s concert at the (now-demolished) Kingdome, a KISW DJ phoned Phillips at 6 a.m. to report the pig was gone.
“I snapped awake. ‘What? How can the pig be gone?’ ” recalled Phillips, 61, who now lives in Maryland. “My mind raced as I sped toward the station. How could I explain to Pink Floyd that I lost their pig?”
When he got to the roof, Phillips discovered a mound of pink fabric. Someone had shot an arrow through the mascot.
“I suspected that the shooter must have come from KZOK-FM, our archrival rock station,” Phillips said with a laugh.
“Just months before, we had defaced their ‘Not Too Hard — Not Too Soft’ billboard. When I say ‘we,’ it was me who added the words ‘Not Too Good’ in spray paint.”
Phillips and his staff managed to find a parachute maker willing to repair the 300-pound inflatable on short notice.
With moments to spare, the stitched-up mascot was delivered to the Kingdome. Surprisingly, no one seemed to notice the patch as the pig floated in the semidarkness during the song “Pigs.”
Phillips, who is now president of the marketing and promotion company Rainmaker Media, laughed as he recounted another story from the book — the time Van Halen and entourage dropped by the station with strippers and a case of Champagne.
“The strippers jumped up on the console, tore off their bikini tops and started grinding to the beat. … Our phone lines bulged with callers wanting to shoot the breeze with Diamond Dave ([David Lee Roth).”
Then there was the time in 1993 when Phillips discovered Keith Richards sitting next to him in first class on a red-eye flight to New York. The two wound up chatting for much of the flight and when the plane landed, anticipating a mob of fans with guitars to be signed, Richards asked Phillips to pull him away quickly after signing the last autograph.
But Phillips noticed that Richards had actually signed Phillips’ name on the guitars instead of his own.
“What was that about?” Phillips asked.
“Look, I will do anything for my fans,” he said. “But those people just want my autograph so they can sell it. They’re not real fans.”
During Phillips’ final days at KISW, Seattle’s grunge explosion turned everything upside down, which helped usher in local alternative-rock station KNDD-FM.
“All of a sudden, hair bands looked ridiculous,” said Phillips, who nevertheless looks back affectionately on rock radio of the ’70s and ’80s.
“There was a perfect storm of exciting bands, prolific record labels, savvy concert promoters and destination record stores,” he said. “Radio was the megaphone that evangelized to the masses and helped break artists on a national scale.”
Gene Stout: email@example.com