Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, May 23, 2003

How MY Memory Works (Well)

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Amazing, I said to myself.

Simply unbelievable when you analyze it and don't let it fly away like another of life occurences.

In 1975 I had one of my first professional work experiences in a commercial radio station in Rome, Italy. Among the sound technicians, or those who would humbly sit on the other side of a sound-proff glass wall to maneuver volumes of microphones and to open up live calls from listeners, there was a nice blond fellow, of foreign origin, which worked silently and precisely as a swiss clock.

I remember of him well because his personality was unique, and nothing could ever perturb him. He was quiet, attentive and always attending his work. Me and Maurizio Amici (the owner and chief operating officer of the radio at that time) had many good jokes about him in the after hours, and we liked having a guy like him on our team.

I have tried to remember the name of this blond, curly, long haired guy, as some of the good memories of those times included his presence, but no matter how much effort I have put into this, that strange, slavic name having a two Gs as initials, would not come back to my memory.

In those years, the private radio industry in Italy went through a complete revolution, opening up space to thousands of independent radio stations like Italians never had before (before only two two state-controlled radio channels were basically all that one could listen to). That revolution, for the young people like me and this blonde audio technician, was akin to the Internet revolution of the 90's, where any young person within his own right mind, dived and invested all of her good energies in playing, tinkering, discovering, and interacting with that new media communication tool.

So, in the 70's, many bright young creative Italian brains, either in their last year of school (like me), already in university or still grappling with the search of a job that had some meaning to them, converged easily and naturally around this new media banquet that was the launch of private radio stations in Italy.

I had the most wonderful time.

I learned and mastered so much about communication, technology, methods and tools in those courageous years, that the learning experiences are still vivid and useful.

As a small radio in a big city market like Rome, we dreamed of breaking audience shares and of surpassing the RAI-state owned channel in number of listeners, but we didn't have the means of measuring or accounting for this.

Young people like me would work seven days a week, even late at night, doing all kinds of creative and dirty jobs, because we felt we had mission and an opportunity to take. The music was I guess the binding glue for all of us. We loved and believed so much in its more idealistic aspects that we felt no shame in devoting our very best energies and time to make it known, understood and valued.

New communication approaches, better and more effective ways of reporting news, much greater interaction with listeners, as well as listeners involvement in making and creating the news, commentary and conversation that so well permeates the radio medium, that I and them did indeed make some real, historical changes to how radio was to be done and benefitted from, at least in this country.

We were not alone, the same was happening in France, and I do recall reading avidly the news to see their frustrations, battles and discussions move ahead or trail behind our owns. There were lessons to be learned everywhere.

So, it was indeed, for a good part of Europe, an important communication change. One of the first opportunities were even the individual could have voice. A voice as a listener, a voice a s a partickipant and contributor, a voice as a maker, interviewer, DJ or talk-show man if one wanted do.

I find this very akin, though in a much smaller and more local scale, to what happened 20 years later with the Internet.

What happened then with radio was that after an initial neophyte period in which all experimentation, testing and trying out of new ideas was exhausted, laws, more centralised controls, and greater interest by the advertising agencies and newspaper publishers gradually stifled much of the innovation of the medium and of its resources.

Few, in Italian private radio industry have remained truly independent and with a good open ear to the their listeners. Many have been gobbled up by larger conglomerates, interests or media groups. Some to their benefit, some to their final extinction.

Innovation, new ideas, and opportunity to move beyond what commercial interests and the recording industry want from their customers is little and re-digested under apparently more independent interests (soccer, soccer, soccer).


Well, the parallel between these two communication media, across a local reality, and across the world spanned by the Internet, do bring more evidence to the risks we are running into when too much regulation and vested interests start to step in, inside the media I and you want to use to communicate, learn and improve the society we live in.

It is in mine and your interest that these communication media remain open to me and you in a way that allows this media to leverage the great content, musical expertise and stories many of us have to share.

If radio is to play only those records that the majors peddle how can we ever hear about those bands that do not work for them?

If the news are not necessarily as seen as CBS, NBC, Canale 5, or RAI Uno who is going to tell me?

If these media are there to allow us to communicate, learn and exchange from each other, I should well plan to devote some serious effort to make sure that the media (Internet included) are not controlled and regulated exclusively by vested interests (political, or commercial).

If I don't do so, I will be just contributing to make the political issues and the overincreasing advertising brainwash take complete control of such media.

I am not paranoid.

Nor I am completely gone nuts.

I am looking with good perspective and with some mental distance at what is happening in front of me.

And I do think, and question myself.

Of course, if you read newspapers and look at TV news everyday, this is not something that comes easy to do, even if you wanted to.

But if you do some travelling, out of your country, into different cultures, and you turn off the daily stream coming from your CNN or Daily of choice, you wil may start to see a different picture.

If you believe to be a truly open-minded person, then give it a try.


And then I was back into reality, 8:30am at the cross light of Piazzale degli Eroi in Rome, with my motor bike waiting for the green light.

There in front me, jumping ahead of all the cars like a missile shot out of Cape Canaveral, there was a young guy on a "motorino" (small motorbike you can drive without a license) taking the lead.

You probably cannot imagine what goes on at Rome's cross lights in those morning hours.

Troops of motor scooters line up on the first row at each red light, passing ahead of all the cars patiently waiting in line. Then they tacitly set up for an informal Le-Mans-like race start driven by the green light at each forced stop.

And so there it was, this motorino jumping ahead of all others, and coming out of his helmet a beautiful lock of shining long blond hair.

My eyes locked into them.
I could zoom and see them perfectly.
I knew those locks well, as few Italians have anything like that on their heads.

It was a matter of nanoseconds.

In my visual mental display the letters displayed clear and brilliant:


The name of that audio technician I had worked with at the private radio station while still in my teens, and whose name I tried so hard to remember many times before, suddenly came back with such ease and clarity.

I was elated.

The blond long lock had made the magik. Missing other references in my memory stack my internal brain had been looking for a "hook", a trace, any element that would help retrive that memory record I had so dear.

And there it came when I least expected it, in the way I would have never imagined.

And in the story, it made me think and see things that I had not considered before.

Thank you Gereon, if you are still out there.

Readers' Comments    
2004-02-06 11:00:34


Ma sei proprio tu??? Che fine hai fatto? Mandami il tuo numero che ti chiamo

2003-05-30 15:43:04


Hi Robin Good, or God?
We know everything. Everything. We just have to get our file clerks off their backsides. Sometimes, when they think the information is not needed anymore, they hide it in a small corner of the big hard disk in the sky. They then have to be put to the task of finding it and sooner or later it is presented without preamble, as happened when you saw that blond hair G-E-R-E-O-N G-A-L-I-T-Z-I-A not even time to end your thought when the clerk caughs up the guys name!

posted by Robin Good on Friday, May 23 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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