A collection of the greatest music stories never told. Join Lost Notes for Bent By Nature , a new 10-part documentary series and digital archive about the most influential American DJ you've never heard of. Deirdre O’Donoghue was a vital force in the musical underground of the 1980s. Countless artists crammed into her studio to perform live on her late-night show, “SNAP!” on KCRW. And after 40 years, those legendary sessions will be heard again. Join Michael Stipe, Henry Rollins, Julian Cope, and more for a sound-packed series from the producers of Lost Notes and Unfictional transporting you to the heyday of ‘80s independent music and the DJ who shaped it.
Throughout “Bent By Nature,” you’ve heard many stories of the lifelong connections set in motion by Deirdre O’Donoghue. But none were quite as surprising as the bond between Deirdre and fellow iconoclast Henry Rollins , the former Black Flag frontman, musician, writer, actor, activist, and longtime KCRW host . After a chance meeting in early 1984, Rollins became a regular voice on “SNAP!” And he quickly became one of her most treasured co-hosts and friends.
In our final episode of “Bent By Nature,” Rollins shares his remembrances of Deirdre: the DJ, tastemaker, and human being who changed his life irrevocably.
“You’re impossible to pigeonhole is what you are. You are simply Rollins. That’s all there is to it. And I rather like it.”
— Deirdre O’Donoghue, “SNAP!,” 3/22/84
The artist has got to be not like the historian. The historian’s got hindsight. He can go back and go, “That was a great moment.” But the artist’s got to go, “No, I was there.” It’s like, history is something that happens. You can’t be there at history. — Julian Cope, May 10, 1991
It’s May of 1991. Deirdre is in London, chatting backstage with post-punk indie underground legend Julian Cope. Cope has just released “Peggy Suicide,” one of the most ambitious and successful albums of his career. And while Deirdre’s in town, they’re hatching plans for Julian to appear on “SNAP!”
But just days after that announcement, “SNAP!” was off the air. Deirdre left KCRW for good in June of 1991. Then she left LA, too, for a while. The following year, she showed up in rural England to live with Cope and his family. Cope joins Bent By Nature to recount their unique relationship and roles in each other’s lives.
Half A World Away
It’s September of 1984. And Deirdre is head over heels for a fast-rising quartet from Athens, Georgia called R.E.M. In just a few years, the band’s music will be inescapable on commercial and college radio alike — and their massive success will mark a turning point for the American musical underground.
“There were moments when R.E.M., my former band, were hugely popular,” says ex-singer Michael Stipe. “And we were able to really push the boundaries of what's acceptable within mainstream culture. KCRW and Deirdre and ‘SNAP!’ were doing the same thing.” Stipe was a close friend of Deirdre’s, and of the countless bands who passed through their orbit. He gave Concrete Blonde their name; produced Vic Chesnutt’s first two albums; and introduced Deirdre to Hugo Largo, which led to their signing with Brian Eno ’s record label. In this episode, Stipe reflects on his life in LA in the mid-’80s, at a time when he and Deirdre were kindred spirits.
Ages of You
In the mid-1980s, two young women are coming of age in the San Fernando Valley. In a few years, when they’re teenagers, they’ll both latch onto DJ Deirdre O’Donoghue, for totally different reasons. Felicia Daniel becomes obsessed with the new music Deirdre is playing on “SNAP!” Her best friend, Tanja Laden, gets into Deirdre’s deep-dives into the past on her Sunday morning show, “Breakfast with the Beatles.”
On this week’s episode of “Bent By Nature,” we pay tribute to the listeners, whom Deirdre called “the heart and soul of ‘SNAP!’” It’s a story about two young women finding their way as outsiders, and the courage that music gives us to imagine our futures.
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1986. Deirdre is talking with the LA Times’ music critic, Robert Hilburn , about the musical trends of 1985.
Deirdre O’Donoghue: I don't think that the big, quote-unquote, "rock" stations can very much longer ignore the growing numbers of people who are listening to alternative radio stations all around the country ... with which you're seeing album sales, at least on a smaller level, but it's making a bump.
Among the acts Deirdre discovered that year was a crew of self-described “pot-smoking hippies from Santa Cruz.” Camper Van Beethoven lit up the college circuit in 1985 with their breakout single, “ Take the Skinheads Bowling .” And they quickly became one of Deirdre’s firm favorites.
David Lowery is Camper Van Beethoven’s guitarist and de facto frontman. He explains that Deirdre’s show was just one taproot for a larger movement which was spreading across the country in the mid-’80s. In this episode of “Bent By Nature,” he shares how the band navigated their own transition from indie darlings to major-label recording artists.
It’s Independence Day Weekend, 1988. And Deirdre is celebrating the return of Glass Eye, her favorite independent act from Austin, Texas. They’ve just released their third album, “Bent By Nature.” But Deirdre’s allegiance to the band went much deeper than a catchy title. For her, they represented the very best of what Austin had to offer, which at the time also included “SNAP!” staples like the Reivers, the Wild Seeds, and Poi Dog Pondering. Glass Eye’s two principals, Kathy McCarty and Brian Beattie, say that whenever Glass Eye came to LA, Deirdre welcomed them with open arms and a sincere appreciation of their own bent nature.