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BOOK REVIEW The Harmony of Parts
by Liz Baudler
2017-07-05

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By John Garabedian, with Ian Aldrich. $29.95; Orange Frazer Press; 411 pages

John Garabedian's world is a world of technology and song, of competition and fame.

It's the world of Top 40 radio, a world most of us never get to see and Garabedian entered in high school. An early obsessive who bugged his parents for a tape recorder in elementary school, as a teenager Garabedian made a spoof recording of his favorite radio show and gave it to the host. This landed him his first job in radio, and he's remained there: as DJ, engineer and station owner, ever since. The Harmony of Parts is his story of how he succeeded in radio, constantly adapting to a shifting landscape, and putting him in contact with generations of music fans and stars from Aerosmith to Katy Perry.

Garabedian also had a secret, a secret he was hiding pretty well until a pretty boy named Joe came along. He was bisexual. This revelation got him fired from his first DJ gig—he eventually got the job back years later, but it left him with the idea that openness was potentially scary. Throughout the next few decades, Garabedian constantly balanced escalating work with relationships, though he was often looking for a new job more than a new partner.

Life in radio, at least the way Garabedian lived it, seemed like constant conquest of breaking stories and finding new music and new projects to pursue. Readers might find themselves rooting for Garabedian's stations and relationships to succeed. He clearly had an eye for younger men, at one point falling for a 16-year-old, but also respected their personhood and helped them grow professionally and personally through including them in his radio ventures.

Toward the end the narrative slightly loses steam as Garabedian focuses on his current project, Open House Party. It's interesting to hear about his championing of Lady Gaga, whose first version of "Poker Face" apparently sounded a little obscene on the radio waves so Garabedian suggested cleaning up the consonants, but it's more snippets than scene.

The Harmony of Parts is a unique look at a niche world through someone attuned to every aspect of it. It's worth a read for those who know Garabedian's radio work and those who hadn't considered how radio works, and how sexuality can be a burden in any profession.


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