Barely Awake For "Frog’s Midnight Album"

So, JB at the always engaging The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ invited me to write for Vinyl Record Day. The list includes a lot of blogs which I frequent and there’s some of my favorite writing on many of them. Cool to be invited, but for some reason a bit daunting, too (I’ve mentally scrapped a half dozen ideas over the past three days).

Anyhow, Paloma and I have so recently begun to collect vinyl that every time we go into a store, we both usually have exited with more than a couple wonderful surprises each. Today alone, I managed to nab Kate Bush’ The Sensual World, OMD’s Junk Culture, a good copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk for a dollar (to replace a copy that skips), Marianne Faithfull’s Dangerous Acquaintances, and – based on its appearance – an unplayed copy of Styx’ The Grand Illusion (it’s a childhood/first concert thing).

Possibly the best discovery has not been a single album, but the rediscovery of an album as a collection of songs – as a single work. There can be an art in the sequencing and there are often hidden gems to be found (the torch song Change My Mind from The Motels’ All Four One has been an example of the latter).

One of the most popular radio stations when I was growing up was Cincinnati’s WEBN, an album-rock outlet whose mascot was a frog (no connection). For me, Frog’s Midnight Album was appointment listening – weeknights, at midnight, a new album played in its entirety (it’s a bit sad to think that hundreds of those on Maxell cassettes are likely in a landfill somewhere).

By early 1983, I was more aware of street dates, but as we lived far enough from a major city, I usually had to wait for albums. Those midnight albums on WEBN were a lifeline. I lost a lot of sleep, but I got to hear a lot of music.

So, in the spirit of this day, here are half a dozen songs (ripped, of course, from vinyl) from some of those late nights, listening to (and taping from) Frog’s Midnight Album. (and to find a summary of other blogs devoted to today…go here.

Journey – Send Her My Love
One of the first eagerly-awaited albums of my early music fandom was Frontiers, Journey’s follow-up to Escape. Escape had been a monster and I remember hearing virtually every song from it on radio. Some stations had even given heavy airplay to Only Solutions, the band’s track from the Tron soundtrack, as Escape had run its course.

Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers first single in January of 1983. It seemed like it was always playing on one station or another and, if I recall, the full album was released in early February. I think that WEBN played it the night before street date.

At the time, they could do no wrong and I must have listened to Frontiers a thousand times throughout that spring and summer. Now, I can hear it as a (seemingly) rather calculated imitation of Escape, but Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

The Police – Tea In The Sahara
My early interest in The Police was influenced by my friend Brad (whom I’d met in first grade). He had all of their first four albums, but he also cost me the chance to see them live. He was the friend in our group who unfailingly was able to provide transportation (often without explicit approval from his mom or older brother).

Yet, when The Police came to Cincinnati in the summer of 1984 on their Synchronicity tour (and what would prove to be the final tour of The Police as a working band), Brad had absolutely no interest in the show. I know not why and it is something that puzzles me to this day.

Synchronicity was a constant that summer, though. On the radio, with friends, the album was everywhere and, unlike a lot of Police fans, I do consider it their masterpiece. Not perfect – Paloma has forbidden me to play Mother – but the best of it is awfully close. Tea In The Sahara might be my favorite track.

Frontiers and Escape – those were the two dominant albums of that period for me. But their were other albums that I recorded from WEBN that also defined the time, too.

Cheap Trick – I Can’t Take It
Cheap Trick was on the decline in 1983 and even I, with so little musical history or context, knew it. Although I listened to Next Position Please, it felt like I was doing so more out of loyalty – my friends and I had loved the previous year’s One On One – than interest. But, it was the first Cheap Trick album I owned and I Can’t Take It is pretty stellar.

The Fixx – Reach The Beach
The Fixx and their inconsistent albums were a bit maddening for me. None of their albums I’ve heard has truly engaged me from start to finish, although they’ve had numerous songs – Red Skies, Saved By Zero, Deeper And Deeper, Driven Out – which I loved.

However, 1983’s Reach The Beach was possibly their strongest album. One Thing Leads To Another did nothing for me, but the title song was very Fixx with a moody vibe, not quite dreamy and a bit chilly, with mysterious sounding lyrics.

The Kinks – State Of Confusion
For some reason unknown to me, The Kinks were one of the most popular bands among my friends as well as our schoolmates. It wasn’t simply their classic ’60s stuff, but their newer material from albums like Low Budget and Give The People What They Want.

So, it was a given that 1983’s State Of Confusion would be popular with us. It turned out to be popular with a lot of people (that little song Come Dancing did quite well). The title song was my favorite and a lovely mix of angst and optimism with a mesmerizing chorus.

The Tubes – She’s A Beauty
As my friend Brad influenced my interest in The Police, our friend Bosco influenced our entire group’s interest in The Tubes. Their songs were referenced on a daily basis and Bosco would address you as “Fee” or “Spooner” in honor of band members. So, like The Kinks’ State Of Confusion, The Tubes’ Outside/Inside arrived with the same single-minded interest from us in the spring of 1983.

It didn’t disappoint us as it did a lot of listeners who were fans of their more avant-garde material (all I knew was 1981’s The Completion Backward Principle). But Outside/Inside was a lot of fun and I still remember hearing She’s A Beauty for the first time on 96Rock.

To this day, I don’t think that I’ve ever known a fan more devoted to one band than Bosco was to The Tubes (though he did find time for a lot of other music).

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8 Responses to Barely Awake For "Frog’s Midnight Album"

  1. Jeff says:

    Thanks for recalling the days of full albums played on the radio.

    That spirit remains alive at The Midnight Tracker, a blog where we share a vintage album side roughly once a month. If so inclined, check it out at midnighttracker.wordpress.com

    Thanks, Jeff

  2. Any major dude with half a heart says:

    The Tubes song was one of my summer hits of 1984. Absolutely loved it, and played it in conjunction with the Cars “You Migtht Think”. Somewhere along the way, my copies of both albums disappeared. Then, a few years ago, I managed to download both songs. The Cars track has aged a bit but sounded OK, but the Tubes song…what did I ever see in it?

    Oh, and no need to feel daunted by the quality of some of the blogs you and I visit. You are doing very well indeed; I always look forward to reading your posts.

  3. My hmphs says:

    I was always partial to Escape, and my friends and I played “Stone in Love” constantly. A much better album, IMHO…

    And I still can’t picture the Tubes as weirdo avant-garde artists, because “She’s a Beauty” was so radio-friendly. That was my first exposure to them.

    (Did you see the “Grand Illusion” reference in my Vinyl Day post? 🙂 )

  4. whiteray says:

    The local college radio station here did the same thing, and I spent many a late night/early morning listening to entire albums, some long-loved and others new. Great post and good selections!

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  6. […] arrives in the middle of side one of The Police’s mega-selling Synchronicity and, at the time when I had recorded the album from Frog’s Midnight Album on WEBN, it was the one song which I was guaranteed to skip […]

  7. […] taped Synchronicity from the radio on Frog’s Midnight Album when it was debuted prior to its release and weeks before I could get into Cincinnati and to a […]

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