As I began my sophomore year of high school in autumn of ’83, I was increasingly exploring the musical terrain beyond Top 40. And, Indianapolis’ Q95, an album rock station which I had begun listening to in the spring, was a frequent destination when listening to the radio.
(though, by Halloween, the modern rock of 97X would become the station du juor – on nights when I could pull in the station’s signal)
But, Q95 was the place for straight-ahead rock for me. WEBN, out of Cincinnati was the most popular rock station at our high school which was likely why I opted for Q95 as it seemed more exotic. As I recall there wasn’t that much of a difference between the two stations.
One difference was that Q95 had The Bob & Tom Show (and this was a dozen years before the show went national). Nothing helped ease the pain of being up early for school like the antics of the duo.
Musically, I still dug Hall & Oates, Duran Duran, and a lot of the other staples of Top 40 at the time, but Q95 was providing me with exposure to the catalogs of classic acts like Pink Floyd, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.
I was also hearing deeper album tracks by acts that were also having pop radio hits like Journey, Billy Squier, and ZZ Top.
The station showed support for local heros like John Cougar/John Cougar Mellencamp and Henry Lee Summer and – as to be expected – heartland rock bands from Styx and REO Speedwagon to lesser-knowns like Shooting Star were staples.
And Q95 was the station where I remember hearing Iron Maiden for the first time.
It was the station where I listened to syndicated radio shows like Rockline and the concert program King Biscuit Flower Hour.
The latter gave me the opportunity to hear live music – to hear the sometimes amazing twists and acquaint myself with the time-honored clichés – at a time when there wasn’t much opportunity for me to attend shows.
Q95 was actually one of my longer radio station relationships. When I left for college, I couldn’t listen to 97X, but Q95 remained well within range.
By the end of the ’80s the station was playing too much Winger when I would rather have heard Concrete Blonde or Cocteau Twins. However, Q95, though holding less allure for me, remained the best option on radio.
(our college station was a cable outlet so, unless you were home, it lacked convenience as well as being prone to offering time slots to student DJs hell-bent on attempting to be as esoteric as possible)
It was finally distance that ended the relationship between me and Q95. I graduated from school and left the Midwest and the station behind.
I haven’t listened to Q95 in almost two decades, but here are four songs I remember hearing on the station as autumn arrived in 1983…
Heart – How Can I Refuse?
Passionworks was one of Heart’s albums released during the lull between their successful period from the mid- through late-’70s and their even more successful period from the mid- through late ’80s. I’m sure, at the time, I knew little by the sisters Wilson aside from Magic Man and Barracuda.
But I dug How Can I Refuse?, especially the opening line of “Wake me up with laughter.” It was playful and flirtatious power pop that was a bit slicker than the band’s ’70s hits and hinted at the direction Heart would take with 1985’s mega-selling, self-titled comeback album.
The Moody Blues – Sitting At The Wheel
from The Present
The Moody Blues had experienced their own return to the limelight in 1981 with Long Distance Voyager and the hits Gemini Dream and The Voice. The Present wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, but the enthusiastic Sitting At The Wheel – though dated like much of the band’s ’80s output – sounded good to me at the time.
I didn’t own the album, but I was fascinated by its artwork – a variation on Maxfield Parrish’s painting Daybreak. Years later, Paloma exposed me to Parrish’s work and I quickly made the connection.
Robert Plant – In The Mood
from The Principle Of Moments
In the autumn of ’83, I was still becoming acquainted with Led Zeppelin’s extensive catalog and I was completely unfamiliar with Robert Plant’s solo debut from the year before. However, I quickly became quite familiar with his follow-up, The Principle Of Moments, when it was released at summer’s end.
Not only had I seen the video for the album’s first hit, Big Log, on Friday Night Videos, Q95 was playing several songs from the record including the shimmering In The Mood.
Zebra – Tell Me What You Want
During the summer of ’83, several friends were twitterpated over Zebra and their song Who’s Behind The Door? They were hardly alone as the trio’s debut quickly attracted fans (and detractors) for the heavy Zeppelin influence in their sound.
I liked the name and found the song intriguing.
As autumn approached, Q95 had moved on to another track, the driving Tell Me What You Want. With two songs that I thought were pretty stellar, I took the plunge, bought a copy of Zebra (on cassette), and promptly wore it out.