Frog’s Midnight Album

November 10, 2010

For the first year or so that radio first had captured my interest, I was hesitant to roll the bones and scan the dial for fear of ending up in some hostile, unfamiliar musical terrain that might warp my psyche.

So, the orange hand indicating frequency on the cheap stereo in my bedroom was perpetually set to 101.9 – Q102. The station – based on the talk ’round the water fountain – tested well with my junior high peers.

As, at the outset, I had no expectations that music would be much more than something to fill the air around me, it made sense to align myself with a station that allowed me to contribute to hallway chatter.

So, it was Q102 which was Top 40 station but with a dose of songs from acts like The Who, Led Zeppelin, and others that would – a decade or so later – become the backbone of classic rock stations.

(at the time, neither Baba O’Reilly nor Black Dog were even ten years old and Keith Moon and John Bonham were still recently deceased)

There was a small cadre of classmates who were fiercely loyal to WEBN.

These kids usually had older siblings in high school and there was something more dangerous about ‘EBN in my mind. It was the station for long-haired hooligans who smoked cigarettes as the station blared from their Trans-Ams.

I doubt that I’d even listened to the station and I likely suspected that doing so would turn me into a juvie.

But as we reached the summer of ’82 – for me, the summer between leaving junior high and entering high school – I began to surf the dial with total abandon and even dial up ‘EBN.

No portal to Hell opened.

The station played some songs that I knew from Q102 so I was familiar with Journey, Joan Jett, and Asia, but there were acts that I’d never heard before – Black Sabbath, a lot of solo Ozzy, Rush, Jimi Hendrix…

It didn’t all resonate with me, but it became obvious that music was not going to turn me into a juvie.

And, the most appealing thing about this new station to me was Frog’s Midnight Album during which each weeknight the station would air a new album, one side at a time.

I had just begun to make a commitment to music, buying a handful of albums on cassette.

Frog’s Midnight Album was a chance to preview candidates that might earn consideration for my meager, hard-earned allowance. Of course, as blank tape was more affordable, the show also allowed me to build up a bit of a collection of albums.

Scanning the albums released as we headed for Thanksgiving in 1982, there are plenty of familiar titles. Here are four songs from some of those arrivals that I seem to recall hearing on Frog’s Midnight Album

Rush – Subdivisions
from Signals

I quickly realized upon entering high school that Rush was the only band that mattered for the stoners in band. At the time, I might have known the Canadian trio’s Tom Sawyer but likely little more.

But the group had a hit from Signals New World Man – that was getting played on all the stations and, upon hearing the album, I became a devotee of the band, eventually owned most of their catalog, and have seen them a couple of times live.

The pulsatic Subdivisions, which chronicled the pressures to “be cool or be cast out,” seemed awfully deep at the time and, if it might sound considerably obvious now, it’s still pretty stellar.

Pat Benatar – Anxiety (Get Nervous)
from Get Nervous

Even had I not ventured beyond Q102 or Top 40 radio, I would have been well acquainted with Pat Benatar as a string of hits made her a fixture on the airwaves in the early ’80s. She was fetching in spandex and her songs were on every crude mixtape I was making from the radio.

I dug the New Wave-vibe on Anxiety. I don’t remember hearing it on the radio, but I do know for certain that I had Get Nervous recorded onto a Maxell cassette courtesy of Frog’s Midnight Album.

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown
from Spring Session M

I do remembering hearing Destination Unknown on ‘EBN that autumn and, as much as I hate to admit it, my newly-developing ears mistakenly though the song to be The Go-Gos (especially as the station wouldn’t always name what had been played).

By the following summer, it seemed all of my friends and I had a copy of Spring Session M. Their sci-fi, space-age sound and the comely looks and style – plexiglass, fishbowl bra cups, bikini bottoms made of posters, and cotton-candy hair – of lead singer Dale Bozzio were irresistible to our teenage ears and eyes.

Jefferson Starship – Winds Of Change
from Winds Of Change

I knew Jefferson Starship for Miracles and early ’80s hits like Jane and Find Your Way Back. I saw them perform the latter two on an episode of Fridays late one night in ’81 (introduced by Father Guido Sarducci and Dawn).

Grace Slick struck me as a force of nature and, if I made a list of favorite female vocalists, she’d have to be considered. I’ve never really delved into the music of Jefferson Airplane/Starship much beyond the radio hits.

But I dug the title song for Winds Of Change when I heard it late one night on ‘EBN. The album got disinterested reviews at the time (if I recall), but I liked the song’s spacey, barren feel and Grace’s howl.

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Peaches

April 14, 2010

Even before I really cared much about music, I knew the name Peaches. I’d seen it on the t-shirts of the cool high school kids in my hometown.

By junior high, I was hearing the name Peaches daily on one station or another out of Cincinnati. The record store was one of the outlets rattled off at the end of commercials for tickets to upcoming concerts.

I’m not sure how many Peaches there were – there’s little about the chain on the internet – but one of the more iconic record stores of my childhood was the one on Colerain Avenue.

(this is the same Colerain Avenue as the one where Dustin Hoffman professes to purchase his underwear at K-Mart in Rain Man)

Above the entrance and the windows, looming up on the building were large reproductions of the biggest albums of the moment. Inside, there was a lot of wood. And a lot of aisles.

It was the size of the place that was memorable.

Between our hometown and Cincinnati was forty-five miles of mostly small towns and farmland. The only place to purchase music for us was a small section of the discount store in the town square – three bins of albums and one of 45s, a section of the adjoining wall devoted to racks of cassettes.

(thank [the diety of your choice] for the Columbia Record and Tape Club)

Peaches was more music then any of us had ever seen.

And it was primarily vinyl.

Once my friends and I were old enough to drive ourselves into The City, Peaches wasn’t necessarily a guaranteed shopping destination. We were mall rats and there were several malls with several record stores in each that offered us a more efficient use of our time.

(oddly, I don’t recall those chain stores – places like Record Bar, Musicland, and Camelot – being quite as homogenized as they would become)

Instead, it was dependent upon who was with us whether Peaches was a stop or not. If Beej or Bosco was in our group, it was more likely that we’d make an attempt. The rest of us were listening to cassettes.

I liked those trips to Peaches. I’d browse the LP bins, taking mental notes of titles which I wanted to snag on cassette. Sometimes, I’d find a copy at there; other times, I’d have to wait ’til we made our way elsewhere.

The first time I set foot in Peaches must have been in the spring of 1981. Being several years from having my license, I had tagged along with my parents and negotiated a stop at Peaches. I was on the clock, but I knew what I wanted and I checked out with a copy of Styx’ Paradise Theater on cassette.

Here are four songs that I was hearing a lot on radio in April, 1981…

Styx – The Best Of Times
from Paradise Theater

There was no escaping Styx on the radio during the late ’70s and early ’80s in our world. It wasn’t happening.

I loved them. This was deep music. I was in junior high.

But it was their Paradise Theater album that landed me in Peaches for the first time. The Best Of Times was mammoth that spring and the radio stations I was listening to were playing Too Much Time On My Hands, Nothing Ever Goes As Planned, and Snowblind heavily, too.

Journey – The Party’s Over (Hopelessly In Love)
from Captured

Journey, too, was a midwestern staple. By the end of ’81, Escape would make them one of the biggest bands in the US, but, that spring, they had released the live/stop-gap album Captured.

The Party’s Over (Hopelessly In Love) still sounds very cool.

Donnie Iris – Ah! Leah!
from Back On The Streets

The fine folks over at Popdose have kind words for Donnie Iris this week much to my delight. I’ve loved his songs since I first heard Iris while listening to local radio on family vacations to Western Pennsylvania (from where Iris rose to semi-prominence and still resides).

I didn’t hear his songs as much back home. Ah! Leah! did. It was too monstrous to ignore. It’s a towering, glorious behemoth of a song. It thunders and shudders and Iris wails like a man possessed.

Jefferson Starship – Find Your Way Back
from Modern Times

Is it me or does Grace Slick get overlooked a bit?

I know that a lot the Airplane fans were none too pleased with the direction the band took in the late ’70s, but songs like Find Your Way Back and their other hits of the period were, if not essential to the band’s catalog, engaging arena rockers nonetheless. I seem to recall seeing them perform this song on Fridays around the time it was a hit.


The DJ Wanted To See Us Naked (And I Had No Idea Where It Would Go From There)

May 7, 2008

Of late, my thoughts have been pre-occupied with nautical nonsense – giant squids and repeated viewings of Jaws – and, as I have no sea shanties to post, I thought that I’d take some shore leave. Fortunately, JB over at the wonderful The Hits Keep Comin’ has made me nostalgic for a time when radio meant something in my life – actually, it meant everything.

Music wasn’t a part of the landscape of our home when I was growing up. The radio was tuned in to the local country station but mostly for the weather. Although my parents were teens during the birth of rock and roll, like so many people music was hardly a need in their lives once they reached adulthood.

I do recall a few albums being played as a kid – stuff like Roy Orbison, Ray Price, and The Statler Brothers – as well as the odd, current hit single. I had little interest and, now, I wonder how I spent my time before I fell in love with music.

However, my time – almost all of my time – would soon be filled with music as the result of two things that were conversation staples among my classmates in junior high as the result of the popularity of Q102 out of Cincinnati.

The first thing that had my classmates abuzz was the on-air antics of Q102 DJ Mark Sebastian. Sebastian was irreverent and, to us, completely outrageous, signing off his shifts with the declaration, “And remember that I, Mark Sebastian, want to see you completely naked.” In 1981, in Southeastern Indiana, that was inconceivably shocking.

The other topic of many conversations centered on the previous evening’s Top Ten at 10, during which the ten most popular songs of the day would be counted down. Tuning in nightly, something clicked in my pre-teen consciousness, some connection was made and these songs, some for only a brief time, meant something to me. Music suddenly mattered and nothing in my life would ever be the same.

So, here are a few of the songs that were all the rage in those early months of 1981…

Styx – The Best Of Times
Styx – as well as Journey, REO Speedwagon and Kansas – was a staple on radio in the Midwest and Paradise Theater was the album among many of my friends. Not only were they my first concert two years later, but Paradise Theater was one of the first cassettes I ever purchased. Along with The Best Of Times, Too Much Time On My Hands and Rockin’ The Paradise were fixtures in Q102’s Top Ten.

Blondie – Rapture
While some of my early favorites hold little appeal to me now aside from nostalgia, Blondie’s stature has only grown as my tastes have matured. Musical chameleons fronted by Debbie Harry, whose non-musical charms had us equally as captivated, Rapture was the introduction to hip-hop for many kids of my generation.

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
The tall, blond one and the short, dark-haired one known as Hall & Oates were an unstoppable radio juggernaut in the early ‘80s. As a teenager during that time, it seemed hard to imagine a world without a Hall & Oates song every twenty minutes.

John Cougar – Ain’t Even Done With The Night
Before he was John Mellencamp, saving American farms, and incessantly reminding television viewers that “this is our country,” he was simply John Cougar (or, as my friend Bosco would refer to him, Johnny Hoosier). He’s arguably done better music since those early years, but this is, perhaps, the one song of his which I still never tire of hearing.