October 2, 1982

September 29, 2012

At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).

It was an idea that I nicked from 70s Music Mayhem, a groovy blog that I’d been reading for awhile.

Each Saturday, like clockwork, there would be a new post in which Chris Stufflestreet would cover the songs that had been a debut on the Hot 100 from a corresponding date in the ’70s. It was an engaging mix of Joel Whitburn, Casey Kasem, and childhood nostalgia that was a favorite read.

And then, earlier this week, I was perusing another favorite internet outpost, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and was surprised to read that Chris had passed away last week.

I seem to recall exchanging an e-mail or two with Chris and the occasional comment on each other’s blog. I knew that he was considerably knowledgeable about baseball cards and I had been meaning to solicit his thoughts on a few items of sports memorabilia, but…

I didn’t know Chris, but, through his writing, I kind of felt like I did.

I’ll miss having his words to read as I lazily ease into a Sunday morning with coffee and offer my heartfelt condolences to any of his friends or family who might stumble upon here.

He seemed like a good guy.

Here are the ten songs that made their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 as October arrived this week thirty years ago…

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #8, 24 weeks on chart)

Punk didn’t make it to our part of the Midwest and, though I knew The Clash by name, I had never heard their music prior to Rock The Casbah.

(it would be over the next few years – and thanks to the passion my buddy Streuss had for the band – that I would discover what all the fuss was over “the only band that matters”)

I thought that Rock The Casbah was übercool as was the song’s video which makes fine use of both Burger King and armadillos.

Bad Company – Electricland
from Rough Diamonds (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #74, 4 weeks on chart)

I can’t say that I’ve ever had much affinity for Bad Company, though I much prefer the Paul Rodgers era to the late ’80s/early ’90s stuff sans Rodgers that briefly saw the band return to mainstream success.

And I can’t say that I’d ever heard Electricland, though its subdued, mysterious vibe briefly held my attention before I lost interest.

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown
from Spring Session M (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #42, 14 weeks on chart)

Missing Persons was as exotic as exotic got for me and my friends in 1982 and we totally took to the band. Their sci-fi, synth sound and the comely looks of lead singer Dale Bozzio – and her plexiglass, fishbowl bra cups, bikini bottoms made of posters, and cotton-candy hair – were irresistible to our teenage ears and eyes.

I think we all had a cassette of Spring Session M and I still dig it when Words or the spacey, hypnotic Destination Unknown pops up on the iPod or Sirius.

Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
(debuted #84, peaked #32, 17 weeks on chart)

During my junior high/high school years, Billy Squier was a rock god to most of the kids in my hometown. Of course, he was toppled from that exalted position as minor deity by the infamously bad video for Rock Me Tonight in 1984.

But when Emotions In Motion came out, he was still cool and Everybody Wants You was constantly playing from a radio or car stereo.

In fact, DJ Mark Sebastian from Q102 in Cincinnati – the station most of us listened to at the time – played the damned song repeatedly one night on his shift for an hour or two after supposedly locking himself in the DJ booth.

Timothy B. Schmit – So Much In Love
from Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack (1982)
(debuted #81, peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)

Apparently it was Irving Azoff, one of the film’s producers, who pushed for the inclusion of four solo Eagles and other ’70s acts on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The movie was a sensation but the kids in my high school in 1982 were listening to The Go-Gos and The Cars – who also had songs used – not Graham Nash, Jimmy Buffett, or Timothy B. Schmit.

Schmit’s contribution was a cover of So In Love, a hit by The Tymes from twenty years earlier, making the song positively antediluvian to us. Yet the song played during a closing scene in which the geek got the girl and, if its charms escaped me then, I find it pleasant enough now.

Bill Medley – Right Here And Now
from Right Here And Now (1982)
(debuted #80, peaked #58, 8 weeks on chart)

I had never heard Right Here And Now by Righteous Brother Bill Medley or, if I had, it hadn’t stuck. I listened to it and promptly forgot almost everything about it.

But, I do recall thinking that it wouldn’t have been out of place on one of the three or four soft rock stations on our dial in 1982.

Paul McCartney – Tug Of War
from Tug Of War (1982)
(debuted #75, peaked #53, 8 weeks on chart)

Paul McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War arrived with great expectations as it found the former Beatle reuniting with producer George Martin. The album received glowing reviews at the time and became a huge commercial hit driven by the ubiqitous duet with Stevie Wonder, Ebony And Ivory.

The title track was pulled as the third single from Tug Of War – following the breezy, summer hit Take It Away – and alternates between gentle and dramatic with a lilting melody and a hopeful vibe.

Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer
from Get Closer (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #29, 12 weeks on chart)

Linda Ronstadt had a fairly impressive run of hits in the ’70s, but her singles began to receive a less attention with Get Closer. To me, the title song from that 1982 album lacks the personality of her ’70s stuff.

(I thought the album’s lesser radio hits – I Knew You When and Easy For You To Say – were better)

I can’t hear Linda Ronstadt and not think of a classmate not long after Ronstadt had released Living In The USA album – the one with a cover shot of her on roller skates and wearing an inconceivably short pair of satin shorts.

Our teacher asked us to name something twelve-year old boys wanted.

The classmate raised his hand and replied, “Linda Ronstadt.”

Donna Summer – State of Independence
from Donna Summer (1982)
(debuted #70, peaked #41, 10 weeks on chart)

A cover of a track by Yes’ Jon Anderson and Vangelis, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence has a bouncy, reggae hitch and a quasi-spiritual lyric. The song builds to an inspirational swell with a vocal choir that included Michael Jackson, Brenda Russell, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder.

(supposedly the all-star vocal gathering inspired producer Quincy Jones for We Are The World a few years later)

I’ve not heard the original, but I was familiar with Moodswings’ version – retitled Spiritual High (State of Independence) – from the early ’90s which featured Chrissie Hynde on lead vocals.

Diana Ross – Muscles
from Silk Electric (1982)
(debuted #61, peaked #10, 17 weeks on chart)

Even though there wasn’t a lot of R&B on the radio when I first started listening – we had one station on a remote portion of the dial – Diana Ross was all over pop stations with songs like Upside Down, Endless Love, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Still, about the only time I heard Muscles was when listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 on the weekends. It struck me as an odd song – a slow, sparse track with Ross cooing and sighing of her longing for buffness.

Of course, each week Casey would remind listeners that the song was written by Michael Jackson who soon was on the countdown with The Girl Is Mine, his duet with Paul McCartney and the first single from Thriller which would arrive that Thanksgiving.

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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.


Destination Unknown

April 6, 2008

It’s true. I have absolutely no @#%&! Idea of where I’m going with this blog. Actually, if you had told me three years ago that I would even have a blog, I’d have asked Paloma if such a condition was something to which I should apply a topical cream.

In fact, the only reason I initially attempted to foist my hijinks upon anyone was purely mercenary. I had, for the first time in my life, found myself unemployed. I stumbled across a website promising that I could make money, potentially good money, by simply writing. Having had some success doing freelance music journalism, including some work for national publications, I should have known better, but I succumbed to the siren song.

So, for six months, I placed entries on Writing Up, with the attitude that, whether I made money or not, I’d, at the very least, be writing and doing so without any editorial handcuffs.

No money was made, but I did find a readership (and a gracious one at that) for my often non-sensical ramblings. A new job – an actual grown-up job – and life in general sucked my time and creative energy into a black hole and, by the time I pulled myself out, Writing Up had vanished.

All of the music blogs which I’ve been frequenting over the past year spurred me to take a stab at writing again. Not that my intention was to strictly write about music but rather to incorporate music into my entries, regardless of their subject matter.

Thus far, it has been difficult to find time to be creative and the grown-up job continues to be a drain, albeit a necessary one, on creative energy, so we shall see how this venture goes.

As to where it goes…

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown
One of the first bands my friends and I fell in love with when I first discovered music as a needed element of my life. Their sci-fi punk 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. As much as I cringe to admit it, my newly-developing ears mistakenly believed this track to be by The Go-Gos when I first heard it.

Missing Persons – Words
Another Missing Persons’ song which is equally applicable to this blog – “What are words for when no one listens” (or, more accurately, reads) – and, like Destination Unknown, appeared on their stellar debut Spring Session M. It’s an album whose songs always make me think of it blaring from someone’s jam box as we played hoops during the summer of ’82.