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.

Somewhere Don Meredith Is Clearing His Throat

May 27, 2010

As a kid at the time, one of the highlights of Monday Night Football was – at some point late in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt – hearing commentator Don Meredith croon, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

(According to Wikipedia, Dandy Don also announced that he was “mile-high” before a game in Denver)

If I was that Lipton tea-lovin’, ex-Cowboys quarterback, I’d be cuing up the Willie Nelson song on my iPod, for my iPod.

If the device was Old Yeller, well…

(and, as an odd aside, I realize that the last time I saw Old Yeller, I watched it at a friend’s house with a couple of cats who were unaffected by the flick)

Yes, the iPod is slipping.

I first noticed an occasional, unrequested skip over a song or some other indifference to my command.

Now, there are other symptoms, occuring with greater frequency, that lead me to believe that it’s a matter of time before the longtime companion heads off to eternally dream of electric sheep.

I wasn’t keen on the iPod when I acquired it as a prize. I had an mp3 player. It worked well. And I didn’t necessarily feel the need to have tens of thousands of songs at my fingertips.

It was a throwback to college and most of my twenties when I was used to having a dozen or so cassettes in my backpack for the Walkman.

And there was a method to my madness.

Though I understood that lots of music, easily accessible, was cool in concept, I liked the fact that having fewer songs in one place made me more inclined to listen to tracks I might have overlooked, thus, discovering new favorites.

I can’t say that I was wrong.

How many times over the past three years have I skipped over a song by The Jam because I wanted to hear something I knew and loved?

I quite like The Jam, but aside from a handful of songs of which I am well familiar, I have another 60 or so songs by the trio of which I am far less – or maybe not at all – familiar.

(I bought Paloma the box set years ago)

But, instead of taking the time to check out an obscure track – be it by The Jam or Bob Dylan or whomever -when it shuffled up, I often shuffle forward to find something I know.

(because I do need to hear Fleetwood Mac’s Sara one more time)

I’ve been doing research for this iPod’s replacement. And, of course, it is the model with the greatest storage capacity – enough space for damned near everything I own – that has caught my eye.

And someday, I might actually give all of those songs by The Jam a listen.

Here are four random songs from the iPod…

The Beatles – Back In The U.S.S.R.
from The Beatles

Pat Benatar – One Love
from All Fired Up: The Very Best Of Pat Benatar

Tom Jones – Thunderball
from The Ultimate Hits Collection

Marvin Gaye – I’ll Be Doggone
from The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye

Strike Up The Children’s Choir!

July 2, 2009

Paloma accused me of being an aficionado of songs with children’s choirs. I found myself on the receiving end of this perceived slur when we chanced across The Lost Boys on cable.

As we watched the antics of ‘80s-styled vampires, the song Cry Little Sister played on the movie’s soundtrack; said song featured a children’s choir.

It was then that she made her allegation (despite the fact that the song means nothing to me – though the movie’s soundtrack was fun back in the day).

I stammered for a comeback to an accusation that was truly a first. My fifth-grade teacher said I was “as trustworthy as a rattlesnake,” but this children’s choir charge had me bumfoozled.

Could it be true?

The Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want has a children’s choir. No shame in being a fan of that one.

The only other song that popped into my head was, of all things, Kenny Loggins’ Welcome To Heartlight. Aside from one, maybe two songs, I’ve never been a fan – his association with Top Gun pretty much demanded that I blacklist him – and I loathed Welcome To Heartlight when it was a hit in ’83.

If the only thing standing between me and a sullied reputation as a fan of children’s choirs was a dislike of Kenny Loggins, I was standing on shaky ground.

Some research quickly reminded me of The Carpenters’ Sing and Clint Holmes’ Playground In My Mind (“My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”). Both featured children’s choirs and I remembered hearing both as a youngster when they were radio hits.

Could affection for the dulcet strains of vocalizing urchins been ingrained in me when I was but an urchin myself? Is there something about the pint-sized choral harmonies of scamps and ragamuffins that cause my ears to perk up as though it was bacon sizzling in a pan?

I lost interest in researching pretty quickly. The results were inconclusive. For every song with a children’s choir that I liked, there was one that was not good.

Not good.

Actually, I didn’t even come up with a dozen songs. I have to have missed or forgotten some obvious ones.

However, here’s an assortment of songs that do have children’s choirs…

Sammy Davis, Jr. – The Candy Man

I think I was four when this song topped the charts. To a four-year old – when one of the few desires in life is candy – The Candy Man was as stirring as We Shall Overcome was to those marching for civil rights.

And though it wasn’t Sammy’s version, the song appeared in the movie Willie Wonka & Chocolate Factory, which seems to have quite a following with my fellow Gen Xers.

There must be a thesis in the relationship between that flick and slacker culture.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall, Part II
from The Wall

Like the concept of candy, a dislike for being confined to a classroom is a common thread in the DNA of kids. So, when I heard Another Brick In The Wall blaring incessantly from the bowling alley jukebox, it resonated.

It was one of the first 45s I ever bought with my own money and, though I wouldn’t really get into music for another year or so, Pink Floyd’s unlikely hit song helped awaken that interest.

Pat Benatar – We Belong
from Tropico

Pat Benatar’s rise to start status coincided with my teenage years, so she could have been singing Bolshevik work songs and she’d have had our attention.

Nonetheless, I owned most of her cassettes and likely bought Tropico soon after it came out. And, I’ve proven adept at repeatedly buying copies of her albums on vinyl which we already own.

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Why I haven’t swooned harder over Gorillaz is a bit of a mystery to me. I love cartoons. Their music has always entertained me. And, I might be one of the few people that enjoyed the movie Tank Girl which was based on the comic book created by Jamie Hewlett who handles the animated aspects of the band.

I’d accept the blame except that would make me responsible. Instead, I think I need to devote more time to the music of Gorillaz. This should delight Paloma who is a big fan and – oh by the way – Dirty Harry features a children’s choir.