Frog’s Midnight Album

November 10, 2012

For the first year or so that radio 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 a 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 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 likely suspected that listening to the station would turn me into a juvie.

But, by the time I reached high school, I was surfing the dial with total abandon and even dialing up WEBN.

No portal to Hell opened.

WEBN played some acts with which I was familiar from Q102. They played Journey and they played Billy Squier, but much of it was unfamiliar terrain and an introduction to acts about whom I knew little – Black Sabbath, The Kinks, Cream, 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 listening destination to me was Frog’s Midnight Album during which each weeknight the station would air a new album, one side at a time.

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.

By the autumn of 1983, Frog’s Midnight Album was appointment listening, even if it was long enough to hear who it was and a song or two. Here are four songs from albums that I seem to recall hearing on Frog’s Midnight Album that autumn…

The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
from Undercover (1983)

The Rolling Stones’ Undercover was one of the most anticipated albums of late ’83, arriving more than three years after their last studio album – an eternity at the time. And, as I recall, it proved to be critically rebuffed.

Personally, I dug Undercover Of The Night, the first single, and the sheer momentum of new music from The Stones helped propel the song into the Top Ten. It’s a trippy tune fraught with a menacing vibe that’s always been an essential part of much of the band’s finest work.

Yes – Our Song
from 90125 (1983)

Even though Yes had their heydey in the ’70s and were split by the time I really started paying attention, I was familiar with the band thanks to my buddy Streuss who was a big fan.

(I recall his ongoing search for a copy of their Tormato album)

Then 90125 brought the reunited band to a new audience aided by the production of Trevor Horn and MTV. I think most of us owned a copy at the time and, though I’m still a bit burned out on Owner Of A Lonely Heart, songs like Leave It, It Can Happen, and the shimmering Our Song still sounds pretty good nearly thirty years on.

Survivor – Caught In The Game
from Caught In The Game (1983)

Though it had been eighteen months or so since Survivor had unleashed Eye Of The Tiger, the song had been so mammoth that there was some hoopla when the band returned with the follow-up to its parent album.

And then I heard the title track. It was no Eye Of The Tiger.

Caught In The Game obviously had no chance to duplicate the monster success of Eye Of The Tiger and the song is rather generic. However, when it popped up on shuffle not long ago, it made me smile and prompted a second listen, so, there is something that I dig about it.

Genesis – Home By The Sea
from Genesis (1983)

Genesis had been moving in a more commercial direction for half a decade or so when their self-titled album arrived in 1983. The trio’s previous studio effort, Abacab, had spawned three Top 40 hits with No Reply At All, Man On The Corner, and the title track, while still retaining some of the group’s expected progressive tendencies.

Genesis was even more tailored for radio and produced the band’s biggest hit to date with That’s All. The haunting (and haunted) Home By The Sea harkened back more to Genesis’ progressive roots, appearing on the album in two parts – Home By The Sea and Second Home By The Sea – that ran better than eleven minutes combined.

Advertisements

October 17, 1981

October 15, 2011

The autumn of 1981 was the first time that the radio was the first thing I turned on in the morning and the last thing turned off at night.

Q102 would air the Top Ten At Ten weeknights at the titular hour, so a lot of nights I’d leave the radio on, listening well after they’d finished counting down the day’s most requested songs.

The station was the station for most of my junior high classmates and the previous evening’s countdown usually merited at least a few minutes discussion and debate the following day.

It was a good station for a kid just beginning to become interested in music, Top 40 with diverse offerings ranging from Air Supply and Hall & Oates to The Go-Go’s and Rick James as well as classic Who, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin.

Perusing the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine from thirty years ago, most of the songs are recognizable, some more familiar than others; some I did hear at the time and some only over the ensuing years.

Here are the nine songs making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1981…

Arlan Day – I Surrender
from Surrender (1981)
(debuted #90, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)

Arlan Day has one more hit song than me and likely you, yet there’s probably more info floating in cyberspace on most of us than there is on Arlan.

I Surrender makes me wonder if Day was concocted in some lab from leftover scraps of Leo Sayer.

Pablo Cruise – Slip Away
from Reflector (1981)
(debuted #88, peaked #75, 5 weeks on chart)

I know little about Pablo Cruise other than Whatcha Gonna Do? and Love Will Find A Way. I think that they were from California and had moustaches.

(they had that bright, late ’70s California soft pop sound and I think moustaches were mandated for such acts at the time)

Slip Away is pleasant enough, not quite four minutes of unadorned, mid-tempo, yacht rock blues.

The Alan Parsons Project – Snake Eyes
from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
(debuted #86, peaked #67, 5 weeks on chart)

I’ve long owned a lot of music by The Alan Parsons Project, but couldn’t remember Snake Eyes and it wasn’t familiar upon listening to it.

A follow-up to The Turn Of A Friendly Card‘s earlier hits Games People Play and Time, Snake Eyes is neither as catchy as the former nor as evocative as the latter.

Quarterflash – Harden My Heart
from Quarterflash (1981)
(debuted #80, peaked #3, 24 weeks on chart)

Thanks to Casey Kasem I know that Quarterflash got their name from…it’s an Australian saying…

I had to look it up. It derives from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as “one quarter flash and three parts foolish.”

Harden My Heart was appealing and seems to have retained a bit of a presence.

(and my teenaged buddies and I found Quarterflash lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross to be quite fetching)

Juice Newton – The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)
from Juice (1981)
(debuted #79, peaked #7, 24 weeks on chart)

Juice Newton caught my attention when I heard Angel Of The Morning and Queen Of Hearts – her earlier Top Ten hits from her self-titled album – on the radio, mostly because her name was Juice.

(sadly, her name is actually Judy)

Juice straddled the line between country and pop with those songs and the singer became a breakout sensation in 1981. The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known) is on the twangier side and, thus, was of no interest to me at the time, but I find the song more engaging now and Juice belts the melodramatic ballad to the back row.

Survivor – Poor Man’s Son
from Premonition (1981)
(debuted #78, peaked #33, 14 weeks on chart)

Survivor was just another aspiring arena rock band in the autumn of ’81, but, by the following summer, the Chicago band would unleash the mighty Eye Of The Tiger into an unsuspecting world. I seem to recall reading that it was hearing Poor Man’s Son that prompted Sylvester Stallone to tap Survivor to compose the theme for Rocky III.

The punchy Poor Man’s Son is servicable but sounds more like a band that would be relegated to opening act status for the Journeys, Foreigners, and REO Speedwagons of the world, hardly hinting at the musical immortality awaiting Survivor.

Kool & The Gang- Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)
from Something Special (1981)
(debuted #67, peaked #17, 17 weeks on chart)

Kool & The Gang was a pop radio staple in the early ’80s and throughout much of the decade, but the venerable R&B/funk act had punched their ticket for enduring fame and fortune a year earlier with the mammoth hit Celebration. The effervescent song became the soundtrack to all things celebatory in nature, especially sporting events.

I never really cared much for the doo-wop tinged Take My Heart, perferring the grittier funk of its follow-up Get Down On It, but I recall my buddy Beej loving the song at the time.

Rod Stewart – Young Turks
from Tonight I’m Yours (1981)
(debuted #61, peaked #5, 19 weeks on chart)

In 1981, my classmates and I knew little of Rod Stewart’s already extensive history aside from his disco vamp Do You Think I’m Sexy, that song’s follow-up Ain’t Love A Bitch (because, hey, he just said “bitch”), and rumors of stomach pumping.

I totally dug Young Turks, the tale of Billy and Patti and their ten-pound baby boy, which found Rod ditching the disco trappings for a more wiry, New Wave musical vibe.

Diana Ross – Why Do Fools Fall In Love
from Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981)
(debuted #56, peaked #7, 20 weeks on chart)

Diana Ross had retained her superstar status as a solo act in the ’70s not only with a string of hit songs but in a number of movies as well.

However, like Rod Stewart, my classmates and I knew Ross for her more recent work – stuff like the movie The Wiz and her early ’80s hits like Upside Down, I’m Coming Out, and Endless Love – than her iconic time as a Supreme in the ’60s.

Whatever I knew by The Supremes at the time would have been dismissed as ancient history and Ross’ update of a Frankie Lymon hit from the ’50s usually prompted me to search for something else on the dial.


September 25, 1982

September 24, 2011

As the contents of my head need to settle back into place, I’m pulling up a Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart from the early ’80s – a period of my initial infatuation with music and radio – and checking out the debut songs for that week.

So, here are the eight songs making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1982…

Billy Preston – I’m Never Gonna Say Goodbye
from Pressin’ On (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #88, 3 weeks on chart)

For a man known to some as the “Fifth Beatle,” I know surprisingly little about Billy Preston.

I knew that Preston performed on the Apple rooftop with the band, had some legal and health issues, and passed away several years back. As far as his music, all I know is Nothing from Nothing and With You I’m Born Again – the ballad sung with Stevie Wonder’s then-wife Syreeta.

I’d never heard I’m Never Gonna Say Goodbye, but it sounds like a song that James Ingram might have done a few years later if you added a twist of stalker and a bit more melodrama.

Karla Bonoff – Please Be The One
from Wild Heart Of The Young (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #63, 7 weeks on chart)

Singer/songwriter Karla Bonoff had a hit during the summer of ’82 with Personally. I didn’t really like the song at the time – and it got a lot of airplay – but now I find the catchy song’s bounce and playful vibe appealing.

Bonoff sang back-up for Linda Ronstadt and Please Be The One has a slow, sultry vibe that is reminiscent of Ronstadt to me. I didn’t remember the song until it reached the chorus and rarely heard it on the radio in ’82.

Jeffrey Osborne – On The Wings Of Love
from Jeffrey Osborne (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #29, 18 weeks on chart)

I would come across Jeffrey Osborne’s On The Wings Of Love often during the autumn and winter that year when I got to the lighter rock stations on the dial. I’d stop long enough to identify it, but would only sit through it when it appeared on American Top 40.

I liked the light-funk feel of Osborne’s I Really Don’t Need No Light, and, though, On The Wings Of Love is pleasant enough, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

The Go-Go’s – Get Up And Go
from Vacation (1982)
(debuted #82, peaked #50, 9 weeks on chart)

The Go-Go’s were seemingly everywhere overnight in 1982. Their debut Beauty And The Beat had topped the album chart in the US with two massive singles – Our Lips Are Sealed and We Got The Beat – becoming instant classics.

Vacation was released toward the end of the summer with Beauty And The Beat still on the album charts. Vacation was an immediate success and the infectious title song was a hit, but both seemed to fade quicker than that summer.

The band seemed to vanish overnight – gone as quickly as they’d arrived – and I didn’t hear a new song by The Go-Go’s on the radio until Head Over Heels two years later.

(an eternity in that era)

Get Up And Go has a nifty opening that echoes Bow Wow Wow and, like most Go-Go’s songs, it is fun, but it isn’t in the same class as the earlier trio of hits by the band.

Survivor – American Heartbeat
from Eye Of The Tiger (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #17, 16 weeks on chart)

Survivor had had the song of the summer of ’82 with their mammoth hit Eye Of The Tiger and American Haertbeat was culled as the follow-up to the band’s theme from Rocky III.

American Heartbeat was sleeker, built around pulsating keyboards, but still retained a rock edge and, though it certainly fit alongside stuff like Journey and Foreigner hits of the time, the song – not surprisingly – was unable to replicate the success of Eye Of The Tiger.

I dug the song, not that I think I heard it more than a few times on the radio at the time despite it reaching the Top Twenty.

Stevie Wonder – Ribbon In The Sky
from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #54, 7 weeks on chart)

Stevie Wonder had released the double-album retrospective Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I in the early months of 1982. During that spring and summer, two of the album’s new songs – the yearning That Girl and joyous Do I Do – had become sizeable hits as well as Wonder’s duet with Paul McCartney, Ebony And Ivory.

Ribbon In The Sky was tapped as Original Musiquarium‘s third and final single. Unlike the previous hits from the set, the song was a gentle, lovely ballad that might not have found similar radio acceptance but has endured as a favorite among fans.

Chicago – Love Me Tomorrow
from Chicago 16 (1982)
(debuted #74, peaked #22, 15 weeks on chart)

If Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger was the song of the summer in 1982, Chicago’s Hard To Say I’m Sorry was arguably the season’s biggest ballad and a commercial comeback for the venerable band.

But, as Survivor would learn, it’s difficult to follow up to such a radio juggernaut without the song getting lost in the wake of its predecessor. I heard Love Me Tomorrow plenty and still feel that the song is the best of the group’s ’80s ballads, but it failed to resonate with the public as Hard To Say I’m Sorry had.

Billy Joel – Pressure
from The Nylon Curtain (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #20, 17 weeks on chart)

When Billy Joel released The Nylon Curtain in autumn 1982, the singer was coming off a trio of albums – The Stranger, 52nd Street, and Glass Houses – that had sold nearly thirty million copies and made Joel a radio fixture.

The Nylon Curtain was edgier and darker, but received glowing reviews and praise for its mature subject matter. The manic, paranoid Pressure also reflected the burgeoning influence of synthesizers becoming prevelant at the time and, even though accompanied by a stylish video clip, the song and album would be a commercial lull before Joel returned with the massively successful An Innocent Man a year later.