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.

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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.


Barely Awake For "Frog’s Midnight Album"

August 12, 2008

So, JB at the always engaging The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ invited me to write for Vinyl Record Day. The list includes a lot of blogs which I frequent and there’s some of my favorite writing on many of them. Cool to be invited, but for some reason a bit daunting, too (I’ve mentally scrapped a half dozen ideas over the past three days).

Anyhow, Paloma and I have so recently begun to collect vinyl that every time we go into a store, we both usually have exited with more than a couple wonderful surprises each. Today alone, I managed to nab Kate Bush’ The Sensual World, OMD’s Junk Culture, a good copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk for a dollar (to replace a copy that skips), Marianne Faithfull’s Dangerous Acquaintances, and – based on its appearance – an unplayed copy of Styx’ The Grand Illusion (it’s a childhood/first concert thing).

Possibly the best discovery has not been a single album, but the rediscovery of an album as a collection of songs – as a single work. There can be an art in the sequencing and there are often hidden gems to be found (the torch song Change My Mind from The Motels’ All Four One has been an example of the latter).

One of the most popular radio stations when I was growing up was Cincinnati’s WEBN, an album-rock outlet whose mascot was a frog (no connection). For me, Frog’s Midnight Album was appointment listening – weeknights, at midnight, a new album played in its entirety (it’s a bit sad to think that hundreds of those on Maxell cassettes are likely in a landfill somewhere).

By early 1983, I was more aware of street dates, but as we lived far enough from a major city, I usually had to wait for albums. Those midnight albums on WEBN were a lifeline. I lost a lot of sleep, but I got to hear a lot of music.

So, in the spirit of this day, here are half a dozen songs (ripped, of course, from vinyl) from some of those late nights, listening to (and taping from) Frog’s Midnight Album. (and to find a summary of other blogs devoted to today…go here.

Journey – Send Her My Love
One of the first eagerly-awaited albums of my early music fandom was Frontiers, Journey’s follow-up to Escape. Escape had been a monster and I remember hearing virtually every song from it on radio. Some stations had even given heavy airplay to Only Solutions, the band’s track from the Tron soundtrack, as Escape had run its course.

Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers first single in January of 1983. It seemed like it was always playing on one station or another and, if I recall, the full album was released in early February. I think that WEBN played it the night before street date.

At the time, they could do no wrong and I must have listened to Frontiers a thousand times throughout that spring and summer. Now, I can hear it as a (seemingly) rather calculated imitation of Escape, but Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

The Police – Tea In The Sahara
My early interest in The Police was influenced by my friend Brad (whom I’d met in first grade). He had all of their first four albums, but he also cost me the chance to see them live. He was the friend in our group who unfailingly was able to provide transportation (often without explicit approval from his mom or older brother).

Yet, when The Police came to Cincinnati in the summer of 1984 on their Synchronicity tour (and what would prove to be the final tour of The Police as a working band), Brad had absolutely no interest in the show. I know not why and it is something that puzzles me to this day.

Synchronicity was a constant that summer, though. On the radio, with friends, the album was everywhere and, unlike a lot of Police fans, I do consider it their masterpiece. Not perfect – Paloma has forbidden me to play Mother – but the best of it is awfully close. Tea In The Sahara might be my favorite track.

Frontiers and Escape – those were the two dominant albums of that period for me. But their were other albums that I recorded from WEBN that also defined the time, too.

Cheap Trick – I Can’t Take It
Cheap Trick was on the decline in 1983 and even I, with so little musical history or context, knew it. Although I listened to Next Position Please, it felt like I was doing so more out of loyalty – my friends and I had loved the previous year’s One On One – than interest. But, it was the first Cheap Trick album I owned and I Can’t Take It is pretty stellar.

The Fixx – Reach The Beach
The Fixx and their inconsistent albums were a bit maddening for me. None of their albums I’ve heard has truly engaged me from start to finish, although they’ve had numerous songs – Red Skies, Saved By Zero, Deeper And Deeper, Driven Out – which I loved.

However, 1983’s Reach The Beach was possibly their strongest album. One Thing Leads To Another did nothing for me, but the title song was very Fixx with a moody vibe, not quite dreamy and a bit chilly, with mysterious sounding lyrics.

The Kinks – State Of Confusion
For some reason unknown to me, The Kinks were one of the most popular bands among my friends as well as our schoolmates. It wasn’t simply their classic ’60s stuff, but their newer material from albums like Low Budget and Give The People What They Want.

So, it was a given that 1983’s State Of Confusion would be popular with us. It turned out to be popular with a lot of people (that little song Come Dancing did quite well). The title song was my favorite and a lovely mix of angst and optimism with a mesmerizing chorus.

The Tubes – She’s A Beauty
As my friend Brad influenced my interest in The Police, our friend Bosco influenced our entire group’s interest in The Tubes. Their songs were referenced on a daily basis and Bosco would address you as “Fee” or “Spooner” in honor of band members. So, like The Kinks’ State Of Confusion, The Tubes’ Outside/Inside arrived with the same single-minded interest from us in the spring of 1983.

It didn’t disappoint us as it did a lot of listeners who were fans of their more avant-garde material (all I knew was 1981’s The Completion Backward Principle). But Outside/Inside was a lot of fun and I still remember hearing She’s A Beauty for the first time on 96Rock.

To this day, I don’t think that I’ve ever known a fan more devoted to one band than Bosco was to The Tubes (though he did find time for a lot of other music).