Shooting Star

March 25, 2012

Thirty years ago, music was a still mostly an unexplored world for me. It had been no more than six months since I’d brought an old radio up from the basement.

The quarter century of rock music that had preceeded me was of little consequence, yet. The songs and acts that were most popular – and, thus, most notable to me – were the ones which I heard most on the radio.

In the spring of ’82, radio would have led me to believe that the band Shooting Star was as popular as Journey.

(and Journey had just released Escape six months earlier)

But as I was hearing Journey’s Open Arms climb the countdown on American Top 40 each week that spring, Shooting Star’s Hollywood was nowhere to be found despite me hearing the latter seemingly as often as the former.

Not only would I continue to hear Hollywood on the radio well into that summer, but, over the next several years, each release from Shooting Star would spawn songs that would get significant airplay.

Yet Shooting Star caused little more than a slight ripple outside of the Midwest where I was.

Despite the heavy airplay that Hollywood got from radio stations in our area, the song was one of only three Shooting Star singles to reach Billboard‘s Hot 100, none of them climbing higher than #67.

The band’s five albums from the first half of the ’80s also garnered little attention.

It’s understandable that Shooting Star would have been a fixture on Midwestern radio as the band hailed from Kansas City and their melodic rock was well suited for an album rock landscape dominated by Journey, Foreigner, Billy Squier, and Heart.

Today, Shooting Star – despite still existing in some incarnation – is little more than a footnote, but a footnote that has pockets of rabid devotion on the internet.

(see the breathlessly enthusiastic reviews of the band’s catalog on AllMusic Guide)

In truth, it’s not surprising that Shooting Star was unable to become much more than a regional success. The songs might have sounded good on the radio, but the band’s workman-like rock rarely distinguished itself from their better-known contemporaries.

Yet, Shooting Star is a musical trinket from those formative years and there remains a place in my heart for a band that most listeners likely missed at the time.

Here are four songs from Shooting Star…

Shooting Star – Last Chance
from Shooting Star (1980)

After building a following on the club level, Shooting Star became the first American band to ink a deal with Virgin Records as the label attempted to break a mainstream rock act in the States.

(it wouldn’t be the last time that the band would be the answer to a musical trivia question)

Like fellow Midwesterners Kansas, Shooting Star incorporated violin into their sound and, though they mostly did so without Kansas’ progressive inclinations, the anthemic Last Chance is an epic-length track that builds to a suitably dramatic crescendo.

Shooting Star – Hollywood
from Hang On For Your Life (1982)

Hollywood seemed to be blaring from every beat-up Camaro in my hometown for months on end in 1982. The song breaks no new ground with its tale of farm-fresh Midwestern girl having her dreams get shattered and getting sucked into the seedy underbelly of the dirty city. But, it is an engaging four minutes of straight-ahead rock with a sentimental pull.

Shooting Star – Summer Sun
from Silent Scream (1985)

Not only did Shooting Star serve as an opening act for their more successful album rock contemporaries including Journey, Jefferson Starship, Kansas, Bryan Adams, and Heart, the band enlisted producer Ron Nevison – who had worked with several of those bands – for 1985’s Silent Scream.

Silent Scream was released at about the same time that Heart’s Nevison-produced self-titled album was providing the Wilson sisters with a major comeback, but Silent Scream proved to be a swan song – albeit temporarily – for Shooting Star.

However, like previous albums, Silent Scream found a home on the rock stations in our area. The driving, seasonally-appropriate Summer Sun was the most popular track and one I can still hear as I recall the efforts of my friends and me to find something to do in our small town that summer.

Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight
from Touch Me Tonight: The Best Of Shooting Star (1989)

I returned from studying in Southeast Asia toward the end of 1989 to find a reunited Shooting Star again blaring from the radio with the polished rocker Touch Me Tonight. Though it was rather generic stuff and hardly the alternative rock to which I had mostly gravitated, there was still something appealing about knowing that the band was still out there.

That perseverance resulted in the highest-charting single of Shooting Star’s career – albeit at a lowly #67 – and Touch Me Tonight‘s parent compilation album became the first record to make Billboard‘s album charts without a vinyl release.


“Our next caller is listening to WTUE out of Dayton…”

June 16, 2010

It must have been sometime in early 1983 – as I was beginning to traverse a musical terrain beyond Top 40 – that I was increasingly listening to more rock-oriented stations, especially Q95 out of Indianapolis.

Q95 played a lot of music that would become the backbone of classic rock stations a decade or so later – Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who – but their playlist also was heavy on newer rock acts. As I spent more time with Q95 and other similar album rock outlets, I realized that – as the pop stations had American Top 40 – these stations had a number of syndicated programs.

There was some rock album countdown show that worked its way to the week’s top album with a track – sometimes hit, other times, a deeper cut – played from each record.

(the name of the show escapes me)

There was also the King Biscuit Flower Hour, which weekly offered a recorded concert from acts like Billy Squier, Triumph, and Greg Kihn Band.

(the hour, accounting for commercials, was actually closer to forty-five minutes)

It was Rockline, though, that was the one weekly broadcast I’d usually make a point of checking out. Each Monday night, Bob Coburn would host an act – one which often had a new release – for a ninety-minute interview show that took questions from callers.

At some point on Monday afternoons, I’d hear one of the DJs mention that evening’s guest. Unless it was someone or some band in whom I had no interest, most Monday nights at 10:30, I’d be tuned in to the show.

During high school, Rockline was often a topic of conversation between me and my friend Bosco. I don’t particularly recall any of my friends other than him that was a listener to the show.

Of course, if it’s more ingrained in my brain that Bosco listened to the show, it’s undoubtedly because he was no passive listener. Bosco ended up on the show as a caller several times. I remember him speaking to Tom Petty and, quite memorably, Bob Dylan.

And, once, after seeking Bosco’s advice – make sure you’re question isn’t obvious and call an hour before the show to get through – I ended up speaking to Roger Waters.

(I was going through a teenaged boy’s first serious Pink Floyd phase)

As I had been advised, I called an hour before, got through, and, then, I realized I didn’t really have a question and offered up the most obvious question at that time – would the recently split up Floyd ever reunite?

The screener was ready to bounce me, but I managed to talk him into a second chance and I ad-libbed a query that punched my ticket to the big time.

For thirty seconds, I was global.

(provided the globe be limited to the US and Canada)

I didn’t listen to Rockline much in college, but, for most of high school, it was a Monday night ritual. Here are four songs from acts who appeared on Rockline during the four summers before I left for college…

Shooting Star – Last Chance
from Touch Me Tonight: The Best Of Shooting Star

Shooting Star, though a staple in the Midwest, wasn’t exactly a household name in the rest of the US. I heard a lot of the Kansas City band on the radio, though, with songs like You’ve Got What I Need, Flesh And Blood, and Hollywood. With a sound somewhere between Journey and Kansas, they were well suited for the heartland.

Shooting Star appeared on Rockline in June, 1983, coinciding with the release of their album Burning, which I didn’t really dig. Last Chance had appeared on their debut from several years earlier and the anthemic track was one that I also heard often during the early ’80s.

Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul – Out Of The Darkness
from Voice Of America

Longtime Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steve Van Zandt had exited the E-Street Band following the release of Born In The USA in the late spring of 1984. By July, he had released his second album with his band, Disciples Of Soul, which featured former members of The Rascals as well as Plasmatics’ bassist Jean Beauvoir.

I fell in love with the surging track Out Of The Darkness and, having heard that song (as well as having seen the video) and a couple more tracks on the radio, snagged a copy of Voice Of America.

Ratt – Lay It Down
from Ratt & Roll 81-91

I never truly went through a metal phase of any kind, but there were songs and bands within the genre that caught my attention. In 1984, Ratt exploded onto the scene with their album Out Of The Cellar and songs like Round And Round and Wanted Man.

With more than a hint of glam rock, Ratt had a knack for infectious hooks. They appeared on Rockline during the summer of ’85 when Out Of The Cellar‘s follow-up, Invasion Of Your Privacy, was released. Though it couldn’t match its predecessor’s commercial fortunes, the album was catchy as hell and the menacing groove of Lay It Down makes me think of listening to the cassette on trips to the beach with friends that summer.

Peter Gabriel – Red Rain
from So

In June of 1986, I was spending my final summer before college mowing acres of grass.

Peter Gabriel was spending that same summer as, suddenly, a pop music superstar. So had brought him to a whole new audience with the mammoth hit Sledgehammer as well as making him a fixture on MTV with its groundbreaking video.

I preferred the moodier stuff from the album like Mercy Street and, especially, Red Rain, which featured The Police’s Stewart Copeland lending his talent on the hi-hat.