When Radio Played Records

I went down stairs to the archives tonight in search of my old David Bowie albums. While I have access to everything via Spotify, I wanted to hold in my hands the actual records that I had loved and played many times and put one or two on the turntable for a spin.

Among the LP’s are a couple that I  liberated from a local radio station where I was working in 1982. WRHY at 92.7FM started life as a Free form progressive rock station around 1972 and had morphed into a tighter but still rocking station in the late 70’s and then… they fired all the DJ’s and went to the syndicated “Music of Your Life” Big Band Nostalgia format.

Clearly there was no further use for the David Bowie albums here, so I gave them and a few others a new home…

These albums are artifacts from the era when Album Rock Radio actually played the album on the air. Sometimes they would skip. That was always fun… Anyway, Here is the cover of Station to Station, released 40 years ago this month. If you remember hearing “Golden Years” or  “TVC 15” on Starview back in 1976, this is the actual physical album you heard.

Note the tape aound the edges. image1

 

This sticker was to tell the DJ’s which cuts were suggested for airplay. My favorite note on this album is in regard to track 1 which could be played “When Time Allows”  That track,  “Station to Station” clocks in at over 10 minutes and that, my friends, is what free form radio was all about…

image2

 

Turning to the back side, we have more DJ notes regarding the tempo of the songs, if the end faded or ended cold and in this case someone took the time to make sure we knew where the words began and ended…

 

image3

We also see on the lower left some DJ Graffiti. A back and forth between 2 or 3 different DJs. Starting with “Criswell predicts next single” pointing to the song “Stay”.  I’ll let you read the follow on comments.

FullSizeRender (4)

 

By the way, the record is in remarkably good shape and plays perfectly. The music, of course, is timeless.

“Blackstar” is a message to you from David Bowie

Blackstar_album_cover

 

We all have our Bowie memories and our favorite songs or shows or moments where he helped us through a tough time. There are so many great ones to recall, the very first time you heard “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am” come blasting out of the radio, or the day you heard “Changes” and it dawned on you that you had changed from being the misunderstood youth to the attempting to understand parent. From ”TVC 15” and “Boys Keep Swinging” on SNL to Live Aid to singing with Bing Crosby at Christmas, to Eno in Berlin, to marveling at how the song “Heroes”, which never even cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977 has grown and grown over time to be a universal song or empowerment. There is just so much…

But wait! There’s More.

Released just 2 days before his death, David Bowie’s final album “Blackstar” is a brilliant last act.  Recorded with the help of some stellar musicians and featuring lyrical and sonic moments that sounded great on Saturday afternoon and now on this chilly Monday are hauntingly perfect. It’s a VERY good album. It is stunning and chilling, and yet uplifting and thrilling.

I’m not going to quote lyrics here. I want you to hear and feel them directly.  I’m not going to break it down track by track, I’m not writing a review. I am just saying, when you are ready, after you have listened to your favorites from the past and walked down memory lane,  put on your best headphones, sit down in a comfortable chair, bring some Kleenex just in case, strap in and Sit with this album.

You know, the way we used to do it.

Listen to a whole damn album and let it inhabit your brain

Take this final trip, just you and David.

 

 

“Desire” Holy Crap! 40 years???

Desire

In the 1970’s as a 1960’s informed and inspired teenager, I latched onto the music and message of Bob Dylan. I  had worn the grooves out on “Before the Flood” and “Blood on the Tracks” when, on this date in 1976, Bob Dylan’s  album, “Desire”, was released. I had heard all about the recording in advance via Rolling Stone and my local progressive FM radio station, Starview 92, and knew the story of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter and was excited to hear that song and the full album.

Within days I purchased my own copy at Mailman’s Department Store and listened to it over and over, absorbing all the brilliant word play and being mystified by some of the references.  Initially the opening track “Hurricane” was my favorite song. But it is the second song “Isis” that grew to be not just my favorite on the album, but one of my favorite songs by anyone, ever.

Isis is truly epic, a long song of love won, lost and regained, of adventure promised and dreams dashed, of howling winds and outrageous snows. As much as I love this song, the live version from the Rolling Thunder Revue Bootleg series album is so much better. Recorded in the Fall of 1975, over a year earlier, this version crackles with an intensity far beyond the studio recording. The beat drives harder, the violin soars higher and the vocal performance is one of the best he ever recorded.

Meanwhile, back on Desire… “Mozambique” follows and it is kind of palate cleanser, a light hearted song about being on a sunny beach with lovely people, and seeing how many things rhyme with “ique”.

“One More Cup of Coffee” returns to the emotional intensity. A man has to do what a man has to do, but one more cup of coffee before I go… into the valley below.

“Oh Sister” closes side one and I never really liked it that much. I listened again today and still… not so much.

Side Two opens with “Joey” a 9:14 long story of the notorious New York gangster “Crazy Joey” Gallo. At the time, this song perplexed me. “Why would he devote 9 minutes to a long slow song about a murdering mafia guy?” I didn’t get it then, but I get it now.   I do recall being in Little Italy one day back in the 1980’s and walking past Umberto’s Clam Bar, the spot where Joey was killed, and thanking Bob for the education.

“Romance in Durango” and “Black Diamond Bay” both have their charms, but the album closer, “Sara” a love of a lifetime song to his then wife is the revelation for me. The marriage was a rocky one, and this song, like no other Dylan song before or since is direct and personal and without persona or artifice.  He was trying hard to hang on and this song put it all on the line, but a year or so later the marriage finally fell apart for good.  At age 17, this song was a bit of a bore to me, 40 years later, it just blows me away.

Great art stands the test of time. Often that means that new listeners can appreciate something created long before they lived, like the music of Mozart or Miles Davis or the Beatles. But on a personal level, music that stands the test of time doesn’t mean that it takes you back to where you were and who you were when you first encountered it. It means that the art meets you where you are now. The lyrics resonate in new and often more powerful ways, the familiarity of an old favorite is imbued with new meaning, the song is ALIVE.

So, yeah. “Desire” stands the test of time.

Today Rolling Stone is also writing about this classic. Read the cool stories about the making of the record. 

O’Malley Ditches Presidential Bid, Plans Return to Musical Career

Omalleys March

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that despite persistant rumors to the contrary he will not seek the Democratic nomination for President of United States. O’Malley, 51, who has been considered one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party said that he plans to concentrate on his music career with his band O’Malley’s March.

 

“I just got off of the phone with Bono and we are on the shortlist for the opening slot on the upcoming U2 world tour. Now I ask you, which shortlist would you rather be on?” O’Malley continued, “I’m tired of fund-raising, I’m ready for some fun-raising!”

O’Malley’s friendship with the band dates back to 1981 when he was a freshman at Catholic University in Washington DC and the band was playing at the Bayou.   Their van broke down and   O’Malley rebuilt the alternator while the band slept on his dorm room floor.

“I still have the set list from that show!” O’Malley shrieked, “That was the beginning of a tremendous friendship and Bono and the boys told me that if there was ever anything they could do for me, they would do it. I’ve been keeping that one in my “favor bank” a long time.”

According to political strategist Ned Dunkleberger, O’Malley’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination are precisely 147:1, while the odds of opening for U2 are a solid 2:1.

“Think about it”‘ said Dunkelberger, ” Would you rather be in New Hampshire in February shaking hands at some crappy diner or onstage at the Koala Music Festival in Australia?”

“As one of the few governors in America who actually likes U2’s recent albums and can rebuild an alternator, I’m uniquely qualified for this role.” O’Malley proclaimed. “However, as a precaution, I’m making sure that Mumford and Sons has some visa problems.”

When asked to comment on the Governor’s plans, O’Malley’s wife Katie said, “Thank God they will finally be out of the basement and I’ll have my sewing room back”.

 
 

Today in Music History – October 22

On this day in 1976, after narrowly escaping a run-in with Woody Allen outside of Elaine’s, Steve Miller was arrested by the music police and had his poetic license suspended for one year for the awkward rhyming of “Texas” with the grammatically incorrect “facts is” as well as  “other people’s taxes” in his hit song “Take the Money and Run”.

 

Epilogue: As of 2013, Steve Miller is still taking the money and running, albeit a bit more slowly. Asked to comment on this article Miller said “Hoo Hoo Hoo!”