Monday, March 21, 2011
A dual dedication tonight: To Enola Gay and Jim in Japan
Enola Gay- Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark Urgh! A Music War
Illiterature- Adam Schmitt Illiterature
Sorry Girls- The Heats Have An Idea
Scorpion Bowl- The Shods Thanks For Nuthin'
The Girl Who Became a Machine- The Len Price Pictures
Epiphany- Bowling For Soup The Great Burrito Extortion Case
Teenage Teenage- The Screen Gemz Teenage Teenage 7"
Boys Don't Lie- Squire Big Smashes
^We Got The Beat- Go-Go's URGH! A Music War
Future For You- The Semantics Powerbill
Be My Lover- Dogs Legendary Lovers
The Great Escape- The Rifles Great Escape
Some Of The Things That You Do- Pink Steel Wont Come In Your Hand 7"
Border Radio- Blasters The Blasters
*Homicide- 999 URGH! A Music War
*Uncontrollable Urge- Devo URGH! A Music War
*Where's Captain Kirk- Athletico Spizz '80 URGH! A Music War
*Ain't This The Life- Oingo Boingo URGH! A Music War
Dirty Pictures- Radio Stars Dirty Pictures
Alone With You- Sunnyboys Love To Rule EP
Since You Gotta Cheat- The Reruns Since You Gotta Cheat 7"
Mutiny, I Promise You- The New Pornographers Challengers
R-Love(Is Approaching Critical Mass)- Transistors Telephone 7"
Something For The Weekend- Distractions Shake Some Action Vol. 3
>Bad Reputation- Joan Jett & The Blackhearts URGH! A Music War
When I Get Old- Descendents Everything Sucks
Part Time Punks- Television Personalities Where's Bill Grundy Now? EP
How 'Bout You- Brendan Benson One Mississippi
Go To The Police- The Toys Go To The Police 7"
I Can't Control Myself- Seventeen A Flashing Blur Of Stripped Down Excitement
West End- The Colors Rave It Up EP
Respectable Street- XTC URGH! A Music War
^Power Pop Peak: #2 Billboard Hot 100 1/30/82
*SacroSet: Songs from the film URGH! A Music War
>Power Pop Prototype: 1981
Ah, the best laid plans... Since I was going to be out of town on a business trip the week prior to this show, I went in to the studio to record it about ten days before the March 19th air date. Having come across URGH! A Music War! on the brilliant Power Pop Criminals blog a month or so ago, I decided it would be a great theme for the show. Since there is only one song in URGH! that features a woman's name, Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark's "Enola Gay" became tonight's dedication song. Well, a few days after I record the show the Japanese earthquake hits on March 11, 2011 killing thousands and crippling the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
So, while I'm in Little Rock and Knoxville this week I'm reading horror stories about Japanese bodies washing up on the shore and plant workers dying of radiation poisoning. All this knowing my radio show is dedicated to "Enola Gay," the plane (named in "honor" of the pilot's mother) that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 killing 100,000 Japanese people. It's an anti-war song but still UNBELIEVABLY inappropriate under the circumstances. As I am not a monster, I inserted a MAJOR disclaimer into the show as soon as I got back to Sonoma, making sure the Program Director and the show following mine knew the "Enola Gay" thing was a horrible coincidence. My friend Jim lives in Japan and we didn't hear from him for 48 hours but when he checked in all was okay, just some minor damage in his area. This was great to hear so tonight's show is also dedicated to Jim.
Anyway, back to URGH! A Music War which is what started this mess in the first place. Here's what Wikipedia says about it:
Urgh! A Music War is a British film released in 1982 featuring performances by punk rock, New Wave, and post-punk acts, filmed in 1980. Among the artists featured in the movie are Magazine, The Go-Go's, The Fleshtones, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, XTC, Devo, The Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Dead Kennedys, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, Wall of Voodoo, Pere Ubu, Steel Pulse, Surf Punks, 999, UB40, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Police. These were many of the most popular groups on the New Wave scene.
It's very hard to imagine in this information saturated Internet age what it was like back in the dark ages of the early 1980's. My Cousin Rich (who subscribed to BOTH New York Rocker and Boston Rock magazines) and college radio stations WMBR and WERS were my only sources of information about the music I loved. One more thing you need to know is that we did not have cable TV in my house, my father opting for an antenna strapped to our chimney and about ten TV channels from Boston and Providence. So, it was a big deal whenever I went to a house that had cable TV, especially if it was for a sleep over.
I had seen USA Network's Night Flight show once or twice before, mostly rock videos and weird sci-fi stuff, but nothing had prepared me for the truly mind-blowing experience of seeing URGH! A Music War for the first time. First off, there is no set up or voice over- it's just one band after the other, with only their name scrawled on the bottom of the screen for a few seconds. So it was "Oh my God- I'm watching Chelsea on TV!!...oh man it's The Dead Kennedys!!... The Go-Go's!!.... Devo!!... 999!!.... X!!" There were also these really bizarre artists like Klaus Nomi, Toyah Wilcox and Skafish that I'd never even heard of before. I wanted to wake up everybody in the neighborhood, it felt like world had done a 180 and I'd be hearing The Cramps and Gang of Four on the radio the next day in place of Fleetwood Mac and The Doobie Brothers. Even now I get a fluttery feeling in my stomach thinking back on it. So, a big thank you to USA Night Flight and URGH! A Music War for a night I'll never forget.
If you'd like to download tonight's show (right click and "save target as") here it is:
Saturday, March 5, 2011
and all who love Rock & Roll Radio!
Belinda- Ben Folds & Nick Hornby Lonely Avenue
All The Time- Runarounds Waiting For The Hurricane
I Gotta Know- The Sugar Stems Sweet Sounds of the.....
She's So Fine- The Easybeats The Definitive Anthology
Behind Those Eyes- The Diodes Tired of Waking Up Tired
Letter Of Resignation- The Weakerthans Fallow
Anytime- Screen Test Shake Some Action Vol. 2
Shopping- Nine Lives Shopping 7"
^Radio Free Europe- R.E.M. Radio Free Europe 45
Ugly Talents- Ruth Ruth The Little Death
Hang On For Your Life- Psycotic Pineapple Where's The Party
No Substitute- The Speedies Speedy Delivery
Another Heartache- Any Trouble Wheels In Motion
Some- The Gems Titan: It's All Pop!
*Radio- Teenage Fanclub Thirteen
*Radio- Dirty Angels Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
*Radio- The Lookalikes Can I Take You Home Tonight 7"
*Radio- Stiffed Burned Again
Mystery- Wipers Is This Real?
You've Got What It Takes- The Slickee Boys Cybernetic Dreams of Pi
In My Time- The Jolt The Jolt
Agony- Newtown Neurotics Newtown Neurotics Punk Collection
You Can Run- The Shake Shakes You Can Run Single
The Boy Won't Listen- Blue Ash Front Page News
>Roadrunner- Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers 23 Great Recordings
Shadow Line- The Fleshtones It's Super Rock Time!
Make It The Same- The Mundanes Make It The Same 7"
Telephone- Loaded Dice No Sweat
Daredevil- Battered Wives Battered Wives
Midnight Radio-Hedwig And The Angry Inch Original Soundtrack
^Power Pop Peak: #78 Billboard Hot 100 7/23/83
*SacroSet: "Radio" Songs
>Power Pop Prototype: 1977
My sister Sarah gave me Lonely Avenue for my birthday in October and I have to say it left me cold on the first couple of listens. The record is subtitled "Ben Folds Adds Music And Melody To Nick Hornby's Words." As I've said before, I've got a problem with Ben Folds' music- no guitar, ever. The guy purposefully excludes the greatest instrument in the history of music. On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of Nick Hornby's novels, my favorites being High Fidelity and About A Boy.
The Lonely Avenue song "Levi Johnston's Blues" is a cheap shot. Even if Hornby is only using Johnston's words against him (allegedly from his MySpace page: I'm a fucking redneck, I like to hang out with the boys, play some hockey, do some fishing and kill some moose), making fun of the dude is just too easy. That said, I loved the song "From Above," which I played a few weeks back, right off the bat. "From Above" is a heartbreaking song about two people who should be together (heartbeats becoming synchronized and staying that way forever) but end up marrying other people and how tragically common that is. After a few listens, more songs from Lonely Avenue started growing on me, though I have to say it's usually Hornby's words that hook me first, then I start to appreciate Folds' contributions.
The Lonely Avenue liner notes include an e-mail from Folds to Hornby about tonight's dedication song "Belinda," now one of my favorites on the album, that I think is very interesting:
"Belinda" has been a mother***ker - but I think I cracked the code. You gave me a specific assignment if you think about it. The song had to sound like an old hit song. It wouldn't be believable to have the chorus be a bastardization of an old classic if the melody weren't classic so I wanted to make the chorus sound as if it was actually a huge hit that we all remember. And then you've quoted the chorus of this fabled hit song in the second line of the verse, so I had to figure out a way to quote the melody without doing the ultimate no no by giving away the chorus in the verse. Guys like Burt Bacharach don't even like to give away the highest note of the chorus anywhere earlier in the song. Anyway I worked it out by making the chord beneath the quote a weaker version in the verse and taking out one line pre-chorus so that the chorus hits at a surprise time, so even though you've heard the melody it was in such a different context that it still works. It was like a hell crossword puzzle but I think we made a good song. We did about 20 takes on Friday and I need to spend some time going through them to find the one that sounds classic for editing.
Perhaps because my own songwriting experiences have been limited to a rudimentary bashing out of a few chords and putting words over them, I'd never considered the technical aspects of songwriting Folds is talking about above (and that I also discuss in an earlier post about Robbie Fulks' brilliant "Fountains Of Wayne Hotline"). The way Ben Folds approaches Hornby's "Belinda" challenge, it's like a complex math or science problem that needs solving. And I guess, similar to a mathematician or scientist, Ben Folds has the skill set and training to solve it.
I remember hearing Elvis Costello interviewed on Fresh Air about his work with Burt Bacharach on Painted From Memory. Elvis had an acoustic guitar with him and Terry Gross was trying to get him to break down a song into the Bacharach vs. Costello contributions. He couldn't do it and had a very difficult time explaining why he couldn't or even what Bacharach brought to the process. I realized that they were working on a completely different level- one that lauded songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young might not get anymore than I do but people like Richard Carpenter and Barry Manilow understand completely. In their heyday, Richard and Barry were trying to solve their own "musical problems," each with variables of melody, harmony and rhythm, within the parameters of current trends in pop music, production style, lyric content, etc. I find this interesting- it doesn't make me like The Carpenters' or Barry Manilow's music any more, but I appreciate the effort.
From the first time I heard The Ramones' Rocket To Russia, I've been a huge fan of underground music, which led to me to college/public radio, first as a listener, then as a DJ. That took me to college to study radio and earn a communications degree. My "money jobs" in the last 25 years have all been in commercial radio and given me a broad knowledge of pop music- which actually has its benefits. No one cares what I know about late 70's Boston Rock & Roll or Swedish Power Pop, but being the dorky guy who is usually the first to answer "who does that song that goes...." has some social relevance- plus I kill at pub trivia questions about music.
Anyway, I've grown to love both commercial and college/public/non-commercial music radio. My local station, San Jose alternative Channel 92.3, flipped format this week and I'm still adjusting to the loss. So, for tonight's features, I decided to focus on songs about radio- both pro and con:
I'm in love with modern moonlight
128 when it's dark outside
I'm in love with Massachusetts
I'm in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
It helps me from being lonely late at night
I don't feel so bad now in the car
Don't feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That's right- "Roadrunner" Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
And always late at night I'm drivin' in my car I listen to my radio
The late night DJ says he'll play my favorite song
But I can't hear- the interference comes on way too strong
The radio is drivin' me mad- TURN IT OFF!
-"Radio" The Lookalikes
I think it's funny The Lookalikes complain about static when 99% of anti-Radio songs focus on programmers, like Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio" (and the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel), which I'll save for the next radio SacroSet. The thing is, when I listen to the radio I feel connected. Tapes, CD's, i-pods, Pandora and most satellite/internet radio channels seem like isolated "closed loops." On the other hand, when you're listening to a great local radio station, you've joined with other people like you and you're all part of something bigger than yourselves. I believe in local radio.
You can listen to or download (right click and "Save Target As") tonight's show below: