Bos & Deans

Oh, man. The BoDeans. I distinctly remember hearing them blasting from top 40 radio in the mid 80s, likely from the portable Walkman I’d borrow from my father on bicycle trips across town. Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (featured here) is the band’s debut album, and although not their most successful, is considered by many critics to be their greatest achievement. I fall somewhere in the middle, taking a fancy to 1987’s Outside Looking In, but they’re both solid pieces of 80s pop.

Full Moon Fever

feverShedding the Heartbreakers (for the most part… some members contributed throughout), 1989’s Full Moon Fever marks Tom Petty’s voyage into a very lucrative solo career. His debut album was, not entirely surprisingly, produced by Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra), Tom Petty (of Tom Petty… k’mon), and Mike Campbell (of Don Henley and Stevie Nicks fame), and features the still-to-this-day radio hits, Runnin’ Down a Dream, I Won’t Back Down, and Free Fallin’. Classic rock for a modern age (well, as far as the late 1980s were concerned), Full Moon River is essential listening material for any decade.

Ain’t No Disco Duck!

DeesNovelties and Rick Dees tended to go together back in the collar-popping 80s like disco and ducks. While the majority of radio-listening ‘Merica knows ol’ Dees for The Weekly Top 40, those select, demented few among us know him for Disco Duck, and those lonely, pathetic among us know him for his early 80s comedy albums. Released in 1984, this (anything but) Orwellian approach to subjects like glue sniffing, shorts-eating, and candid phone conversations (with mainstays of the day, Julio Iglesias and Michael Jackson) make Put it Where the Moon Don’t Shine something of a, let’s say “interesting” listen. Clearly capitalizing on his radio popularity, this album was actually not, I repeat, NOT a one-off, as it was the follow-up to his 1983 debut, Hurt Me Baby Make Me Write Bad Checks! I don’t have that one, but the cover alone makes me consider hunting it down. Disco Duck on the other hand…

“The price of liberty, and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance.” – Aldous Huxley

RadioI unfortunately don’t have in my possession the 1979 Pelican Records release of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World from the January 27th, 1956 radio broadcast featured on The CBS Radio Workshop, so I can’t accurately depict the subject of this post with the proper visual image. Instead, here is a 1974 Memorabilia Records, When Radio Was King! as a semi-decent stand-in.

Last night the Mrs. and I sat at the dining room table under a humming glow of candlelight and listened to Part 1 of Aldous Huxley’s brilliant broadcast. See, we’re trying to get into classic radio broadcasts to break up our workweek. If you haven’t already, get yer ass over to the Internet Archive and download every single CBS Radio Workshop broadcast that your local hard drive can store. You can thank me later.

PoPo

PoPoMessage in a Bottle was one of the catchy, radio-tastic songs I’d heard as a kid that really kind of stuck with me over the ensuing years. At the time, I had no idea who the hell The Police were, but that track and Wrapped Around My Finger seemed to “mean” something, although I couldn’t quite comprehend why. Images of leafing through G.I. Joe figures at the East Town Mall with the lampooning lyrics of Sting pummeling through the speakers is an experience I’ll never forego. That may be why I now own their entire catalog.

It’s Just My Legs

TinaI never knew Ike, but as an adolescent fan of 80s pop radio (Madison, Wisconsin’s Z-104), I knew Tina Turner. I knew her for asking the simple, yet tough questions in life, like, what’s love got to do with it, and what’s love but second hand emotion? I still haven’t 100% figured that out, but I’m forced to humbly accept that fact.

LegsReleased in the Orwellian year of our lord, 1984, Private Dancer was hugely successful for this pop dragon, and proved to be one of Tina’s best selling albums (selling over 5 million copies). Four Grammy wins for Private Dancer, and this majestic beast would be forever cemented into the sponge-like minds of rural Wisconsin’s youth.

Bubble Up!

BubbleUpMusic to Drink Bubble Up By! was a fantastic find for $0.92. We listened to her the other night and she’s filled with early 60’s radio jingles ranging from Cha-cha-chá, to rock, to easy listening, to seductive sleaze. If the cover doesn’t grab ya, the clever and well-written jingles will certainly have you reaching for cool, refreshing, lemon lime bottle of classic Bubble Up. I’ve certainly never had it, but it’s now on my radar.

Radio

JBack in 1985, and well before Mama Said Knock You Out, Ladies Love Cool James, aka LL Cool J released his full-length debut on Def Jam Records titled simply, Radio. The man was still in high school at the time, kids! Which when you listen to this raw, early hip-hop classic, is kind of overwhelming to fathom, to say the least. Produced by Mr. Def Jam, Rick Rubin, Radio helped launch the lucrative career of James Todd Smith (also LL Cool J) which, among many other things, helped to secure a recurring (title) role on NCIS: Los Angeles. Why the hell didn’t I rap in High School?! I could have had a cop show by now! (Thinks to himself) Oh yeah, J had talent! Nurture the young, kids!

These Wings Are Broken, Mister

MisterSo… I’m going to expose myself in admitting that I have no recollection of obtaining this album. Mr. Mister’s Welcome to the Real World, an RCA Records 1985 release, contains both No. 1 singles Broken Wings and Kyrie. Wikipedia tells us that bassist and lead singer Richard Page turned down replacement roles in both Toto and Chicago to stay with Mr. Mister, so, you know, that’s something. This, the band’s second album, proved to be their most successful, and is a perfect glimpse of mid-80’s power-pop. (Electro-madness!) Happy Sunday, kids!

Remember the Golden Days of Radio

RadioEvery once in a while it’s good to slow things down to screeching, siren-whaling halt, and ingest the vinyl representation of definitive, mind-opening, electromagnetic radiation of a historical nature. I am, of course, talking about original radio broadcasts, which, without attempt, paint a blurry yet alluring picture of a world devoid of iOS updates, 242 television channels of unadulterated drivel, and the dastardly Kardashians.

Track ListRemember the Golden Days of Radio Volume 2 is a brilliantly executed presentation of archival events that offer a much younger generation of listeners the profound opportunity to experience the highs (The Shadow radio adventure) and lows (The Greatest “Eye Witness” report in history: The Von Hindenburg crashes in flames) of free space spewing entertainment.

Like fresh fruit for a rotting mind, this series by The Longines Symphonette Society is damn near essential material for those of us who are enthralled by, to put it frankly, the way it used to be. Do yourself an extensive favor; release the clutching hands of “the now” and let the warm wave of yesterday’s serenity ease your anxious mind.

Shep Lives!

Bahn Frei BlueJean Shepherd is neither a shepherd, nor a woman. If you know who that is, I have absolutely no doubt that you are already an enormous fan. The mischievous New York radio personality, whose eloquent tenure spanned from 1948 to 1977, was nothing short of an eggheaded genius, a word I VERY rarely use (well, I seldom use eggheaded either for that matter). His brilliant storytelling and enthusiastic delivery has, very poorly put, never been equaled and, I’m certain, never will. Also an established writer (who, if anyone, has never heard of A Christmas Story?!), Shep, as his fans knew him, shared his magnetic rants over every conceivable medium, and will forever be identified as radio’s most overlooked legend.Shep

Like with any show, there is a theme song. Shep, for reasons not entirely clear, chose Arthur Fiedler’s version of the Bahn Frei Polka to kick-off his shows. Like the start of a marathon horse race, the Bahn Frei Polka launches from the gate with a galloping wallop of fury and anxious anticipation that, to this day, gives me goosebumps and an enormous smile every time I hear it.

Bahn Frei RedPlease, I beg of you… if you have iTunes and an internet connection, treat yourself to one of life’s most cherished treasures, and subscribe to the (free) podcasts, The Brass Figlagee and Mass Backwards. With nearly 1400 recorded shows (you read that right), the prosperous servitude of this man’s objective vision should be shared and analyzed by any and every fan of the childhood laugh. Long live Jean Shepherd!

Magic Brain: A VERY Brief History

Magic BrainStarting around 1934, the term Magic Brain was given to high end, and often-expensive (especially for the time) radio receivers manufactured by RCA Victor. This new, futuristic, prewar technological improvement to the widely used radio receiver, allowed the heavy-pocketed user to 1) enjoy their favorite radio programs with new, higher fidelity tone performance, 2) tune in to more stations, 3) get exclusive access the RCA Victor’s “X” band, the same station aviators heard for up-to-the-minute, U.S. Government weather reports, and 4) the apparent alleviation of physical pressure when tuning into specific frequencies. (Citation)

Paralleling the start of the Second World War, RCA Victor released the Magic Brain RCA Victrola. This new, music listening wizard provided the same, groundbreaking, and industry redefining, features of the Magic Brain radio receiver, in a state-of-the-art radio-phonograph. The Magic Brain RCA Victrola offered a 180-degree shift in the way records were played, and how phonographs were manufactured. This model offered a tandem tone arm, which allowed the unit to play both sides of a record without having to flip it (there is something romantic about manually flipping a record, but there are certainly times when I’d love the ease and convenience of the Magic Brain). In addition to the tandem tone arm, the Magic Brain RCA Victrola allowed for up to two full hours of continuous, uninterrupted listening pleasure by the oversimplified ease of a single, pushed button. Mechanical noise was eliminated, the need to lift a lid was done away with, and the overall capacity was increased, housing up to 15, 10” records, or 12, 12” records.

Certainly an interactive jukebox for the family living room, this ingenious machine would unfortunately live an exceptionally short life. Due to the U.S. Government’s need for shellac, the material in 78rpm records as well as the main ingredient in U.S. made bombshells, it obtained nearly 70% of the nation’s supply, forcing two revolutionary music listening necessities. 1) With nearly no shellac to make new records, record companies began buying back out dated and/or unwanted records from the public (paying 2-3¢ per disc, equaling close to 500,000 lbs of shellac), to grind down in order to make new records. 2) With the short supply of shellac, and the high demand for consumable and obtainable mediums of portable music, the experimentation, and eventually the manufacturing of the vinyl record was introduced, and the rest is record collecting history. (Citation 1, citation 2)

With a new format, the Magic Brain RCA Victrola was rendered obsolete, and therefore was swiftly removed from production. A video of this monster in action can be found here.