Raised on the Radio

Because growing up on 70s television didn't kill me. It just made me who I am today.


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Memories of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40

When Tiffany sang “you put your arms around me and we tumble to the ground,” could I really have pictured a boy and girl tumbling down a hill—like, rolling down it log-style, maybe just before engaging in a potato-sack race?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to imagine how I sang that song without once stopping to wonder what the boy and the girl did after they “tumbled to the ground.”

I had plenty of other moments of lyrical-content naiveté. I was in my 30s before the words to one of my favorite tunes from the era really hit me. Somehow, Cyndi Lauper’s references to men in tight pants–

But recently I’ve begun to realize there might be someone other than me to blame for the clueless way I interpreted the biggest songs of  my childhood.
Maybe one reason it never occurred to me that Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” was about child abuse was that the person who introduced it to me probably prefaced it with a fun fact about the number of light bulbs in Las “Vega”s.
My hunch has solidified in recent months, as I’ve turned on the car radio on Saturday mornings to be greeted by the most significant of all the voices from my 80s childhood. A local pop station, Mix 96, plays vintage Casey Kasem countdowns, as stations all over the country have been doing.
mix tape
Like many kids of that era, I collected songs by slavishly waiting next to my mini boom-box to hit “record” when Casey (or a local DJ) played my favorite song. But unlike most kids I knew, I had to rely on Casey (and radio in general) for my connection to the pop world. We lived on a farm, and out in the country, getting MTV was out of the question. (Though I doubt my parents would’ve sprung for cable if we could’ve received it. My dad forbid us from watching The Facts of Life because he believed the title was a reference to, you know, the “facts of life.”)
Racing up the stairs to my room after church and Sunday school to catch the Top 10 of Casey’s Top 40 was as much a ritual for me as church itself. As “the numbers got smaller and the hits got bigger,” I’d feel a little pang for any song that had “slipped a couple of notches,” as if the song itself had feelings, as if Whitney Huston or George Michael was sitting by a radio, too, hands clasped, desperate to see where he or she stood.
As the vintage countdowns have become a staple on weekend modern-day radio—and in the utterly surreal experience of re-hearing these childhood moments through adult ears—I’ve been astonished by the diversionary tactics Casey used to draw attention to anything but the actual content of the song. He must have known kids like me were clinging to our Walkmen, and wanted to protect us. (Or Westwood One told him to).
How else to explain the lead-ins I’ve heard when I’ve been relishing these re-broadcasts?
One weekend earlier this year I was driving across the state to visit my sister, and found myself chuckling, alone in my car, as Casey gave a teaser for Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” before the commercial.
Here was one of the first and only popular female rap groups, not to mention one who sung openly about sex. But when the commercial was over? There was Casey: “And now we’re up to a tune that was saved by a deejay.” His spiel detailed how the song was actually the B-side to another song, which a deejay didn’t think was a hit.
Later, to introduce Paul Carrack’s “Don’t Shed a Tear”: no mention of Squeeze or anything about Carrack’s pre-80s success. Instead, “And now we’re up to a song about ‘lacrimation’. It’s not illegal. It means ‘shedding a tear.’”
Now, on Saturday mornings in the kitchen when I tap the I Heart Radio app and tune in to a countdown, I can’t help but focus on the whitewashed way the scripts were written.
Before “Infatuation” by the ever-horny Rod Stewart? A long-winded anecdote about Rod’s manager receiving a pile of Billboard magazines due to a mailing mix-up. On a recent weekend, when it was time for a big hit by Whitesnake, (otherwise known as the band whose video introduced Tawny Kitean to the world), Casey gave a lesson on—you got it—snakes.
I will probably always suffer a metaphorical forehead smack every time I think about Suzanne Vega and Tiffany.
But I should remind myself that when Casey introduced me to “She Bop,” he probably said, “And now we’re up to a song that inspired a New York City woman to choose the name for her cat, a cat named Bop.”

Alison McGaughey was raised on the radio and remembers buying her first “album”–Wham!’s “Make it Big”–on cassette at a Woolworth’s in Keokuk, Iowa. Now a community college instructor and literacy-program coordinator, McGaughey writes about music, books, and Midwestern life at welcometoforgotonia.com. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and others, and has received awards from the Midwest Writing Center and Illinois Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter @Rural_Rose.


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Gordon Lightfoot

 

I’ve been listening to Gordon Lightfoot for 44 of my 44 years. It’s a gimme, isn’t it? If you were alive in the 70’s, you listened to Gordo.

That doesn’t mean I knew the ins and outs of the man. Actually…..I heard from a reliable source that his life took some serious wrong turns, and there may have been some unfortunate drinking involved. It was the 70’s, why am I surprised?

For most of us, it’s easy to brush Gordon Lightfoot off as some musician with a ton of songs on the Easy Listening radio station. Oh wait, I like that station. Okay, some guy who makes the easy listening station easier to listen to.

How many times have you heard Sundown, or If You Could Read My Mind on Lite FM?  I admit to being stuck in the land of 70’s pop music. Heck, I’m a child of 70’s radio, and frankly, feel lucky to have been so.

I often credit Gordon Lightfoot with my inspiration to be a writer.

Just like a paperback novel. The kind that drugstores sell.
-If You Could Read My Mind

But if you leave your knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot there. You would be missing so much. I was missing it too. It took my 8yo’s obsession with The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and then later The Canadian Railway Trilogy, for me to see it.

I Bet You Didn’t Know

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Gordon Lightfoot has a lot to be flattered about. In 1964 he wrote “The Early Morning Rain”, and because he was a nobody, he wasn’t even the first to record it. A couple of friends who “discovered” him offered to record his song on their album. It was a good move. For both of them.

He did record the song in 1966… and after that 74 other bands and artists recorded it too. Not the least of which were Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, The Grateful Dead, George Hamilton IV (who took it to #9 on the country charts), Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Peter Paul and Mary (the most well-known pop version).

At 13-years-old Gordon Lightfoot was already making a name for himself, he loved to sing and his parents encouraged him to do so. Between the ages of 13-17 he won multiple awards for singing. That recognition helped him find his path so he attended West Lake College of Music in Los Angeles. This decision would prove to be invaluable to him.

The 60’s started a fire in Gordon, by 1964 he had already written 75 songs. However, he felt none of them really had a “sound” he could call his own. And then – he met Bob Dylan. Through Dylan, and many friends that came along with that sound, he found his sound and that sound would take him all over the world.

Bob Dylan had something to say about Gordon Lightfoot as well. In an article written when Dylan inducted Gordon Lightfoot into the Canadian hall of fame he said, “He (Lightfoot) became a mentor (of Dylan’s) for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.” Obviously the feeling was mutual. And from an article in The Huffington Post:

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.

BF: You and Lightfoot go way back.

BD: Oh yeah. Gordo’s been around as long as me.

BF: What are your favorite songs of his?

BD: “Shadows,” “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind.” I can’t think of any I don’t like.

Bob Dylan often covered the song “Shadows” when playing live.

As I sat down to write this, I began listening to some Gordon Lightfoot songs I have very little memory of hearing, it could be I never heard them. I was inspired to track them down when I happened upon a list of all of his songs that have been covered by other artists. This one piqued my interest – after all it was covered by Eric Clapton. I found Clapton’s version of it on YouTube, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. But that irked me, there had to be a reason that Eric Clapton would want to play that song. Right? There was. The problem is, you cannot improve upon perfection.

The 1970’s would be when Gordon Lightfoot would truly see fame. Finally being recognized by listeners outside of the folk music scene, yet continuing to create using his own unique sound, his songs began to top the charts. Being a child of the 70’s, it was only natural that my experience with Gordon Lightfoot would be: If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown and of course The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. But being a lover of music, that is never enough. When a songwriter sings and plays with so much raw emotion I naturally want to know, what more?

Exploring Gordon Lightfoot was something I did many years ago, to connect with my father, who was very influenced by folk music. And now again I am finding it as a way to connect with my son, to expand his knowledge of music, as I capitalize on his fascination with The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald*. Every minute is a learning moment with music. With Gordon, it could be a lifetime.

I will not leave you without Sundown:

Some trivia:

Aside from his success in writing, singing and performing his own songs, Lightfoot has found fortune in having his songs recorded and performed by other great artists including:  Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr., Marty Robbins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Judy Collins, Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Sarah McLachlan, Barbra Streisand, Peter Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte, Jane’s Addiction, Richie Havens, Glen Campbell, Toby Keith, George Hamilton IV and Eric Clapton.

In June of 2012 Lightfoot’s legacy was further enhanced when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  Lightfoot was honored for his role in defining the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and ’70s.  There are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame including Barry Mann, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Isaac Hayes, Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Diane Warren, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen.

* Shameless plug alert. This is a YouTube video of my son singing every single word of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald 3 years ago. He still sings that song almost everyday.

Gordon Lightfoot Graphic.png


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There Must Be Some Misunderstanding – How a Missing Genesis Album was Eclipsed by Van Halen

guest dj 200 dark

This week’s Raised on the Radio Guest Post, is by Doug Foster. Doug and I go waaaay back and I am thrilled to have him on Raised on the Radio.

Please click this link to read this post about love and loss and Van Halen,  There Must Be Some Misunderstanding

As much as I have loved having Raised on the Radio as it’s own site, we will now be moving back to where it all began. If you want to stay on top of all the newest posts from Raised on the Radio guests, regular contributors and me, please click over to My Skewed View and subscribe.


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Radio Disc Jockey: Long Hairs Need Apply

So, you think radio was always the way it is today?

rich schlitzLet’s see, today, many “announcers” go into the studio, record all of their vocal breaks, and leave for the day. Oh, they might make a public appearance here or there, and cut a commercial or two, but in reality, radio has gone downhill over the years. I’ll go into more detail why I believe so in a few minutes.

Most radio disc jockeys in the 1970’s started at small market radio stations. These were stations where you honed your vocal skills, perfected your timing, and learned how to operate a control board. There were even mixed format stations that tried their best to reach all different audiences at specific times of the day. These were the challenges that faced anyone that wanted to “get into radio” back in the day.

Take, for instance, a station I paid my dues at. In the morning, it was a mix of local news, national news, and religious programming. It made a change to “Classic Standards” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc.) at 9 a.m. Then, at 12 noon, there was an hour of “Checkerboard Time”, which was old Sons of the Pioneers and the Chuckwagon Gang singing, interrupted by farm news and grain reports. At 1 p.m., it was time for two hours of Country Music, followed by an hour and a half of Pop Hits, followed by an hour of “Bruce, the King Of Soul”, and finishing out the day was Pop/Rock. Versatile, to say the least.

One had to be a Jack of all trades to do the job. You had five minutes of state news to read before the top of the hour and five minutes of national news to read after the top of the hour station I.D. Of course, you had to have all your commercials either in the cart machine, or sitting in order next to it, and your music out of the news had to be cued up to start when the news was finished.

There were public service announcements that had to be read, birthdays that had to be announced and celebrated, and commercials that had to be written and recorded. The phones rang incessantly, the sister FM station, which was generally automated, needed reel to reel tapes changed, news had to be ripped off the teletypes and rewritten for broadcast, and you had to be witty on the air or you’d lose your audience.

Of course, some of that changed when you hit the larger markets. You still had to pick out some of your music, even though the Currents and rich soundboardRecurrents were in a box beside you for easy access and heavy play rotation. You were now in a market that was in the ratings book, so you really had to be aware of your audience and what amused them to simply hit your numbers and keep your job. The news was usually recorded by a true station newsperson, and the commercials were written by a production staff (which usually meant you had to fit 90 seconds worth of copy into a 60 second spot).

Pay was never good. Oh, you could survive, but the days of Howard Stern and other greats were yet to come. The real perks, for the single guy, came in the form of disc jockey groupies. No matter where you went, if you looked halfway cool, you left with a great looking partner.

There were times this was dangerous, though. One could find themselves invited to a party that turned out to be an orgy, or arrive to find Godzilla awaiting. Many of us used to tell our phone date people to meet us at such and such bus stop, and we’d pick them up in a fancy car we’d make up. We’d then drive by, see what was waiting there, and most of the time, quickly drive away in our Chevy Vega Woody Station Wagon! (I know, how callous and shallow of us! Still, you didn’t see the Godzilla we did!)

As Clear Channel and other groups bought out independent stations and made them all sound the same, many of us left the announcing industry. Luckily, I found my way into stand-up comedy. Others weren’t so lucky. I know of several that are M.C.’s at strip clubs. (I understand the perks are still quite good, though!)

The satellite radio industry still has its star announcers, as do some local stations, especially with a live morning crew. Otherwise, radio has become monotonous as the jocks are saying the same things, stations are playing the same music, and the music industry has gone in quality decline.

Wolfman JackWolfman Jack’s portrayal of a station disc jockey in the classic film “American Graffiti” is a good example of small town radio. At night, one could stretch the limits and play music not allowed in prime time. One could express opinions somewhat, as long as they didn’t conflict greatly with station policy. And, one could sit back in the silence and envision a day when they would be the master of the airwaves.

For most, the vision was only a dream.

Still, I cherish those memories. I remember having to go on a remote at a grocery store and talk for 15 minutes an hour about the world’s largest piece of cheese on tour there. (It’s the only time I could say “cut the cheese” on the air and get away with it!) I remember interviewing many rock stars that were making a comeback and hitting every little concert hall they could to revive their fame. I remember standing in front of the glass window as another jock was reading the news and doing my best to make him laugh during it. And, I remember getting ticked off at our station manager, cussing my ass off as I got up to go to another room to reset the reel to reel automation system, and looking up to see the “On Air” light still on as I left the broadcast booth. (Yeah, that one got me in trouble.)

I met my wife while I was in radio. In fact, let me introduce you to Godzilla I.

Yes honey, I was just joking. Now, go soak your tail to keep from getting all scaly!

About the Author:

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues. Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


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I Wanted My Own Bitchin’ Camero

 camero

 

It’s the mid 1980s. Bands like REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Wham! ruled the charts. But there’s an underground movement bubbling up — punk rock.

Listening to my Sony Walkman late at night, the local college station would spin strange songs and bizarre artists. Sometimes, the songs were so awful my ears hurt. Other times, the music seemed plain boring and vanilla. But some magical nights, the DJ was speaking directly to me.

One evening while laying in my bed, staring out at the darkness, two sarcastic whiney voices popped through the headphones. A walking bass played in the background while these kids just shot the breeze, making fun of Motley Crue and talking about nothing of importance. What kind of song was this?

Then suddenly, the tone of the song changed. Fast guitar. Banging drums. Staccato voice. The Dead Milkmen’s Bitchin’ Camero took over. Welcome to punk rock.

Check out Bitchin’ Camero. The song takes a crazy turn around minute #2. Although Bitchin’ Camero was The Dead Milkmen’s breakout song, their most popular tune by far is Punk Rock Girl.

The Dead Milkmen introduced me to the idea that music could be irreverent, sarcastic, silly and funny for the sake of just being fun. Songs didn’t have to be about love. They didn’t have to have a deeper meaning. Bands could inspire and move an audience with their acerbic wit and raw musicality.

About the Author:

Jennifer is the moms of boys, the better half (occasionally), a family cruise director, a short order cook, a techie and always evolving. When she’s not playing house, you can find her at The Jenny EvolutionGeneration iKid and The Sensory Spectrum.


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Music Transports Me

 time machine

The other day, I woke up disoriented to the sound of my husband’s clock radio alarm going off. In the split second it took me to process my surroundings and realize that it wasn’t the middle of the night and my toddler hadn’t woken me up coughing again, I became aware of the song. Not fully awake, the sensory memory slammed into me. As Natalie Merchant sang, “Because the night belongs to lovers,” I was no longer the sleep-deprived mother of two who had been up on and off with a sick child. I was sixteen years old – hormones, life, and infatuation coursing through my veins. I was lying in my twin bed in my childhood home, listening to 10,000 Maniacs and craving my next fix from the person I couldn’t live without. In less than ten seconds, I had left my adult life and re-entered my adolescent body and brain. Because of a song. Paired, of course, with the highly susceptible state of waking from a dream, and I nearly lost who I was for a minute.

As a music therapist, I am well-acquainted with the healing and transformative powers of music. I have witnessed firsthand men and women whose minds were ravaged with dementia clearly singing along to every word of a song I played. They were able to describe to me with great lucidity where they’d lived and who they were with the first time they heard that song. They had re-entered their younger brain-space. Because of a song. But somehow I am continually in awe when music has the same power in my own life to take me back in time.

Music transports us. Through decades and across thousands of miles. When I hear the opening strains of certain songs, I find myself desperately longing for people whose faces I haven’t seen in nearly a decade. As a self-proclaimed nostalgia junkie, I am beyond grateful for the power of music to take me back in time.

  • When I hear The Indigo Girls’ “Rites of Passage” album, I become a moody, love-sick teenager burning incense in my bedroom, high on a new sense of independence. (And nothing else, I assure you. I was a good girl until college.)
  • Hearing Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” transports me to a crummy off-campus apartment, where I am dancing with my three best college friends. We stop to rest on afghan-draped couches, cooling our legs with ice-cold bottles of (cheap) beer to combat the roasting apartment. (This was before my A/C days. Wait, I’m 35 and I still don’t have central air. Never mind.)
  • When I hear Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” I am riding in a crowded second-hand Oldsmobile, my companions and I consciously disregarding legalities as we weave our own moral fabric and compose a new set of rules by which to live.
  • Whenever the song “8 Days a Week” plays, I am dancing to a Beatles cover band at a summer street festival in Milwaukee, celebrating my liberation from academia.

I created a playlist that I listened to daily during those heady months when I was falling in love with my husband. Whenever I hear songs from it, my heart flutters momentarily.  I know my oldest daughter—seven years old—experiences this phenomenon as well. She was three years old when I remarried and my husband adopted her; she vividly remembers walking down the “aisle” on a beach in Mexico scattering rose petals. Whenever she hears Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” she announces, “Listen, Mommy! It’s my song from our wedding!”

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my brother—who is not quite three years younger than I am—began compiling a series of mixed tapes that lasted for years. These tapes contained the songs that accompanied all the memories and angst of these deeply important, often turbulent years of life.  I am terrified to listen to them as an adult, lest I lose my grip on reality and drown in nostalgia.

One of my biggest disappointments in life– that I still haven’t quite come to terms with—is the fact that I don’t get to go back and do everything again. I don’t ever get to ride in the backseat of the van with my brother during family road trips, listening to Elton John on our Walkman together. I don’t get to rock my babies and sing them lullabies as an old woman. I don’t get to fall in love again. I have this long-term goal to create a playlist that is essentially the story of my life. This epic digital mix tape will span my earliest childhood music—from the Beach Boys to Aerosmith—through my teenage years, college years, and up through my adulthood as a mother. Because if I can’t actually go back in time, having a playlist that serves as a time machine is the next best thing.

I am still hopeful for a day when the known laws of the universe have shifted and it is possible to travel in time to return to these formative experiences that comprise my Do-Again List. Maybe that is what happens after we die – we are granted one last cosmic road trip to stop by and visit all those moments and people who shaped us. I had better get to work on my legendary playlist so that the divine powers can easily access the perfect soundtrack to accompany my journey.

IMG_4342

Stephanie is a freelance writer, music therapist, and mother of two young girls. She blogs about the imperfect reality of life with kids at Mommy, for Real  and women’s friendship at The HerStories Project. Stephanie can usually be found behind her guitar, in front of her laptop, or underneath a pile of laundry. She can also be found wasting time on Facebook and Twitter. 


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I Thought Billy Joel and Billy Crystal Were the Same Person

I admit it, I watched a lot of TV as a kid in the 70’s. So much TV, that as a virtual latch-key kid, my sister and I often joked that TV was our mother. That same kid somehow managed to watch SOAP when no one was looking, which was basically always. Except on those rare occasions, when my dad would commandeer the television and we would get to watch SOAP without hiding out – if he forgot we were there.

In May of 1976 Billy Joel released the album Turnstiles. The first single (which means the song that they sent out to the radio stations) was New York State of Mind. That song meant a lot to us as a family because that album just happened to be released the same month my family moved from New York to Chicago. So whether it was my insistence, or my father’s love of music and all things New York, all we had to do was hear that song on the radio and that album was ours. This album is in my top ten albums of ALL TIME, so do yourself a favor and take the time to take a listen:

A few short months later, a new show hit the airwaves to an amazing amount of pre-protesting and talk of scandalous content. When the show aired, it actually warned the viewers that the content might not be suitable for all viewers, which was unheard of in the 70’s. However, the problem was the original line-up for Tuesday nights was Happy Days (I’m there), Laverne & Shirley (I am SO there) and Three’s Company (TV is my mother). Basically, I was already irrevocably glued to the TV by the time SOAP came along and although I can guarantee you I didn’t know what was going on, and some of it even seemed a little scary to me, enough of it was funny and weird that I was hooked.

Now here’s the rub. I spent most of my after school hours sitting next to the stereo, headphones on, staring at this album cover:

turnstiles

And then on Tuesday nights I sat glued, un-blinking to this guy:

photo credit: wikipedia

photo credit: wikipedia

You have to see my point. I’m almost 8-years-old, definitely too young to be watching SOAP, so the trauma (good and bad) forever etched the characters into my brain.

Back to the music – I could write a whole post on the genius that was Turnstiles. This album that could not reach the general pop culture because it was much to complex, it was more a jazz album with a pop bent. Each song was like a symphony. Each song IS a symphony, Billy Joel’s fingers move like the piano is just an extension of his arms. The complex arrangements of horns, the long solos… And if you have read my Steely Dan post you would know that the combination of amazing musicianship in the form of Jazz influence and pop is my sweet spot. And so, I would just listen to each song, so closely, memorizing each note and just stare at his picture, trying to imagine that guy making this amazing music. I knew (and still know) every word. But since I never actually got to see Billy Joel sing these songs, no MTV yet, and I did get to see Billy Crystal act every Tuesday night; that 8yo mind of mine did something I think was quite natural, it put two and two together and got one Billy. Because frankly the guy on the cover of that album looked a little mean, and the music was so amazing I thought he must really be a nice guy. I searched his face over and over for that. I found it in Billy Crystal.

So here’s the funny thing – that’s not where the similarities end. Billy Joel was born in The Bronx in 1949 and raised on Long Island. Billy Crystal was born in Manhattan in 1948 and raised in The Bronx. Both were born to Jewish immigrant families and both were raised under a very strong musical influence.

 

Billy Joel’s father was an accomplished classical pianist and his half-brother became an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe who is currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig. Billy Joel began supporting his mother while still in high school by playing piano at piano bars. His past was fairly checkered after that, but once he found his passion, well the rest is what musical theory classes are made of.

I am sure his past was the muse for this song:

Ironically Billy Joel and Billy Crystal still kind of look a like, which vindicates my 8-year-old brain

And… I’m not the only one who thinks so.

billy or billy

I highly recommend checking the album Billy Joel Turnstiles out. Click this link to go to iTunes:

Turnstiles – Billy Joel


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How On Demand Is Cheating Our Kids

In an age when it’s too easy to become a Ninja Netflix addict, stealthily clicking “next episode” on the iPad at 2am, knowing that you’ll regret it, and not being able to resist doing so, because it’s RIGHT THERE, right NOW, on demand, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when life was so completely not on demand.

There was a time when television and radio controlled what and when you watched, and listened to.

When On Demand didn’t exist.

Let me take you back. To pre-1981, and before MTV even existed.

In 1979, music had become an important part of my life. Big important. I’d hear a song on the radio, love it, and then have to wait for the next time they’d play it to find out the name of the band, if they didn’t announce it afterwards.

And, they usually didn’t announce it afterwards, as the practice was to introduce it beforehand, play it, and then fade out the music while the DJ said what he thought about it while immediately going into the next introduction. The next new song.

Back then, the radio made or broke bands. Enough airtime meant that we – the public – would have a shot at hearing it, before, or after, school hours.

Enough airtime meant that we’d have a shot at knowing what the band’s name was. It meant bicycling to the local Walgreens after babysitting for 8 hours to afford a purchase of the next coveted LP. It meant bicycling home, LP mostly-safely tucked into a backpack, finally gotten home, and then, it meant a dedication to listening to the entire record. Back, and front. Over and over again.

Ah. Can you even remember listening to the entire record? Front and back? I think we’re missing out, a bit, now….

We put up holiday lights, on our ceilings, because we didn’t have You Tube, or anything else, and our holiday lights were beyond festive. We made magic. Before You Tube and MTV magic existed, even. We saved up to see bands, live. To buy their records.

Teenage girl lying on floor 80s floyd_edited-3

I miss those days.

Back then, it meant that liking a record was an investment. That when you “LOVED” a band, that it mattered.

Years later, when tapes came out, and you could drive, it meant that liking a song meant rewinding that tape in the car, to the song that you needed to hear again. And again, and again.

It meant that when your parents told you that your stereo – that took up half of the wall because you had speakers and an amp and a tape thing and a record player on top – was too loud, that you could put on hubcap-sized earphones. Shut them out.

And just listen.

It meant that when you found out how much you loved U2 and Billy Idol, that you’d spend hours in front of the radio, waiting to record your new favorite song, and that, often times, the DJ spoke over the beginning and the ending of it.

Which meant that your favorite songs, before you could bicycle to Walgreens and purchase the record, were listened to with a DJ’s voice wrecking the beginning and end. It meant HOURS, sitting in front of your too-large stereo, waiting to tape your favorite song.

It meant laser light shows. If you’ve never seen one, I highly recommend it.

Mostly though, being raised on the radio means that we were, actually, raised on the radio.

Being raised on the radio was special, in a way that being raised On Demand, is not. It means that I want to teach my son the art of patience, and practice, and practicing patience.

It means that I will never let go of how it felt, waiting with anticipation for a station to play A Song. It means that although we live in a life of On Demand, that I’ll do my very best to teach my son that the best things in life are not clicked with a button.

That they’re worth waiting for.

That they’re not on demand.

Kristi and Tucker November 2009_edited-1Kristi Campbell is a semi-lapsed career woman with about 18 years of marketing experience in a variety of national and global technology companies.  More recently, she was a co-host on a hilarious (and under funded) weekly radio show.  Once her son was born, she became the mom who almost always leaves the house in either flip-flops or Uggs, depending on the weather.

While she does work part-time, her passion is writing and drawing really stupid-looking pictures for her blog http://www.findingninee.com.  Finding Ninee (pron. nine-ee for her son’s pronunciation of the word airplane) started due to a memoir, abandoned when Kristi read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir.  Its primary focus is humor and support in a “Middle World,” one where the autism spectrum exists but a diagnosis does not.


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Memories of Jim Croce, Like Time in a Bottle – Guest post by Meg Hammil

time in a bottle
I think most of us experienced in our youth what I think of as a “Day the Music Died” moment.  We learned about the unexpected death of a performer we admired, and not only did we feel what was for many the first twinges of mortality, but we grasped the bitter truth that even our heroes are not with us forever.
For me that moment was September 1973, 40 years ago this month. I was sitting on a school bus riding to school when I heard a radio announcement that Jim Croce had been killed in a plane crash.
Back in 1973 I was a moody 8th grader just really becoming aware of pop music, but lucky to be witnessing what was probably the greatest era of singer songwriters ever. The first to really catch my ear was Jim Croce.  The first song by him that I like was “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” I remember how cool and edgy we all thought we were singing a song with “damn” in it.  But I also soon discovered his heartbreaking love songs starting with “Time in a Bottle”.  This is music I have never outgrown my affection for.
Croce’s songs kind of divide themselves into 2 types. There are character studies, usually humorous; “Leroy” of course is the best known, but also Big Jim Walker of “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and “Rapid Roy the Stock Car Boy”. There are also the working class job songs, like “Working at the Car Wash Blues” and “Top Hat Bar and Grill.” Many of the songs involve someone getting their comeuppance like Jim Walker who learns “its not hustling people strange to you, even if you do have a 2 piece custom-made pool cue,” and Leroy who “Learned a lesson ‘bout messing’ with the wife of a jealous man.”
Then there are the love songs, among the most melancholy ever written, as one can see by the titles alone: “Photographs and Memories”, “One Less Set of Footsteps,” “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way,” “New York’s Not My Home,” and of course “Time In a Bottle.” Certain themes occur again and again. Either the singer has lost his love, or he feels he will soon.  He feels the passage of time is coming between them. “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them” (“Time in a Bottle”)
The very best in my opinion, is “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”.  The story of a broken romance is told through a man’s conversation with the telephone operator. The song is notable for how it tells the story:
“She’s living in LA
With my best old ex friend Ray
A Guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated.”
(So much better than “My woman left me for my best friend”)
He wants the phone number so he can tell the girl that he’s over her, and moving on, but can’t even convince himself, let alone anyone else. Finally in the end he gives up the effort. To me, the last lines of Operator are some of the best ever written:
“Thank you for your time
You’ve been so much more than kind
And you can keep the dime.”
The shortness of his life simply adds another layer of melancholy to what is already there. He was only 30 when he died, with a wife and 2-year-old son. When you listen to the few recordings we were lucky enough to get, one can’t help but think, here is a songwriter who was nowhere near his peak. When I listen to his music I always find myself grieving all the untold tales.
Meg Hammil is the mom of two Freshmen (high school and college)  and a book addict who gets all the double Jeopardy questions right. In her spare time she is a 911 operator, where she collects stories she can blog in retirement. Meg posts at  Meg on the Go and can be followed on Facebook  and on Twitter  @TheHachmom and Bloglovin’.


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Thanks For That Magic Yellow Box

Sony_Walkman02

Thanks for That Little Yellow Box

While children and teenagers across the land were secretly reading books by flashlight under the covers, I was covertly listening to the radio. My parents were none the wiser, thanks to a plastic yellow box — the Sony Sports Walkman.

With the Walkman came the ability to listen without creating noise through the stereo. This meant I could lie in the darkness of my room while my parents watched television downstairs. (But don’t tell them. I don’t want to get in trouble.)

The Sony Walkman changed how we listened to music. You could be in a room full of people and individually enjoy your tunes. No one knew if you were rocking out to Henry Rollins or loving on Lionel Richie. The notes were just for you.

At night, the radio became a jungle of new sounds. Nationally syndicated shows, deemed “too mature” for younger audiences, grabbed airtime late at night. The doctors suddenly took over the airwaves — from Dr. Demento to Dr. Ruth. My local college radio station — Siena College’s WVCR 88.3 FM — turned up the heat in the evening, pulling out new songs and obscure artists.

Music isn’t just something I listened to, I devoured it. My ever-present friend whacked me over the head with the punk scene, introduced me to new wave depression and snuck in a random rock ballad once in a while.

I was able to step into a different ecosystem of music and culture thanks to Sony. While friends were bopping to Tiffany, I was hanging with King Crimson. While classmates were swooning over Wham!, I was angry with early U2. Those late night rendezvous with my Walkman radically changed how I viewed the world. It transplanted me from my sleepy suburbia to a thriving urban oasis of sound.

I can’t even imagine how my mind would have been molded without the eye-opening tunes of emerging artists and underground amateurs. So thank you little yellow box. You rocked my world.

Jennifer is the moms of boys, the better half (occasionally), a family cruise director, a short order cook, a techie and always evolving. When she’s not playing house, you can find her at The Jenny EvolutionGeneration iKid and The Sensory Spectrum.


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New Releases by Classic Artists

new releases by classic rock

Cher has just released yet another album.

No, the plastic surgery hasn’t hurt her singing voice.

Still, the constant beat that accompanies her voice, one that we hear on 90% of the Pop tunes put out by idiotic record producers of today, tends to be annoying after a couple of songs.  I wish it was only in a couple of songs.  No such luck!

Why would someone with such a great voice allow this to happen?

Could it be that she’s afraid of aging and losing her younger audience?  Is her fear so strong that she, the all powerful and definitely one that could tell today’s producers where to go, actually feels that she must reduce herself to the norm and cover up her vocals with techno pulse electronics?

There are a couple of songs in which she allows her voice to shine.  You can feel her sincerity, love, hopes and dreams in each of these selections.  It’s a shame.  An entire album comprised of these type of songs could be a benchmark for all to reach.  But, fear can be a factor in making the wrong decision.  It is unfortunate that she seems to allow it to rule her career.

Hit Single “Woman’s World”

But, she’s a millionaire and I’m not, so perhaps I’m the one that’s stupid!

Does selling out in order to make money really do her musical talent justice?

For some of us that have followed her career since her “Sonny & Cher” days, we know she’s more than one of today’s “throw away” Pop artists.  Her sound is unique as it calls to your heart in a song like “The Way Of Love”, and mischievous in “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.”  But, from way back then to today, something changed.  Something happened to her.  Something occurred in her life that demanded she aim towards the Pop audience only and produce tunes that wouldn’t stand the test of time, but only supply funds for the day.

I’m not saying her new album, “Closer To The Truth” doesn’t have substance.  It does, but in a frivolous manner.  It’s basically a Pop/Dance album that says little in message, but will do well for exercise class music or Pop dance halls.

There’s a difference in “keeping up with the times” and “being true to your music.”  You could do much better, oh talented goddess of the decades!  Please, before it’s too late and the years eat away at your precious vocal ability, give us all something worthy of the praise you deserve!

Something like Elton John’s new album, “The Diving Board.”

I am a fan of early Elton John.  There have been many hits along the way, but there have also been many misses.  I will admit to having every album he’s composed in my collection.  However, most of those released in the 80’s and 90’s are doing a good job of gathering dust.

I will make a statement here that many will probably shoot me for.  Not since “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” has Elton had the complete quality in an album as his latest presents.

Strong statement, huh?  Believe me, it won’t be a popular one to the snot nosed music reviewers employed today.  You know, the ones that were raised on 90’s music and have never listened to anything previous to  that time period.

At first listen, the album will pull you into a world of mournful loss and storytelling beauty.  This, regardless of Pop opinion, is what Elton does best and what originally put him on the music map.  I won’t bore you with details, as I’ll let his music and words speak to your heart and soul when you listen to it for the first time.

Elton John  “Home Again”

But, if you’re looking for something to raise you out of this world with an electronic beat, you’ll be disappointed.  He doesn’t use such cheap thrills to get his point across and make a buck.  This, to me, is what Cher needs to see and take note of.  If it is to be Elton’s swan song album, he couldn’t have left a better example of quality of music.

I’ve bought so many albums in the last few months, my wife is going crazy wondering where I’m going to store them.  (Even those downloaded, I make a hard copy to keep in my collection in case of hard drive disaster.  It’s happened twice, so I learned by experience!)  Anyway, out of all of those I’ve purchased, this is the album of the year.  Oh, the Grammy’s won’t recognize it as such.  They only look at the throw away artists for the most part.  But, real music lovers will cherish this selection.

Needless to say, it holds my highest recommendation!

Not so the latest Sting release, “The Last Ship.”

This is where things get strange.  This album seems to be a follow-up to several of his past albums.  It brings about many references to past songs and characters in those songs.  It’s slow, told in a story manner, and I must say, somewhat boring to which to listen all the way through.

“The Last Ship” has it’s good points, especially if you’re trying to get some sleep and need some background music to finish the job.  Yes, boys and girls, can you say, “Boring?”

But, it’s not produced badly, and I guess, if you’re a real Sting fan, you’ll find it has some production value.  Sting’s vocals seem to have dropped and octave over the years, and may even be classified as unrecognizable at times.  But, let’s be real.  The guy is getting up in years and did put a lot of effort into this release.  Sorry, Sting!  I’ve really been a fan for years.  It just didn’t touch my sensitive spot.

Sting  “The Last Ship”

Finally, lets take a look at an artist that may not be too familiar to you.

Laura Mvula has recently released “Sing To The Moon” to the world.  (Thank God, a new artist that dares to be different!)

I can’t classify her music.  I’d love to say R&B, but it’s not.  Jazz?  Nope!  Easy Listening?  Not by any manner!  Pop?  Dream on!  Rock?  Not the furthest thing from the truth!   World Music?  Maybe this is the closest genre she enters.

There is no specific beat.  What?  Listen to it and you’ll see what I mean.  The songs break up into multiple beats, runs, and storylines.  It’s almost like a Broadway music score at times, taking you on a journey into the weird but beautiful land of “keep up with me and you’ll enjoy it!”

This may not be an album for those who love today’s standard trash that’s being aired.  Even I can’t say as though this would be an album that I’d play everyday.  But, I will say that I completely enjoyed it.  “Sing to the Moon” is refreshing in our world of formula sound.  Different?  You bet!  Fun?  You bet!  Storytelling?  Oh My God, YES!  (Just listen to the song “Green Garden” or “Is There Anybody Out There” and enjoy the vision!)

Laura Mvula  “Sing To The Moon”

Laura is a true artist from the meaning of the word.  They still exist (believe it or not) and can hold true to their music.  Not a sell out, at least for now.  Let’s hope she never does!

Remember, music is for the listener.  You may not agree with the above reviews.  That’s okay!  I may not agree with everything you like or dislike either.  The fact remains that there’s a lot of good music available for you to sample.  Don’t hold back.  Experiment with different styles and genres to increase your perspective and collection.  You may be surprised at what you’ll discover.

Ciao!

 

About The Author

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues. Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


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You Thought They Said What? The Sadder But Wiser Girl Spills It.

you thought they said what dots

My good friend Sarah, from The Sadder But Wiser Girl was kind enough to humiliate herself for our pleasure. I asked her to share they lyrics of a song she has sung wrong all of these years, and she happily obliged. The song?

Jet Airliner by The Steve Miller Band

 steve miller band jet airliner
J: So Sarah, do tell, what was it you thought they were singing? 
S: Well Jen, I thought they were singing “Big old Jeb had a lighthouse…”
J: What did you think those lyrics meant or did you just go with it?
S: I just went with it. Maybe big old Jeb did have a lighthouse.
J: Do you know the actual lyrics? 
S: Big old jet airliner, don’t carry me too far away…
J: When did you realize that you’d had it wrong all along?
S: I think when I saw the song on Twisted Mixtape Tuesday. Yeah, I’m slow like that.
J: Uhm, Sarah, that was just a few months ago.
J: Did you ever sing the wrong lyrics in public, you know, in front of someone? 
S: Probably.
J: What happens when you hear the song now? 
S: I just start giggling and can’t stop.
J: Sarah, thanks for baring your innermost soul and sharing this embarrassing moment with us.
S: My pleasure. Now please ask your readers to go visit my blog.
J: Will do.
Sarah Almond “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” is a mom of two children and is married to an evil genius. Suffering from ADD, Anxiety, and a phobia of washing dishes by hand, she blogs to save the world from boringness. Though she is college educated, she would gladly trade her degree in for something useful, like a cheese sandwich. Find her at The Sadder But Wiser Girl
*I’d like to thank Linda of Elleroy Was Here for coming up with this fun idea. Feel free to share yours in the comments!


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FirstNotes and ForeverMusic

lizzi guest post ROTR

I was raised in a pretty shut-down household, where the music available was a strict diet of Classic FM (which I now love), Classical CDs (I love some of them), ‘Churchy’ music (still not that keen), and Gilbert and Sullivan (hate it with a passion).

There was one exception (other than the stalwart ‘sung Times Tables’ tapes) – one copy of a hearkening back to my Dad’s childhood; a ‘Hello Children Everywhere’ CD. I listened to it obsessively, whenever I was allowed to use the (gigantic old monster of a) stereo system, in brushed steel, with heavy dials and buttons which swirled deliciously in my hands and would land me in trouble, because somehow the volume always seemed to end up louder.

danny-kaye

So thanks to the lifeline of this one CD, I caught a tiny break and spent my childhood having my mind blown by such wonders as Suzi Miller’s ‘Bimbo’, Burl Ives’ ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ and Danny Kaye’s ‘Little White Duck’.

My musical world exploded into life when I went to secondary school.

I’d chosen a school in a town outside the city, which meant being bussed in with a bunch of other local kids. We were herded onto a scabby old, white mini-bus, with a snarkastic driver who tended to be either overly friendly or overly mean, but the journeys had one HUGE redeeming feature, which quite made them a favourite part of my day. The radio.

Tuned for the first time in my LIFE to something beyond the realms of the classical, 103.2 Power FM gave me my first taste of what I’d been missing, and just what depths of wonder there were to explore. Chaka Demus and Pliers ‘Twist and Shout’, D:Ream ‘Things can only get better’, UB40 ‘(I can’t help) Falling In Love With You’, not to mention Rednex, who I can probably hold fully responsible for my ongoing love of countryish music, since then broadened to include such gorgeousness as Bill Monroe, Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton

I remember with absolute delight my very first tape.

It was given to me for my birthday by neighbours over the road. It was Robson & Jerome’s version of Unchained Melody, with B sides of ‘I believe’ and ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ (so deeply ingrained in my mind that I didn’t even look it up to check the B sides – I’m probably right, and if not, well it was 18 years ago…). I can’t remember how, but I got a tape player, and discovered, to my delight and awe, that I too, could get Power FM tuned in, directly into my bedroom and began listening at home, ignoring repeated shouts to “Turn that horrible noise down!” as often as I could.

I then discovered (oh sweet day) that a store nearby actually SOLD the music I’d heard on the radio (yes, I was *that* sheltered). My pocket-money immediately became a hugely important deal, and I even began forgoing my weekly Beano comic to buy tapes and tapes…and then I discovered CDs, back when a single was still 99p. To my shame, I can’t remember my first single. Or my first album.

Buying blank tapes and sitting hunched over the radio waiting for my favourite songs to come on, with my finger hovering, poised, over ‘Play’ and ‘Record’ was a massive pastime for me. The irritating DJ or radio jingle forever intertwined with the intro and outro, the missing first three seconds when my attention span had waned.

I developed some serious musical crushes, my ears, mind and soul being touched in ways I’d never felt before – thoughts and emotions expressed in ways I’d never considered possible. I became a cray-cray fan of such acts as Robbie Williams, Alisha’s Attic and All Saints.

And gradually the radio became my companion.

I branched out, finding new stations which weren’t all pop. I discovered rock, house, trance, dance, disco, and later on, music from generations slightly before my own, which is where I feel my musical soul now lives, courtesy of my new-found favourite radio station – 106 Jack FM. They play music from about early in my own musical introduction back to a generation or so before my time, mixed with a few newer tracks for good measure – Aerosmith, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Edmunds, Faith No More, Queen, Reef, ELO, T-Rex, Tommy James and the Shondells …. But even though it’s my favourite, I can’t stay faithful – my car (which is my ‘Radio Place’) has an old-fashioned stereo/tape player, with a different station (yes, including Classic FM – shh!) programmed into each of its five buttons.

(Small Victory – takes a while to get going; if you want to skip straight to the Good Stuff, head to 2:22 for a guitar riff which just *does things* to me)

In spite of that, my musical ‘old soul’ still has to resort to the not-the-radio resource of YouTube to supply such gorgeousness as The Andrews Sisters, The Beach Boys, Elvis, Flanders and Swann; usually with one or two tracks hitting my ‘favourites’ list on YouTube, as opposed to loving everything the band produced, as in the heyday of First Discovering Music.

But it’s not the same. YouTube is cold and clinical, and sometimes highly irritating (although everything’s ‘on tap’). The DJs on Jack FM have become my pals – I know the ins and outs of their public personas. I follow their news. I even follow the station on Twitter and Facebook. I recognize their voices. I dance in my car to their music choices, and I love it.

The world of music has become an outlet – I can use music to describe how I feel far better than I can use words. Music speaks to the soul rather than the intellect, and since my very first introduction, I knew that radio and I would get along, though it’s definitely moved up in status over the years from ‘companion’ to ‘Forever Friend’. Thank you Radio, for giving me so much.

About the Author:

Lizzi Rogers is a non-professional blogger over at Considerings. Her aim is to Think Deeply, Tell Truths and Actively Seek the Good in life. Creator of the weekend-long ‘Ten Things of Thankful’ hop, she blogs about her thoughts, her world and being a member of The Invisible Moms Club. She finds that when she runs out of words, music can be used to speak for her, and if she had to lose four of her five senses, would keep her hearing, for the idea of a world without music would be far too desolate to contemplate.”

You can follow her on Twitter: @LRConsiderer and on Facebook