We, at the site, really do strive to bring the coolest stuff possible to the readers and I think you’d agree our commitment pays off. But sometimes things float through our transom that don’t make it to the site for one reason or another. Such was the case when your own, your very own Dirk McQuickly Jason Hare e-mailed some links to the staff. A friend of his transferred old cassettes recorded from radio broadcasts in the ’80s, complete with commercials, DJ banter and other ephemera, to MP3. Nerdlet that I am, I downloaded as many as I could and reveled in a little regressive therapy at maximum volume.
Then I recalled, “Wait a minute. I’m a notorious packrat! I might have a few tapes of my own!” I did, in fact. Recordings of the fabled WPLJ from 1980s New York actually existed in a tape box that had an inch of dust congealed atop it. I thought this would be a very cool addition to our little Internet menagerie, and it would have been – were it not for the fact I only bought the cheapest, crappy blanks back then.
Yes, friends, the tapes had stretched, warped, some even seized up into circular spools of utter uselessness, but all were rendered ruined by time. But that doesn’t stop a man on a mission, now does it? I decided to build the playlist back from the ground up, based on the information on the J-card. Also, this one particular tape was playable but it sounded horrible, warbly, drifting in azimuth alignment so that sound meandered from fuzzy and muddy to irritatingly sharp.
Even though WPLJ was clearly marked, no dates were. I determined, through a bit of Wiki-ing, that the songs came from between 1979 to 1982 but that led to other problems. For instance, this mix includes Rainbow’s “Stone Cold” from 1982. It also has Foreigner’s “Head Games” from 1979, and the latter probably could have carried on in the playlist for those intervening years. I seriously doubt Rocky Burnette’s “Tired Of Toein’ The Line” would have hung in there though, yet there it is.
Another point of confusion: The Sherbs’ “We Ride Tonight” from 1981 wasn’t really a hit in the US, but it shows up here as does Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” from 1982. There’s no way these two have co-existed. I think perhaps I recorded 1979 on the tape, then taped over a side with 1982. It doesn’t explain how ’80 and ’81 gets in there, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I taped some commercials as well, none of them surviving in suitable posting quality. If I was being so picky about the songs I was grabbing, why did I leave ads for Bubble Yum, concerts presented by Ron Delsner and the latest chick magnet from Chevrolet on there?
You lose the goofy interactions of the DJs and the charming, what-the-hell novelty of the commercials. You get arguably better sounding tracks. Unfortunately you also get REO Speedwagon, but it was on the tape and I felt I had to honor the continuity as found (or in Kevin Cronin’s case, the hon-Errrrrrrah) so there you go. I even decided to grace the darn thing with delightfully garish two-tone art for you mixtape downloaders. It’s all packaged in a handy-dandy zip file for your convenience, or you can pick and choose from our usual single track options.
It’s a moment in broadcasting we won’t see again, when genres as diverse as metal, hard rock, new wave pop and even rockabilly commingled for our entertainment. I certainly didn’t realize back then that I was listening to something special. I, like most of us, just took it for granted that this was rock radio. Hopefully, this approximation will get you a little bit nostalgic too.
Enough chatter. Time to boogie.
The first of two songs produced by Roy Thomas Baker on the list. He was one of five go-to producers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, having worked with Journey and Queen.
This is the second RTB production and I suspect most people would readily associate the band and the producer. This is an album cut but definitely had single potential. I wish radio stations still devoted a few precious minutes to album cuts, don’t you?
There’s nothing earth-shaking about the lyrics, but I’ve always found this song irresistible. Upon finally hearing the rest of the album, I know why this single was chosen, and why I’ve never bothered listening to the rest of the album again.
They call it the first truly electronic hit, and I guess they’re right although some of the percussion is real. Say what you want about the song proper; those intertwined sine-wave synths at the end are still killer.
This is the odd-man-out, now isn’t it? It’s classic rock ‘n roll, but by this time on the charts, the “‘n roll” part was long forsaken.
Meanwhile, this was the “sound of today” but if you strip away the bite of the guitars, Adam’s eccentric vocal delivery and other telltale era additives, you find there’s little separating “Antmusic” from “Rock Around The Clock”.
The ugly, fat and hairy (or bald) people of America salute you, J. Geils, Seth Justman, Peter Wolf and (snicker, snicker) Magic Dick. Your first ’80s anthem gave us all something to sing on Valentine’s Day.
Again, it was on the tape. Beside, I know some of you Speedwagon apologists will take me to task for dissing the band, so having to add this is merely the punishment fitting the crime. Errrrrrrraaaaah!!
Never was a huge fan of Shooting Star, but I really love this song. It sounds like Randy Meisner fronting Kansas. I’ve had this on mixtapes previous but, as I said before, if it was on the cassette, it’s on here.
Another album cut, this time from the Paradise Theater album. Now, I give Styx crap like anyone (everyone?) but I’ve always liked this album. It’s the least flamboyant of their output, aside from the hit “The Best Of Times” – Also, could you imagine the tempo stepped up a bit, the guitars just a tad crunchier, and maybe James Hetfield growling James Young’s lines? I can.
Another one-hitter that’s been on previous mixes, but it’s a perfectly fine example of Southern boogie-pop.
We call this the What The?! track of the mix. The Sherbs were from Australia and were previously a jazz-rock band called Sherbet. They jumped on the new wave sound, rechristened themselves (kind of) and still wound up almost thoroughly unknown. I’m sorry, Australian readers.
I like this song, don’t get me wrong, but I liked it better when it was called “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
And why was Aldo Nova a one-hit wonder? Listen to that voice! No, really listen to it. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Fronted by Tom “Life Is A Highway” Cochrane, I remember liking this song back then but skip it whenever the playlist digs it up now. Do you think Rascal Flatts could cover this too?
Raise your stones if you must, but I still like Rainbow so much more than Deep Purple. Aim. Fire.
How did we not know? “Leather Rebel”? “Rock Hard Ride Free”? “Ram It Down”? “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”? Again, how did we not know?
Depending on the generation you belong to, Golden Earring are either the band that did “Twilight Zone”, the band that did “Radar Love” or who the hell are Golden Earring?
Yes, no single Scorpions album will go down as an example of songcraft at it’s finest, but the whole Blackout album has a dimwitted charm about it. Plus, Klaus Meine’s voice, despite those German dipthongs, was made for loud rock music. “…To dee-skripe all my Lon-kinks for loff!”
Finally, you can find the whole magilla here as that Zip file… We’ll be back next week with our regularly scheduled program. Do drop by!