Sunday, February 21, 2010

Huey Lewis Should Be Heard

As you know, I am a first and foremost a DJ. First, I started on WTIT Tape Radio from age 15 to present day. Then at 17. I was off to Emerson College and was finally heard over a real FM signal at our college radio WERS, Boston. In fact, both my junior and senior years I was the music director at my college radio station. And with no offense to others who did college radio, Emerson College is one the best and biggest communications schools in the country. So, to do a radio shift and be in management was a HUGE deal.

At the time, if you asked any of us what we hoped to do, we would have said, “I’d like to host The Tonight Show.” Now realize that Johnny Carson had only been the host for six years when I left for Boston to Emerson. No one knew he’d do the show forever and become the icon that he became. However, when he did retire someone in my class at Emerson did get The Tonight Show job. Obviously, Jay Leno and I went to school together. After being a morning radio host, a Album Rock DJ, a program director and in radio management I think I know a bit about music.

Take the 80’s for an example. Who was the best rock band? You have a lot to choose from there. The Police? Journey? Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? Duran Duran? Huey Lewis and the News? Any would be a good choice, as would another twenty bands that I failed to mention. I have always felt that Huey Lewis and the News was the quintessential 80’s band. I'm not saying best, but at every party, some of what we'd be listening to would be Huey & The News. Fact.

How is this for a resume of some of their hits: The Heart Of Rock & Roll, Doing It All For My Baby, Do You Believe In Love, Trouble In Paradise, Hip to Be Square, The Power Of Love, Heart & Soul, If This Is It, Workin' For A Livin', Stuck With You, I Want A New Drug? Imagine my shock when I read a post from Diesel at Mattress Police that said classic rock radio does not play Huey’s music!

You may be surprised that I did not know this. The day I bought my iPod I stopped listening to radio. Now most iPod owners I've met do not own 11,000 songs as I do, but I do stay current by downloading new music at legitimate sites.

But I no longer listen to anything on the radio other than WFAN, a New York sports/talk station. I read the incredibly well written post and promised that I would try to help. Diesel is doing a petition to send to the huge radio companies like Clear Channel and I imagine Infinity/CBS, to beg them to add Huey and the News to their stations in a classic rock format. Please leave a comment on Diesel’s blog so he adds you to the petition. Please mention that you read about Huey's situation here. Here’s the name of the post to click on, Do You Feel Like I Do About Huey Lewis?

I met Huey in 1994. I was working for Star 104.1 an adult contemporary station. We played a lot of Huey Lewis & the News. But not a lot of their new music. It seemed that Huey and his band were at a crossroads. Radio was moving towards the Seattle grunge sound and he was going station to radio station trying to get the single "Some Kind of Wonderful" played off his brand new album "Four Chords and Several Years Ago". It was a collection of oldies covers and the single was a cover of the old Grand Funk song. Music had moved on and Huey Lewis and the News were yesterday’s news. He was great to meet. He posed for this photo with me and gave me a replica album cover (of course albums were gone by then which made this gift even more meaningful) that he and the band had signed. Obviously I am a huge fan. Meeting him and finding him so nice was an excellent "plus".

The irony is that radio station changed formats two weeks later. We became an alternative rock station and played a lot of Seattle grunge. I loved that music. As I had loved Huey in the 80’s, but times had changed. But I am OUTRAGED that Huey is not played on classic rock stations. Please post a comment on Diesel’s post. At WTIT the music and those who make it matters. Let’s help Huey get what he richly deserves. I thank you in advance!

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strong>But today was about Huey. Same time. Same blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who Will Save Your Soul

The WTIT Blog’s feature A DJ’s Take has been one of our most popular features. Today we continue our latest version of this feature that we have "sub-titled" 5 Random Songs. When writing this, we simply pick out five songs (at random...who'd a thunk?) that we have grown to love over the years. We hope to share with you some of the background of the songs and of course why this music is important to us. On the day when this feature is published, the WTIT Playlist will play just those five songs. So, if you would like to listen to the songs as you learn about why we chose them, crank up the volume.

Animal by Def Leppard. In last week's comments for this feature, we were asked to choose a Def Leppard song for this week. Animal has an interesting history. It was one of the first songs that the band wrote and tried to record, but the band had lots of problems with each of the song's recording. Three producers tried to get it right, including Jim Steinman (who is best known as songwriter and producer of the first two Bat Out of Hell albums from Meat Loaf). Steinman also has worked for many other artists including Barbra Streisand.

Steinman was fired by Def Leppard and the songs he produced including Animal were never released. In the US, by the release of the 1983 album Pyromania, Def Leppard was huge. Rock of Ages, Photograph, Rock Till You Drop and Too Late for Love were big songs in the states. In their native UK the band was still ignored. It was not until 1987 and the album Hysteria that Def Leppard had a hit in England. Ironically, it would be the now reworked Animal that would be Def Leppard’s first top ten hit in the UK. Mutt Lange would be producing the band by that time and it was his production of the song that became the hit.

The Letter by the Box Tops. The Box Tops didn’t even have a name when a Nashville songwriter named Wayne Carson Thompson gave the band this song. Thompson played guitar on the band’s recording. He never was happy with the result. Alex Chilton was the lead singer at age sixteen when the song was recorded. Thompson did not like Chilton’s vocals as “too husky”. The irony was that this was not the way Chilton normally performed, and his vocals were attributed to a lack of sleep. Thompson did not like the production and the sound effect of an airplane in the song.

After recording the song the band needed a name. One member of the band suggested that they have a contest and have people send in cereal box tops to enter. The band's producer responded, “The Box Tops, that’s your name.” The song was the band’s only number one hit in the US. At one minute, fifty-eight seconds it was the last hit record, from 1967, that was under two minutes in length.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield. The song is big in WTIT folklore. Bouncing Billy had a girlfriend that we kidded him about. Not that there was anything wrong with her, but Billy hated being teased, so we as his high school jerk friends teased him a lot. Anytime we were talking about the girlfriend I’d slip this song on the turntable. Billy hated the song because of this. Billy and I recorded the very first WTIT tape. Bill recorded with us from 1967 till his final appearance in 1985.

The song was an Italian song that Dusty Springfield heard and loved. She didn’t know what the song was even about and decided that it needed English lyrics, and she got Simon Napier-Bell (who produced the Yardbirds) and Vicky Wickham (who hosted the popular English music show Ready Set Go) to write the lyrics. Dusty, Vicky and Simon were heading to a nightclub that night, so they had only an hour to write the lyrics. The words were actually finished in the taxi on the way to the club. It became Dusty’s only number one song in Britain. (We could only find a ten second version Dusty's version of the song for today’s Random Five playlist, so we included a full version of Elvis’ cover as well. Yes, we know it is not the same. So sue us.)

Hey Jealousy by the Gin Blossoms. This is an important song for me personally. When I became sales manager of an alternative rock radio station in the mid 90’s, I had to be completely up on the music. The Gin Blossoms were my first favorite band of the era. Doug Hopkins was the original leader of this band and wrote Hey Jealousy about an ex-girlfriend he wanted to reconnect with. It was included in the Gin Blossoms first ever album Dusted that was released in 1989. Although, no one noticed.

Hopkins had a lot of problems with alcohol. During the recording of their first album for a major record label, A&M, the band fired Hopkins. Hey Jealousy was the band’s breakout hit. Doug Hopkins’ depression over being thrown out and then having a song he wrote become such a big hit, was more than he could endure. In 1993, Doug Hopkins committed suicide. The band’s breakthrough album was titled New Miserable Experience because of what they had gone through. The band broke up in 1997. Ten years later, they would reunite and record the CD Major Lodge Victory. A good album, but not great, prooved to be successful enough to allow the band to stay together as today, on this silly feature we do here on the WTIT Blog.

Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel. Another artist that broke out when I became management at an alternative rock station, Jewel would play as an opening act for any alternative rock station for very little money. Most of the shows that we had at Radio 104 in Hartford, Jewel opened. I left and entered management at WBCN in Boston that had just changed formats from classic rock to alternative. Jewel opened a lot in Boston as well, and she wound up as a huge force in the music industry.

Who Will Save Your Soul was written by Jewel when she was sixteen. It wasn’t until 1995 when Jewel recorded her debut album, Pieces of You, which Jewel recorded at Neil Young’s ranch studio with The Stray Gators, one of Neil’s backup bands. Along with this song, Foolish Games and You Were Meant for Me were also on this CD. Not bad for a nineteen year-old and her first album. However, like so many artists she peaked early. Her last album did not do well. She is currently working on an album to be released in June, and is her debut in the world of country music.

That will do it for the Thursday
edition of the WTIT Blog.
We hope you enjoyed our 5 Random
"Blasts from the Past" on this week's
A DJ's Take.
Next time we will attempt to actually
do something incredibly funny. Or perhaps
we will settle for anything
even"mildly amusing".
We tend to set our standards
not very high. And a Happy Valentine's Day.
If you celebrate that sort of shit.
We are happy that you read
our nonsense on WTIT: The Blog.
Join us next time.
We will do Dating Profiles of the Week.
Same time. Same blog.

WTIT: British Invasion Bands

Every now and then, the WTIT Blog brings you our feature we call A DJ’s Take and today it is another of our "Best of" lists. Today we bring you WTIT's Top 10 British Invasion Bands. We will name the band, do a mini bio, and tell you our favorite song of the band. Tell us what we missed! Please feel free to “take this feature" and do it as a meme to present your opinions. Today, we will share. Let’s cue up today's A DJ's Take.

10. The Searchers. If you go on their website (and, of course, I did) they explain that the only group with more influence than they, were The Beatles. After I got up from falling down laughing I thought that they we lucky made our top fucking ten. John McNally (still in the present incarnation), Mike Pender, Chris Curtis and Tony Jackson on bass and lead vocals were with the group for its first recordings. Tony left in 1964 to be replaced by Frank Allen who still tours today. Our Favorite: Needles and Pins.

9. Gerry & the Pacemakers. Gerry Marsden formed the group in the late 50’s. They were the second group Brian Epstein would sign. This explains their first hit. The Beatles were recording and were asked to record the song How Do You Do It. John hated the song. He was told that if he could write a better song to do it at lunch. John wrote Please Please Me. So he did write a better one, by a lot. How Do You Do It was given to the Pacemakers. The Beatles version was on bootlegs but not officially released until The Anthology ten years ago. Our Favorite: Ferry Cross the Mercy.

8. Herman’s Hermits. Peter Noone was a child actor in England. He was only 15 when Herman’s Hermits were formed in 1963. Their first hit was I’m into Something Good. The biggest hit they would have was an album cut originally. Back in those days everything was about the singles. It was not until DJs started playing, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter that the song was released as a single. The record company did not think they were great musicians and hired some session musicians for some albums. Jimmy Page, of all people, was one of those people. Our Favorite: Henry VIII

7. Dave Clark Five. They were the second big invasion band. Until the Stones, that is. Dave Clark was the drummer, but Mike Smith was the singer and star. He toured with his own band, doing DC5 songs until an accident left him a quadriplegic on 2003. He passed away earlier this year. But he lived long enough to learn that The Dave Clark Five had made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He died a dew weeks before induction. They were huge with the rock fans, but not well respected in the business. Where most of the groups had played the same clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, the DC5 were formed to take advantage of the invasion. It worked. They had a ton of hits. Our Favorite: Glad All Over.

6. The Hollies. Allan Clarke became friends with Graham Nash at five years old. Together they would form the Hollies in 1962, some fifteen years later. Although there is a rumor that their name was a tribute to Buddy Holly, the story is simpler. Graham Nash’s family had SO much holly up for Christmas it became a joke of the guys, and later their name. Their first U.S. hit was Look Through Any Window. There have been some almost thirty guys who have played in the group over the years, but nothing would top the original band. Our Favorite: Carrie Ann.

5. The Kinks. A threesome originally of brothers Ray and David Davies and Peter Quaife, first burst into the scene in 1964 with You Really Got Me and by then Mick Avory on the drums. David released a new album last week (We have not heard it) and Ray in 2006. Ray’s album was fantastic and could easily been from the Kinks era and is called Other People’s Lives. He released another this year and it is on our Christmas "Wish List". Our Favorite: Tired of Waiting for You.

4. The Animals. Eric Burdon and the boys were playing London in 1964 when the Beatles hit American. By June they had the mega hit “House of the Rising Sun”. They’ve had a ton of hits, but unless you dive into the band you won’t know what a strong blues influence they had. When you think of all their hits, including We Gotta Get Outta This Place and their cover of Nina Simone's Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood you have to give it up to them. Our Favorite: House of the Rising Sun.

3. The Who. In 1965 I Can’t Explain launched The Who. Peter Townshend, Roger Daltry, John Entwistle and Keith Moon rocked the world ever since. Besides a ton of hits, The Who took the Beatles “concept album” to the next level and wrote and performed the rock opera Tommy. There can be no list of best albums of rock that Tommy would miss. They had a top ten album in 2006 named Endless Wire. Moon passed away in 1978 and John in 2003. Their current drummer is Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son and The Who still tour. Our Favorite: Won't Get Fooled Again.

2. The Rolling Stones. “I roll a Stonie. You can imitate anyone you know” John Lennon wrote in the song I Dig a Pony off the Let It Be album. They mimicked and spoofed the Beatles (The White Album led to Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Be to Let It Bleed) but still they managed to rock us for all these years and still tour, write and perform great albums and have an impact. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were the original band. Our Favorite: Sympathy for the Devil.

1. The Beatles. You know their story. Not only the greatest rock band ever, but also had a huge social influence over an entire generation. As a DJ in the 70’s I was always waiting for the next big band after the Beatles. It hasn’t happened. We’ve had great bands since, but nothing even close to what was The Beatles. Our favorite: All.

John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr

Thanks for joining our little trip back
to the early sixties today.
Tomorrow the WTIT Blog will have our
Dating Profiles of the Week.
Parts of this post appeared August 9, 2007.
We hope you are back, live and
in living black and white, tomorrow.
Same time. Same blog.