Saturday, March 29, 2014

Geffen Records: Ways To Be Wicked

Our final look at Geffen Records takes us back to 1985 self-titled album by the cowpunk band Lone Justice. I remember listening to the cassette version of this LP quite often in my car back then. Lone Justice was formed in 1982 by vocalist Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock. In a short time, they became the darlings of the musical elite and well known and established artists were attending their shows in Los Angeles.

One of those was Linda Ronstadt who alerted David Geffen about their talent, and Lone Justice was signed to Geffen Records. When in town, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers frequented their shows as well. Additionally, Petty and Mike Campbell contributed their composition “Ways to be Wicked” to cut for their debut album. To round out their involvement, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mick Campbell added their respective talents to record.

Although “Ways to be Wicked” was their second single, it performed as their first. Geffen initially released “Sweet, Sweet Baby (I’m Falling); however, the company pulled the single in deference to “Ways to be Wicked” in April 1985. In June, Geffen rereleased “Sweet, Baby, Baby” a second time in June 1985.

While I loved it, “Ways to be Wicked” did not perform to anyone’s expectations – the label’s, the band’s, or even mine. What I thought was a great song with a lot of grit, the public felt otherwise. “Ways to be Wicked” peaked on the Hot 100 at 71 and on the album charts at #29. For our final look at Geffen Records, “Ways to be Wicked” serves as our Saturday Bubbling Under Feature.

Art Promoff & the author; 1985 Pop Music Survey Convention in Atlanta
As I close out our look at Geffen Records, I wish to dedicate this entire past week to my friend Art Promoff. During the greater portion of my time in popular music radio, Art was the National Promotions Director for Geffen. Not only was he a business associate, he was a friend. Tragically two days before Art’s 45th birthday in 1996, he passed away. The world lost a man who loved music and life. Art, we all miss you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Geffen Records: Here Comes The Feeling

The band Asia might be best known as a “super group” of the second generation prog rock bands. Asia was a synthesis of key players from Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Bassist John Wetton was looking to collaborate with some of the key progressive rock players in a new project since the 1974 breakup of King Crimson. It took seven years, however, for a lineup to gel and the band Asia began to fall into place in 1981.

Steve Howe, the guitarist from the classic version of Yes, was brought in along with a more recent Yes alumnus, keyboardist – Geoff Downes. While Asia would be enjoying the fruit of their labor, Downes was also participating in the production of Yes’ 90125 album – a masterpiece in itself. After the collapse of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, drummer extraordinaire, Carl Palmer was also added to the group.

Initially, John Fleischman who had performed with Journey was selected to be the lead vocalist, but he bowed out because he felt that Wetton actually had the better voice. The band was signed to Geffen and their self-titled debut album was a colossal success. The album remained in the #1 slot for nine weeks and was a quadruple platinum release in the US.

A total of six songs from “Asia” were pushed to radio, but only three singles proper were issued: “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” and “Sole Survivor.” “Sole Survivor,” while not a Top 40 hit, charted at #10 on album radio and its “B” side, “Here Comes the Feeling,” peaked on AOR radio at #40. This classic Asia tune not only serves as our tribute to Geffen Records, it is our Friday Flipside as well. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Geffen Records: A Million Miles Away

Although formed in 1978 and having recorded for two nationally distributed labels (Planet and Geffen), the band would only have one near miss: “A Million Miles Away.” In fact its appearance in the movie “Valley Girl” and its subsequent popularity spurred the band to rerecord “A Million Miles Away” for their only album on Geffen – “Everywhere but Once.”

Not only am I featuring the song as part of my series on Geffen Records it is also my Thursday Repeats and Threepeats selection, as “A Million Miles Away” was originally released on the independent label Shaky City Records in 1982. The single was issued in both 7 and 12 inch versions.

The popularity of “A Million Miles Away” intensified as the song was included in the movie “Valley Girl” where the band appears to be playing it live. Because of this attention, The Plimsouls rerecorded it for inclusion on “Everywhere but Once.” Released in 1983, “A Million Miles Away” placed at the #11 spot on the album radio charts; however, it failed to generate much interest from the mainstream public. Its dismal peak during the summer of ‘83 was at #82 on the Hot 100 chart.

I loved this song and played it as an album cut at WCIR in Beckley, WV; however, it failed to gain any momentum in our market. Prior to disbanding, the band released one further single: “Oldest Story in the World.” By 1984, front man Peter Case was a solo artist and his excellent debut album was also released by Geffen. These two albums were the sum total of Case’s and The Plimsouls’ contributions to David Geffen’s empire.

The Plimsouls’ sound probably had many influences, but one that comes to mind when listening to “A Million Miles Away” is The Byrds. The 12-string electric guitar and the licks that sound like Roger McGuinn’s work are a dead giveaway. Chances are you’ve never heard this cut by The Plimsouls, and if you had, it’s been nearly like “A Million Miles Away.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Geffen Records: (Just Like) Starting Over

Everything seemed to be going right for John Lennon and Yoko Ono during the fall of 1980. While John had taken off five years from the music business to help raise his son Sean, he continued to write songs and record demos in his home studio. After a sailing trip earlier in the year, John told Yoko that it was time to get back into the studio and record a new album.

The result was “Double Fantasy,” which was a concept album of a husband and wife conversing with each other through song. One of John’s songs would start the album and it would be followed by one of Yoko’s. This was the format for the entire LP from start to finish; however, the critics initially hated it. Lennon picked the first single to be “(Just Like) Starting Over,” as it was his first record since 1975’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” that sported his version of the Leiber, Stoller, and King classic, “Stand By Me.”

The single was released on Geffen Records in the US on October 20 and it began its climb up the charts until it peaked at #6 in December. It was the second single release for David Geffen’s fledgling label. For “(Just Like) Starting Over,” Lennon channeled the styles of Elvis and Roy Orbison with his vocal delivery. It didn’t appear that the single would rise above the #6 slot and the album to #11 – that is until December 8, 1980.

You may not be able to remember where you were between 10:30 and 11:00 PM that evening, but I do. I was working the night shift at WEMM in Huntington, West Virginia. During the evenings, my girlfriend would drive me to the station and take my car to run errands until about 9:00 PM. At that time, she would return to work on her homework in the staff break room while I finished out my shift.

The UPI teletype was located in the break room and she came into master control to tell me that the machine (which had alarm bells) was ringing like crazy. When I pulled the wire copy, we learned that John Lennon had been shot in New York and had been rushed to the hospital – no further details were known. Within a half-hour or so, we learned via the same manner that Lennon had died.

Somewhere I have the wire copy from that evening and a special John Lennon audio tribute that UPI had sent down the phone lines to its stations. That next day, I went to the National Record Mart to buy “Double Fantasy” and any other Lennon album I could find, but only walked away with “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and The Beatles’ compilation “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” as the store had already sold out of many of the other LPs. Strange, I never noticed until now the similarities of those two albums’ titles.

Needless to say, Lennon’s untimely death propelled the single and album sales through the roof. “(Just Like) Starting Over” began climbing the charts again and spent five weeks at the #1 position. “Double Fantasy” followed and was the #1 album for eight weeks. It also won the 1981 Grammy for “Album of the Year.” It is unfortunate that John Lennon’s life had to be snuffed out at the age of 40 – that a great talent had to be taken – and that only through his death would these recordings receive the accolades they deserved.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Geffen Records: Planet P Twofer

Day Three of our look at Geffen Records bring about a twofer from the Planet P Project. The brainchild of Tony Carey, Planet P was an experimental outlet for Carey who was signed at the time to Rocshire Records. Earlier the same year (1983), Carey had a near hit with “I Won’t Be Home Tonight” and he was the opening act for Night Ranger’s tour that spring. I saw both in concert at the Charleston (WV) Municipal Auditorium. We had great seats, but I don’t remember much about Carey’s performance.

Accented by German musicians, Planet P Project moved away from Carey’s pop sound into a new wave/electronica vein. The band’s debut album was its only Geffen release. By 1984, both Carey and Planet P moved to MCA where he had a modicum of success with “A Fine Fine Day” and “The First Day of Summer.” Although other singles were released by Planet P, the band never became a household name.

In 1983, Geffen released two singles from the debut album “Why Me?” and “Static.” “Why Me?” was Project P’s biggest single. While it made it to #4 on the Album Rock charts, it only inched up to #64 on the Hot 100. The opening synthesizer always reminded me of the beginning of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.”

Both Carey and Planet P had a following on AOR radio and Geffen released “Static” as the follow-up to “Why Me?” “Static,” however, failed to chart in the Hot 100, but it received enough album play to place at the #24 spot on the rock charts. Good stuff from a little known band from the 80s.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Geffen Records: In Your Eyes

Probably the best concert I’ve seen was Peter Gabriel and Genesis in November 1974 with the “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” tour at Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque. My appreciation of this show was compounded by a small hall, good seats, fantastic musicianship, and always great theatrics from their then lead singer Peter Gabriel. As we embark on day two of our look at Geffen Records, Peter Gabriel’s third North American single from his quintuple platinum album “So” is today’s feature.

As a medium-fast tempo ballad, “In Your Eyes” doesn’t have the edge of some of his previous hits such as “Shock the Monkey” and “Sledgehammer.” Near its fade, Youssou N'Dour sings a portion of “In Your Eyes’” lyrical content in the West African Wolof language.

“In Your Eyes” had two lives – the initial being its 1986 release when it charted at #26. Three years later, Gabriel’s masterpiece was reanimated by its appearance in Cameron Crowe’s “Say Anything . . .” While it was featured twice during the film, the iconic moment is where John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler is holding a boom box playing “In Your Eyes” outside of the window of Ione Skye’s character Diane Court.

With the popularity of the movie, WTG re-released the single in 1989 under license from Geffen. The second release nearly made it to the Top 40 by charting at #41.

“Say Anything . . .” Trailer

The boom box scene was also utilized in the trailer for “Say Anything . . .” Even those who haven’t seen the movie will be familiar with this scene which has often been copied in television.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Geffen Records: Harden My Heart

It’s the fourth week of the month and as always, I feature selections from a particular record label for seven days. I was contemplating what I would feature this week and Geffen Records popped into my mind last Thursday. Many excellent recordings were released in the 1980s on David Geffen’s independent label; however, not all were hits. This week we’ll feature some of my personal favorites.

Geffen was one of the three labels I tried to amass as many recordings in various forms and still have a good collection of LPs, 12 inch singles, and 45s that I gathered in the 80s. Some of the albums were limited Quiex II vinyl releases, which was a better grade of vinyl that Warner Brothers issued to radio and others.

I’ve always been fascinated with the business of music and even at eight years of age I was arranging my record collection by labels and their subsidiary companies and labels they distributed. I know of one other person that did this as well. I stopped doing it when Sire Records changed distribution from Polydor to ABC – and then I realized it was futile to keep doing this.

As for this week’s feature label, it was the brainchild of David Geffen who also started Asylum Records in the early 70s. Geffen released its first single during fall 1980 with Donna Sumner’s “The Wanderer.” It was followed up by John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over,” which was on the charts at the time of his death. More on that cut as well as my personal recollection of the night of his death on Wednesday.

Although an independent label, Geffen was initially distributed by Warner Brothers. When the arrangement with Warners ended in 1990, Geffen sold his label outright to MCA. In 1999, Universal Music Group (formerly MCA) purchased Polygram and Universal spun Geffen, A&M, and Interscope into a single division where the brand resides today.

Today’s feature comes from a Portland area band – Quarterflash and their first single “Harden My Heart.” The band was led by the wife-husband team Rindy (vocals and sax) and Marv (guitars) Ross. Both album and single were released in 1981.

For an unknown band, their debut did quite well as the album charted at #8 and was certified platinum. “Harden my Heart,” a song they had previously recorded under the name Seafood Mama, was a colossal hit making it to #1 on the album charts and #3 on the Hot 100. The song is a staple of ‘80s themed radio even to this day.

I saw Quarterflash at Concord College (now University) while they were getting ready to embark on their second tour. They were fantastic live and great people to meet. The highlight of the show was when they were getting ready to perform their current release “Take another Picture,” and all the band members snapped a succession of Polaroid photographs of the audience. They then tossed these out into a screaming crowd during the performance of the song. Somewhere I have my personal photos from the show, but don’t ask me in which box they currently reside.

Rindy Ross and the author holding the platinum LP with the rest of Quarterflash and some contest winners. My apologies for the out of focus picture.

I was very pleased that Geffen honored me with a platinum album for adding the single as well as its follow-ups “Find another Fool” and “Right Kind of Love” out of the box. When I met the band, I had them autograph the paper on the back of the platinum album. This was the only Geffen award I received during my radio career. I hope “Harden my Heart” brings back some positive 80s vibes for you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mark Knopfler: Boom, Like That

I guess I have a special place in my heart for McDonald’s, but not because of Big Macs or Arctic Orange Shakes (both of which I happen to like). The reason is that my first real job was bagging fries and making shakes as a trainee at the McDonald’s in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Following my training period, I moved to the newly constructed store in North Versailles where I had the distinction of being the location’s first hire. My time card was #2, as they didn’t want anyone to have #1. I worked here during the summer of 1973 and every college break for the next two years.

During the summer of 1974, I was temporarily transferred to the new McDonald’s in Versailles Boro, PA for a few weeks to train their crew of new employees. After I worked my last shift at North Versailles in May 1975, I never thought I would return to slinging burgers, but in 1977, I needed work and my previous tenure with Ronald et al. got me an edge at the McDonald’s in South Point, Ohio.

I worked here through August 1978 when I was required to quit when I entered grad school at Marshall University. Having been out of the area since 1981, I stopped by the South Point McDonald’s in January and was pleased to find that the family that built the franchise in the ‘70s still owned the store. Fast food work is hot, greasy, and doesn’t pay very well; but, I gained an appreciation of their business operations and the standards that corporate required of their franchisees.

Earlier this year, I heard today’s song on a TV show and immediately liked it. While Mark Knopfler’s chronicle of the genius behind the McDonald’s empire, Ray Kroc, was a hit in the UK at #34, it never charted in the US. Perfect for our Saturday Bubbling Under category.

“Boom, Like That” appeared on Knopfler’s 2004 album “Shangri-La.” The LP, however, had only a modicum of success in the US and charted at #66. Knopfler wrote “Boom, Like That” after reading Kroc’s autobiography and followed the story from start to success.

Ray Kroc didn’t become the leader of the fast food industry by playing nice . . . “or my name’s not Kroc; that’s Kroc with a ‘K’ like ‘crocodile,’ but not spelt that way. Now, it’s dog eat dog – rat eat rat – Kroc-style, ‘Boom, Like That.’”

Friday, March 21, 2014

America: Midnight

I had five very unique roommates during my five undergraduate years. Craig Ott, number four, was the only one I had known prior to coming to school. We roomed together for the duration of my junior and senior years. Craig was a year behind me in school, but had attended elsewhere for his freshman year. When he came to Grayson, Kentucky in 1975, he brought albums that I didn’t have, so I had an education in the music of Cat Stevens, America, as well as others.

One of the albums in his collection was America’s fifth album: “Hearts.” The third cut on this 1975 release, “Midnight,” was also the flipside to their number one single “Sister Golden Hair.” Written by Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, “Midnight” was similar to their other “softer” recordings. It was also reminiscent of the harmonies that made America famous four years earlier.

While this 1975 recording is not really indicative of their hits, it’s a nice, mellow tune. Like their nine initial albums, “Midnight” was produced by the legendary George Martin. Martin, as you should know, was the producer of most of the original Beatles albums. Good stuff from America.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Guess Who: No Time

When I was doing last week’s tribute to “Daylight Savings Time,” I originally considered using The Guess Who’s “No Time” for my Thursday Repeats and Threepeats feature; however, I decided to go with a song that’s title began with the word “time” to match my other features.

The Guess Who recorded and released “No Time” twice with slightly different arrangements and mixes. The original version appeared as the lead track for the 1969 album “Canned Wheat.” This version is faster, is longer, sports a unique intro, has different guitar parts, and the vocal mix is different from the later version.

The earlier recording was not released as a single from “Canned Wheat,” as RCA chose “Laughing,” which radio also flipped and played “Undun,” giving The Guess Who a double-sided hit. Unhappy with the original versions of these two cuts, the band rerecorded “Laughing” and “Undun” at Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios for the single release. The album includes the updated versions and not the originals taped earlier at RCA with the rest of the cuts on “Canned Wheat.”

Later in 1969, the band re-recorded “No Time” for their next album: “American Woman.” The shorter version was picked to be the debut single of the album and the new mix proved to be popular with radio and the record buying public.

“No Time” was released in December 1969 and charted at #5 in early 1970. Most people will agree that the mix on this version is superior; however, the original has some interesting guitar work from Randy Bachman. Speaking of Bachman, the “American Woman” album was his last with The Guess Who before he formed Brave Belt with former Guess Who lead vocalist Chad Allen. Brave Belt later morphed into Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nick Drake: Hazey Jane I

Like many people, I didn’t get to know the music of Nick Drake until after his tragic death in 1974. What I’ve heard since, I have really liked. In 1970, Drake recorded his second album “Bryter Layter” – an album that is heralded by a number of different music publications as being one of the best albums ever recorded.

Notable is the fact that several members of Fairport Convention appeared as session musicians on “Bryter Layter.” Today, I feature “Hazey Jane I” (yes there is a “Hazey Jane II, which appears earlier on the album – if you can figure that one out).

This little nugget features the very tasty acoustic guitar and vocals by Drake. Two members of Fairport, Dave Mattacks (drums) and Dave Pegg (bass), round out the rhythm section. Additionally, the song is layered with a string arrangement by the late Robert Kirby. Nice stuff that Pandora reminded me of just recently.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Horslips: Drive the Cold Winter Away

For this St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d feature a cut from my favorite Irish band “Horslips.” Spring officially begins this week; but as I look out my window, I still see snow on the ground. I thought that I’d feature a near instrumental that was the title cut from their 1975 album “Drive the Cold Winter Away.” If I thought this song would have accomplished this, I would have featured it months ago – as what a winter we have had. Horslips plays this as the original tune was written in Dm; however, they end the tune on a D major chord.

While this 17th century Christmas carol is referenced as a yuletide melody when sung, Horslips only sings the title during the song’s ending phrases – so for those not familiar with “Drive the Cold Winter Away,” it may very well appear as an ode to ending the winter season. Such as the case may be, I figured that there is no harm to play it on a snowy St. Patrick’s Day when it is nigh unto the end of winter. . . and, since St. Patrick was a Christian missionary, I believe I’ll be forgiven by featuring this tune a little late in the winter season. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time Waits For No One

Day six of our tribute to Daylight Savings Times comes from The Rolling Stones’ 1974 album “It’s Only Rock and Roll.” “Time Waits for No One” was the first track recorded for the album and the credits for the writing caused a rift with lead guitarist Mick Taylor. Taylor was to promised that he’d receive songwriting credits along with Jagger and Richards, but that failed to happen and is cited as one of several reasons Taylor would leave the band following the album’s release. His departure ended a 5 ½ year tenure with the band.

While I am uncertain whether Taylor contributed to the song’s structure that would constitute typical authoring credit or if he felt that his extended solo was to be credited as part of the song’s composition. In any case, the solo contributes to overall greatness of this track. “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It),” which was inspired by Taylor’s eventual replacement – Ron Wood, was the album’s logical single; however, “Time Waits For No One” is a better overall song.

As The Stones took their typical roles on this song, some augmentation occurred. Longtime sideman Nicky Hopkins is featured on piano and provides nice octave runs throughout and swirling arpeggios during the guitar solo at the end of the song. Percussionist Ray Cooper is featured on tambourine, maracas, and congas. The conga beats are reminiscent of the ticking clock that waits for no one. Finally, Mick Taylor adds a monophonic synthesizer (was there any other kind in 1973?) with portamento arpeggios. These can be heard in the main portion of the song prior to the guitar solo – nice touch.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time (Clock of the Heart)

The first time I had heard about Culture Club was in 1982 when I met up with Epic Records’ promotions rep Tom Genetti in Charleston, WV. It was a CBS Records listening party at the Marriott and Tom handed me the single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and asked me to give it a listen. All he would tell me that the band was out of the UK.

CBS purposely released this first Culture Club single to radio before the video release and before the album hit the stores. They anticipated that radio programmers in the US, once getting a look at Boy George, might be hesitant to play the record. I took the single back to the station (WCIR in Beckley, WV) and put it on the turntable. I instantly heard a hit.

Unfortunately for this release, major markets were hesitant to play this unknown group at first and for a few weeks we were only part of a handful of stations (perhaps 3 to 5) that were reporting the song to Radio & Records, Cashbox, and Billboard. It was slowly moving up the charts at CIR and did quite well. Eventually secondary and major markets got on board and started playing the single – then the video and the album were released. It peaked at #2.

The next spring, the follow-up single “Time (Clock of the Heart)” was released and did equally as well – peaking also at #2. Although both songs were considered New Wave, there was enough soul influence in their sound that Culture Club resonated quite well with American audiences. “Time (Clock of the Heart)” appeared on the US version of “Kissing to be Clever,” but it was not on the original British LP.

Because of my early action on the singles from this LP, Epic Records presented me with a gold album that still adorns my office wall. “Time (Clock of the Heart)” fulfils day 5 of our tribute to Daylight Savings Time.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time Has Come Today

Day four of our second week feature and this month’s specific tribute is to Daylight Savings Time. Since it is also a Thursday, we have a double honor of providing a song that was released three times for our Thursday’s Repeats and Threepeats feature. The Chambers Brothers may have introduced the world to the concept of psychedelic soul with their recording of “Time Has Come Today.”

As I mentioned, the song was released three times with the initial version from September 1966 being a unique recording of the tune. It is faster and a bit different than the later hit version of the song – the differences are especially noticeable with the guitar parts in the intro and during the short instrumental break. In addition, it had a unique catalog number of 4-43816 while the two later editions of the song were both issued by Columbia as 4-44414. The flip side of the 1966 release was “Dinah.”

When the band recorded their album “Time Has Come Today” in 1967, they laid down a new 11 minute version of the tune; however, radio would never play a song that length, so Columbia edited the single down to 3:05 for release on the day after Christmas. Unimaginably, they faded the song at the first instrumental break. Like the original version from a year earlier, version two flopped.

Columbia believed in this record, so after the dust settled, a second edit of the new version at 4:55 was issued in July 1968. It proved the old adage that the third time was a charm. It was released with the same flip, their impression [get it] of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” and the same catalog number.

The 1968 rendition was their first top 40 hit making it all the way to #11 where it stayed for five weeks. This was a true edit of the long version and it proved to be the key to the song’s success. While The Chambers Brothers had one other Top 40 hit with their follow-up “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Time Has Come Today” is considered their magnum opus.

One can’t feature this classic psychedelic soul cut without including the entire 11 minute version of this classic ‘60s cut. Enjoy all of the interesting tidbits of this recording including the heavy use of reverb, the two cowbells doing a tick-tock sound, strange tempo changes, fuzz guitar, electric sitar, screams, laughs, wolf howls, and Martin Denny type bird calls. To top it off, there’s a bit of “The Little Drummer Boy” in the middle of the song. Makes you wonder what they were tripping on the day they recorded this tune.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time In A Bottle

Never intended for release as a single, Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” became one of the two songs by singer-songwriter to chart at #1 – and it did so for two weeks. Shortly after Croce’s death on September 1973, “Time in a Bottle” was featured over the credits of a made for TV movie. That initial burst of activity prompted disc jockeys to start playing the album cut because of its lyrical content concerning immortality.

The single was released in November and its popularity also reinvigorated the 1972 album “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.” The initial release of the album only managed to make it to #30 on the Top 200 Album Chart; however, “Time in a Bottle” propelled the LP back on the charts for a five week run at #1.

Although Croce wrote the song in 1970 when he found out he was going to be a father, the combination of Croce’s recent death and the song’s prophetic message resonated with the public.

When I hear “Time in a Bottle” and “I Got A Name,” which was released the day after Croce’s death, I immediately think about hearing the tragic news on the radio. It was the day after the crash and some friends and I were driving home from college for the first time – we were immediately saddened by the report.


If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time

Like Steely Dan, The Alan Parsons Project was a band with a fluid line-up that centered around two people. While Donald Fagen and Walter Becker drove Steely Dan, the creative geniuses behind the Alan Parsons Project were its namesake Alan Parsons and his partner in crime Eric Woolfson.

In many cases guest vocalists were heard singing the lead vocals; however, on their 1981 hit “Time,” Woolfson is featured and Parsons sings backup. Released on the 1980 album “Turn of a Friendly Card,” “Time” charted at #15 during the summer of 1981. It reminds me so much of my first year at WCIR in Beckley, WV. I came to the station on February 16, 1981 and originally worked the evening shift from 6 to 11:30 PM.

I will have to say that of all the stations for which I’ve worked, that CIR was probably the most energetic and innovative. It was a good career move for me and I still have roots in Beckley, even though I am back in Kentucky where I got my radio start in 1974. Do I miss radio? Some days, but mostly not; however, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

I guess I’m reminiscing – just as the protagonist did in this very beautiful song.

Goodbye my friend, maybe for forever
Goodbye my friend, the stars wait for me
Who knows where we shall meet again, if ever
But time keeps flowing like a river
To the sea, to the sea till it's gone forever
Gone forever, gone forevermore, forevermore, forevermore.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Savings: Time Won't Let Me

In honor of Daylight Savings Time, our second week special for March is dedicated to songs about “time.” Unfortunately, some of the more prominent songs on the subject have already been covered on this blog – so they will be missing this week; however, there are still some classic tunes that I’ve neglected to discuss that will make the rounds this week.

During the height of the British invasion a band from Cleveland broke into the top 5 with“Time Won’t Let Me.” This 1966 hit sold over a million copies and was certified gold by the RIAA. Originally known as The Starfires, the band rebranded as The Outsiders when they signed with Capitol Records in 1965.

“Time Won’t Let Me” was written by band leader Tom King and his brother-in-law Chet Kelley. The sound appeared to be a cross-between the hits coming from Britain and and those from Detroit – a unique sound with its solid rock beat punctuated by a hot horn section. “Time Won’t Let Me” was the first and highest charting of The Outsiders’ four Top 40 hits.

Although Tom King had originally been the lead singer of The Starfires, a throat operation left his range somewhat limited. Therefore, Sonny Geraci was recruited as their lead singer in 1964. Geraci would sing lead on another Top Five hit, Climax’s “Precious and Few,” which was released during the winter of 1971-1972. Climax was originally known as the “☮utsiders featuring Sonny Geraci" until Tom King, who continued The Outsiders in Cleveland, threatened to sue. Geraci acquiesced and Climax was born.

Besides Geraci’s vocals on “Time Won’t Let Me,” the song is also notable for Mert Masden’s bass lines and the late Al Austin’s fantastic lead guitar. Nearly 50 years later, “Time Won’t Let Me” remains a classic song from the sixties.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Harry Manx: Spoonful

Harry Manx calls his unique merging of eastern and western music as “Mysticssippi blues.” Up to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of this Canadian musician, his style, or his unique instrument – a Mohan Veena. That is until his prized instrument was stolen from the baggage claim at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in February. Manx’s plight went viral on Facebook where I first heard of him and the Mohan Veena. I decided to investigate and loved his unusual music immediately.

Manx had his Mohan Veena for 20 years and he received it from his mentor who invented the instrument. It was built and named for its craftsman Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The instrument is an altered arch-top guitar that has three playing strings, five drone strings, and 12 sympathetic strings. It looks like a cross between a guitar and sitar.  When it’s played with a slide, it makes for one crazy blues instrument. 

By the way, Manx was reunited with his prized instrument yesterday, and the perpetrator was apprehended by the Chicago Police on February 24. The absence of his instrument for a few weeks no doubt caused him great consternation, but in the process he gained a number of new fans.

It’s fitting that in the following cut he plays some Chicago blues penned by the late Willie Dixon of Chess Records’ fame. While numerous artists including Muddy Waters and Cream have recorded this tune, Manx’s version has to be the most original because of the Mohan Veena.

Harry Manx explains the Mohan Veena


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Record's Over - Long Live Porky Chedwick

If there were a holy trinity of Pittsburgh radio, Porky Chedwick would be the father figure, as he was the “Platter Pushing Poppa” and the “Daddio of the Raddio.” The other personages would be Terry Lee and Mad Mike Metro. While none worked for the highest powered AM radio station in the market, all three have been elevated to a clear channel signal beyond this life – and all had more to do with the Pittsburgh sound than those who came before and those who would follow. At the top of the stacks of wax was the “Bossman”: Porky Chedwick.

The earliest memories I have of a radio personality goes back to when I was four years old in the late 1950s. Even at that age, if someone were to ask me to name a disc jockey, the only name out of my mouth would have be that of Porky Chedwick. Like “Mad” Mike Metro who would follow, Porky found the records that he loved and put them on the air. Unconventional in today’s format heavy radio, “Pork the Tork” would blow the dust off of old 78s, scour the discount bins for discarded 45s, flip records to the “B” side, and play, as he said in an interview, “the music he wanted to hear.”

Obviously, the listeners of WHOD and its later incarnation as WAMO liked what he played as well. While WHOD/WAMO catered to an African-American audience, soon white teenagers were listening as well to this suburban station in Homestead, Pennsylvania. He played what was termed as “race records” three years before Allen Freed followed suit in Cleveland. Unlike Freed, Chedwick never took payola and never was as famous or as infamous as Freed; but in Pittsburgh, he was legend.

Not only did Chedwick play music on the air, he was a popular record hop DJ. In fact, he played the same records at local dances and night clubs that he played on the air. Porky continued doing this up until last week. My brother Chuck was quoted in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blog concerning a lesser known avenue of Chedwick in the late 60s – “Pork in the Underground,” where Porky played obscure rock and psychedelic records. While I never met Porky, my brother actually did several shows with him in the early 60s. I never thought about it much, but I guess I am two degrees of separation from “The Bossman.”

The Pittsburgh music scene lost another legend yesterday with the passing of 96-year old Craig “Porky” Chedwick. The tone arm has been lifted from turntable; long live the “Daddio of the Raddio.” To honor Chedwick, here’s one of his theme songs that I found on YouTube. Unfortunately, I don’t know the artist’s name. If you do, let me know.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Uni Records: Tell That Girl To Shut Up

When MCA resurrected Uni Records for a short run of releases in 1988, the first release on the label was by Transvision Vamp. Fronted by Wendy James, Transvision Vamp was a British alternative rock band. Their first American release was a song originally recorded in 1980 by Holly and the Italians. Holly Beth Vincent penned the tune “Tell that Girl to Shut up.”

While Holly and the Italians’ original failed to chart, “Tell that Girl to Shut up” had a decent run for Transvision Vamp eight years later. While it wasn’t a colossal mainstream hit in the US, it did make it the Hot 100 at peaked at #87. It did much better on the Modern Rock chart where it landed at the #9 spot. Of the band’s nine singles, “Tell that Girl to Shut up” was Transvision Vamp’s most successful tune.