Wednesday, October 05, 2016

My Fave WJHU Playlists

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Back in the early 1980s, I was a "volunteer" disc jockey at the 10-watt, student- and community volunteer-staffed Johns Hopkins University radio station, WJHU (88.1 FM). (See my post "Radio Days at WJHU" for details about WJHU in the '80s.)

WJHU had platters that mattered!

WJHU had a great record library, especially when it came to New Wave and Punk titles - remember, the DIY aesthetic of Punk saw a resurgence in The Single and the subsequent New Wave/Post-Punk era that followed was the heyday of the 12-inch "extended single" (often including alternate remixes and non-LP bonus tracks).

WJHU's state-of-the-art record library

This period, which reached its zenith from 1976-1982, offered many an unknown band the chance to gain exposure and get played on the radio. Some were obscure artists that only released one or two singles on small indie or regional labels, but regardless of who they were or where they were from, they were filed right alongside the big names and the big labels in college radio station record libraries. To paraphrase David Bowie, they could be heroes, if only for one day - and if only for one DJ's playlist.

WJHU "Make Believe Ballroom" setlist from May 25, 1982

I recently unearthed some cassette tape recordings of my early '80s WJHU broadcasts, and it rekindled memories of the songs and artists I liked during that period. I had forgotten many of them (as did the rest of the world, apparently.) Following are some of the many great "Platters That Matter" that I discovered at WJHU and played on my various radio shows ("We Am a DJ," "Make Believe Ballroom," "Tubas in the Moonlight") during my brief airways stint from 1981-1983 (?). A few faves - like the Dickies, Wayne County, and Go-Gos singles - came from my home record collection.

Where It's At: Two turntables and a microphone

*** WJHU Platters That Mattered ***

FAYE LOVESICK - "Party Time" b/w "Safety Pins" 7-inch (RCA, 1980)
Songs played: "Party Time"

Faye Lovesick was actually the nom-de-platter of Dutch composer-musician (theremin, musical saw!)-singer Fay Lovsky (real name: Luyendijk). I don't know much about her beyond that, but I loved discovering Euro Pop during this period, and "Party Time" did not disappoint.

Faye Lovesick - "Party Time"

Listen to Fay sing "Party Time."

So what's Fay been up to recently? Apparently, she's penned an anti-Trump song!

Here's the chorus, translated from the Dutch: "How dare you! Bring your nation down. How very very dare you. You irresponsible clown!"

As a Queen fan, Fay was also upset that Trump uses the song "We Are the Champions" during his presidential campaign. "Freddy Mercury cannot defend himself against that any more," Fay told the Dutch media. "To hear such a song in the context of Trump is terrible. It's scary how abuse is made of that music..." Obviously, she is not a fan of Grand Old Party Time!


COMATEENS - "Late Night" 3-song 12-inch EP (Call Me Records, 1981)
Songs played: "Munsters Theme" and "Nightmare"

I really liked the synth-friendly Comateens, whose act I caught at the Marble Bar sometime in the early '80s, probably at the big Polyrock-Comateens-Food For Worms show on June 12, 1982.

Marble Bar calendar: June 12, 1982

Formed in NYC in 1980, they played what the Lost Bands of the New Wave Era blog called "bouncy dance rock rooted in chintzy '60s Farfisa organ pop and spooky horror-movie soundtrack music." I would have heard either this EP or their full-length album on Cachelot Records around 1981.

Comateens EP - "Late Night City/Munsters Theme/Nightmare" (Call Me Records, 1981)

Listen to the Comateens play "The Munsters Theme."


GO-GOs - "Our Lips Are Sealed" b/w "Surfing and Spying" 7-inch (IRS, 1981)
Songs played: "Surfing and Spying" B-side

I liked (and still like) surf music, and I like non-LP B-sides. Charlotte Caffey's instrumental "Surfing and Spying," in which the only words and "Surf! Spy!" fits both bills - plus it had the added bonus of being the soundtrack to an imaginary beach espionage movie!

Go-Gos - "Our Lips Are Sealed" b/w "Surfing and Spying" 7-inch (IRS, 1981)

Listen to "Surfing and Spying."


VERNA LINDT - "Attention Stockholm" 7-inch
Songs played: "Attention Stockholm"

Verna Lindt - "Attention Stockholm"

Listen to Verna Lindt sing "Attention Stockholm."

When released in May 1981, Verna Lindt's Swinging '60s espionage soundtrack homage "Attention Stockholm" was credited with launching the Retro-Lounge movement in the UK and Europe. Lindt was a Swedish translation student discovering by British rock producer Tot Taylor, who wanted to make a record "like a Hitchcock theme with a rock and roll beat." How fitting, then, that these strangers met on a train! Regardless, I think they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams!


WAYNE COUNTY and THE ELECTRIC CHAIRS - "Blatantly Offensive E.P."
Songs played: "Toilet Love"

Wayne County & The Electric Chairs - "Blatantly Offensive E.P."

Listen to Wayne County and the boys playing "Toilet Love."

I was always somewhat of a shit-stirrer, so naturally I like Wayne (later to be Jayne) County and The Electric Chairs. Despite dressing as a woman, Wayne was tough-as-nails (just ask "Handsome" Dick Manitoba of The Dictators, whose shoulder he broke!) and his band was equally tough-as-shit, especially on the nasty bowl-boogie, doody-ditty "Toilet Love." I later stole the toilet flush ending to use on an Atomic TV commercial for Jensen Plumbing (the business run by our erstwhile cameraman, Chris Jensen).

"Toilet Love," along with "Night Time," was the only safe song I could play from this four-song EP. The other two "blatantly offensive" songs were "Fuck Off" ("If you don't wanna fuck me baby, baby fuck off") and "Mean Motherfucking Man." The EP title was certainly Truth in Advertising!

"1976 Max's Kansas City" LP (Ram Records, 1976)

I also played Wayne County's "Max's Kansas City 1976" from the 1976 Max's Kansas City compilation album because it was a great name-check shout-out to all the bands that played there. It had inspired the Katatonix song "Roger's Marble Bar," wherein Adolf Kowalski listed all the bands he liked that played at Baltimore's Marble Bar in the basement of the Congress Hotel.

Listen to Wayne and the Boys play "Max's Kansas City."


FRED BLASSIE - "Blassie, King of Men" EP (Raunchy Tonk Records, 1977)
Songs played: "Pencil Neck Geek."

Fred Blassie - "Blassie, King of Men" EP

Listen to Classy Freddie Blassie sing "Pencil Neck Geek."

Yes, I was a Dr. Demento and Rhino Records devotee, so naturally I loved me some wrasslin' poetry!

THE FOOLS - "Psycho Chicken" 7-inch (EMI America, 1980)
Songs played: "Psycho Chicken (clucked)."

The Fools - "Psycho Chicken" (EMI America, 1980)

Watch The Fools play "Psycho Chicken."

I'll admit I have a soft spot for silly novelty songs that have fun spoofing pop hits - from Weird Al's numerous parodies to The Swinging Erudite's "Walk with an Erection" (Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian") and "Living On My Hair" (Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer") - and this was a particular fave, especially because it took the stuffing out of David Byrne's wrapped-too-tight delivery of Talking Heads's "Psycho Killer." There's even a local shout-out in the line "I don't know what to do/He's got a thing against Frank Perdue!"


ALTERED IMAGES - "Happy Birthday (Dance Mix)" 12-inch B-side (Epic, 1981)
Songs played: Cover version of T. Rex's "Jeepster."

I loved this band from Glasgow, Scotland, and played the heck out of their Happy Birthday ("Happy Birthday," "Insects") and Pinky Blue albums ("Funny Funny," "Jump Jump," Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue"), but "Jeepster" was only available on this 12-inch "Dance Mix." (Nowadays, you can get just about everything they ever released on the 2007 Happy Birthday: The Best of Altered Images 2-disc CD from Music Club Deluxe.) Clare Grogan was my favorite female vocalist from this period, along with Patty Donahue from The Waitresses. I was ecstatic listening to Claire croon "Boy I'm just a vampire for your love, and I'm gonna suck ya!" I later included Altered Images's "Jeepster" on my "Top 40 Cover Songs of All Time" article for Baltimore's City Paper (see "Look What They've Done To My Song")
City Paper "Jeepster" blurb (May 27, 1988)

City Paper (May 27, 1988)

Altered Images - "Happy Birthday" 12-inch (Epic, 1981)

Listen to Altered Images play "Jeepster."

Bonus: Here's an earlier, rougher-around-the-edges Peel Sessions version that some fan taped off John Peel's BBC Radio One show: "Jeepster."

ALTERED IMAGES - "I Could Be Happy" 3-song 12-inch (Mercury, 1982)
Songs played: "I Could Be Happy" (Martin Rushent extended remix), "Disco Pop Stars."

Altered Images - "I Could Be Happy" 12-inch (Portrait/Epic, 1982)

Watch Altered Images play "I Could Be Happy."

While the music video above is delightful and captures Clare and the boys' appeal, it's the almost 6 1/2-minute "dance remix" by studio master-maestro Martin Rushent (Altered Images, Buzzcocks, XTC, Human League, Stranglers, Generation X) that thrilled me and made it one of the all-time great 12-inch remix records. (Also, I took advantage of its length to run down the hall for pee breaks!) You have to wait three minutes before Clare's first scratched vocal ("I-I-I-I-I could be happy") kicks in, but it's worth the wait.

Listen to the Altered Images "Dance Remix" of "I Could Be Happy."

Listen to Altered Images play "Disco Pop Stars."


ALTERED IMAGES - "Dead Pop Stars" b/w "Sentimental" 7-inch (Epic, 1981)

I'm pretty sure I also played "Dead Pop Stars" (their first single, a non-LP song - and not to be confused with "Disco Pop Stars"!), which was definitely from the WJHU library. It's now available on the compilation CDs  I Could Be Happy: The Best of Altered Images (Epic, 1997) and Happy Birthday: The Best of Altered Images (Music Club Deluxe, 2007).

Altered Images - "Dead Pop Stars" b/w " Sentimental" (Epic, 1981)

It featured great lyrics about Pop Idolatry:

dead pop stars rotting in the studiopretty bodies make the little girls screamdead pop stars hear them on the radiopretty bodies every little girls dream 
hello hello i’m back again
you can touch me but only for a moment
testing testing 1, 2, 3
i am the poster on your wall 
and now i’ve had my 15 minutes
i’m just another memory
an embar*ssing part of your youth
don’t leave me dying here
don’t leave me dying here
remember how much you used to love me?
you did love me didn’t you?
don’t leave me dying here 
dead pop stars
dead pop stars
dead pop stars
dead pop stars rotting in the studio
hear them on the radio
dead dead dead dead dead


POLECATS - "Make a Circuit With Me" 12-inch/Mini Album (Mercury, 1983)
Songs played: "Jeepster" (Marc Bolan) and "John, I'm Only Dancing" (David Bowie)

Polecats - "Make a Circuit With Me" 12-inch (Mercury, 1983)

Listen to the Polecats play "Jeepster."

Watch the Polecats play "Jeepster" on British TV!

Here's some interesting trivia about this north London rockabilly band that formed in 1970 and signed with Mercury records in 1980: Martin "Boz" Boorer later left the group to work as a composer, guitarist and musical director with Morrissey. And their song "Make a Circuit With Me" was used for TV trailers for the Disney PIXAR film WALL-E.


SWINGING MADISONS - "Swinging Madisons" 5-song 12-inch EP (Select Records, 1981)
Songs played: "Put Your Bra Back On," "Volare"

Swinging Madisons - "Swinging Madisons" 12-inch (Select Records, 1981)

This was one of many side bands featuring Kristian Hoffman of The Mumps, who also played with Klaus Nomi, James Chance & The Contortions, Lydia Lunch, and Ann Magnuson. (Y'know - that "New York is alright if you like saxophones" artsy No Wave crowd.) I don't know why, but I loved his anti-feminist "Put Your Bra Back On," maybe because I'm a shit-stirrer. He also did a fine version of "Volare," but I prefer Alex Chilton's cover (after the original, of course). But "Volare" provided an epiphany for Hoffman - "a perfect marriage of questionable material and marginal vocal prowess." Soon he and band were donning tuxes and doing a Buster Poindexter thing. (See "The Swinging Madisons: An Overview by Kristian Hoffman" for details.) They notably also did a rockabilly version of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man."

"Put your bra back on
(Don't burn it)
Put your bra back on
(Don't burn it!)
'Cause what we need is some resistance from below
And from the moment you smiled
I heard the call of the wild
And I said yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
I just can't say no"


M. FROG - "M. Frog" LP (Bearsville, 1973)
Songs played: "We Are Crazy" (vocal version)

M. Frog - "M. Frog" LP (Bearsville, 1973)

French-born Jean Yves "M. Frog" Labat was a short-lived member of Todd Rundgren's Utopia (he appears on their first album, 1974's eponymous Utopia), who was later replaced by Roger Powell.

Jean Yves "M. Frog" Labat

Todd Rundgren contributed guitar and vocals to the M. Frog album, and ended up doing the final mix. Besides playing synth on the first Utopia album, Labat contributed EMS synthesizer and synth treatments to Todd's second solo LP, 1973's A Wizard/A True Star. He also was part of Utopia's brief (two-month) 1973 American tour, and his "We Are Crazy" was included in the band's setlist.

"We Are Crazy" is a zany slice of spacey prog rock, dating from a time when synth-wizardry was in vogue. M. Frog's full given name was Jean Yves Labat de Rossi; he was the grandson of composer Raphael de Rossi, who wrote the romantic chestnut "Strangers in the Night." So, yes, there is a direct connection from M. Frog to Frank Sinatra! (I wonder if Andy Bienstock knew this? Yeah, probably!)

The most exhaustive history of Labat and this album comes courtesy of Julian Cope at his Head Heritage blog ( Cope says the band on the record was comprised of numerous local Woodstock musicians (Labat was living in Woodstock, NY at the time), including fellow Bearsville labelmates and Labat's friend John Holbrook on electric guitar and engineering tasks. "Not only did Todd Rundgren guest throughout on vocals and guitar but Rick Danko contributed bass and violin while fellow Band mate Garth Hudson appeared on uncredited Lowry organ," Cope writes. "Seeing better days, Paul Butterfield dropped by to add some harmonica, Joe Simon played prepared piano, Fanny vocalist/guitarist June Millington contributed vocals, while the trio of Dennis Whitted, Christopher Parker, and Michael Reilly rounded out the proceedings on drums."

Cope describes "We Are Crazy" as "a sensationally catchy exercise in sonic Jean-Pierre Massiera backing a spirited, 3-chord/3-IQ band of heavy metal kids by blasting holes through their efforts with excruciating Synthi-A-zappings, squiggles and explosions that discharge with random precision in between both your eyes AND the gleefully moronic chant-lyrics..."

“We are crazy!We are stupid!We are lazy!We are dirty!
If you understand / You’re gonna win a prize!If you understand / You’re gonna win a prize!If you understand / You’re gonna win a prize!If you understand / You’re gonna win a prize!
Na-na-na-na-na-na-na / A washing machine!Na-na-na-na-na-na-na / A date with the Queen!Na-na-na-na-na-na-na / A sewing machine!Na-na-na-na-na-na-na / A date with the Queen!


I loved LA's The Dickies (they were the West Coast's answer to The Ramones, with fast-short-dumb - but always fun - songs), and probably played just about everything by them - including their Sammy Davis, Jr. shout-out "Where Did His Eye Go?" from the Dawn of the Dickies LP - but I especially liked the following singles:

THE DICKIES - "Gigantor" b/w "Bowling With Bedrock Barney" 7-inch (A&M Records, 1980)
Songs played: "Gigantor," "Bowling With Bedrock Barney"

The Dickies - "Gigantor" b/w "Bowling With Bedrock Barney" (A&M Records, 1980)

Though the "Gigantor" theme was great fun, I loved the B-side even more, even though it's complete stoner silliness. "Bowling with Bedrock Barney (Barney!)/He is the life of the party, that Barney!" and "He's such a goof, he's been smokin' dope/Barney, Barney, ooooh - Yabadabadoo!"

Listen to the Dickies play "Gigantor."

Watch the Dickies play "Bowling With Bedrock Barney."

THE DICKIES - "Banana Splits (The Tra La La Song)" 3-song 7-inch EP (A&M Records, 1979)
Songs played: "Banana Splits"

This theme song to the TV kids show band was later covered by Baltimore's own Tra La La's - but they never released their version on neon yellow vinyl! I cried when I dropped my copy and it shattered into bits. (I cleaned it up immediately so I wouldn't slip on it!)

Watch the Dickies play "Banana Splits."

THE DICKIES - "Manny, Moe and Jack" 7-inch (A&M Records, 1979)
Songs played: "Manny, Moe and Jack"

Listen to the Dickies play "Manny, Moe and Jack."

"Manny, Moe and Jack, they know what I'm after." I loved the car crash ending and am pretty sure I segued into either The Normal's "Warm Leatherette," Bowie's "Always Crashing In  the Same Car," or Grace Jones (who also covered "Warm Leatherette") doing "Pull Up To My Bumper." (So many possibilities!) It also paired up well, thematically, with "(I'm Stuck in a Pagoda With) Tricia Toyota," the B-side of their Fan Mail single.

THE DICKIES - "Nights in White Satin" 7-inch (A&M Records, 1979, 1980)
Songs played: "Nights In White Satin"

The Dickies - "Nights In White Satin" the KKK picture sleeve 7-inch (A&M Records, 1980) 

Watch the Dickies play "Nights In White Satin."

This was almost an epic for the Dickies, clocking in at close to 3 minutes - previously uncharted territory for the masters of blitzkreig pop!


THE SHAGGS - "Philosophy of the World" LP (Third World Recordings, 1969)
Songs Played: "Who Are Parents?"

Listen to The Shaggs play "Who Are Parents?"

I know, I know. I should have played "My Pal Foot Foot," but I'm a Family Values kinda guy. Of course, Skizz Cyzyk's "Foot Foot" version is definitive.


3-D - "Telephone Number" 7-inch (Polydor, 1980)
Songs played: "telephone Number"

3-D - "Telephone Number" 7-inch (Polydor, 1980)

Listen to "Telephone Number."

I know nothing about this group, but the piano-roll driven song was poppy and the vocalist sounded like a cross between Graham Parker and Elvis Costello. Plus I used to collect songs about telephones or telephone numbers and make mix tapes of them. (I also did this for songs about trains, food, and girl's names).


FUN WITH ANIMALS - "The Test of Love and Sex" b/w "3623 A.D." 7-inch (A&M Records, 1980)
Songs played: "The Test of Love and Sex"

Fun With Animals - "The Test of Love and Sex" (A&M Records, 1980)

Listen to FWA play "Test of Love and Sex."

I liked the multiple-choice lyrics:

You say you don’t know what to feel/You say you don’t know what is real/I will help you understand/And be your 20th century man/I will show you what to do/I’ll act like you, you act like you/We’ll take the test of love and sex/We’ll mark our answers with an X 
CHORUS: A) I don’t like you B) I’m in love C) I feel nothing D) None of the above/Relationships are so much fun/But I feel great when they are done/The seeds of love so much are worth/When planted deep in Astroturf/So keep your head, don’t get involved/Problems by themselves are solved/Find some other girls and boys/Take the test and make your choice 


JILTED JOHN - "Jilted John" b/w "Going Steady" 7-inch (EMI International, 1978)
Songs played: "Jilted John" (electric version)

Jilted John - "Jilted John" 45 (EMI International, 1978)

"Gordon is a moron, Gordon is a moron!"

Jilted John - True Love Stories LP (EMI International, 1978)

Jilted John - True Love Stories "Ropes & Ladders" game board

Mark O'Connor (OHO, Food For Worms, Dark Side, Buck Subtle & The Lonely Planets) turned me on to Jilted John (real name: Graham Fellows) - and I am forever in his debt for the discovery. JJ's album True Love Stories is a classic concept album documenting all of John's romantic woes - from Baz's party to Julie dumping him for Gordon the Moron ("Just 'cuz he's better looking than me, just cuz he's cool and trendy"), with Sheila and Karen interludes, as well - and includes a "Ropes and Ladders" (what we Yanks call Snakes & Ladders) board game insert; every song is wonderful, but the electric (single) version of "Jilted John" is perhaps the best. The liner notes describe JJ as follows:

"Jilted John, otherwise known as Graham Fellows, is a full time drama student in Manchester and his ambition is to become a full time actor. He has 3 sisters and a very nice mother and father who live in Yorkshire. Jilted John likes fancy mice, Kate Bush and the countryside, His dislikes include Gordon the Moron, anyone successful with girls and gardening."
A native Mancunian, Fellows did pursue an acting career and even portrayed Paul McCartney in a stage production.

Listen to Jilted John sing "Jilted John" on Top of the Pops.


B-MOVIE - "Nowhere Girl" b/w "Scare Some Life Into Me" 7-inch (Dead Good Records, 1980)
Songs played: "Scare Some Life Into Me" B-side

B-Movie - "Nowhere Girl" 7-inch (Good Dead Records, 1980)

A synth-pop band formed in Mansfield, England, from the remains of punk ensemble The Aborted, B-Movie released several singles and EPs between 1980 and 1984 before finally putting out 1985's first proper long-player, Forever Running. The initial band was comprised of singer-bassist Steve Hovington - of whom my wife Amy commented, "Ha! Everyone sang like that, with that serious and dark tone, in the '80s!" (the template was set by Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan; see also: Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins, et al) - guitarist Paul Statham, keyboardist Rick Holliday and drummer Graham Boffey.

Guitarist Paul Statham went on to work with Peter Murphy (performing and co-writing songs on Love Hysteria, Deep, Holy Smoke, Cascade), form the band Peach (Mute Records, '90s), and write/produce with Dido (No Angel) and Kylie Minogue (Fever). For more on this band, check out the blog Systems of Romance.

Listen to B-Movie play "Scare Some Life Into Me."

Apparently, B-Movie played at Baltimore's Marble Bar on March 26, 1982, with local rockers Nuvo Blind (Mikel Gehl, Belinda Blair) opening. Who knew?

Marble Bar calendar for March 26, 1982


PROCTOR & BERGMAN - TV Or Not TV (Columbia, 1973)
Cuts played: "Nasi Goring," "The Pills Brothers On Drugs," "Give Up This Day"

Proctor & Bergman - TV Or Not TV (Columbia, 1973)

I was a YUGE Firesign Theatre fan. Their sophisticated style of conceptual comedy involved intricate wordplay and was made for radio (which is probably why no one today knows about them), even though they also mined television's tele firma. Two of the four Firesign Theatre guys, Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman, branched off for a number of solo projects in the 80s. One of them was TV Or Not TV. I sometimes used their "Give Up This Day" bit as my radio show sign-off on WJHU (other times I used Buffalo Bob Smith's "Goodnight, Kids" sign-off from The Howdy Doody Show - yes, I'm a Baby Boomer!), so it seems fitting to end this remembrance with their sign-off from "Rear Reverend Sport Trendleberg."

Listen to "Give Up This Day" from TV Or Not TV.

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