Arts and Lifestyle Wednesday Presented by The Exit Room of Lee's Summit-Spinning Tunes and Tales
Like most broadcasters of my era, I spent some time doing disc jockey work. I liked it, but the tough part during the time I did it the most, at my first job out of college, was that I was doing other jobs during the time slot. I was writing news and prepping for games, so my DJ game badly suffered. I most became known to my program director for playing the longest records on our playlist to give me more time for my other endeavors.
Except, of course, for the end of the hour, when I would get stuck on my backtiming, and then would have to find the SHORTEST records that we had, so that I could hit the network news at the top of the hour. Our format was a combination of current pop hits and oldies. I can remember to this day that the song “The Letter” by the Box Tops, checked in at 1:47. It was a mainstay at the end of too many hours.
But I think that anyone who has done DJ work shares a trait. That they might find a song that isn’t quite a big hit, that you think is great, and you want to spread the word, or in this case music. Today’s exercise is hardly scientific, it is just an idea that popped into my head when I heard a couple songs that fit this category, and I think are buried treasures. You probably will recognize them, and in a case or too, they are not obscure at all, just not famous, or at least as famous as I think they should be.
None of them are recent, but they mostly don’t harken back to the 60’s or 70’s either. I wanted there to perhaps be a video for you to click on. Those were the basic guidelines.
The song that kind of inspired this bit of whimsy for me that I hope will provide a little enjoyment is “Wouldn’t It Be Good” by Nik Kershaw. The 1984 song is truly one my favorites, and fits into a style of song that for some reason lyrically appeals to me….the loner with an opinion. If you don’t want to get MTV’d there is quite a good “Live Aid” version you can find, but why not get a further smile with the original video, and the catchy hook….
Kershaw was very popular in the U.K. That song was one of eight straight top forty hits in England for him, but it barely cracked the top fifty in the U.S. He would later write a number 1 U.K. hit Chesney Hawkes “I Am the One and Only”, and has been a successful working musician to this day.
Next up fans, is a song you likely haven’t heard from someone you really know well. Little Steven Van Zandt. Obviously best known as an original E Street Band member and an actor in The Sopranos, my little favorite buried treasure is from his own band Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, and Little Steven’s “Forever”, from 1982, feeds that….
I loved it, America, not so much. Despite some pretty heavy MTV rotation, it peaked at number 67. If you like that, dig up some Southside Johnny, too. They all produce and play on each other’s stuff.
You are going to find out in this little ditty that I love melodies and great hooks, and one of real thrills is when somebody comes up with something that actually has two or three. Lone Justice was a band that looked like it might break big. But the name made it sound like a country act, and apparently they were a volatile personal mix, so the band didn’t last long, but they still gave me “Sweet, Sweet, Baby” (I’m Falling) from 1985..
That song sounds so hit-ready it makes my head spin, but despite being produced by hot producer Jimmy Iovine and with plenty of support from Tim Petty and the Hearbreakers, and even a tour with U2, the song, and the band went nowhere, except into my brain.
A song that went into my heart was one that fits into what is commonly known as “Milepost Syndrome”, a tune that you not only like for its musicality but for something going on in your life at the time. That fits Shawn Mullins “Lullaby”, which actually was a reasonably big hit when it came out in 1999.
It was right at the time that I was divorced and my children moved to Nashville, and Mullins clever description of L.A. at the end of a rather bitter lullaby resonated with me…
I told her I ain't so sure about this place
It's hard to play a gig in this town and keep a straight face
Seems like everybody's got a plan
It's kind of like Nashville with a tan
The song became an internal lullaby when I was away from my kids, and it also fit the “loner with an opinion” model…
No, I never sang it to my children, who were seven and three at the time, but I played it more than a few times for them. It’s anything but a nice lullaby, but it made me cry more than once, like right now.
Let’s brighten the mood with something delightfully cheesy. I’m breaking a rule here. The band ABC was actually a fairly big deal in the late 80’s and their song “When Smokey Sings” was a hit. But it wasn’t as big a hit as “The Look of Love”, and I literally never hear it anywhere these days. I was a huge Smokey Robinson fan when I was a little boy and still am, and the song basically has some samples in it….particularly of “Tears of a Clown”, one of my favorite songs…
There is no video on this one, sorry folks, but I wanted to do something that fits into another music lover and DJ wheelhouse, and that is the old “well, their best stuff is what you haven’t heard” cliché. I’ll do it with an Aerosmith song that I am pretty sure most of you have never heard. Aerosmith really had authentic, bluesy chops, and this is truly my favorite example….
That is from theirs first album, and the only hit on it is “Dream On”, and that only became a national hit three years after it’s release. The whole damn album is great, and raw, and full of the youthful bravado that has served them well through….well, all the crap they have through.
This Boston boy is going to leave you with something very Kansas City. The Rainmakers were a perfect example of something very special to fans of any band. They made it…to a point, and didn’t… to a point where they could still be yours.
I discovered The Rainmakers when I didn’t live in Kansas City. I was living in upstate New York, and somehow got my hands on “Tornado” and loved the whole thing. Their self-titled first album peaked at number 87, and Tornado reached only 116, which seems amazing to those of us so familiar with what became a Kansas City institution. Bob Walkenhorst and the great musicians he has played with have enriched many of our lives for years.
My offbeat favorite is the most unromantic, romantic song I think I have ever heard. It is the perfect, plaintive cry of a broken heart, and of course is aptly titled “No Romance”. It received a montage treatment that every fan should love….
I have to pick some place to stop and this is it. I hope this is a little inspiration to take a journey to some musical places you haven’t been for a while. Feel free to send me some of your own examples at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love it.
I loved this.