Thursday, January 18, 2018

Self Help Radio 011718: 1982

(Most covers found on Discogs, but some on Allmusic & some on Wikipedia.)

I wonder if you find the music of 1982 as breathtakingly good as I do.  I cannot get over how excellent it was.  & I left so much out.  While I was making this show, I gathered about 120 songs from 120 releases from the year for me to choose from.  That was a hell of a choice.  I think it will get harder, frankly, as the eighties wear on.  I'm not someone who believes the best music was made in the past, but I do know I began to truly love music in the 1980s.  Some parts of me still listen to music in that way - it's why I still focus mainly on indie rock, postpunk, & the like - but of course as one gets older, one changes how one does everything.  I'll just say this: every one of the songs I played sets something in me on fire.  I sang along to this entire show.  I know these songs by heart because they live in my heart.

Anyway, enough gushing.  The show is now here.  You'll need a username - SHR - & a password - selfhelp - to listen.  The show is in two glorious parts, & what songs are played in each part is listed below.  Don't worry!  Ronald Reagan & Margaret Thatcher can't hurt you anymore!  Just the policies they championed.  That's the reason the world's in the shitty situation it is now.

(part one)

"Temptation (7" Mix)" New Order _Temptation_
"Falling & Laughing" Orange Juice _You Can't Hide Your Love Forever_

"The Classical" The Fall _Hex Enduction Hour_
"In Shreds" The Chameleons _In Shreds_
"Alice" The Sisters Of Mercy _Alice_
"Wax & Wane" Cocteau Twins _Garlands_

"Human Hands" Elvis Costello & The Attractions _Imperial Bedroom_
"More Than This" Roxy Music _Avalon_
"Walking On A Wire" Richard & Linda Thompson _Shoot Out The Lights_
"Suspended In Gaffa" Kate Bush _The Dreaming_
"Love --> Building On Fire" Talking Heads _The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads_

(part two)

"Big Jesus Trash Can" The Birthday Party _Junkyard_
"Blue Spark" X _Under The Big Black Sun_
"Weatherbox" Mission Of Burma _Vs._
"Ghetto Defendant" The Clash _Combat Rock_

"All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" Bauhaus _The Sky's Gone Out_
"Cold" The Cure _Pornography_
"Forever Now" Psychedelic Furs _Forever Now_
"Life On The Line" Fad Gadget _Under The Flag_
"Painting By Numbers" Television Personalities _Mummy Your Not Watching Me_

"I Melt With You (7" Mix)" Modern English _After The Snow_
"Come On Eileen" Dexy's Midnight Runners _Too-Rye-Ay_
"Our House" Madness _The Rise & Fall_

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Whither 1982?

(Image from here.)

It's very simple.  (When I write that, I hear it in my head in Bob Dorough's voice.)  In the first year of this show, around or on my birthday (which is January 20), I decided I would "celebrate" my birthday by playing music from the year of my birth, 1968.  When the next birthday rolled around, I decided I'd go to 1969.  & so on, & so on.  I have a birthday on Saturday.  We're up to 1982.

So!  Tonight's show will be my favorite music from 1982.  Not necessarily the music I liked best in 1982, although we're close to the point in time where I was starting to actively seek out new music, but definitely music from 1982 that I truly love now & have listened to at some point between then & now.

The show is on tonight from 8-10pm central, 9-11pm eastern on WLXU in Lexington - that's at 93.9 fm - & everywhere at LCR online.  Listen & compare your faves from 1982.  Because I know you've got a list.  C'mon.  You've got a list.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Preface To 1982: Age Fourteen

On January 20, 1982, I turned fourteen years old.  I wouldn't say I was a happy kid, but I wasn't necessarily a sad one, either.  The family was poor, I lived in a pretty lower-class apartment complex called Villa Cordoba, & I knew it was a sketchy place to live not because I had any sense of such things but because two adults let me know: my mom once asked me, "Are you ashamed of the place where you live?" alerting me to the idea that I might be ashamed of the place where I lived, & one of the teachers who was the supervisor for the yearbook, on which I worked, made a weird face when I told her I lived at the apartment cater-corner from the school.  "You live there?" she said, like I had admitted I mainly lived in ooze & detritus.

The family had lived in Villa Cordoba since I was in fourth grade, but in three different apartments, whose numbers I remember.  They were, in order, 27, 18, & 48.  18 was the biggest apartment, which had three bedrooms, because my sister Karin was old enough then to have her own room.  But she grew up & moved out, & the last couple of years we lived in apartment 48, which was in the front of the complex, looking out onto Fifth Street, with the bedroom I shared with my little brother overlooking the manager's office in the middle of the complex.

That last year we lived there, things had somewhat changed.  So many of the people who had been my friends had moved away, as apartment denizens, especially in the suburbs, don't tend to stay for long.  (I had in fact lived in four different apartment complexes since I was four.)  As well, the age of the kids around me had dropped, to around an average of ten, & I had nothing in common with them. My brother Chris & I, we're about a year apart in age, we were quickly growing apart - he was more into sports, I was more into comic books & music like the Beatles.  I remember a feeling of loneliness in the place where once, I felt, there had been so many people I could see, play with, hang out with.  It didn't help of course that once puberty hit, girls tended to segregate themselves.  I seem to recall only the manager's daughter, a girl named Samantha, would talk to me, but usually only to insult me.

My mother had previously worked at a convenience store owned by an old man named Fred from whom she stole a lot.  We always had many different kinds of junk food & other amenities in the house because Fred either didn't know or didn't care (I suspect he was involved in his own shady dealings) that his employees stole from him.  Like, when I would go up to the store, & Fred wasn't there, my mom would give us soda & chips & would let me take any comic I wanted off the rack.  At the time, I thought it was a perk of the job.  It wasn't.

Fred sold the store, probably in early 1981, & my mother got a job at a local drugstore, at which she probably earned just enough to pay rent & keep us fed.  That job was not a job at which she could steal, & our refrigerator showed it - I don't think we had soda for months.  My mother had a boyfriend, named Ed, who was universally disliked by the family, but I think he helped out.  He moved in just three doors down from us, & his apartment, which was like the worthless leftovers from a ransacked antique shop mixed with a slightly skewed idea of a Playboy-level bachelor pad, was endlessly fascinating to me.  He had taken a mirror & broke it - not smashed - he made sure there were long shards - which he pasted onto some kind of board, which he had up on his wall.  He gave one of these creations to my mother, who refused to have it in the house - she was very superstitious & she knew Ed would catch hell for that whole "breaking a mirror" thing.

At some point between the summer of 1981 & the beginning of 1982, my mother's fortune's changed.  Fred had purchased another convenience store, called the Time Saver.  I was near where I had lived before fourth grade, on Kingsley Road, in-between Garland Road & Saturn Road, & I remember walking to the store somewhere around that time through a big vacant lot with my father, who was picking up pecans & cracking them with his hands.  He had taken us there to buy us soda.  & now Fred wanted my mother to come work there for him.

But Fred decided soon enough he was too old to get back into that biz, & wonder of wonders, Ed decided he would purchase the store.  He figured my mother knew how to run it, & how hard could it be?  They renovated - they laid the store out much like my mother's old place at Orchard Hills (which by the way was barely a half mile east on Kingsley) & I think even installed a deli.  My mother seemed to feel the need to sell the place to me & my little brother, telling us that they'd make an area in the back for us to do homework & things like that.  Whatever was going on there, certainly nothing like that materialized - why in the world would we want to go to a convenience store to hang out after school?  Anyway, my mother tended to work mornings & Ed at nights - which probably suited her fine.  She nowadays likes to laugh about how she "used" him, but even then I don't think anyone thought she was all that fond of him.

Which makes the next decision even weirder: that summer we moved out of Villa Cordoba & into a rented house with him.  With Ed.  It was the first house I could remember living in (I had apparently lived in one when I was a baby) & even better, I got my own room, the walls of which I promptly covered with comic book posters I had been collecting for many years now.

The house - which did have age-appropriate children living in the neighborhood, although we weren't there long enough to make friends - was further away from my high school than the apartments (I could've walked to my high school from Villa Cordoba) & my mother did not want me taking the bus (she had heard of horrible things happening on buses, you see), so when school started I immediately had problems getting there.  My mother enlisted family members, & my first day of high school (& much of the first month) I was dropped off at a donut shop across the street by my sister-in-law Julie I believe at around 6:30, & played video games until the school started letting people in an hour later.

Things at the house were odd.  Ed was a strange man, a tall, grizzled, skeletal figure who enjoyed walking around late at night naked.  He & my little brother did not get along, & soon enough Chris was spending most of his time at my sister Pat's house.  Many times I was the only human there, Mom & Ed at the store, Chris at Pat's, my only companion an old mutt named Kalijah who had been my brother Ralph's dog but had been adopted by my mother when Ralph couldn't or wouldn't take care of him.  I don't have a picture of my bedroom on Mayfield, I don't have a picture of the Time Saver from the outside (it was torn down by the folks who bought it from Ed), but I do have a picture of Kalijah, from a few years later:

Kalijah did not like me, & I didn't know how to make him like me.  He was fond of my mother, because she fed him, & let him out when he needed to go out, &, as the picture shows, she let him sleep on her bed.

Boy did I like having my own room, & I liked that the place was closer to my comic book store.  Here's something that's true: I could ride my bike to the comic book store from my house & never once touch my handlebars.  It was all downhill.  I couldn't do it the other way around.

But I was very far from school, & if I had to stay late, I would have to walk home, which was about two miles.  For a short time, I got a ride with my friend Scott & his mom (I talked about him yesterday) & my sister Pat would meet us outside the Braum's next to the school after classes were done, & she'd give both me & him a ride home.  But Pat at the time was pregnant with my nephew, & eventually she had to stop driving.  So eventually Scott's mom stopped giving me rides to school.

This is already way too long but I want to say that I think it was in ninth grade I became friends with a fellow named Mike Jones, who became our school's valedictorian.  We were never anything but school-friends, although we did play D&D together briefly, thanks to Scott, & I only saw him once after graduation, & it was pretty obvious we had very little in common.

& I was teased a bit in school because I was a nerd - girls in my first period algebra class didn't like my video game tee shirts, for example, but I was never picked on, never beaten up, never really noticed by mean upper classmen, mainly because I wasn't in sports, or band, or whatever.  My brothers had told me that would happen to me & I confess I was a little baffled why it didn't - though also I was very happy too.

My father was an alcoholic - it's why his marriage with my mother ended - & it turns out Ed was too. My mother could sure pick 'em!  So by the end of the year, we were no longer living in that house on Mayfield.  I'm not sure if we moved out at the end of the year or before or after, but it seems a good stopping place, as that's when 1982 ended.

One thing about 1982 that's important to my radio show: my friend Russell made me a David Bowie tape that year.  I think I still have it somewhere - whether it plays or not, that's questionable - but it opened my ears to sounds other than that which we now call classic rock on the radio.  Plus, he & his friend Lee, with whom I sat during lunch for a time, they talked a lot about a guy named Elvis Costello, & it wasn't too long before I found some of his records (in cassette form) in a bargain bin at a mall record shop.  The Gary who would become the Gary who has a radio show called Self Help Radio was just beginning to form in 1982.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where Were You In 1982?

Because I was in Garland, Texas, the entire damn year.

When 1982 began, I was in eighth grade, my last year of middle school.  I enjoyed it somewhat, although there were some downsides.  My friend Scott would come over to my apartment when his mom dropped him off at the school, since I lived in an apartment complex right next to the school, &
we'd watch cartoons until 8 & run to school.  We had our first period together, which was Earth Science, & we sat at the same table, & we were late so much we got detention together.

Scott was the first friend I ever made who liked me as me, & who didn't care to be friends with my little brother.  This did not make my little brother happy, but he & I were growing apart anyway.  Scott shared my interest in comics, in sci-fi, in gory stuff.  We made fun of nuclear war, probably out of fear we'd die in one.  He would introduce me to D&D.  He my first true best friend.  Here's what a mensch he was:

Sometime around the end of the school year, we were all to go to an assembly in the lunch room where a group of singing high schoolers (coming from my future school, South Garland High) were to sing to us.  I used to remember the name of the group, something corny, but I don't recall now.  Anyway, my last class, seventh period, was a math class, & my teacher liked me, I had a high A, & on that day I was not feeling well.  I had a headache & a stomach ache & the last thing I wanted to do was to sit with everyone in a hot, cramped auditorium (they made us sit on the floor) & listen to people sing songs I knew I was going to hate.  I begged my teacher to let me just stay in the classroom alone with my head on the table.  I even said, "I'm a good student, you know I won't leave until the bell."  She said no.

& boy, did I hate those singers.  First of all, most of the music was religious.  I was never raised in any particular religion, & my mother's love of superstition had cured me of that kind of belief system, & my love of science made me deeply disinterested in any religious stuff.  But add that I didn't feel well, that I didn't want to be there, & that I was resentful that my teacher didn't trust me to just chill in the classroom, well, it all became too much.  I sat there with Scott while he mocked them but I just seethed.  At the end of the show, while everyone else was applauding, I just decided to boo.  & not only did I boo, I booed loudly.  & Scott joined in.  & of course other ne'er-do-wells in the crowd booed.  I sometimes wonder if I felt bad for the high schoolers, but truly they were awful.  It was 1982 & they were putting on a show that would've been corny in 1962.

The booing did not make me feel better.  & my American History teacher, a woman who I adored & who liked me, saw me instigate the boos & took me aside & told me to go to see the Principal in the morning.  She was so disappointed in me.

Did Mrs. Lane ask Scott to go too?  I guess I thought she did, but I don't know.  There he was at 7:30 with me, at the Principal's Office, where I was marched in & sat down & asked if I knew what I did was rude (I did) & what sort of punishment I thought I should get (not licks! not licks!).

Oh yes, the punishment was going to be physical violence.  I should point out that my mother never spanked me, that she controlled me & my siblings with fear, so I had never really had a paddle to my posterior.  Scott had - he told me he got licks all the time back in Illinois, & they were no big deal - you should've seen him, he was as defiant as I was terrified.  I don't remember how many licks I got, or even why they're called licks, which sounds fucking stupid, but I remember that they didn't hurt so much surprise me.  Again, no one had ever done that to me before (& no one has since).  Tears came to my eyes but Scott laughed them off.  "Told you it was nothing," he said, as we went out to wait for classes to begin.

Scott was fun to be around & I liked him a lot.  & after eighth grade, something happened that made me stop being his friend for the entire summer.  What could that have been?

Enter my older brothers, Ralph & Steve.  At some point in the early summer, they thought it was their brotherly duty to make me absolutely terrified of high school.  They described hazing incidents, like being "trashed," which meant someone put you into a trash can head first, & of course beatings, fist fights, being cornered in the rest room & your face being put in the toilet.  They implied any number of painful humiliations which I did not want to happen.  I don't know if my brothers told me this more than once (& I'm sorry that I never asked them about their own experiences because how shitty must their high school experiences have been), but one thing they made clear was that my friend Scott, oh man, he was such a nerd that just associating with him was going to get me beaten to a bloody pulp.

Why I believed them I don't know, but that summer I avoided him.  & I missed him.  My mother had however been so good at instilling fear in me that every time I thought about calling Scott I would see myself with mean kids dunking my head in a toilet with impunity.

On my first day of class at South Garland High School, at the last period, which was sixth period (only sixes classes a day in high school), I had Social Studies, & who was there?  Scott was there.  He didn't seem like anyone had done anything to him - I should've sussed out that he was tougher than I was but the fear was strong in me - & we hung out after school, & began walking home together.  I had my best friend again!  It was probably the best thing about 1982 for me.

But there's more to tell about that year, & I'll continue tomorrow, because we moved away from our apartments in the summer of 1982, & I got to have my own room for the first & only time in my life before I left home.  Anyway, yeah.  More 1982 tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Melt With You

This week's show continues a tradition that began in the first year of Self Help Radio: on the week of my birthday, I play my favorite songs that were released during one year of my life.  The year isn't random - in 2002, I played music from 1968, the year of my birth.  & since the show is now fifteen years old, this year I'll play music from... 1982?  Oh yeah, I didn't do this birthday thing one year.

But, yeah, the tradition continues this year, & we're getting now to the point where the music I love that came out that year is actually music I was listening to at the time.  This is because, while I was an avid listener of radio since I was a child, the music that I would come to love was suddenly showing up on radio.

There's a theory about that, & that theory isn't mine.  It's because of the increasing influence of MTV. In those days, there were very few places to see music videos, & also few artists made them.  But the ones that did got heavy play on MTV, which caused people to call radio stations & request those artists.  So suddenly on the radio we were hearing Psychedelic Furs, Adam Ant, Madness, ABC, Joe Jackson - people who weren't really breaking through to American audiences because they weren't getting airplay on classic rock radio - but people who were making cool music videos that MTV needed to play.

One song that was played way too much was "I Melt With You" by Modern English.  It's a great song, & probably did more to interest me in jangly indie music than I can measure.  But in 1982, with me spending any extra money I had on comic books, it never occurred to me to seek out music beyond the radio or beyond tapes people made me or records I borrowed from my older brothers.  & my older brothers were certainly not listening to post-punk from across the ocean.

This story isn't really about 1982, but about that song.  Years later, when I had the money to buy records & comics, I searched my brain for music from the past that I loved back then.  (It's hard to imagine me in 1986 thinking 1982 was so far away, but it was.)  My friend Russell one time took me & my friend Joe somewhere in his car, & he played the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" (released in 1982), & we both said to him, "We love this song!"

My experience with "I Melt With You" was more bittersweet.

In my twelfth grade year, I fell in love for real for the first time.  It was with a girl named Laura Anderson who was smart & beautiful & who had a wonderful laugh.  It was lucky that I was occasionally the one making her laugh.  I'm sure she knew how I felt though there was never any profession of feelings - how could there be?  But one time she talked to me about how much she liked "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" & I discovered there was a stage performance of it in Dallas & I
bought tickets & asked her to come to see it with me.

Then as now I had no idea what constituted a "date," how one made one's feelings known, what would happen if there were any kind of reciprocation of feelings - all the songs I listened to gave me nothing but vague clues.  I had planned to take Laura to the play & then we could get some food or something, maybe end up talking in my car, who knows?

But as we drove home - I think she liked the show - she told me she didn't want to go eat, that she was done & had stuff to do at her house.  I had the radio on, & what should suddenly be playing but - as if my life were a comically maudlin teen movie - "I Melt With You."  What's worse, she loved the song, too, & she & I sang along to it as I turned off the highway & headed to her part of town.

Just imagine that.  The perfect new wave love song, the sort of feelings I wished I could express to her as melodically, & I am singing it out loud, as if to her, & she is singing along, too.  & yet, there wasn't a chance she felt the same way.  In fact, there was always a chance she regretted going with me & perhaps leading me on.

It's funny, I don't think the two of us ever talked about that day again.  After I took her home, I went to the Mobil gas station where my friend Joe was working & I slept in my car until he was off work.

Laura & I stayed briefly in touch after high school but she & I were never quite friends.  Eventually I tired of writing letters & paying for phone calls.  A few years later, she came to Austin for grad school, & I guess we ran into each other then. I even shared a ride with her around that time back to Garland, but I was kind of dickish for no reason & we never spoke again.  & with a name like Laura Anderson, she's probably not easy to find.

Anyway, this isn't really about 1982.  & there's much to talk about this week when I talk about 1982!  My fourteenth year on the planet.  & my god one of the best years of music ever.