Tag Archives: nostalgia

Under the Influence: 92.7 WLIR

radiodial2In 1984 I had two favorite radio stations that each had a very different, but equally profound affect on my musical taste. There was 107.5 WBLS, which featured my favorite DJ – the ‘Chief Rocker’ Frankie Crocker. Every weekday from 4p-8p he’d spin R&B hits but also play everything from the Tom Tom Club to James Moody. On the opposite end of the dial, and the musical spectrum, was WLIR.

wlir292.7 WLIR played New Wave (also known as Alternative, New Music and Modern Rock – why so many names?). I don’t remember why I started listening or how I found out about it but I know for a fact I didn’t stumbled across the station. WLIR was located near Hempstead, Long Island  – just about 25 miles from my home in Brooklyn. But the station’s signal wasn’t very strong so I’d have to perform all sorts of high-tech feats to get a clear signal (my most effective method was to interlace the antenna of my boom box through the Venetian blind slats in my bedroom window).

daretobedifferentThe station’s tag line was “Dare to Be Different’ – which worked for me (and probably every other teen listening). One of the ways I decided to explore my feelings of otherness and oddness was through music. A young Black kid listening to R&B and Hip Hop was expected. But what if that kid started listening to Euyrthmics or The Smiths? Then that kid was different. He was a bit of freak.  I wasn’t ready to ‘freak out’ in other ways –  so I bought Culture Club records and hung U2 posters on my bedroom wall (I hedged my bets by hanging a Tina Turner Private Dancer poster right next to U2).

Plus – the music was great.

When the radio waves cooperated WLIR introduced me to great artists like Duran Duran, R.E.M., INXS, Thompson Twins, and Psychedelic Furs. And best of all – every week the station would allow viewers to vote and choose the best new song of the week.  The station’s DJ’s (Donna Donna, Malibu Sue, Larry the Duck) would each rally behind one song and attempt to convince listeners to pick their ‘Screamer of the Week’. The DJ’s were passionate and knowledgable and they helped shape the musical taste of countless teens in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. So much of this blog is a testament to that station’s influence. The right music at the right time.

Additional Screamer of the Week posts:

The Psychedelic Furs – Heaven

The Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up

Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

Thompson Twins – Sister of Mercy

The Fat Boys are Back (and You Know They Can Never Be Wack)

Fat Boys Cover1984 was a year of amazing firsts in rap music. Those 12 months were filled with debuts that would forever change the game. Highlights include:

Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons launch Def Jam Records.

LL Cool J releases his first single, “I Need a Beat.”

The Beastie Boys release their first single, “Rock Hard.”

Run-D.M.C. release their debut self-titled album.

The Fat Boys release their first album.

Now you might look at this list and think, ‘one of these things is not like the other…’ – but (on the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album) I want to give a little love and respect to The Fat Boys. Herewith:
5 Reasons You Should Remember The Fat Boys as More Than Just a Novelty Act.

5. The Fun. Once upon a time there was a moment in music history when rap was fun. Rappers took their music seriously but still managed to have a sense of humor. The Fat Boys excelled at the art of being goof balls while displaying skills that demanded respect. In other words – they had confidence. You don’t change your group’s name from The Disco 3 to The Fat Boys without a sense of humor and self-possession.

4. The Beatbox. Big Buff Love, the Human Beatbox (along with Doug E. Fresh) elevated beatboxing to an art form. I hear that sound and I’m immediately transported back in time to 1984. I admit I attempted to beatbox in my bedroom (who didn’t?) but, 30 years later, I have yet to go public with my skills.


3. The Rhymes. The Fat Boys are responsible for what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rhymes in rap history (from “The Fat Boys are Back”):

I’m starving, I’m in the mood

plain and simple I need food!

Hemingway and Carver would envy this spare, yet powerful verse. This has been my mantra on many occasions.

2. The Borough. ‘Brooklyn Keeps On Takin It’

With proper respect to Queens (for giving us  RUN-D.M.C. and my favorite hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest) The Fat Boys are part of a select  group of legendary rappers to hail from New York’s greatest borough (yes, I did). Hip Hop would not be the same without the contributions of Brooklyn rappers Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z, Mos Def, Notorious B.I.G., Talib Kweli, MC Lyte,  AND The Fat Boys. Before Brooklyn churned out artisanal cheeses and craft beers, it gave us hip hop artists who would sell millions of records and elevate the art form of rap.

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Eurythmics’ Lasting Embrace

eurythmics 2Touch is the album responsible for my 30 year love affair with Eurythmics. Like most of the western world I discovered the duo via their hit “Sweet Dreams,” in 1983. It’s undeniably one of the great pop songs of the 80’s. But Touch is the album that grabbed me and turned me into a fan, but also something more than a fan.

I can remember memorizing and analyzing the lyrics to each and every song; staring at the album cover as the record spun on my turntable; and, in non-cable-ready 1980’s Brooklyn, staying up until 12:30 AM at the end of the week hoping Friday Night Videos would play one of their songs. Although I practiced the same level of near religious devotion with many other bands at the time – there was something about Eurythmics’ music that had meaning for me, connected with me on a personal level, perhaps, more than any other. Somehow this new wave group from the UK perfectly synced with the sensibilities of a 16-year old African-American kid from Crown Heights – and that relationship has endured for 30 years. It feels almost impossible for me to sum up how and why I feel the way I do about this band in a single post – – so let’s do this in stages. Let’s start off by talking about Annie Lennox’s voice.

A voice that simultaneously sends chills down your spine and warms your heart. At one moment you feel like the singer is turning her back on you and the next, running towards you for an embrace. Within one song she conjures a myriad of emotions – love, anger, fear, hope.  The voice is vulnerable. It’s brittle. It soothes and it twists the knife.

Read the lyrics of the first four lines of “Who’s That Girl,” the first song on Side B.

The language of love

slips from my lover’s tongue

Cooler than Ice cream

and warmer than the sun

This person she sings about sounds pretty great. You’d want to wake up next to him every morning, right? But listen to her sing these lines and immediately it’s a completely different story.

Even without hearing the rest of the song you’re suspicious of this lover – his motives, his actions, his words. What Is Lennox conveying – is it nostalgia tinged with cynicism? A mixture of joy shadowed by fear? Continue listening and you know it’s all of the above. Yes, love is a stranger, but it’s also a minefield –  and an unfaithful lover is just one of the dangers leading to a broken heart.

As a teenager you begin to take steps into adulthood without realizing it. If you’re lucky, you fall in love for the first time and begin to understand how surprisingly complex relationships can be. Sometimes you have moments of pure, easy joy. And then eruptions of jealousy and fear. For me, the music of Eurythmics and other pop bands were like a little pocket manual. “Oh – I’ve never felt this specific feeling before – but it does remind me of what Annie/Michael//Tina/Daryl/Paul are singing about.”

Now, pop music is less of a manual and more of a beacon – a way for me to remember and reconnect with some of the feelings and experiences I had 30 years ago. And Annie Lennox guides me back like no one else.