Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Bloody Well Right This Was A Good Album

Music has always been a part of my life.  I began singing at age eight.  I had a keyboard that I played nightly for my grandmother.  Of course, I spent many hours listening to radio.  I participated in all kinds of choral activity.  I learned to play guitar.

But in 1984, I was given an opportunity that would impact the rest of my life, and give me full exposure, literally to the world of music and what was available to listen to.

It was a small college radio station at the college I was attending, WXLV, 90.3fm.  There were about a dozen other jocks.  Two of my professors were also advisors (not the correct title for their roles), but that fact did give me some perks, but definitely a lot of good times.

Up until that time, I had been described as a “bubble gum” type DJ, a reference to being into “pop” music.  With no rhyme or reason, I was teamed up with someone named “Kamikaze” Craig.  He aired a heavy metal genre radio show, making him one of the more popular DJ, as he was known for bringing in a lot of acts into this tiny college radio.  Being non-public radio, genres included heavy metal, art rock, classic rock, and polka.

Craig was definitely a cool guy, a lot of fun.  I could tell by the interaction he had with his listeners and callers.  I learned to expand my music taste to include a harder sound.  And you know what?  I liked it.  After a couple of shows with Craig, I was ready to go, just needed an opportunity.  It happened quickly.

One of the managers came up to me, “there is an opening tomorrow morning we need filled.  You interested?”  I felt Craig had done well training me.  I was a quick learner.  I would be allowed to play whatever I wanted, and now I knew more music than when I started.  I was ready.

“You’ll be doing classic rock from 11am to 1pm.”

Huh?  What?  Classic rock?  What the hell was that?  If you have ever heard the expression, “being thrown to the wolves”, the wolves were now tucking their napkins in, ready to feast.  I had no idea what to play.

“Just pick music that is at least ten years old and you’ll be fine.”  I had been listening to music a long time, but really had no concept on how “old” music was.  And really not getting much more help at 10:55am that next morning, I turned my microphone on.  “Good morning.  You’re listening to WXLV 90.3 fm.  My name is Paul Johns (one of the many alternative names I used, this one after a Seattle Seahawk wide receiver) and I’ve got classic rock for your lunch period.  Today’s my first day, so I will be honest, I have no clue what to play for you all listening out there.  But if you call me right now, I guarantee you I will get your classic rock requests on as soon as I can.”

This particular time slot was a busy one, because there were a lot of businesses that listened to our unique format.  Our station was known for not playing things that have been overplayed.  I gave the phone number, and then pressed the button to play the turntable I had cued up.  I was playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that I knew met the “age” requirement.  It was a six minute song.  Which came in handy.

My phone immediately lit up from Scott Cheverolet’s service department.  They were regulars for this particular time slot.  I answered and was asked if I could play Supertramp’s “School”.  I had never heard of it before, but I knew all I would have to do is go to the music library, find the Supertramp albums, which for the most part, the albums were in alphabetical order, and I was good to go.  Before I hung up, I mentioned to the caller that it was my first time, and that I could really use their help in filling two hours of classic rock music.

And I got a lot of help not only from that first caller, but from several others after.  Some of the requests that I played, actually sounded familiar.  Now I was able to put titles to songs.  Staring at the music library, I now realized what I had at my fingertips, and it would make my ears, and my soul happy.

I would spend about three years there, on and on.  Several of my fellow jocks would be there way longer.  And I still keep in touch with them to this day, thirty years later.  One of the happier times of my life for sure.  Good friends they all were.  But it also started a long career as a disc jockey, playing mostly live gigs.

But getting back to that first request, “School,” comes from Supertramp’s album “Crime of The Century.”  If you were to ask the average person for a song from Supertramp, if they knew who the band was, you are more likely to get a song like “The Logical Song” or “Take the Long Way Home” from their album “Breakfast In America” which got way more commercial play.

“School” was a much more thought-provoking single, often considered a studio release, in that, it would never be played on commercial radio or perhaps even in concert.  But the first song on the second side of the album, would get a lot of airplay.  “Dreamer”, much more of the “bubblegum” sound that I was accused of, was classic rock!  It also was a hit for Supertramp after the failure of their first two albums, this album finally was successful because of “Dreamer.”

I would sit in the “recording” studio next door to the on-air studio after every show from that point on, and listen to the albums in their entirety, not just to get familiar with classic rock music, but because the albums, and the bands were that good.

“Bloody Well Right” and “Rudy” would get a lot of attention, but that would be it until “Breakfast In America” came out, really.

But there are a lot of good tracks on that album including, “Hide In Your Shell”, “Asylum”, “If Everyone Was Listening”, and of course the title track, “Crime Of The Century.”

I would go back and listen to the first two albums by Supertramp, and would listen to each one that came after “Crime Of The Century.”

The Super Group

In 1982, four musicians from four other well known bands came together, forming the super group, Asia.  Yes, the term “super group” existed long before 1982, but really just began being used with the birth of Asia.  Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Steve Howe of Yes, Geoff Downes of the Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star), and John Wetton of King Crimson, consisted of the lineup.

With the help of MTV, when they used to play music videos, “Only Time Will Tell” and “Heat Of The Moment” got lots of attention, garnishing #1 status for the album in the US.  This debut album only released two songs before coming out with the next effort, Alpha, a similarly written and produced record.

The entire album is heart pounding and melodious.  It does not have the continuity of a concept album, which definitely explains why it did not have more commercial success being played mostly on album oriented rock radio stations.

“Soul Survivor”

“One Step Closer”

“Time Again”

“Wildest Dreams”

“Without You”

“Cutting It Fine”

“Here Comes The Feeling”

Just one great song after another.  Of course, as is often the case these days with new technology, albums get remastered and songs get added to even original albums.  An additional tune, often played in the concerts recognizing their 25th anniversary, “Ride Easy” took on a whole new meaning when lead singer John Wetton passed away from cancer.

There had been some lineup changes over the years, but the bulk of the music, no matter what, sounded like “Asia” as it was from the beginning.  The average person may think there was only one album released by this super group, I am one of the oddballs that actually has all fourteen albums.

It was during the 25th anniversary tour, that reunited all of the original band members.  I went to that concert with my late brother-in-law, who passed away from Lou Gerhrig’s Disease soon after.  Both of us appreciating the concert because not only did they knock that first album out in its entirety, each member of the band played a song from their original band as well.

We heard “Hall Of The Crimson King” from King Crimson, “Roundabout” from Yes, “Karnevil 9” from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and for the first time in my life, “Video Killed The Radio Star” from the Buggles.

A great night of live music.  One of the best memories with my brother-in-law.  A great album.

What’s In A Name

I still have a few more of these to go to meet my challenge.  Took a few days off.

The band Chicago is one of the first bands that I embraced on my own without parental influences.  They were also the first concert that I attended on my own, well, with a date.  They also taught me, that music was more than just what you heard on the radio.

Chicago has kept it going now for over five decades.  Granted, they have only three remaining members still performing with them yet, but the music still sounds great.  But there is a history, a long history that goes with this band and the various memories and stories that make up this legacy.  I completely encourage you to watch “Now More Than Every:  The History Of Chicago.”  As sappy as they were in the second half of their careers, they were not so innocent in their jammin’ and rockin’ early years.

Which brings me to another one of my formative albums, Chicago Transit Authority, CTA for short.  Originally, the name of the album, and the band until a lawsuit by the actual Chicago Transit Authority of Chicago.

Released in 1969, it was a rare debut “double album”, for those two young to know what that means, there were four sides… aw hell, you are probably saying “sides to what” now.  It was a lot of songs.

A lot of songs that introduced a powerful horn section into rock and roll.  The album was a mixture of jazz and rock and roll.  The length of the songs did not make it easy for the band to break through on the radio that wanted three minute songs, and CTA’s songs were all over four minutes (averaging over six minutes) with the exception of one song, that was not even released as a single oddly enough.

We would also be introduced to one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Terry Kath, whose life ended tragically.  He was actually complimented by Jimmy Hendrix as being better than him.  Kath’s guitar playing and soulful vocals were good, and got even better on the next several albums.

The great thing about Chicago, is the variety of instruments and all the different lead vocals on songs.

“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” was a great start to the album blasting the horns right from the get-go.  Definitely a toe-tapper.  Though the third track is titled “Beginnings” its lyrics are why it was not appropriate as the first track for their long career.  This track highlighted a smooth guitar along with the horns and soothing voice of one of the founding members Robert Lamm.

But perhaps one of the best songs I think of the entirety of their career is Questions 67&68.  It is also one of the few songs that I cannot sing along to from Chicago because of the high range of lead vocalist Peter Cetera.

Finally, one song that brings out at least one person at every concert yelling at the top of their voices, “I’m A Man” co-written by Spencer Davis Group’s Steve Winwood, both groups having recorded the song in contrasting styles.  Of course, like I said, according to radio programmers, there was nothing really on the album meant for radio play, based solely on the length of the songs, yet the album still produced four great hits, and over forty albums over fifty years.

And that is why they finally and deservedly so, got into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame.

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