I spent my teenage years in Plano, a suburb just north of Dallas. There wasn’t a lot for kids to to do in Plano. We went to school. We watched football. We played video games. We went to the mall. Sometimes we got crazy and played video games at the mall. Whoa.
And we listened to the radio.
North Texas was fortunate enough to have three rock stations after KEGL arrived on the scene in 1981. Each one of them played a lot of the same songs, but somehow they each had their own unique personality.
First up: 102.1 KTXQ.
Q102. Texas’ Best Rock. Home of the semi-famous DJ Redbeard, Triple Shot Thursday, and the best damn rock star promos in the history of the universe:
“Hello this is Klaus Meine from Scorpions we come from Germany to rock your world we love Texas because in Texas you really know how to paaaaarrrr-taaaaaayyyy when you listen to Q102 Texas Best Rooooooooocccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!”
Breathe, Klaus. BREATHE. Klaus was like Speed Racer actually on speed.
Next up: 98.7 KZEW.
The Zoo. The burner station. For years, I thought KZEW t-shirts came off the rack with a pack of Marlboro Reds tucked into the sleeve. The first station I ever heard play the “Who the fuck are you?” version of “Who Are You.” At 4 pm. On a Tuesday.
Finally, we had 97.1 KEGL.
The Eagle. This was the station you had to listen to if you were at a girl’s house. I rarely was invited into the house of an actual girl, so I rarely listened to the Eagle. No one I knew really listened to the Eagle, and yet somehow it is the only station still broadcasting. This makes me very sad.
Like a lot of you, I rarely listen to music on traditional radio stations anymore. But back in 1981, my radio was always on. Of course I bought records– but how many records could a ninth grader really afford? The three radio stations were our lifeblood to music, and their effect on our lives went far beyond the bumper stickers on our cars and the t-shirts on our backs.
Sure, there were certain bands who were perhaps slightly overplayed: Journey. Foreigner. ZZ Top. REO Speedwagon. Styx. And hey, there was nothing wrong with that. I still enjoy all of these bands to this day. However, there was one band that always seemed to be on at least one of the three stations at any given moment. Radio ruined this band for me. To this day, I cannot listen to this band. I cannot listen to anyone talk about this band. I cannot even write the name of this band. I will invite you in the comments section to guess the name of this band if you dare. Someone will certainly guess correctly, because I am sure there were many like me who were permanently scarred by the overexposure of the band that shall remain nameless…
OK, so perhaps I heard “Too Much Time On My Hands” and “Shake It Up” more times than I really needed to. But I do have to give Q102 and The Zoo and The Eagle credit: they exposed me to a ton of new music. For every “Working for The Weekend,” there was a “Trouble.” For every “Juke Box Hero,” there was a “Lunatic Fringe.” Album tracks. New artists. Deep cuts. That’s what made classic rock radio in the early ’80s so great.
Remember, this was 1981. MTV launched in August of that year, but Plano might as well have been on Pluto in regards to cable TV access. The only way we heard a new band was on the radio. Many of these great songs and bands have drifted from our memories over the years. My task here at the Analog Kid Blog is to bring them back…one blog post at a time.
So here we go: five long-forgotten classic rock flashbacks from the year 1981. I’ll post additional cuts from different years on future posts, so keep checking back. May you find your own inner “Sausalito Summernight” somewhere along the journey…
Balance: “Breaking Away” (Peppy Castro)
From the album Balance
Portrait Records, 1981
Balance only made two records, but they had the classic AOR format down from the start. Guitarist Bob Kulick’s brother Bruce went on to join KISS after they took off the makeup.
Chilliwack: “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” (Bill Henderson/Brian MacLeod)
From the album Wanna Be A Star
Millennium Records, 1981
Chilliwack’s story is a fascinating one, and probably deserves an entire blog of its own someday. They were huge in their native Canada, but only had a few minor hits in the States. This song almost reached the top 20, and it was all over Q102. Warning: this song will stick in your head for the next 72 hours.
Prism: “Don’t Let Him Know” (Bryan Adams /Jim Vallance)
From the album Small Change
Capitol Records, 1981
Another Canadian band with a fascinating history. Producer Bruce Fairbairn got his start in this band, as did Jim Vallance. Both had left by this point, but Vallance wrote this song with an up-and-coming Bryan Adams and gave it to his former group. A great slice of early ’80s rock.
Sneaker: “More Than Just The Two Of Us” (Michael Schneider/Mitch Crane)
From the album Sneaker
Handshake Records, 1981
If you went to a high school dance in 1981, you slow-danced to “More Than Just The Two Of Us.” You can’t really tell from this song, but the band wore its Steely Dan influences squarely on its sleeve. Becker and Fagan even wrote a song for the album, and the self-titled debut was produced by former Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. “More Than Just Two Of Us” made it up to #34 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was a smash hit in Plano.
Donnie Iris: “Love Is Like A Rock” (Donnie Iris/Mark Avsec/Marty Lee, Albritton McClain/Kathy Valentine)
From the album King Cool
MCA Records, 1981
Everybody remembers “Ah! Leah!” from 1980, and that song still receives regular airplay on classic rock stations all around the country. Donnie Iris is thought of as a one-hit wonder, but he actually had a long a career in the business. Do you remember “The Rapper,” a 1970 #2 hit from The Jaggerz? That’s Iris. MIND BLOWN. I found this out a few years ago as I was enjoying a delicious Primanti Brothers cheesesteak in Pittsburgh (egg and slaw on the sandwich, please!). The shop had a huge mural of Pittsburgh legends on the wall, and Donnie Iris was right up front with Roberto Clemente. That seemed a little skewed to me, so I consulted my tiny phone-like computer for a little googling. As I said, MIND BLOWN. Iris even spent a couple years in the band Wild Cherry, but it was after “Play That Funky Music” had been released. Good thing, as my brain might have exploded if Donnie had been the one dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’.
“Love Is Like A Rock” made it up to #37 on the Billboard Hot 100, only 8 spots behind the highest position for “Ah! Leah.” Time has forgotten this one. The Analog Kid has not.
The first rule of The Analog Kid blog is that if you write about a song on the Analog Kid blog, you share the song on the Analog Kid blog.
The Who: “Who Are You” (Pete Townshend)
From the album Who Are You
MCA Records, 1978
Styx: “Too Much Time On My Hands” (Tommy Shaw)
From the album Paradise Theater
A&M Records, 1981
The Cars: “Shake It Up” (Ric Ocasek)
From the album Shake It Up
Elektra Records, 1981
Loverboy: “Working For The Weekend” (Mike Reno/Paul Dean/Matt Frenette)
From the album Get Lucky
Columbia Records, 1981
Lindsey Buckingham: “Trouble” (Lindsey Buckingham)
From the album Law And Order
Asylum Records, 1981
Foreigner: “Juke Box Hero” (Mick Jones/Lou Gramm)
From the album 4
Atlantic Records, 1981
Red Rider: “Lunatic Fringe” (Tom Cochrane)
From the album As Far As Siam
Capitol Records, 1981
Diesel: “Sausalito Summernight” (Mark Boon/Rob Vunderink)
From the album Watts In A Tank
Atco Records, 1981
Donnie Iris: “Ah! Leah!” (Donnie Iris/Mark Avsec)
From the album Back On The Streets
MCA Records, 1980
The Jaggerz: “The Rapper” (Dominic Ierace)
From the album We Went To Different Schools Together
Buddah Records, 1970
Wild Cherry: “Play That Funky Music” (Rob Parissi)
From the album Wild Cherry
Epic Records, 1976
Make your guesses here for the band that I shall not name, listen to, or speak of!
George Gimarc on Q102 exposed me to more music than any 5 DJs I can think of. Loved Redbeard but Gimarc was the man.
Gimarc was a God. I will likely devote an entire blog to him in the future. Q102 and The Zoo shaped my musical world in the early ’80s, and 94.5 The Edge completely rearranged it in 1989.
I see you spoke there name already. I guess that shows my distaste for REO
I thought you wanted MORE REO! 🙂
Not Skynyrd. I have warmed to them over the years, although “That Smell” and “Freebird” still make me lunge for the dial.
My wife actually guessed it via email, but apparently is too snooty to post it here in the comments. So we kinda have a winner, but not really…
I kind of have an inside track, though, considering I have to listen to you bitch about this band whenever they pop up on shuffle.
Surpriseh (my wife) has inadvertently revealed the depth of my music addiction. I may hate the band whose name I will not mention, but that hasn’t stopped me from acquiring all of their albums– on both CD and LP– over the years.
“The need for completion is strong with this one.”
WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for playing. Where should I send your free t-shirt?*
* free t-shirt offer valid only if/when I actually MAKE t-shirts, which I think we both know is highly unlikely
Well slap me and call me “Amanda”. This really has me “Feelin’ Satisfied” and gives me a “Peace of Mind” knowing that I was “Smokin” with my guesses. But as far as the t-shirt goes, I will just “Cool the engines” realizing that the offer was just “Foreplay” and that it will be a “Long Time” before you every make them.
Randall, you have renewed my faith in humanity. God bless you, good sir.
What!?! You don’t like Boston?
Golden Earring “Twilight Zone” to big a hit for ya?
Ah, my bad. “Twilight Zone” was 1982.
Yes, “Twilight Zone” was 1982. They opened for Rush on the “Signals” tour, remember? Took me years to figure out the line, “This is a madhouse, feels like being cloned.”
As for B____n, I was simply done with them after 9th grade due to radio overkill, I’m not saying they are bad. I just don’t ever want to hear “M_r_ T_a_ A _e_l_n_” ever again.
I saw Golden Earring open for Rush and I still remember the clear drum kit with neon lights inside. Thought that was the coolest.
Thanks for the Donnie Iris and Chilliwack songs. I had forgotten about those. They sure took me back.
I feel much the same way about Boston: Solid stuff, but overplayed to the point that I never felt I needed to own a Boston album. Or hear any Boston music. Ever. Again.
Grew up in Pittsburgh, so I knew the Jaggerz (they spent what seemed like months at Number One with ‘The Rapper’ in the days that charts could still be local) and Iris solo with ‘Ah, Leah!’…