Sunday, December 27, 2009

I lose myself in the night...

Radio Heart featuring Gary Numan

For a man who broke upon the world music scene about a decade earlier, and singing about metal, robots, aliens and cars, a lovelorn pop lament imploring a DJ to make a difference sure seems a bit...odd. But by 1987, Gary Numan was in need of some career revivification, and while his fleeting dalliance with a mysterious ensemble known as Radio Heart may not have accomplished that, it did keep him in the public eye at a time he was on the verge of asteriskdom (it's a word now), producing a UK Top 40 single in the process.

Radio Heart was to have been a musical consortium assembled by Numan acquaintance Hugh Nicholson, and its solitary LP cover also trumpeted the participation of Elton John and percussionist Ray Cooper, the shorn-pate performer who assembles his percussion area like a high altar for tribal sacrifice (hey, it takes a lot to upstage Elton John, but Cooper always manages it). However, their contribution to the project seems negligible, and Numan was heard fronting only three of the album's cuts. Numan felt so self-conscious about the LP being marketed as his own product that he had it pulled from stores after a matter of weeks. It's not the easiest thing in the world to come by, and explains why, even though I had heard of the song during its release, I never actually heard it until the miracle of the Interweb.

Give a close listen to the harmonic structure of the verses; the chord progression sounds lifted right from a Bach partita. (Billy Joel used the same technique to great success five years earlier with his single "Pressure.") In the promotional video, you get to see Numan bust some Elvis-like moves, and for being such a distant and unaffected performer, I have to say they look kinda cool. Numan's vocal delivery in his quavering Bowie-esque tenor is just too strange and mismatched for a basic pop song to be successful, but I think it adds a quirky frailty. And what I wouldn't give to always be accompanied by a pair of lovely backup singers in almost-matching b&w ensembles, with gloves, hair teased within an inch of its frizzed-out life, and a husky delivery that almost sounds like Kirsty MacColl. In fact, I believe I'll just pretend they're there whenever I'm blogging here at the Radio Heart.

Why, hello ladies...I just happen to have some jasmine-flavored cognac that I've acquired. Care for a snifter?...And is that Obsession that we're wearing today? Charming...

Well, the cognac's real, anyway.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Welcome back, loyal listeners

From 1987 to 1999, I was an on-air personality at radio station WWSP 90fm, broadcasting out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in the very palm of that hand-shaped state. In addition to being a DJ (for one extended stretch I was responsible for over 25 hours a week of programming), I also served tenures as the station's Music Director, Program Director and film critic. It was, and remains, a cherished time in my life. For someone who has been a voracious consumer of new music up until, say, five or six years ago, being able to share my passion for a wide variety of music genres was a natural fit with a radio station that encouraged a wide variety of music formats and DJ enthusiasms. And, as anyone who heard any of my shows can attest, I took the role of musical educator very, very seriously, imparting as much trivia, context and perspective as I could before I sensed that dials were being turned to, oh, any other station where music was being played. (At one point I was hosting a show that counted down the Top 40 College - or Modern Rock - Singles in the nation, a three-hour show that required at least 12 hours of writing intros and researching interesting tidbits.) I love to teach - sue me.

A little over a year ago I launched a Facebook group that paid tribute to one of my signature shows - The Old Wave, or "The Best in Modern Rock That's Not So Modern Anymore." But I wanted to expand the experience to people outside of the confines of an Interweb social network. Hence - another blog. And, as an offshoot of my Horror themed blog Heart in a Jar, I give you...Radio Heart.

I'm also expanding my musical range considerably. Yes, music of the 80s will be an important element of Radio Heart - there's no other genre with which I have been more closely associated, and one does not set upon collecting every album from the Second Edition of the Trouser Press Music Guide without admitting, yes - I loves the Modern Rock of the Reagan Era. But I also love showtunes. And cheesy pop. And The Great American Songbook. And German Baroque choral music. And one-hit wonders. I have a friend who loves to use the term "Music Whore." Works for me. They, and many others, all have a place in my heart...and so they'll all have a place at The Heart.

We'll kick off tomorrow with a song that I'm guessing very few of you have heard. Old music that's new...I can hardly wait. See you Sunday, loyal listeners.

It's good to be back on the Radio.