In the early 1980s, when I was a music-obsessed teen (as opposed to my current status as a music-obsessed, middle-aged man), I would listen to the radio late at night. This was before what I’ve come to think of as the Great Homogenizing of radio, when massive conglomerates and their analytics made sure that formats and playlists were rigidly standardized from market to market: “I Heart Conformity!”
What this relative anarchy meant was that DJs had a degree of freedom in selecting what they might play. This was particularly true late at night, when the attitude seemed to be that only the weirdos were listening, so why not fly that freak flag? So if you were, say, a 15- or 16-year-old music geek in the Cincinnati suburbs, you might be listening to WEBN after midnight (in the summer, or yes, even on an insomniac school night), and you might hear Something Cool, something you might not have heard before, something you probably wouldn’t hear during regular business hours.
The risk, however, was that you might miss the introduction or backtroduction, and if you heard Something Cool, but didn’t catch the band’s name or song’s title, you were… what’s the word? Oh yeah, boned. You could call the DJ in the hopes that he or she might not have anything better to do than talk to a geek like you and ask him what he had played, but honestly, even late-night DJs usually had better things to do than talk to a dork in Union, KY at 2:36 a.m. So I… um, you… had to wait for another night and another spin.
And if a song only made it to air a few times, flashing briefly into the digital clock radio I won in a spelling bee, I might hear it and never find out what it was. It would be like catching a glimpse of a potential soulmate as you boarded trains on opposite subway platforms. The memory would appear from time to time, but you knew it was something here and gone. An eidolon of song.
Well, for decades now one such song has popped up in my head on occasion. I’ve mentioned it here before, and if you’ll allow me to quote myself:
It was something of a hard-rock/AOR track, with a tempo and groove rather like the hook in Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You”, and a similar sort of smooth production. But all I can remember is what I think is a snatch of the chorus (Backing vocals rendered in parentheses):
It’s all right (It’s all right it’s all right)
It’s OK (It’s OK, it’s OK)
[Something something] from the end of the night to the end of the day.
No one I knew could ID the song then, though a couple of my friends (fellow weirdos, from a time in which your radio station of choice was a tribal affiliation) vaguely recognized it.
But a few weeks ago, while I was going through similar angst about a band from a TV show in 1981, my friend Will connected me with a fellow named Kurt Blumenau, whose interests seem to parallel mine to a frightening degree. Blumenau instantly had the answer, which allowed me to rediscover a New Wave band called The Innocents (including Thomas Newman, Randy’s brother [Correction: Randy’s cousin, not brother. — Mondo.] and now a highly successful film composer in his own right.)
So I figured if it worked once, why not try it again? Last night I reached out to Mr. Blumenau, sharing the information I’ve shared with you. This morning, he had sent me the answer. The band was Hawks, from Fort Dodge, Iowa, and they were one of the many acts of the era that had a two-album deal and then vanished. This power pop gem led off their debut album in 1981. And now the 15-year-old inside this 56-year-old can sleep a little easier. Thanks, Mr. Blumenau.
(SIDE NOTE: At least one of my subscribers informs me that my embedded music links aren’t working on his e-mailed copies of these posts. Consequently, I added the hot link in what is now the penultimate paragraph. Let me know if it helps.)