The TVD Storefront

Graded on the Curve:
Joan Jett,
Bad Reputation

Celebrating Joan Jett during her birthday week.Ed.

Joan Jett’s 1979 debut LP is one of rock music’s most joyful readymades–an utterly endearing romp through rock history from hoary old standards (“Wooly Bully”) to bubblegum pop to Gary Glitter to the buzzsaw sound of the Ramones, Bad Reputation is a veritable vinyl jukebox you’ll never get tired of tossing dimes into.

On Bad Reputation–original title Joan Jett--the runaway Runaway dares to wear her heart on her sleeve by pledging allegiance to the songs that made her who she is; this is Joan Jett’s Self Portrait, and with the exception of her too-stiff-by-half take on the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” she does her personal canon proud. Not only does she prove she’s the true successor to Gary Glitter (and by association her glam role model Suzi Quatro), she demonstrates conclusively that she’s her own gurl by contributing a couple of songs that (with the exception of the punk-tinged title track) blend seamlessly in with their esteemed company.

Jett (the Blackhearts were still in the future) chose her producers wisely. Top guys Kenny Laguna and Ritchie Cordell (Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook also lent a hand) were both proud Super K Productions alumni working under immortal bubblegum producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz, and they brought their many years of throwaway pop songcraft to the table. Remember that version of Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven” set to the lyrics of the theme song from Gilligan’s Island? You can thank Laguna for it. And Cordell is the guy who bequeathed us both “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony.”

I could go into all kinds of philosophical digressions about Jett’s reactionary backwards-looking worldview but I’m too busy bashing my head to her positively infectious takes on Glitter classics “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” and “Doing Alright with the Boys.” Jett hangs on to that big, bad Glitter sound (dig that tribal thump thump thump!) but takes both songs to Glamtastic new heights by making Glitter (no wallflower for sure) sound positively enervated; she doesn’t sing ‘em, she shouts ‘em, bringing an unprecedented amount of bad attitude to the table. Message to Glam Rock: You’re not dead until Joan Jett says you are!

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The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Philip Brooks, “I’m So In Love With All Of My Friends”

London-based dream-popper Philip Brooks produces nostalgic and emotionally charged tunes that land like bedroom bop Fleetwood Mac. “I’m So In Love With All Of My Friends” is a particularly bittersweet entry into their catalogue, examining regrets over having lost friends by admitting feelings for them. The German-born singer-songwriter has recently come out as non-binary.

Philip says about the track:
 “I wanted to write a love song for my platonic friends, because deep platonic love is so underrated in my opinion. In the past I was always seeking affection and I famously fell for my friends all the time—like, that was basically my brand. Every time I took the courage to be candid to find out if my crushes felt the same, people kept disappearing from my life until I found myself all alone.”

“Feeling both emotionally and physically distanced from my loved ones over the last few months led me to reflect on that, and writing this song helped me manifest that deeply loving people platonically is okay and enough and actually it’s really awesome. The track means a lot to me, especially because so many of my super talented friends are on it.”

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The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2020, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September 2020. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Profligate, Too Numb to Know (Wharf Cat) Although three volumes of demo tapes have been released since, the last “new” full-length from Profligate, which is the work of songwriter Noah Anthony, was Somewhere Else, released in January 2018, his first for Wharf Cat. That record found him working in territory comparable to synth-pop but with injections of abrasiveness and a general mood that was nearer to darkwave (which isn’t 1,000 miles away from synth-pop, but still), and it was a strong enough effort to receive a new release pick in this column. Well, the writing of Anthony’s latest, which began in Philadelphia, continued after a move to Los Angeles, and then following the theft of a laptop, was restarted in Cleveland, makes significant inroads into the realms of songs over electronic environments, though Too Numb to Know is still aptly categorized as synth-pop (but with some rewardingly atypical use of electric guitar). However, as the title might suggest, the attitude (one could even say atmosphere) is nearer to dour than sunshiny, and that’s A-OK with me, bud. A-

Christopher Parker & Kelley Hurt, No Tears Suite (Mahakala Music) This CD features pianist Parker and vocalist Hurt’s composition, initially written in commemoration and celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine’s historic enrollment in their city’s Central High School. It’s a work of substantial richness and power that is only heightened by its connection to the Arkansas community, as Parker was born in North Little Rock. Additionally, the piece was composed for the literary magazine Oxford American, which is based in the city. It premiered in 2017 with a strong band that featured Parker, Hurt, Marc Franklin on trumpet, Chad Fowler on alto, Bobby LaVell on tenor, Bill Huntington on bass, and Brian Blade on drums, the lineup heard on the disc, which comes in an attractive, informative 6 panel package.

Fitting for its conception as a historical act of tribute and remembrance, No Tears Suite is a journey deep into the heart of jazz greatness as established by the form’s masterworks of the mid-20th century. Indeed, it’s almost scholarly in comportment, as Parker has studied and taught extensively, but that’s no fault, as there is also crucial warmth and verve. Consistently accessible throughout, Hurt’s contribution, which can described as serving a narrative function, is as pleasing to the ear as it is informative, and deepens the suite’s distinctiveness as the music is at times reminiscent of Mingus, Duke, Benny Golson’s work with Art Farmer, and Max Roach’s with Abbey Lincoln. Also, the release of No Tears Suite will be accompanied by a free streaming listen of the 2019 live performance from Little Rock featuring the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and with arrangements by the great bassist Rufus Reid. For the curious, it’ll serve as a fine introduction to Parker and Hurt’s work and will stand as a splendidly robust and wholly satisfying expansion for those who choose to immediately scoop up the studio recording. A / A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Rüstəm Quliyev, Azerbaijani Gitara (Bongo Joe) Born in 1969 in the village of Kosalar, Nagorno Karabakh, in the Republic of Azerbaijan (formerly part of the USSR), Quliyev’s music is a sweet find, well, a bittersweet find as he died young after a battle with lung cancer. Encountering the guitar while doing military service in Russia, but wasted no time in mastering it upon returning to Azerbaijan (he was already proficient on the tar and the saz), where he recorded frequently on cassettes released by small local labels, as well as playing weddings and appearing in TV. This is his first international release, made with the approval and input of Quliyev’s family, and it details a personal style that is assessed as a step (or steps) beyond the “already idiosyncratic” Azerbaijani guitar scene. Launching from his country’s traditional music, Quliyev incorporated a wealth of outside influences (Indian, Afghan, Iranian, Spanish) for an expansive, and dare I say psychedelic, ride. And after getting acclimated to the sound, “Yaniq Kerem” (track seven) hits the ear, and it’s like, “aww, yes…” A-

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 9/23/20

Asheville, NC | Record-pressing facility Citizen Vinyl opens in downtown Asheville: This year is proving a difficult time to run most businesses, let alone launch a new enterprise. But the team behind Citizen Vinyl — a collaboratively envisioned vinyl-pressing plant, performance space, record store, craft cocktail bar and eatery — is moving forward with plans to debut the facility on the ground floor and mezzanine of the Asheville Citizen Times building. Its opening is set for Thursday, Oct. 8. “I’m quite hopeful and excited about the opportunities [of] the project,” says local producer Gar Ragland, the company’s founder and CEO. The Citizen Vinyl team is “very interested to position ourselves to be a post-pandemic community resource. We can work closely with the independent musicians in town to give them some opportunities, when it’s responsible to do so: to perform, to get their records pressed and to partner with them to promote those recordings.”

Record Store Day: 10 of the best vinyl albums to tell someone you love them: Telling somebody you love them can be most daunting. Quickly you come to realise there’s only really one positive response, and you in particular are unlikely to hear it. Because, let’s face it, you’re no poet. You’ll probably mess the whole thing up and push them away, and then you’ll be alone like you always knew you would be. But there is music, the great communicator, conveying the grandest messages, often in the simplest terms. Sharing music is an exhibition of love in itself, a display of thought and understanding of the recipient, and channeling the verses of this planet’s finest lyricists can help us convey those emotions more readily. Here, we’ve made it so you don’t even have to go to the effort of finding that somebody else to express your affections on your behalf, by selecting ten albums with loving titles readily available to buy on vinyl. All you’re left to do is figure out whether in that case you ever really loved them at all.

UK | Idles Announce Intimate Record Store Tour For Spring: Idles have announced an intimate UK instore tour for spring. The Bristol band will head to small venues next April in association with record stores in the corresponding cities. The run kicks off on April 12 with a show presented by Vinilo Records at the 1865 in Southampton and wraps up with a brace of hometown performances at the Louisiana for Friendly Records. Tickets are on sale now, priced from £12. The announcement comes ahead of the release of Idles’ third LP, ‘Ultra Mono’, due out this Friday (September 25). The dates will precede the band’s massive UK and European summer tour, which includes four nights at London’s O2 Academy Brixton. Tickets for these dates are already on sale.

Empire Records Style Is Still So Relevant 25 Years Later: The cult classic might be over two decades old, but the style is all we want to wear this fall. What would ’90s nostalgia be without the beloved coming-of-age flick? From Clueless to Cruel Intentions, the decade informed wardrobes, triggered sexual awakenings, and catapulted the careers of Hollywood mainstays like Brittany Murphy and Reese Witherspoon—but few teen classics were well-received by critics. Empire Records was nothing short of a flop when it hit theaters in 1995 (exactly 25 years ago on September 22—feel old yet?), but it soon grew into a cult hit—and what the movie lacked in critical merit, it more than made up for in the costume department. Despite spanning just one day of teenage dirtbags’ misadventures working at an independent record store, the film’s sartorial influence has now spanned over two decades, with no signs of slowing.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Ready Steady Go!: The Weekend Starts Here in stores 11/6

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Ready, Steady, Go! was the best rock ’n’ roll TV show of all time. It just seemed more vibrant and real…You always thought you were slightly on the edge there.”Mick Jagger

The London-based Ready, Steady, Go! began broadcasting in August of 1963 and, within a matter of weeks, became an essential television ritual for the newly confident British teenager. It set trends and became the barometer of popular culture by attracting and presenting everyone who was anyone in popular music: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Otis Redding, and many more. RSG! also provided the first small screen exposure for then-unknowns such as Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Donovan, and Jimi Hendrix. The show ran for three and a half years, setting a blueprint for music presentation and production on television that resonated over the following decades and can still be felt today.

Ready, Steady, Go! has never been documented in full detail—until now, when BMG Books will publish Ready Steady Go: The Weekend Starts Here in the U.S., due out November 6, 2020. Featured in this lavishly illustrated and definitive history of the show are hundreds of photographs—the bulk of them previously unpublished—as well as exclusive essays and more (see below for details). Author Andy Neill fully examines RSG!, from quintessential Swinging London fixture to its current iconic status as the most legendary popular music program of all time.

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TVD Radar: John Prine, Souvenirs reissued on vinyl for the first time,
in stores 9/25

VIA PRESS RELEASE | John Prine’s Souvenirs will be available for the first time on vinyl Friday, September 25 on Oh Boy Records. Originally released in 2000, Souvenirs was produced by Prine and his longtime collaborator and friend, Jim Rooney, and includes members from his longtime band, Jason Wilber and Dave Jacques. The fifteen-track album features new performances of some of Prine’s most beloved songs, including “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” and “Hello In There.”

Prine reflected on the album in the original liner notes, writing, “These songs are beautiful. They have been faithful companions throughout the years, never letting me down and constantly making me new friends, even when I was sleeping… This collection of newly recorded versions was originally intended for European release only, as I have always wanted to be popular in Germany. After we mixed, sequenced and listened to the songs, all of us at Oh Boy decided that perhaps we should release this in the U.S., as I would like to be popular there as well.”

Additionally, on October 3, PBS’ Austin City Limits will kick-off Season 46 with “The Very Best of John Prine.” The hour-long episode will feature favorite performances across Prine’s eight visits to the venerable program as well as never-before-seen footage. Prine will also be honored as part of the Recording Academy’s Great Performances: GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends ceremony recognizing the 2020 Special Merit Awards recipients. Airing October 16 on PBS, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires will all perform in celebration of Prine and the Lifetime Achievement Award he received this past January at the 62nd Grammy Awards.

Moreover, due to popular demand, Picture Show: A Tribute Celebrating John Prine, will re-air with additional footage on October 10 in celebration of Prine’s 74th birthday. Hosted on Prine’s YouTube channel, the tribute will begin at 7:00pm CT and will remain available through midnight on Sunday, October 11. Originally viewed over 500,000 times, the tribute has raised over $400,000 for NAMI, Alive, Make the Road New York and MusiCares.

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TVD New Orleans

The Magnificent Seven release live album to support Tipitina’s

On September 22, 2017, seven of the most celebrated musicians in New Orleans came together for only the fifth time to perform as The Magnificent Seven at Tipitina’s. The band, which includes guitarists and vocalists Dave and Tommy Malone, trombonist and vocalist Mark Mullins, keyboard player and vocalist John Gros, drummer Raymond Weber, bassist Rob Mercurio, and percussionist Michael Skinkus, has released a live album of that show with the proceeds going to support Tipitina’s during the travails of the pandemic. It is available here.

The term super group is certainly overused, and full disclosure, I have been guilty, but this aggregation of the players certainly fits the bill. However, despite the seven musicians long history playing in their own groups and in various aggregations with each other, they came across as a real band, not just a collection of musicians. The show was epic on many levels. I was there and covered it for TVD. The link is here.

From the opening notes of the great soul song, “You Got Me Hummin’” to the closer, a long medley of the Radiators’ song “Lucinda” jammed together with the theme song of the film from which the band takes its name and the Meters’ funk classic, “Cissy Strut,” the recording sizzles with great vocals, killer guitar solos, rock solid grooves and more.

Mark Mullins of the great funky rock band Bonerama adds some wonderful trombone solos driven into the stratosphere with wah-wah pedal effects. John Gros adds some downright nasty organ fills and solos with aplomb. Throughout the eight song, 70 minute album, the rhythm section percolates and pulses.

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UK Artist of the Week: Dan Sumner

Brighton-based artist Dan Sumner is being celebrated today as this week’s Artist of The Week and we have no doubt you’ll understand why after listening to his poignant new single “Let The Light In,” out now.

With an impassioned baritone vocal that even The National’s Matt Berninger would envy, Dan Sumner is quickly becoming known in his seaside hometown as one to watch. His latest single “Let The Light In” blends the genres of rock, folk, and blues to create a sound that is entirely his own and filled with captivating, textured moments that are bound to warm your heart—no matter how cold it is.

“Let The Light In” is a song about someone locking themselves away from the world and needing to look outside and see that there are people who love them out there and not to suffer alone, something we are all guilty of at times. “Let The Light In” is the second single to be taken from Dan’s upcoming album Ebb and Flow, due for release in November 2020.

“Let The Light In” is in stores now via AWAL.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
A Certain Ratio,
ACR Loco

Starting in October of 2018 and then continuing last year, the Mancunian outfit A Certain Ratio received some well-deserved retrospective action via Mute Records, first the 2LP/ CD acr:set and then the 7LP/ 4CD ACR:BOX; now here’s ACR Loco, their first LP of new material since 2008, and it finds them in energetic and inspired form. It’s out September 25 on CD, cassette, and vinyl in a variety of colors: white, blue, red, or turquoise. The same day, the band and Mute are celebrating the release with the An Evening With ACR online event, which includes a live show from last year, a Q&A, the new album played live, and a DJ set from ACR Soundsystem. Tickets are available here.

When it comes to the combination of post-punk heft and funky dance-appropriate fervor, A Certain Ratio’s importance is commensurate with others of the same period who were dedicated to a comparable objective (e.g., ESG, Pigbag, Liquid Liquid, Konk, Pop Group, Delta 5, Gang of Four), and it should definitely be stressed that in the storied history of Factory Records, A Certain Ratio had established themselves as a highly rhythmic force prior to the recording of New Order’s first album.

However, for some, ACR’s lasting significance has been overly synopsized into the namechecking of “Shack Up,” their 1980 cover of a two-part funky-disco nugget from Banbarra, their sole single released in ’75 on the United Artists label. While “Shack Up” is indeed a whopper of a record (the original, ACR’s cover, and in some of its myriad interpolations via dance music/ DJ/ hip-hop culture since), A Certain Ratio’s career achievement has been substantially greater, as the size of ACR:BOX (comprised of singles, B-sides, rarities, unreleased material, and demos) helps to clarify.

ACR Loco is also their tenth full-length (excluding comps), though it is only the second album of new material they’ve released the 21st century. It’s suggested by bassist Jez Kerr that the boxset’s assemblage directly impacted the recording of this fresh offering, a sensible conclusion as ACR Loco incorporates sounds and styles from throughout their existence. Furthermore, the wide-ranging whole is heightened by cohesiveness and spirited execution that can be linked to the stated success of ACR’s recent tour.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 9/22/20

UK | Vinyl sales increase year on year in the UK despite pandemic: Sales are expected to increase further ahead of two Record Store Day ‘drops’ in September and October. UK vinyl sales have continued to climb in the UK despite the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on the music industry. New figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association – who manage Record Store Day in the UK – reveal that last month’s RSD ‘drop’ on August 29 saw vinyl sales rise 3% year on year with 2.7 million units sold so far in 2020. Vinyl sales have been steadily increasing in recent years, but this increase is a particularly impressive feat for the format after the pandemic caused Record Shops to close for several months. The pandemic also meant adjusting this year’s Record Store Day – usually a one-day event in April – to a series of three ‘drop’ dates, the next of which is on Saturday, September 26. Over 200 record stores will take part in ‘Drop 2’, selling limited edition vinyl releases from artists such as Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac and Declan McKenna.

Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN | Twin Cities record stores gear up for vinyl event of the year: The second of three drops celebrating this year’s annual Record Store Day is coming up this Saturday, Sept. 26. Record players find themselves at home on dorm side tables and in apartment living rooms. They’re best enjoyed on solemn evenings or during study hours. Whether it’s grandma’s record of Lionel Richie or a vinyl of Harry Styles you found on sale at Urban Outfitters, listening to your favorite music on vinyl sets a mood that Spotify can’t replicate. Record Store Day (RSD), which began in 2008, is the one day a year that indie record stores get a moment in the spotlight. This year’s original RSD was postponed back in April and then again in June due to COVID-19 concerns. Now, RSD has been broken up into three separate days: Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. This Saturday, Sept. 26, will be the second day of RSD special vinyl drops. To prepare for the upcoming drops, Twin Cities record stores are gearing up with hot vinyl finds and rare music couture.

Arlington, TX | A Record Store in Arlington Digs Through Dallas DJs’ Vinyl Collections: A new and used record store, Growl, is blossoming in downtown Arlington along Abrams Street. This retail space has cycled through different phases over the last few years, trying to figure out what it wants to really be when it grows up. With low ceilings, a cement floor, bars on the windows, and a hint of patchouli in the air, it certainly gives off an old soul-rocker vibe. A few years ago when Division Brewing moved into the building behind it, it was a vintage tchotchke shop. The store eventually packed up and left, so the owner of Division Brewing, Wade Wadlington, snagged the space. Since the store and brewery shared a common courtyard, it made sense to envelop the space. For a while, they sold comic books and collectibles. However, when the brewery started hosting live music in the courtyard, rain, cold winters and hot summer days demanded a climate-controlled area for the bands. So it started to serve as more of a music venue.

Grand Junction, CO | Record Store Days is a celebration of music and vinyl: Record stores are like few other businesses, but the industry was just as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus closed down stores and forced the annual celebration of collecting music — Record Store Day — to evolve from one day to three over as many months. Aug. 29 was the first installment of Record Store Day 2020 for Triple Play Records at 530 Main St. Even with the looming threat of the virus, people stood in line outside the store, socially distanced and wearing masks, waiting for their chance to be let in and get their hands on some exclusive releases. “We do our best to make sure everyone gets what they want. It’s a fun time. You support local business, and there’s a rush when you get the only copy of a record,” said Matthew Cesario, general manager of Triple Play Records. “This year, they delayed (Record Store Day) to three days over three separate months. We didn’t have to cover the costs of the releases in one week, rather we can split it up. I think that’s going to help us out a lot.”

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: And She Could Be Next, companion album to
the PBS docuseries in stores 10/2

VIA PRESS RELEASE | And She Could Be Next, a voting rights companion album to the PBS docuseries And She Could Be Next, executive produced by Ava DuVernay and chronicling the story of a defiant movement of women of color including Stacey Abrams, Lucy McBath, Rashida Tlaib, AOC, Nikema Williams, and more who are transforming American politics from the ground up, will be released in October 2 via Lakeshore Records.

The album features dynamic, powerful, outspoken voices from the hip hop, pop, and R&B community including Aloe Blacc, Lila Downs, Sa-Roc, Sheila E, Arabian Prince (NWA), Madame Gandhi, Saul Williams, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Hyro the Hero, William Stanbro, Flor de Toloache, Ruby Ibarra, Judith Hill, Shawnee, Sussan Deyhim, Sarah Thawer, Vivek Maddala, Jahi Lake, Daniel French from Las Cafeteras, Sarah DeAun McCrary, Dee MC, and Nappy Nina.

“It is only when we understand the sheer weight of our collective power that we can begin to grasp the tremendous potential for change. Being a witness to the commitment of this generation’s artists, activists, and policymakers to radically transforming our global landscape has cemented my belief in the inevitability of a new and just future.”

And She Could Be Next is produced by and features musician and composer Gingger Shankar (The Passion of the Christ, CNN’s We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock), who scored the two-part documentary series.

On the heels of the docuseries release in June and after speaking with Stacey Abrams’ camp about the urgency surrounding the upcoming primaries and Presidential election and their inability to canvas door to door due to the pandemic, Shankar began reaching out to musician friends to help create a companion album—with the docuseries score woven through—as a tool for voting organizations to lift spirits and amplify not only the message and reach of the docuseries but of the organizations as well.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: The Soul
of The Midnight Special
5-disc set in stores 10/6

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Like never before The Soul of the Midnight Special brings home audiences and music lovers everywhere an unforgettable collection of legendary soul artists performing their hits in the prime of their careers—uncut performances, just straight-from-the-heart soul singing with live musicians in front of a live audience. Now available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon for the first time on October 6, 2020.

In the period between American Bandstand and MTV, there were sev­eral shows that tried to bring new music to television, but it wasn’t until The Midnight Special, premiered on August 19, 1972, that live music found a home on the air. Burt Sugarman, producer of Grammy Awards telecasts, was frustrated by television’s lack of programming after The Tonight Show ended—the screen reverting to test patterns at 1:00 a.m.. Recognizing this valuable airtime could cater to a brand-new audience that craved its latest musical heroes, he created The Midnight Special, which ran every Friday night on NBC from 1972 to 1981.

The’70s was a special time for soul music and The Midnight Special truly had an affinity for the genre. Week after week, home audiences would have virtual front row seats for performances by the greatest soul performers of the time including Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire, Patti LaBelle, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Spinners, The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Stylistics, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and The Pips and so many more. The Midnight Special was the only show where you could see real live performances week after week.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Uriah Heep,
Demons and Wizards

Remembering Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake.Ed.

Who was it who said, “He came to mock, but remained to pray?” It doesn’t matter. But such was the case–to a degree any way–when I decided to “relisten” to Uriah Heep. I’ve always loved “Easy Livin’,” but when I was but a teenage droogie I plunked down some hard-earned money for a Uriah Heep 8-track that quickly made its way to the bottom of my 8-track pile. And I haven’t thought of them, except to chuckle at their risible swords and sorcery pretensions, since.

So imagine my surprise when I turned on 1972’s Demons and Wizards–chortle, chortle–only to discover I rather liked the thing. Sure, the lyrics are the work of somebody who has spent far too much time amongst hobbits. And David Byron’s histrionic tonsils–his voice has more octaves than there are steps on the stairway to heaven–occasionally make Geddy Lee sound like Paul Rodgers. But I’ll be damned if Demon and Wizards doesn’t have something up its sleeve–namely some good songs featuring some dandy playing. It’s not some progressive rock nightmare, it’s a rock ’n’ roll album, at least in its better moments, and Demons and Wizards has plenty of very good moments.

Demons and Wizards is fantasy-drenched right down to its head shop cover art by the infamous Roger Dean, and I expected to hate it for that reason alone. There’s nothing I despise more than your standard dungeons and dragons imagery, and Demons and Wizards has all the makings of a dungeon torture device. Things start inauspiciously enough; LP opener “The Wizard” boasts some awful lyrics featuring “a magic man” who wears “a cape of gold,” and I wanted to call it a day right then and there. Then I realized “The Wizard” might as well be a Styx song, and I have a perverse liking for Styx. There was, absurdly, hope in the air.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 6: Cousin Brucie

The word “icon” is thrown around alot these days, but some folks just qualify as goshdarn icons with no tired cliches attached. When it comes to radio icons, if you had to pick a few big ones, Cousin Brucie Morrow would be right there near the top of Modulation Mountain. He’s been there, done that: seen it all, even introduced The Beatles at Shea Stadium with Ed Sullivan. His voice was hard to miss on the radio in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s until he moved to satellite radio in 2005.

But there was something that was always calling Cousin Brucie back to the radio radio. In this case, it was John A. Catsimatidis who literally called Brucie during his shows every Saturday night. After Catsimatidis purchased WABC in 2019, he knew he wanted to hear great music on his station and there was only one person who he saw fit to bring it back to a New York City audience via the airwaves: Cousin Bruce. Brucie returns to the station where his career began in 1961 with a new show on Saturday night at 6pm where he goes head-to-head on the airwaves in the same time slot as yours truly.

But, we’re not rivals. In fact, Brucie called me his “Cousin” which is really all I could have hoped to hear from this radio legend. He’s warm, he’s engaging. He’s one of those guys that you expect won’t have enough time for you and then makes you feel as if you’re the only one in the world. He’s had practice connecting with people and it shows. In this interview, we discuss his storied career, calming down a nervous John Lennon, his time on satellite, and how there’s no place like home on the radio airwaves beaming from an antenna and blanketing New York City.

Pull up a chair, cousin. We’re all family here.

Evan Toth is a songwriter, professional musician, educator, radio host, avid record collector and hi-fi aficionado. Toth hosts and produces The Sharp Notes each Saturday evening at 6pm and TVD Radar on Sundays at 5AM on WFDU, 89.1 FM. Follow him at the usual social media places and visit his website.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
A Flock Of Seagulls,
We Are The ’80s:
A Flock Of Seagulls

If there’s one thing I know about the hated eighties, it’s that absolutely no one I knew could abide synthpop. Oh, some of us may have locked our doors and listened to it in the privacy of our own homes, confessing to doing so one meant being labeled a Eurofop and drummed out of our social circle.

But while my friends and I despised the genre and were disheartened by the prospect of its conquering the world, A Flock of Seagulls were a kind of consolation prize. Them we could laugh at. Mike Score’s gull wings haircut cracked us up, and the little dweeb in the sunglasses was funny too.

But lately I’ve been wondering if there might have been more to A Flock of Seagulls than Michael Score’s iconic topiary coiffure, so I picked up a copy of the band’s 2006 VH1 Classic best-of compilation We Are the ‘80s and gave it a spin. And much to my chagrin, I discovered their music isn’t as bad as all that.

Just as I’d suspected, I found A Flock of Seagulls’ species of MTV-friendly Europop to have all the soul of an automatic car wash. But despite my social clique’s dismissal of the group’s synth-heavy dance music as bloodless as your average cyborg, there must have been a thumping heart in there somewhere, a point A Flock of Seagulls drove home in “Heartbeat Like a Drum.”

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