Musical Advent Calendar: December 20

Today’s entry on the Musical Advent Calendar was on the first “A Very Special Christmas” album from 1986 and it’s one of my most favorite songs of the season. This is Sting, with ¬†“Gabriel’s Message”


Musical Advent Calendar: December 8

Today’s song is one I consider to be the heaviest hitter in the 1980s Christmas Music catalog, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I can’t even TELL you how over the moon I was about this song when it came out in 1984. I was in the throes of my teenage fangirl years and was a huge Anglophile when it came to my music. And to be a ¬†teenaged Anglophilic music obsessive in the pre-Internet era took a fair amount of work. While Star Hits¬†did an admirable job of keeping us informed, we really needed to track down the UK version, Smash Hits, or a weekly like NME or Melody Maker to get any kind of handle on the music scene over there, and those things weren’t always easy for a carless kid in the ‘burbs to find.

When I would get a copy (usually after sending my mom with a list to the indie record shop in the college town where she worked), I would pore over them for hours, carefully researching every article, every ad, every classified. I’d carefully cut out articles for my scrapbook and show adverts to decorate the mirror in my bedroom (or my locker); I’d make lists of records I wanted, then would send Mom back out to the record shop, where she would dutifully secure copies of this 12″ or that lp and the latest imported music mags, and the cycle would start all over again.

So when the articles came out about this new Christmas charity single, it was BIG NEWS in my clique of new wave girlfriends. Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats) ¬†sees a show about people starving due to drought in Ethiopia, decides to do something about it; calls up Midge Ure (Ultravox) and says, “let’s write a song to raise money!” What seemed like everyone in the UK scene said, “yes, let’s!” and suddenly there were photos from the recording, there were documentary specials on MTV about the making of DTKIC?, there was a ¬†7″ ¬†(and 12″) single to buy that would help save people in Africa. Duran Duran, Sting, Bono, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Bananarama, and others all together singing about Christmastime and how there’s no snow in Africa, but we can give them the gift of life! Awesome!

This song was, of course, the first of many great attempts by earnest 1980s musicians to “check [their] egos at the door” and get together to sing away the world’s troubles. ¬†The apex of those attempts was the 24 hour worldwide phenomenon known as Live Aid, which¬†took place in the summer of 1985. Without DTKIC? there would have been no Live Aid, and without Live Aid, why would Phil Collins need to fly from London to Philadelphia to play in both cities during¬†the course of one concert?

Let’s ponder that question another time and get back to today’s song (Phil’s playing drums here, too!):



If you missed the Making of video when it played on MTV back in the day, here’s ¬†part 1

and part 2

Musical Advent Calendar: December 1

I’ve done this once every few years and feel as though I’m well overdue to do some blogging here, so here we go with my Musical Advent Calendar. I’ll post a holiday-themed song once a day through December 25th, and blather on a bit for most of them, I’m sure.

I thought we would kick off with a song that would set the tone for our little musical journey, so today, I give you the incomparable Kate Bush singing “December Will Be Magic Again.”

Kate Bush is, and forever shall be, inexorably linked to my record store days. It was an indie CD store, one owner and one employee, me. I worked there pretty much all day, every day, oftentimes running the store by myself.

Our shop¬†had the finest selection of imports and “rare live” albums in the area, and one could not help but become an expert working there. The store was regularly visited by quirky audiophiles hoping for the latest digitally remastered Sensational Alex Harvey Band CD or a “rare live” recording of a classic Pink Floyd show. ¬† We only sold CDs, no vinyl, and we carried a few fanzines and other imported ephemera, like Melody Maker or NME.¬†I basically had a job where I sat around and listening to music of my choosing, while talking about music all day and helping people find music. Kind of the best job ever, really, at least back in the day. The rise of the Internet pretty effectively crushed that option for everyone, but that’s a different topic. Let’s get back to Kate.

When it came to Kate Bush, our store had the best selection of all things Kate in perhaps not just Northeastern Ohio, but in the whole state. Signed posters on the walls dedicated to the owner, more Kate Bush rare live imports than you knew existed, current and back copies of Homeground, the classic Kate Bush fanzine – you name it, we had it or we could get it for you. If the owner was working, there was an 85% chance of hearing Kate when you walked into the store. I mean, not only was it a lot of Kate to be exposed to, it meant a lot of exposure to other Kateophiles. I had to become fluent in the ways of Kate, and the more time one spends listening to Ms. Bush, the more one can appreciate, and quite possibly become deeply enthusiastic about “our Kate.”

“December Will Be Magic Again” was one of those elusive Kate Bush tracks that was really hard to track down for a long time. ¬†A single released in 1980, this wasn’t available on CD until the 1990 release of the Kate Bush box set, This Woman’s Work¬†(it also included “Under the Ivy,” another rare KB gem).¬†I played this track a lot that year, and we sold a lot of copies of that box set. It’s definitely a good one to start us off.

The Fixx, Cleveland, Ohio – 10/4/84

October 4th, 1984. Cleveland, Ohio. The Fixx.

This was my first show. Technically, calling it “my first show” is a bit of a misnomer, as I’m not including the shows my parents took me to (of which I remember seeing Kenny Rogers, and also Lionel Richie w/ Tina Turner opening), ¬†but the first show that I got to go to on “my own” was The Fixx on their 1984 “Phantoms” tour ¬†stop in Cleveland, a distant 45-minute car ride from our Akron suburb. “My own” actually meant that my best friend Melanie and I had conspired to successfully persuade our parents to drive us up to the show – her parents drove us up and mine drove us back, if I remember correctly. I don’t remember if we had to bring him or if he was invited, but Mel’s little brother was also coming with us to the show. But still, we get to go to the show all by ourselves! ¬†We were both fifteen, and this was the coolest thing in the world – we are going to a show!

BY OURSELVES (and little brother, but whatever)!

my ticket stub from the show

My ticket. I still have mine. Ahem.

I remember we got to the show, say goodbye to the parents and the three of us unload ourselves from the minivan and wade cautiously into the throng of people huddling in front of the doors of the grand Music Hall.

I’ve got my ticket in hand, Mel has hers, and her brother..her brother. Wait, where’s your ticket? ¬†

What do you mean, you lost your ticket?

Somewhere from the handing out of tickets in the backseat and walking ten steps into the throng, little brother lost his ticket. Oh crap. Now what? No cell phones in 1984. I can already hear my mom: “I said you aren’t old enough to go” after she hears about this – not sure what his losing his ticket had to do with my age, but still, she’ll say something, I’m sure of it. This is bad. What are we going to do? Mel and I are not happy. Mel is furious, in fact. Still, we can’t leave him out front in the cold and go to the show by ourselves. But if we pool our money, we can buy him another ticket. But if we buy another ticket, he’ll be sitting somewhere totally different than us, which defies the “You three stay together” rule laid down by the parents. Speaking of, what are they going to say when they find out he lost his ticket? We dread facing them. Hi kids, how was the show? You look cold. Were you standing outside long?

What do you mean, you lost your ticket?

 Oh yes, this will end our concert-going days, fer sure, like totally!

I can’t remember if we cooked up this solution ourselves or if some veteran show goer or a worker person helped us out, but ¬†we figured out we could go ahead and buy him another ticket, then he could sit with us in his originally assigned seat and all would be well. We were still totally upset at his uncoolness and the fact that the replacement ticket cost one of us a Fixx t-shirt. But at least we had a plan, and no one needed to freeze outside or miss the show. And thank god, the show wasn’t sold out. We headed over to the ticket window and bought little brother a replacement ticket.

We then make our way to our seats, little brother and his balcony ticket in tow, then settle in and check out the surroundings. Cute guy alert! Two boys – sitting right near us. They are talking to us! We lie and tell them we are 16. I remember they asked us if we liked The Smiths. Of course, yes, we love The Smiths! (And made a mental note to find out about this Smiths band, because these older boys who were talking to us were super cute and cool and were at a Fixx show, and The Smiths were from the UK, so what else did we need to know?) It was all a bit thrilling, this going to a show business, and the show hadn’t even started yet. And then the show started.

I can’t remember who opened for The Fixx that night, but I do remember that I was thoroughly impressed by The Fixx and I loved the show. And I loved the cute boys who flirted with us at the show. And I knew I needed to go to another show.

I don’t remember if we ever told our parents about little brother’s missing ticket.

Here’s a video from a different night on the same 1984 tour.

MTV Afternoons

(originally written Feb 8, 2003)

When I was in jr. high/high school, I would come home from school and watch MTV until Mom and Dad came home from work. I would sit on the wooden floor, three feet from the set, with my vcr remote control (with a cord connecting it to the back of the box) in my left hand, thumb hovering over the ‘record’ button, waiting impatiently for the next cool video to appear so I could add it to my collection.

This was when MTV played videos.

There also were “World Premiere Videos,” ¬†an event that would require me to take over the tv at 8pm *exactly* so I could tape the latest by music video superstars like Madonna or ¬†Duran Duran. The world premieres were great though, especially if it was someone you liked. If it was someone you liked, you were guaranteed to see a cool video at the top of every hour for the next day or so.¬†If it was someone you didn’t like, well…maybe better to skip MTV for a day or so.

The adrenaline rush moments came when I heard the opening strains of a favorite song, thumb springing into action within the first five seconds in order to capture the entire music video in all its glory. Sometimes, there were false alarms, and then I’d have to stop the tape and try to rewind it enough that I would tape over the mistake, but not the tail end of the last video. VCRs weren’t precise at all.

If it was a good afternoon, I’d see an Ultravox video, followed by the latest Madonna video, followed by maybe David Bowie or Duran Duran. If it was a bad afternoon? If it was a bad afternoon, I would be forced to sit through videos from artists like Def Leppard, Quiet Riot or RATT. Not for this new wave girl.

The worst thing that could happen would be that when I got home and flipped everything on, they would be in the middle of one of the rarest of rare videos. Things like the Sisters of Mercy’s “Black Planet” or The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?”. I’d capture 5 or 10 seconds at best. There were several half-videos on my tapes, but half was better than not seeing it at all.

Sometimes after school, my girlfriends would come over and we’d sit and watch the tapes of all the videos. We’d analyze them for fashion ideas, we’d discuss the merits of the story lines, we’d swoon over the faces of the musicians we adored, we’d argue over who was going to marry which member of Duran Duran.

The girls would also bring over their lastest finds from the record store. 12″ import singles from England, overlooked scores from the cut-out bins, and later, cassettes dug out from the monsterous heap of sale cassettes from places like K-Mart. It was like a scavenger hunt for us; trying to wade throug the muck to find diamonds like Siouxsie and the Banshees or Japan.

Now I can watchVH1 classics or search YouTube and see videos that I didn’t even know existed. On VH1 Classics, in rapid-fire succession, the rat-a-tat fire of Xymox, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Romeo Void, Shriekback. I see REM’s “Wolves, Lower”, followed ten minutes later by The Blue Nile’s “Headlights on the Parade”, neither of which ever graced my eyes back then. It’s a magical flashback, almost like the MTV of our alternative dreams in miraculous slices. It’s a beautiful thing.