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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

AM Radios Gone WILD!


Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin, two founding members of my favorite power pop group The Flashcubes, have had a weekly Wednesday gig at the Syracuse University Sheraton since, I think, the dawn of time. A hotel lounge residency may sound pretty dire, but trust me: these guys bring it. Granted, the gig doesn't have them playing as many Frenay or Lenin compositions as I would like, but Gary and Arty's nonpareil renditions of material by The Nerves, Big Star, Tin Tin, The Flamin' Groovies, The Monkees, The Foundations, The Kinks, The Beatles, The Beatles, and The Beatles, among others, make for the best covers set you're ever gonna witness. And, since Gary and Arty are themselves ace songwriters--their originals really are the equal of much of the great stuff they cover--they can mix in a "Make Something Happen" or a "You Can't Go Wrong With Me" right alongside your "Walking Out On Love" or your "Toast And Marmalade For Tea," with no discernible dip in pure pop quality. If you're ever in Syracuse on a Wednesday night, you should consider a trip up the SU hill to see Frenay and Lenin at the Sheraton.

Several months back, after another typically triumphant Frenay and Lenin show at the Sheraton, my This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio co-host Dana Bonn said that one week we should devote our radio show exclusively to (as he called it) "over-the-top pop." I think Gary and Arty's rendition of "Hey Deanie" (the Shaun Cassidy hit, written by Eric Carmen) was the trigger for Dana's idea, but it could have been their cover of The Searchers' "Hearts In Her Eyes," or a Badfinger tune, or any of a dozen other worthy gems--ain't no losers in that bunch, my friends. I thought it was a terrific idea, but Dana wanted to hold off on it a bit. Timing had to be right, and the show had to be perfect.

So, this Sunday? Opposite that football game that doesn't include any teams from New York? The timing's right. And Dana and I will do our best to slap together the "perfect" part.

When we announced our plan to devote this Sunday's TIRnRR to over-the-top pop music, intrepid listener Rich Firestone responded, "As opposed to the other 25 years' worth?" Fair enough; since the early Dana & Carl shows back in 1992, through our nominal (but not really) power pop format on TIRnRR today, we've certainly been pop-centric, favoring short, sharp rockin' pop ditties over dirges and, like, polkas or something. But we haven't been afraid to mix in other stuff--a lot of other stuff--that fits in the moment, from George Jones to Bo Diddley to Phil Ochs, Parliament, Lucinda Williams, Sham 69, Bashful Bobby Dylan, Yes, and James Brown. It's ALL pop, so it all works within our chosen format. Some of these textures may transcend the perception of what we mean by "pop," but the resulting blend still skews pop, and then some. We're a pop show. We play pop music.

But here's the thing: this Sunday's over-the-top pop edition (billed specifically as Non-Stop Over The Top POP!!!, with three exclamation points) will be TIRnRR's most pop show ever. Think about what that means. If you could measure pop content like you measure VU, any weekly TIRnRR would likely run well into the red. This week's show will shatter that poor ol' meter into a thousand broken-hearted shards: power pop, pure pop, sugar pop, bubblegum pop, punk pop, soul pop, girl-group pop, rockin' pop, and nothing but pop, pop, and more pop.

More than any other show we've ever done--over the course of more'n twenty-five years--this one is dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of giddy. Consider this AM RADIOS GONE WILD!, a barrage of hook-filled, buoyant, uptempo, full-tilt, pimply hyperbole: a collection of hit records and shoulda-been-hit records, all meant to be heard in the car, on the beach, when you're alone in your bedroom, or when you're at a party in your friend's basement with his folks away, before and after you and that special someone du jour share your first-ever sloppy kiss. (And your second, too, but watch where you put those hands, pal.) We'll play big hits, we'll play cult classics, and maybe we'll play a record you've never heard before, but which you'll feel like you've listened to since you escaped eighth grade. Not every record we'll play was issued on a 45; every single one of 'em wishes it had been.

AM radios gone WILD!

Love of radio is what inspired This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio from the start. I remember the thrill of listening to Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and The Raspberries and The Bay City Rollers and The Flirtations on my AM radio; from a bit later on, I remember yearning to also hear The Ramones and Generation X on my AM radio. AM radio was one of the best parts of making me who I am today. Sunday night, we'll try to pay that back. If you were ever a kid, ear pressed to the radio, breathlessly waiting for the DJ to play The Grass Roots or The Hollies, then do we ever have a show for you.

Non-Stop Over The Top POP!!! Grab your transistor radio, and maybe grab your honey for that long-deferred third kiss. Your soundtrack is waiting. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

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