Tag Archives: radio

“Home By The Sea” Is A TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Written By Genesis

Genesis has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but a pleasure nonetheless. I’m not sure how you feel about Genesis, but I have an odd fascination with the band. In fact, I think I love them. It’s not like I really had a choice in the matter, I grew up in the 1980s thus the band is encoded in my DNA. My love for the sappy, syrupy Phil Collins-era eventually led me to the darker, stranger stuff generated in the 1970s when the band was led by Peter “Shock the Monkey” Gabriel. I can (and do) defend a lot of bands, but Genesis has always seemed indefensible, even to me.  Having one of the periods most famous drummers and then using the then-fashionable drum machine on your records? Egregious.

But amid the  puppet music videos, the drum machines, and embarrassingly earnest love ballads, Genesis never really stopped being a prog-band at heart. Even long after Gabriel had vanished from the band Genesis would tuck weird (and lengthy) progressive rock songs onto their albums. These songs no doubt confused the average pop fan who bought their records for the radio singles. Worse, however, these progressive artifacts always seemed to bring the band’s albums grinding to a halt (even though many of these songs are quite good). I find it interesting that a faction within Genesis fought the good fight to keep the band weird even as they were churning out mega-pop hits like “Invisible Touch.”

"Spoooky"

“Spoooky”

As the 1980s wore on, Genesis evolved away further and further from Gabriel’s version of the band replacing his cold theatricality for Collins’ affable charm. And yet, even as they basked in the neon glow of the mainstream (read: MTV), the band continued to make strange music that the public enjoyed.  I’m not 100% sure, but I have the feeling that the majority of people consuming Genesis’ music were oblivious to the darker nature of some of the bands output. I am no exception. The best Genesis songs, in both the Gabriel and the Collins era, are the ones that strike a balance and perfectly merge the band’s bizarre oddball sensibilities with more mainstream pop music. For my money, the best peanut butter and chocolate mix of the two sides of Genesis is the 1976 album A TRICK OF THE TAIL, which was the band’s first post-Gabriel album. If you find the Phil Collins stuff to be too poppy and the Gabriel stuff to be too stuffy/overblown, I implore you give A TRICK OF THE TAIL a listen. It’s the best album the band ever released, mostly because Gabriel was gone and Collins had yet to fully commit to being a pop idol.

Anyway, a few months back, I became obsessed with “Home By The Sea” off the band’s 1983 album GENESIS. For most people, myself included, GENESIS is the record where pop finally won out over the progressive side of the band.  I always remembered if for it’s pop hooks.  It was these same hooks that led me back to reevaluate the album. After hearing “That’s All” on the radio for the 10,000th time, I gave GENESIS another listen.

It was just as I remembered. The album is loaded with hooks, but among the tracks one stood out. “Home By The Sea” isn’t just a good song for this period of Genesis, it’s a good song period.  It’s so good, I found myself humming it all day long. I hummed it while brushing my teeth, driving to work, making a cup of coffee, riding in an elevator, and staring up at the ceiling while I waited to fall asleep. In short, I was haunted by the song.

Home By The Sea cover front

The more I thought about the song and the lyrics (the ones I could remember) I realized that despite being catchy, “Home By The Sea” is a dark, strange song. I decided to read the lyrics and re-listen to the song. When did, I was immediately struck by something incredible: “Home By The Sea” is a fucking Twilight Zone episode! Well, not really…but kinda. The song is about someone sneaking into a house, presumably with ill intent, and getting accosted by ghosts!

“Coming out the woodwork, through the open door

pushing from above and below

shadows but no substance, in the shape of men

round and down and sideways they go

adrift without direction, eyes that hold despair

then as one they sigh and moan”

These ghosts are lonely and force this person to stay with them as they relive their lives. The song talks about pictures coming to life and while it all could be a metaphor for holding onto the past (or growing old), on the surface this is a creepy ghost story of a song.

“Images of sorrow, pictures of delight

things that go to make up a life

endless days of summer longer nights of gloom

waiting for the morning light

scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame

things that go to make up a life.”

I’d heard this song on the radio countless times over the years growing up and none of this had ever occurred to me. During my re-listen of GENESIS, I discovered that the song is actually part one of a two-part suite of songs, the other being “Second Home By The Sea.” That second half is a fantastic near-instrumental (Collins sings a bit of “Home By The Sea” at the very end) that adds a sense of grandeur to the ghostly tale. Combined into one, “Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea” is over 11 minutes long which probably explains why it is broken apart (which feels like label interference). But taken as a whole I find these songs to be incredibly powerful.

It’s important to remember that this song(s) appears on the same album as “Taking It All Too Hard.” I can’t think of a greater tonal shift than the leap from “Home By The Sea” to “Taking It All Too Hard.” Sure, the songs don’t appear back-to-back, but the fact that they inhabit the same album is very strange. Not ghosts coming out of the walls strange, but strange nonetheless. That GENESIS reaches such sublime heights while also spiraling so low seems like proof that the band isn’t very good. However, I actually think the opposite. I think it takes real talent and chutzpah to be both on both ends of the creative spectrum on the same record. Straightforward radio pop and a mini-prog suite about ghosts? Amazing. Like something from The Twilight Zone. 

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“Beds Are Burning” On The Radio

There’s this “game” I like to play with my wife while we’re in the car involving the radio.  She hates it so much.  Basically, I grew up listening to so much “Classic Rock” that I can pretty much instantly identify the artist and song title of 99.999% of songs played on radio stations with a classic rock format.  My wife, a casual music lover, hates it when I switch on the radio and ask: “Do you know who this is?” Sometimes I give her little clues, sometimes I don’t.  Occasionally she’ll offer a few guesses before giving up, but most of the time she complains and says things like “I don’t like this game” or “Turn the radio off.”

I can’t help it.  My mind is a catalogue overflowing with classic rock song/artist data.  It’s actually pretty embarrassing considering all the other things I have trouble remembering (like my wedding anniversary).  The only time that this information is useful is when we play bar trivia.  And as I get old, I don’t do that nearly enough to justify all this useless knowledge.

Now that I’ve relocated to Colorado, I’ve had to cancel my paid Spotify subscription and navigate my new city’s radio stations.  After trying a few out, I landed on a pretty good classic rock station that does a good job of playing hits while also spinning deeper album cuts.  And while I’m shocked to learn that Red Hot Chili Peppers are now considered classic rock…I’ve been happy overall with my new radio station (99.5FM The Mountain in case you were wondering). There’s a DJ that does a mid-day segment called the classic rock resurrection where a song not typically played in rotation is spotlighted.  I’ve heard a few of these, and while I might not have always known the exact song title, I always knew the artist.

Such nice lads, can you believe I'd never heard of them?

Such nice lads, can you believe I’d never heard of them?

That is until last week. Last week I was totally 100% stumped by one of these resurrections—I couldn’t place the artist or the song title.  It was vaguely familiar and from the production I could tell it was definitely recorded in the 1980’s.  But I was shockingly stumped. Luckily for me, the Shazam app was able to quickly inform me that I was hearing “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil.  Unlike my wife, I actually get really excited whenever I hear an old song I don’t recognize.  And I get twice as excited when I end up liking a song I’ve never heard before. So this week I’ve been listening to Midnight Oil’s 1987 album DIESEL AND DUST, which I’ve discovered is really, really good.

Moral of the story: I don’t know as much as I think I do and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what’s always on the radio.

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Sweetmeat’s Real Rock Ale

I switched radio stations recently.  Radio stations, some of you might remember, are like picture-less TV stations broadcast over the air.  I have a ridiculously short daily commute, but for those 10 minutes I like to rock out.  For most of the 7 years that I’ve lived in St. Louis, I’ve listened to K-HITS 96 (96.3FM).  I listened to them mostly because they were the first classic rock station I found on the dial. Really, that’s all it was.  Turns out fate was against me: K-HITS was not the “cool” classic rock station nor is K-HITS the longest running.

That would be K-SHE 95 (94.7FM).

But, being the stubborn, tirelessly predictable sod that I am, I remained a loyal K-HITS listener until this summer.  I was outside painting my house when I heard the Oasis song “Wonderwall” on K-HITS.  Now, I’m a huge Oasis fan, but I was gobsmacked when I heard the 1990’s Brit-Pop legends on my local classic rock radio station.  Overnight my classic rock station had been transformed into a hideous Frankenstein’s moster of vanilla formatting.  No longer would their be awesome deep-cuts (or The Deep End with Nick Michaels a fantastic syndicated radio show I urge you to seek out online).  Instead there would only be music from the 70’s and 80’s with a generous sprinkling of 90’s hits.  The “HITS” in K-HITS was emphasized on the stations Facebook page: they were no longer to be considered a “classic” rock station.

I gave up on radio, until last week when I gave in and started listening to K-SHE.  I feel like such an idiot for not switching sooner, K-SHE is the best rock radio station I’ve ever heard.  Like deep cuts? K-SHE’s got ya covered, they play stuff by bands I’ve never heard of before.  Like to hear albums in their entirety? K-SHE’s got ya covered, this weekend they played an entire Foo Fighters album along with a few other albums (including a new-ish live AC/DC record).  Hate hearing the same song over and over? K-SHE’s library is huge and they never repeat a song.

And then there is Sweetmeat, the stations lovable badass mascot.  You can see him at local St. Louis concerts, on T-Shirts, and now you can even find him on your beer.  Tonight I drank a special beer made by local St. Louis brewery Six Row Brewery called “Sweetmeat’s Real Rock Ale.”  Sure, it’s really just the company’s Whale Ale (wheat ale) but it’s got that badass little piggie on the label.

Such a handsome pig...oh, and Sweetmeat ain't half bad either.

Such a handsome pig…oh, and Sweetmeat ain’t half bad either.

I’m notorious for always picking the losing horse (or whatever) so K-SHE should be very, very worried that I’m their latest fan.  Until they go under, get bought out, get sold, or change format you should check ’em out.  They stream online…

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“Reelin’ In The Years”

Like coffee, Steely Dan is a bit of an acquired taste.  I grew up in a household where, for a few years, there were only two CD’s in the house: The Beatles REVOLVER and A DECADE OF STEELY DAN.  That greatest hits compilation gathered quite a bit of dust.  The appeal of a band like The Beatles is instant and able to transcend age and experience.  The appeal of a band like Steely Dan is…a bit more complicated.

To be fair, I never gave Steely Dan more than a causal listen before casting them off as “lame.”  I must say, the band has a certain reputation among rock fans, many write them off as “dad rock”, self-indulgent, and worst of all: boring.  One of my all-time favorite comedians, George Carlin, even has a pretty funny joke that has the lameness of the band’s fans as part of it’s punchline.  Another factor at play in my inability to fully enjoy Steely Dan was my own ignorance of jazz.  Steely Dan, unlike most rock bands, are more jazz-influenced than they are blues-influenced. Jazz is a funny thing, and like coffee (and Steely Dan) a bit of an acquired taste.

“You been tellin’ me you’re a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I’ve known you
I still don’t know what you mean”

And so, I remained ignorant of the greatness of Steely Dan until my second-to-last year of college.  I was driving home from school one autumn afternoon when I heard “Reelin’ In The Years” on the local classic rock radio station.  I’m sure I’d heard it before, but I must not have been ready because that afternoon I was struck-dumb by the song.

“Reelin’ In The Years” is  awesome for two reasons: the blazing guitar work and the incredible delivery of the lyrics.  The guitar work is exceptional, so much so that guitar god Jimmy Page has been quoted as saying that the guitar solo in “Reeling In The Years” is his all-time favorite solo.  That’s mighty praise.  Singer Donald Fagen has gone on to sort of roll his eyes when it comes to the song, calling it “Dumb but effective.”   And I guess it’s effective, like a shotgun’s effective when fired within a foot of it’s target.  To be fair, “Reelin’ In The Years” is a great blunderbuss of a song compared to the more nuanced work Steely Dan produced over their long run.  I guess the fact that it’s more of a straight-up rocker is part of the reason it’s the most-played Steely Dan song on classic radio today.

“Reelin’ In The Years” would be an noteworthy if all it consisted of was Elliott Randall’s out-of-this-world solo-but then there are the song’s lyrics, which perfectly match the quality of the guitar work.  Like all of Steely Dan’s best songs, “Reelin’ In The Years” is equal parts bitter and wistful.  “Reelin’ In The Years” is accusatory and at the same time filled with a sad-sort of desperation.  Steely Dan’s lyrics are famously opaque, but on “Reelin’ In The Years” the band is a bit more on-the-nose obvious than usual, without the usual literary flair or West Coast double-talk found in most of their songs.  I think that’s another reason why the song is so popular on classic rock radio: it doesn’t take a PhD in English to figure out what the hell the song is about.

Admittedly not the coolest dudes in rock.

All the best lyrics in the world don’t mean anything if the delivery is off, though.  The lyrics, though a bit dumbed-down as far as Steely Dan songs go, are delivered spectacularly.  They come come fast and furious.  There’s so much venom in Fagen’s voice as he spits the words out, his voice barely keeping up with the wailing guitar.  The amount of information, the sheer volume of emotion and narrative conveyed so perfectly and so quickly it’s downright Dylan-esque.

The song ended and I switched off the radio.  I went home and got online and started reading about the band, trying to figure out which album I was going to buy first.  A month later I went back home to visit my parents, before I left I found that dusty copy of A DECADE OF STEELY DAN.  Without asking, I slipped the album into my duffle bag and have never looked back.  I never thought I’d be a Steely Dan fan, but I am.

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