I’ve written before that our trips to the record store to buy vinyl for the music library at WTLX often netted us a few free promo albums that the manager at Disk Jockey Records decided he didn’t want to play in-store, particularly during the 1983-84 school year. We lucked out on a couple that proved to be hits, most notably Cyndi Lauper’s She So Unusual. The vast majority wound up being stiffs commercially, but since our library was pretty out-of-date (probably due to a combination of neglect and raids by graduating seniors of years past), it was good to have some new-ish releases on hand. I can still see several of the LP jackets in my head, even if I didn’t always give them a try (I hope other jocks did).
Let’s take a look at five disks among those that wound up in our mitts. Friends of the time–you’re welcome to remind me of others.
The Rubinoos, Party of Two
Let’s start with one I should have definitely paid more mind. I missed out on their cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which peaked at #45 in May of 1977. Six years later, the original foursome had winnowed down to a duo, Jon Rubin and Tommy Dunbar. They tried to jump start their career with this Rundgren/Utopia-produced EP. I’m pretty sure I listened to “If I Had You Back” a time or two while the station was off the air; how I didn’t dig it enough to play it during one of my shows is a big mystery.
Bill Nelson, Vistamix
I believe I knew of (by name only) Be-Bop Deluxe by the time I was in college. Former leader Bill Nelson was well into pursuing a solo career by 1984, when this compilation came out. Another one I spun a couple of times out of curiosity only–“Flaming Desire,” from a couple of years before, was the one that caught my ear.
The Circle Jerks, Golden Shower of Hits
This is the LP that broke through among me and my friends. Off-color band and album name? Urinal on the cover? Amber liquid of unknown provenance arriving from the left? Check, check, and check. Hardcore punk, with song titles like “Parade of the Horribles.” “Coup d’Etat,” and “When the Shit Hits the Fan” (an unplugged version of that last one appears on the Repo Man soundtrack–James bought that a year or so later). Not particularly my style, but it did hold quite a bit of entertainment value for several 18- and 19-year olds. I can see why a record store might not feature this during business hours.
Our favorite, and one which I’m sure I played on my show at least a couple of times, was the title track, subtitled “Jerks on 45.” It’s exactly what you think it is and if you’ve never heard it, definitely give it a listen. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing any of the songs they include, but I will say that it’s actually coherent (as opposed to, say, one of Weird Al’s polka medleys): somewhere in the last few years I read it tracks the life cycle of a relationship.
Kissing the Pink, S/T
This British group (later known simply as KTP) appears to have released this EP and their debut album, Naked, almost simultaneously. Kinda odd, since they share three cuts. One of them, “Maybe This Day,” is the only song on any of these albums to have hit the U.S pop charts, peaking at #87 in late August. If I ever threw this on the turntable, I sure don’t remember it.
Fun Boy Three, Waiting
If I’d known about the Specials back then, perhaps I would have given this album by three of their alums more of a chance. As it was, I probably couldn’t process the juxtaposition of a band with “Fun” in their names and the dour looks I saw on the cover. No doubt I gave the cover of “Our Lips Are Sealed” a shot (vocalist Terry Hall co-wrote it with Jane Wiedlin), but I wasn’t ready for such a somber take. I do wish I’d paid attention to “Tunnel of Love,” though (a Top 10 hit in the UK).
If I could be a sophomore in college all over again, I hope I’d choose to have wider musical horizons.