Category Archives: fm

Ray Manzarek 1939-2013

Amidst a whirlwind of false death rumors about the man, it turns out that music legend, and former member of the Doors, Ray Manzarek, has passed away. In a German hospital from cancer, the founder and keyboardist for the Doors is dead at 74.

This is a gut punch to me as strong as the passings of John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, or Warren Zevon. Ray Manzarek is a voice from my youth. I wasn’t cognizant for the first coming of the Doors, but their revival in the late 1970s, due to many factors, was strong in my formation.

There was AOR FM radio looking for music to play and not wanting to touch disco or new wave or punk, and began to mine the sixties for music, delivering the Doors to the forefront once again. There was the book, that everyone in my suburban white drug culture high school read – “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman – that made a legend of the late Jim Morrison.

There was, and is, some hardcore realist inside me that knows that Morrison was just a sullen alcoholic bully, but it was Ray Manzarek that created the legend, wove the tale, built the rock god, and manifested the Lizard King from the ground up. Whatever Jim Morrison was, Ray Manzarek made him.

I remember listening to Jim Ladd and his Sunday night “Innerview” interviewing Ray Manzarek multiple times, as he told apocryphal and supernatural tales of Jim Morrison, building the legend word by word. Manzarek talked of the Native American shaman who possessed Morrison as a child, the concept that he might not be dead, and all sorts of fantastic stories of the legendary Doors, fact and fiction. And he did it all the finesse of a master radio manipulator. Ray Manzarek would’ve made Orson Welles jealous with these performances.


For decades, Manzarek kept the infamous Doors alive, both on radio, and in sales, as he maintained his own career as well. He created a wonderful rendition of “Carmina Burana” with Philip Glass, as well as producing several albums for LA punk band X. He also worked with Echo and the Bunnymen and Iggy Pop among others, and even toured with Ian Asbury of The Cult in place of Morrison in a version of the Doors.


His charismatic personality, his fabulous storytelling ability, and his unique keyboard creations will live on for decades to come. We have truly lost one of the rock and roll legends. Long live Ray Manzarek and the Doors. Hopefully he’s jamming with the Lizard King right now.


Advertisements

Lost Hits of the New Wave #15

“Mama” by Genesis

Much like attempts we have talked about before where traditional rock acts tried to ape the new wave sound for their own purposes (like Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick), we have Genesis with “Mama.”

The song, released in the summer of 1983, and later followed by the self-titled Genesis album (also known as the ‘shapes’ album) represented a change in the band’s sound, and a lean toward more progressive, mainstream, and yes, some might say new wave music. Most notable is the use of synthesizer, reverb and lead vocalist Phil Collins’ voice as a percussive sound itself.

Genesis was an art rock band that had been around forever, and had never been radio friendly, at least not outside of old school FM radio and college music heads. Former lead singer Peter Gabriel as a solo act had been making in-roads with the new wave crowds, so perhaps this spurred the rest of the band to give it a shot.

Genesis quickly became pop music as the decade wore on, Collins becoming bigger as a solo star himself.

Quickies 7-15-2010

Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes ~ This campy comedic superhero film is badly acted and directed, in an almost unintended Rocky Horror or Lost Skeleton of Cadavra way, but its script and heart are in the right place. If you rent it, stay with it. The most intriguing part of the flick is its gay-centric cast and community, a trick that really works well, and doesn’t overpower the rest of the movie. Look for fun cameos by Noel Neill, Lou Ferrigno and Nichelle Nichols as well as Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. Tom Tangen is hilarious as multiple characters, writer Vincent J. Roth is charming in the title role, and do not miss the costume party. This is a lot more fun than it at first seems, check it out.

Empire Records ~ This cult favorite pseudo-remake of FM, only at a record store instead of a radio station, is a pleasant surprise. While painfully predictable, it’s also a lot of fun and has a killer soundtrack. Great Gwar cameo and bonus, Renee Zellweger not only sings, but her eyes are open for most of the movie.

Pirate Radio ~ Great sixties soundtrack, but wow, not a great movie at all. It also has a terrific cast, most of which is wasted here. I think this is the first Richard Curtis flick that I haven’t liked. I guess everyone misses sometimes.

Franklyn ~ Really? Darkman meets Dark City with just a touch of Repo! The Genetic Opera thrown in for good measure – really? This is what you were shooting for? This is pretty, this is stunning, but it is very much style over substance. There were whole sequences that were so boring that I fell asleep. It’s a steampunk Tim Burton wannabe visual overdose without much story to support it. Eye candy, but that’s all.

Killers ~ This one was quite a surprise for me. I was fully expecting a mindless romantic comedy here. I don’t like Ashton Kutcher and as I don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have no point of reference for Katherine Heigl. She was painfully adequate for 27 Dresses but that called for that type of performance. But Killers, other than being a bit more predictable than I would have liked plotwise, is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this romantic dark comedy with a twist. And director Robert Luketic should definitely be plugged in to work on the Bond films because he has the eye needed. Recommended.

Bookmark and Share

Doug Fieger of The Knack Passes Away

Sad news yesterday as it was announced that Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack, passed away at the age of 57 after an extended battle with cancer.

The Knack burst onto the scene in 1979 with their debut album “Get the Knack” and the mega-hit of that year – “My Sharona.” I was just a teenager at the time and one of those dopey kids who was addicted to his radio, and took it with me everywhere. I loved music and was always running up and down the dial listening to whatever I could find. While “My Sharona” is now considered to be pop music by today’s standards – as someone who was there, let me tell you – it was everywhere. The single got equal massive play on not just the top 40 stations, but also the rock, disco (there were still a few left) and the R&B stations.

Back in those days of the dueling rock giants of Philadelphia, WMMR and WYSP used to have entire weekends dedicated to single musical groups. While Yes and Genesis often had to share the spotlight for a weekend, even though together they had dozens of albums to their credit – The Knack, with only one album, was featured with their own weekend on more than a few occasions. That is how big The Knack was.

Also, if you watch VH-1 with any regularity with their multiple nostalgia countdowns, they’ll tell you that The Knack was a one-hit wonder with “My Sharona.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Get the Knack” also featured the follow-up single “Good Girls Don’t,” which topped the request lines all during 1979 as well. The Knack’s second album “…But the Little Girls Understand,” borrowing from an old Doors lyric which itself borrowed from an even older blues tune, was one of 1980’s most anticipated albums. It only managed to put one single, “Baby Talks Dirty” on the charts however. From there, Doug Fieger and The Knack faded into obscurity.

They didn’t disappear completely though. Doug Fieger showed up by himself on the “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” album by Was (Not Was) in 1983 doing lead vocals on two tracks. The Knack resurfaced briefly in 1991 with the rock single “Rocket O’ Love,” a song that I was quite fond of. “My Sharona” also popped back into the charts twice since its initial release after being used in movies.

Doug Fieger, and The Knack, were a major part of music in the 1980s, a slice of time in between the rock and disco of the 1970s and the new wave that was to come. Another rocker has passed on and will be missed.

Bookmark and Share

Quickies 3-4-2007

God Said, “Ha!” – I have always been a fan of Julia Sweeney’s work on the big and small screens and her writing. Well, almost everything. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of her “It’s Pat,” which unfortunately what she is primarily known for. There is thankfully very little of “Pat” in this flick. God Said, “Hi!” is Julia’s fairly successful one-woman stage show set on film. She talks about her experiences with a brother dying from lymphoma and her own battle with cancer. She manages to inject humor into the situations smoothly and effortlessly. There are also difficult parts where you know she’s having trouble continuing where you know know she just wants to run off stage crying. Sweeney holds it together though, and puts on a wonderfully bittersweet and amusing show.

FM – This used to be one of my favorite movies both before and after I worked in radio. Unfortunately with the radio industry so changed in the last decade or so, the entire concept of this flick is outdated, like a piece of ancient history. Many hilarious performances, Martin Mull especially, displays why he was so popular in the 1970s. Highlights include bits of a Linda Ronstadt concert and a Tom Petty cameo. Great music of the era.

The Conversation – A terrific thriller that I can watch again and again. I never tire of Gene Hackman in this one. He is at his most intense pre-Luthor brilliance. His character reputedly even reappears in 1998’s Enemy of the State. Great twist ending and fun early performances by Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams and Teri Garr.