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LET'S DANCE

...to the song they’re playin’ on the radio… The quiet and unexpected (to most) death of David Bowie, one of music’s most important artists EVER, rattled our Modern Rock community last week. That it happened just two days after his 69th birthday/release of his latest album Blackstar, heightened the sense of loss we’ve all been feeling. I asked my label and radio friends what was the first Bowie song they remembered hearing; their favorite Bowie song, and if they had any personal memories about him or his music that they wanted to share.

LAZLO/KRBZ: “When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I picked up The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust at a garage sale. I remember putting it on and hearing ‘Five Years.’ I sat and listened to the entire record and go to ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’ and knew my life had been changed.”

TROY HANSON: “My fave Bowie tune is ‘The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell’ from Hours. I have a strong memory of having dinner with David’s guitarist Earl Slick before catching Bowie’s set, David was incredibly gracious and kind with his time afterwards, ever the gentleman.”

JEFF REGAN: “The DJ at the local roller rink would play ‘Let’s Dance’ twice a session back in the day. I had no reference point at that time to his previous work; all I knew was how much that song mattered to me. Only later did I start to piece together his remarkable gift to fuse/bend genres and transcend that which was ‘trendy.’ Plus, his ‘Peace on Earth/Lttle Drummer Boy’ with Bing Crosby will forever be one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.”

LESLIE SCOTT: “It’s tough to pick one favorite song, so I have to pick two, one that might not even count: ‘Man Who Sold the World’ and ‘All the Young Dudes’ [Ed note: of course that counts!] I was always in awe of Bowie, because he could do ANYTHING. He was beyond an artist and beyond a musician.”

LYNN BARSTOW: “’Fame’ was the first song I knew, thanks to Casey Kasem. Then, after the fourth grade, I graduated to rock radio and heard ‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Space Oddity’ a lot. Ziggy was among the first records I bought, so my fave has got to be one of those—‘Five Years’ or ‘Starman’ or ‘Suicide,’ likely.”

MARK HAMILTON: “My favorite song is ‘Life on Mars’!!!!!”

HALLORAN: “Too many (favorites) to choose from, but ‘Moonage Daydream’ was the first one that transported me. ‘Queen Bitch’ was the first time I remember seeing him—on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

RISA MATSUKI: “I heard my first Bowie song in 1978—it was ‘Changes’—my best friend’s mom was a huge fan and was playing the song one day. I remember looking at the cover of the album, being not quite able to wrap my head around this pretty man with long hair (I was 7), but there was something in the way the song told a story, and his voice stayed with me.”

JON MANLEY: “How in the hell is it possible to pick a favorite Bowie song? ‘Heroes.’ ‘Rebel Rebel.’ ‘Modern Love.’ ‘Life on Mars.’ Endless possibilities, and I refuse to choose! He made it OK to be weird, and isn’t that an even greater gift than the music he left us?”

NICK PETROPOULOS: “First song I heard was ‘Changes.’ First song I obsessed over was ‘The Man Who Sold the World,’ thanks to the Nirvana introduction. That intro led me to dive into his entire catalog, thus becoming just as obsessed with Mick Ronson’s guitar playing.”

LESLIE FRAM: “The first song I ever heard was ‘Space Oddity,’ and then became obsessed. He was so incredibly generous with his time when he came to Atlanta for Breakfast With Bowie on the 99X Morning X show. He did an intimate performance for fans at Smith’s Olde Bar. How often can we use the word genius where it truly applies? Bowie exemplified what it means to be an artist.”

KRIS GILLESPIE: “My introduction to David Bowie was about as peculiar as it can get. My grandparents were my caretakers while my parents finished college, and I would crawl up the stairs in their farmhouse to my uncle’s room to listen to music as a toddler. And somehow David Bowie (along with the likes of Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople) had found their way to the stereo of an 18 year-old rural Missouri farm boy in 1974. I can vividly remember sitting on the washing machine next to my mom in the kitchen on my 3rd birthday and my uncle walking in and giving me my own copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and never being happier in my young life.

“I can’t really say for sure what the first song was under those circumstances; it was definitely a Ziggy Stardust track and I have a very strong memory of ‘Star’ being an early fixation and can still hear why. The production on the album is really vibrant, a bit dry (not a lot of reverb) and tight-mic’d so it feels like they’re playing right there in your bedroom. ‘Star’ has got some really great hooks but weird angles and shifts to it, so it sort of just tumbles out of the speakers.

It would be very hard to overstate the impact of David Bowie on my life and the lives of so many musicians I love, friends and colleagues through his art, his attitude, his life and now his death (the man made great art out of dying—that’s how remarkable he was). If you felt or wanted something different from everyone else around you, he gave a lot of people the confidence to express themselves in new and unique ways.

There will never be another David Bowie as we know it and I wouldn’t want to hang that sort of expectation on anyone. The great thing is that someone will come along and be as inspirational and influential as he was down the road, but it will be something new and different… some might say “alien” to what came before it. Let the children boogie.”

Let’s dance/For fear your grace should fall/Let’s dance/for fear tonight is all.


 
 
NOTHING COMPARES 2 U

As I type this on Tuesday morning [9/22], I’m carbo-loading for tomorrow’s Yom Kippur fast. The Glauber family has a longstanding tradition of fasting in between meals to uphold, so I’ll likely cave before noon…

This morning, Howard Stern played Chris Cornell’s acoustic version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which Chris recorded last week at SiriusXM. There’s nothing quite like hearing one of the greatest voices in rock sing one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever written. Last week, in fact, I posted a question on Facebook: “Today, list up to 15 songs that bring you to your knees.” There were hundreds of responses from friends who, like me, tend to synthesize our feelings via the music and lyrics of others.

There’s a constant soundtrack running through my head, always in search of the perfect song for that moment. The “most played” songs in my head could be compiled into an album called More Songs About Longing (cue The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied”). It isn’t always just about the lyrics. I’d be hard-pressed to sing the lyrics to either Beach House’s “PPP” or Glass Animals’ “Black Mambo,” but both songs still give me the chills.

The most impactful songs express a common feeling (“longing” is a perennial #1) in a new way: Gotye’s “Someone that I Used to Know,” Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” X Ambassadors’ “Unsteady,” Florence + the Machines’ “What Kind of Man,” and the new Chris Cornell single “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” immediately come to mind. There are muscular songs that shake you to your core, like The Dead Weathers’ “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles),” Cold War Kids’ “First,” Tame Impala’s entire catalog and The Bohicas’ “Where You At.” Where is the swagger and (pun intended) “edge” on Modern Rock radio these days?...

Think about it—what was the last song you heard that made you feel like a knife was going through your heart (in a good way)? Not that you asked, but here’s my list (or “mixtape”) of 15 songs that never fail to slay: Arcade Fire “Afterlife,” Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello “God Give Me Strength,” Big Star “The Ballad of El Goodo,” The Blue Nile “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” Jeff Buckley “Last Goodbye” Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman,” Daryl Hall “Why Was it So Easy,” Gram Parsons “$1000 Wedding,” The Replacements “Unsatisfied,” Todd Rundgren “Hope I’m Around,” Split Enz “Message to My Girl,” Spoon “Black Like Me,” Dusty Springfield “No Easy Way Down,” Tame Impala “Apocalypse Dreams” and The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year.” For the record, “Wichita Lineman” was the most-cited song among the respondents, many of whom are acclaimed songwriters in their own right…

Here’s another conversation starter, even more popular than Cards Against Humanity: Define yourself in five artists. These are not necessarily your favorite artists—it’s like a personality test—what would I know about you by your choices? I picked Big Star, Todd Rundgren, Patti Smith, Spoon and Television. Tell me who defines you… We’re very excited to report that our dear friend Bill Carroll has reunited with Joe Greenwald and Dave Barbis with his new gig at C3.  Bill will be initiated into the team with an onstage performance of Houndmouth’s “Sedona” at next week’s ACL in Austin. Oh, I wasn’t supposed to reveal that yet?...

Big props to Rob Goldklang and Heather Luke for being Most Added this week on JR JR’s “Gone.” I’m sure Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a fan of this song, even after the band’s recent name change… Chvrches’ “Leave a Trace” is a career-defining record. The girls know…

The first time I heard El Vy’s “Return to the Moon,” I thought it sounded more like The The (a compliment of the highest order) than The National. I love this song. Also Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Multi-Love” just won the 2015 APRA Silver Scroll Award for “Excellence in New Zealand Songwriting,” besting Lorde, among others. This is the country that brought us Neil Finn, so they take their songwriting very seriously. Ask Hannah Carlen for a copy…

“And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time…”


 
 
“IT’S A TOWN FULL OF LOSERS, AND I’M PULLING OUTTA HERE TO WIN”


There’s a 99% likelihood that my post-Boomer music business peers, especially those of us who grew up in an industrial town along the Delaware River, quoted this lyric from “Thunder Road” in their high school yearbook. Aug. 25 marked the 40th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s perfect album Born to Run, which was even acknowledged on KROQ, as Kat Corbett chose Frank Turner’s gorgeous cover of “Born to Run” for her 12:35 “pick.” I know this album note for note, word for word; it still holds a permanent spot in my all-time Top 10. I wonder which records from the past decade, well after Nevermind, OK Computer, Ten, Pretty Hate Machine, etc. will still have that emotional resonance 30 or 40 years from now. Adele’s 21 is certain, and I am confident that Vampire Weekend’s Contra, Mumford & SonsSigh No More and Arcade Fire’s Funeral will be remembered as transformative records that also shifted the mainstream. My favorite song on Born to Run is “Meeting Across the River,” in case you were wondering… 

Nearly 30 years ago, I met Soundgarden when they were signed to Sub Pop. Then A&M Records, where I worked, signed the band. The label’s New Music Marketing Department, which I ran, oversaw the promotion of the SST release Ultramega OK and the band’s A&M debut Louder Than Love. In the years that followed, Chris Cornell has had countless Modern Rock radio smashes with Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo. He’s sold millions of records and has played shows in front of millions of fans. I’ve worked at HITS. Chris has one of the best voices in the history of rock music and remains one of Modern Rock’s truest STARS. I’ve worked at HITS. Now, I’m absolutely enamored with “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart,” the first single from his upcoming solo album Higher Truth. It’s rare to see a song #1 Most Added at Triple A and Active Rock, while also garnering 10 early adds at Modern Rock. It happens maybe once every few years, at best. “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” is an extraordinary song—certain to mitigate any bias the format might have (this week) against ’90s core artists. As an executive once declared, at an album listening session attended by Ted and me, “Sometimes the best song is just the best song.” I’m about to embark on a three-day/five-city trip to find out if my radio friends agree… 

I’m not the only one celebrating a 25th anniversary this summer: CD1025 in Columbus has been on the air since 1990! To mark the occasion, the station launched an extensive Indiegogo campaign to raise the $1 million necessary to renew their broadcast license and remain on the air. So far, the station has received donations from more than 2,000 individuals/groups, raising $153,000. Many of you reading this have deep pockets. You remember growing up with your ear glued to the radio—it’s how you discovered new music. CD1025 is an independently owned and operated station, run by people who live and breathe music. Wasn’t that once your dream—to own a small station in a cool college town, playing music you loved? I had empirical evidence that Tame Impala’s “Elephant” was a hit because it was the #1 testing song of the year at CD1025, months before we launched it at Modern Rock. There are so few stations that are willing to step out on new music—we need to protect the ones that do. Make a contribution NOW to www.cd1025.com. The clock is ticking…. 

In case you missed it, here’s the latest: Leslie Scott, our friend since her WPGU days, has been upped to PD at KNDD Seattle. She’s been “in the building” for many years and her success as PD seems preordained. We are thrilled… 

Bill Carroll has moved back to the East Coast, and will announce his new plans soon. Gary Gorman, formerly of Atlantic WC, is his replacement at Capitol. Ed Brennan, last at Concord, following his years at Wind-up, is replacing Gary. Ron Poore will be returning to his post at Atlantic very soon, which is truly exciting news. Mike DePippa marked his final week at Columbia by being #1 Most Added with the Neighbourhood single. He’s headed to Republic, replacing Ron Cerrito, who will segue into marketing. A replacement for DePippa has yet to be named, but, considering it includes access to the Springsteen catalog, I might have to throw my hat in the ring. In the meantime, Nick Petropoulos is under contract at Glassnote, with no intention of going elsewhere. 


 
 
HERE’S WHERE THE STRINGS COME IN

I met Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan (that him to your right) in 1995, when Corey Rusk, the head of Touch & Go Records, and I flew to Chapel Hill to discuss my possibly working a new Superchunk single at Modern Rock radio. The song was called “Hyper Enough” and Mac was also the band’s singer. That was the beginning of two decades (so far) of working with and for someone I admire and adore in equal measure. Mac’s answers to “11 Questions With” arrived just past the deadline for the last issue of HITS, but I couldn’t celebrate 25 years without his inclusion.


25 years ago, were you alive, what were you doing, and what were your goals? How’d that work out for you?
I had been alive for a while at that point. The only goal was to be in a band and make records—that worked out OK!

Whom would you consider your mentors in your career?
Whether it was in situations where we would directly ask specific questions, or just being around artists and music business people we respected, and seeing how they worked, I would say I learned invaluable things from tons of people, including Ian MacKaye, Gerard Cosloy, Mike Watt, Corey Rusk, Yo La Tengo and our old booking agent, Bob Lawton.

What moment changed your career and/or life?
I don’t think it has ever come down to one moment, though seeing The Who’s The Kids Are Alright in the theater in 1979 made a big impression on me.

What do you consider the best decision of your career?
I think our best decision AFTER HIRING KAREN GLAUBER TO WORK OUR 1995 SINGLE “HYPER ENOUGH” was not signing to a major label in the early ’90s.

What record of yours that never happened still breaks your heart?
We’ve put out so many records on Merge over the years; obviously we thought all of them were great and that many deserved more attention than we got. But we were never in the business of “needing a hit,” which is especially handy now, since there aren’t any anymore.

What’s your favorite career memento?
I have many great posters and flyers, but looking around my office, from where I sit now, I will pick this small flyer I made with a woodcut for a Fugazi show that my band Bricks opened, and also a Chills poster that I snagged the first time we went to NZ and got to rifle through the Flying Nun closet.

What has been the highlight of your career, thus far?
On the Merge side, having Top Ten albums by Arcade Fire and Spoon were great moments, but so is getting to work with our musical heroes, like David Kilgour, The Clean and Bob Mould, or seeing artists like Lambchop grow and change over the years, producing incredible records every time. 

On the Superchunk side, it's impossible to pick one show or one tour, though the sidestage of Lollapalooza in ‘95 was a great couple of weeks. On our stage were Helium, Versus, Built to Spill, Redman, and more. On the main stage were Sonic Youth, Pavement, Elastica, Jesus Lizard, Beck, etc. 

How many grudges are you currently nursing, and against whom?
I don't want you to have to add more pages to your magazine. 

What do you do for fun, if that’s still possible?
I try to see as much art as I can. It happens during the daytime, unlike these rock bands who still insist on playing late at night. I buy records; I make records; we travel with our kids... 

What do I, Karen Glauber, mean to you?
Karen, somehow you've managed to live and work in L.A. all these years—in radio, no less—but you still like good music. You have been our way into the mainstream, albeit for brief flashes of time! Considering what you've had to work with, I’m still amazed.