I won’t lie to you. There were parts of high school that were absolutely awful for me. My entire sophomore year, I was called not by my actual name, but by a nickname that was given to me back in junior high school from making an ass out of myself at a few junior high dances. At the last junior high dance I attended, I had no intention of continuing to make an ass out of myself, but I was bullied by a classmate to get out there and embarrass myself or else he’d beat me up. This was someone I once considered a friend and never did again.
High school wasn’t all bad, though, and I got through it. College was this whole other story. In the Fall of 1985, I attended the one-year program at the New England School of Broadcasting, and the first year it was located on the Husson College campus in Bangor, Maine. NESB was great!! We had a small class of roughly 30 or so people, we all pretty much got along, and for the first time in my academic career, I didn’t feel like an outcast or a misfit; I felt accepted. And, I was on my way to following my radio broadcasting dream (by way of the mighty WHSN).
It’s hard to believe, but May 9th marks the 30th anniversary of our class graduating from NESB. We all have our stories about our short time there, from one classmate singing along to Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” live on the air to our fun field trip to New York City, visiting such broadcasting outlets like NBC and MTV.
During the 1985-1986 school year, WHSN was an Adult Contemporary station. We played records but mostly songs on carts (if you don’t know what a cart is in broadcasting terms, I’ve attached pictures here of some carts with songs of them and a cart machine we put them in). This was before CDs became more commonplace in radio. Hell, even WMPG had carts for their promos when I started there in 1996!
I have fond memories of (then) General Manager Tim Cotton telling me (not so subtly I might add) to stop playing 12” extended mixes of songs we would play in their regular single variations. “But, everyone wants to hear an 7-minute version of John Waite’s ‘Missing You’ and an 8-minute version of Hall & Oates’ ‘Method Of Modern Love!’ C’mon!” By the way, Tim Cotton has since found his calling away from radio and is now a very popular and respected Sergeant in the Bangor Police Department.
Long story longer, it was brought up on Facebook by one of my classmates that this is the 30th anniversary of our graduating class of 29 at the New England School of Broadcasting. 30 years later, NESB is now the juggernaut New England School of Communications (NESCom), replete with 4-year degree programs that graduate hundreds each year; Husson College is Husson University; WHSN has gone from AC to Alt-Rock; and, Bangor is way more popular than it was 30 years ago.
One of the songs released during my time at NESB was “Life In A Northern Town,” a truly lovely gem from an Alt-Pop trio out of London, The Dream Academy. They just released three albums during their time together, but all three have been beloved in my collection for many years.
From their self-titled debut album, “Life In A Northern Town” took a year to record, incorporates elements of Classical music, African-type chants and 60s Psychedelia, and is a tribute to singer / songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1974 of a drug overdose at age 26, and who is referenced in the song.
“Life In A Northern Town” is one of the most-beloved songs (80s or otherwise) I have ever known. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like or love it. And, it’s a sentiment that was shared around the globe. It reached the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and here in the U.S., where it spent 2 weeks at No. 7 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in February / March 1986, and 21 total weeks on the chart.
The Dream Academy never again had the success of “Life In A Northern Town,” but they did reach the U.S. Top 40 one more time with their next single, “The Love Parade,” and “Life In A Northern Town” did return to the charts in 1997 and 1998, as it was sampled on another hit by another English trio, Dario G., on the song, “Sunchyme.”
A massive hit in its own right, “Sunchyme” reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart and the Top 10 in at least 10 countries, including a No. 2 peak in the U.K., and prolly would have gone all the way to No. 1 there, had it not been for the song at No. 1: Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana, “Candle In The Wind 1997.”
Bangor (the second-largest city in Maine) isn’t really what you’d call a Northern town, per se, and is more of an Eastern town as far as Maine geography goes, but, it was a Northern town for me for awhile, and I’ll never forget my life there, or the good people I met and are still friends to this day…