don’t you (forget about me).

As I start this blog post, it’s in the 7:00pm hour on Sunday, February 26th, 2017, and during this time for the better part of the past 21 years, for the folks of Portland, Maine and beyond, I’d be playing a lexicon of the great 80s music you remember and much more on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio).  More on the amazing last STUCK IN THE 80s show in a bit.

Once the show ended, I wanted to take a couple of weeks off from the blog, though truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this post since before the last show even aired.

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The original STUCK IN THE 80s logo…

After nearly 21 years, over a thousand shows, thousands of requests, tens of thousands of songs played, these two weeks later, it’s still hard to believe that the last STUCK IN THE 80s has aired on WMPG, a radio station that has been like a second home for me for nearly half my life.  Though I’m still considered a volunteer there, I’ll miss being a regular part of it.

Back in August 2015, I first announced that I would be ending the show at the end of August 2016 after 20 years on WMPG, but in April 2016, I decided I wasn’t ready to end the show yet.  The show started part-time in the Spring of 1996 (I was 29 years old), and full-time on Sundays in the Fall of 1996.  When I realized that my 50th birthday in 2017 fell on a Sunday, it just felt right; it felt cathartic to end the show then.  I’m still happy with that decision.  But the last weekend for the show wasn’t without its moments.

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This didn’t exactly happen here in Maine the weekend of the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG, but it wasn’t too far off…

Many months ago, I half-joked about the last show, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a blizzard and I couldn’t do my last show?”  Well…I’m not sure if it was an official blizzard in Portland, Maine, but the weather was more blizzard-like than blizzard-lite.  I always planned on co-hosting my last show with my dear, dear friends and regular STUCK co-hosts, Hope and Shawn.  Shawn lives in Portland, and Hope (who did a touching radio tribute for me in November 2016 and put together a wonderful tribute video for me recently) traveled all the way from Springfield, MA to be there.   I’m so grateful to both of them.

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Hope, me and Shawn, having a fun time at Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine 2.11.2017.

That Saturday night (2.11.2017) before the last show, I had planned on a “cheers and thanks” get-together at a Portland venue, but with the inclement weather, most folks weren’t able to attend.  The last show’s attendance was another story.

Before the last show could happen, though, I needed to contact WMPG’s fantastic Program Director, Jessica, to see if the station was going to be shut down due to the storm, which was in full force before Sunday night.  Jessica was indeed planning on shutting down the station but knew it was my last show that night, and was kind enough to let Hope, Shawn and I go on with the last STUCK IN THE 80s and then shut the station down, which was actually kinda cool in a way.

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The show’s STUCK IN THE 80s “Parting Shot” playlist featured songs Hope and Shawn wanted to hear, and songs that meant a lot to me over the years (and many of those songs have appeared on this blog so far): 

  • ALPHAVILLE – FOREVER YOUNG (SPECIAL EXTENDED MIX) (1984) – This Cold War Classic was part of the inspiration for my blog.
  • BOOK OF LOVE – MODIGLIANI (LOST IN YOUR EYES) (1986 / 1987) – One of my “Desert Island” songs, or rather, one of the songs I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island.
  • BLONDIE – DREAMING (1979) – Another of my “Desert Island” songs, this is my all-time favorite Blondie song, from the Fall of 1979.  I remember it well.
  • THE ENGLISH BEAT – I CONFESS (DAVE ALLEN REMIX) (1982) – One of my best memories during the show was interviewing and meeting Dave Wakeling in 2009.  I’ve seen him and the band perform in Portland almost every year since.  Hearing this song live gives me such joy!
  • THE CLASH – THIS IS RADIO CLASH (1981) – Released as a stand-alone single between 1980’s SANDINISTA! and 1982’s COMBAT ROCK, this was requested for DJ HopeyT!
  • BAUHAUS – SPIRIT (ALTERNATIVE VERSION) (1982) – The original version from THE SKY’S GONE OUT and requested for DJ Shawn!
  • PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – TAKE ME WITH U (1984 / 1985) – This gem from PURPLE RAIN is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that doesn’t get nearly enough love as it should, so I wanted to play it.
  • THE THE – THIS IS THE DAY (EXTENDED 12” MIX) (1983) – A true statement that night…  The end of an era and the beginning of a new one…
  • TALKING HEADS FEAT. JOHN GOODMAN – PEOPLE LIKE US (1986) – My favorite version of this spirited T-Heads gem from TRUE STORIES…
  • JOE JACKSON – CANCER – Recorded live during the NIGHT AND DAY tour on 5/8/83 at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia.  One of my all-time favorites (of many) by Joe Jackson.
  • DAVID BOWIE feat. THOMAS DOLBY – HEROES – Like many others, David Bowie’s sad passing in 2016 did a number on me.  But, ever since, I’ve been inspired too.  On July 13th, 1985 (at LIVE AID), he dedicated this song to his son, “to all our children, and the children of the world.”
  • ROBYN HITCHCOCK – CHINESE WATER PYTHON (1990) – One of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, from one of the most brilliant singer / songwriter / storytellers in the world.
  • THE DREAM ACADEMY – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT (instrumental version) (1985 / 1986) – I couldn’t leave STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG without playing this gorgeous Smiths cover by one of my favorite 80s bands, and from a pivotal scene in one of my favorite John Hughes films (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF).
  • INXS – DON’T CHANGE (1982 / 1983) – A favorite gem from my favorite album by my favorite band…
  • PET SHOP BOYS – WEST END GIRLS (1986) – I remember hearing this for the first time like it was yesterday, and it was around this time 31 years ago…
  • YELLO – DOMINGO (1985) – When DJ Hope and her sister, DJ Weez, teamed up for a 4-hour edition of her awesome show, POWERHAUS, in early 2016, they played this song.  I don’t know how it was off my radar for so long, but I’m glad it’s there now!
  • THE KLF feat. TAMMY WYNETTE – JUSTIFIED & ANCIENT (12” MIX) (1991) – The origins of this song date back to 1987, when The KLF were still The Timelords.  One of THE best one-time collaborations of all-time.
  • PETER GABRIEL – IN YOUR EYES (2011 NEW BLOOD ORCHESTRAL VERSION) – Hope and I were so glad to see Peter Gabriel perform in 2016, but I wish I had also seen him on this tour, featuring orchestral versions of his amazing songs.  This is my favorite, originally from 1986’s brilliant SO album.
  • CYNDI LAUPER – TIME AFTER TIME (1983 / 1984) – Meeting and interviewing Cyndi Lauper in 2002 was a moment, much like Cyndi herself, that I’ll treasure forever.
  • SIMPLE MINDS – A BRASS BAND IN AFRICA (1985) – This amazing instrumental was the B-side of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
  • SIMPLE MINDS – DON’T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME) – Recorded live from The Ahoy in Rotterdam, 12.3.1985.  My favorite song for all-time.

The response to the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG was incredibly overwhelming and heartfelt.  It was prolly the most-listened-to show I’ve ever had.  Wanted to share just some of the truly amazing and kind comments shared by my WMPG family, friends and fans:

  • “Better safe than sorry, I suppose…  Better to Be Stuck in the 80’s than in the low teens and a blizzard…  Big shout out to Ron for all his years on the air, and his show to end all shows, tonight… at least for a day or two…  cheers!”
  • “Thank you Ron.  Our Sunday nights won’t be the same without you.”
  • “Ron …….Rock it….tear the roof off……and then shut it down buddy!”
  • “What an end to a great run.  SHUT IT DOWN, Ron!”
  • “What a way to go – a birthday, a blizzard, and then shutting down the station.  Tonight will be epic – thank you for the tunes and enjoy the next great adventures in Life!”
  • “Thanks Ron for one last – and hopefully not final – Sunday night kitchen dance party.”
  • “Ron, Sunday nights will not be the same.  Thank you so much.  It has been a pleasure listening to your programs.  It was a thrill to program and co-host a show.  You will be missed.  All the best in what lies ahead.”
  • “Wow your birthday, last show and an epic nor’easter on its way.  You certainly know how to party!!!!”
  • “Congrats on such a great show.  I’ll miss tuning in to you.”
  • “Happy birthday Ron!  Forever grateful for your show!  You truly are the King of the 80’s!”
  • “What the hell am I supposed to do on Sunday evenings; be sociable?”
  • “REALITY sets in as Sunday evening approaches without STUCK IN THE 80s.  It’s kinda going to be like a zombie achieving consciousness and understanding that everyone’s a zombie and there are no fresh brains.”
  • “You’re gonna get me crying again…forget you?  You, Hope and Shawn were our Sunday nights….we’ll never forget.”
  • “This will be a last show you can never forget!”
  • “Happy Birthday, Ron! Congratulations on an incredible radio run!”
  • “This is the end of an era!!  No 80s show on the radio even came close to yours.  The research, the knowledge and the vast music catalog are unparalleled.  Sad to see it go, but glad you gave Portland a proper 80s experience for so many years.  I hope the next phase in your life is great as well.”
  • “What do you do when the radio show you love and have been listening to for the last 15-plus years goes silent (Wow, Ron, you really went out in dramatic fashion, this blizzard and all!)?!  Will and I miss you already!  Thank you so much, Ron – all the best to your next chapter!”
  • “Happy Birthday to you, my brother!  Today is bittersweet for sure.  Can’t wait for your next musical adventure.  Peace & Love (and birthday spankings) to you!”
  • “Mike drop!!! Thanks for 20 years Ron & crew!!!”
  • “Ron does final show.  Shuts down transmitter.  /mic drop/”  (more on that in a bit…)
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DJ Shaxx, Whitney and me, 1.29.2017…

And from my radio neighbor for the past 11 months, host of the wonderful LEFT OF THE DIAL, the incredibly talented DJ Shaxx:

“First, Happy birthday, friend!

“Can’t believe I won’t be there tonight for you to pass the broadcasting baton to me as I begin LEFT OF THE DIAL.  One of the reasons I love doing my show is that it has always followed STUCK IN THE 80s.  I come into the studio on a wave of positivity and grooving to your music; your legendary presence in the big chair as I walk into the on air studio.  Your personality and music has always helped me start my show with a bang.  In fact, my intro, my first song… you’re the audience.  I have so much enjoyed our conversations transitioning between shows.  And then, as you hit the road, I continue to spin music and speak on the mic and imagine you driving up interstate 295.

“With your departure, Ron Raymond Jr., a big part of what I do will change.

“Changes…  The only constant in life, right?  But change is good.  I’m excited for you and the changes coming up in your life.  The opportunities for great things to happen.  Your future is bright, Ronnie.  You gotta wear shades.

“Man, I’m gonna miss you.  I will miss your DJ mentorship, extensive knowledge and impeccable taste in music.  I will miss your humor and your kindness.

“Thank you for all that you’ve given to WMPG.  Thank you for sharing your great, great knowledge of the 80s every week.  You can feel it tonight.  Everyone tuning in.  Theirs are invisible airwaves crackling with life.  Ripe and tender, whistling with energy (as Geddy Lee would sing).  Thanks for carrying on that great Spirit of Radio.  Because of what you’ve done.  It will live on.  For a long, long time.  Someday inhabitants of a distant universe will be hearing these broadcasts and they will say, ‘Geez!  These people are stuck in the 80s.  We must rescue them.’  And then our planet will never be the same.

“Excelsior!”

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When you host a radio show for as long as I did with STUCK IN THE 80s, I had 20 years of thank-you’s and shout-outs to announce.  Of course, I wasn’t able to get to everyone.  That alone would have taken a whole entire show.  The last of my deserved thank-you’s were dedicated to two of my dearest and closest friends in the whole world – DJs extraordinaire Hope and Shawn, who I’d like to truly love to thank again, for their love and knowledge of music and the 80s, their mad DJ skillz, and their passion, dedication and innumerable contributions to STUCK IN THE 80s!  I couldn’t have done it all these years without them!  (BTW, at the end of the show, since we were shutting down the station, Hope came back on the air and said, “STUCK IN THE 80s OUT!”  And then, in sorta dramatic fashion, Shawn and I did drop out mics…  It was great.)

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Shawn, me and Hope, WMPG-FM and WMPG.org, 2.12.2017, hiding from the blizzard outside and truly STUCK IN THE 80s!

For over a year now, people have been asking me why I’m ending the show.  Well, there’s a number of reasons, but mainly, for now, I want to take a break and take some time for me, do some screenwriting, maybe some voiceover work, continue with the little bloggy thing here, and with me turning 50 a couple of weeks ago, to figure out the next step of my path in this next chapter of my life. 

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Thank you, for 20 years and then some…

I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but STUCK IN THE 80s will be back, I guaRONtee.  I’ll be back too.  And don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.  And please know that STUCK IN THE 80s has been the proudest moment of the first half of my life.  Thank you.  I love you and I’ll miss you all.

So, until the next time you hear me on your radio, take care, be good, talk hard, and don’t you forget about me.  I’ll catch you on the flip side.  And as Mr. David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  So stay tuned…

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Hope and Shawn, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you!

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song of the day – “Hallelujah” | LEONARD COHEN | 1984.

It was already a rough week and then some with the end result (at least the electoral college version anyway) of the 2016 United States presidential election (more on that in my next blog post), but in the 4:00 hour this morning, I woke up from a semi-decent night’s sleep to find out we lost another music giant this year – Leonard Cohen.

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I don’t believe this was from 1984, or even the 80s, but I love this shot…

Leonard Cohen died on Monday, November 7th, but the world didn’t find out about it until a message to fans was posted on Facebook on November 10th: “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away.  We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.”  His son, producer Adam Cohen, said his dad “passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records [YOU WANT IT DARKER, just released on October 21st]. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor.”

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Leonard Cohen’s last album, YOU WANT IT DARKER, just released in October 2016 (and one heluva great album cover).

Born in Westmount, Quebec in September 1934, Leonard Cohen had an interest in music and poetry at a young age, and in 1967, at the age of 33, he released his debut album on Columbia Records – SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN.  The opening song on that album, “Suzanne,” ended up being recorded by folks like Judy Collins, Nina Simone, Frida (of ABBA; on her 1971 debut album), and was sampled by R.E.M. on the song “Hope,” which appeared on their 1998 album, UP.

Between SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN and YOU WANT IT DARKER (which I can’t wait to hear), Leonard Cohen released 14 studio albums, eight live albums, and at least seven compilations.  He was among an elite group of artists – including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen – who had their entire catalog of albums on one record label – Columbia Records.

Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest Leonard Cohen fan, but I always had a lot of respect for him, especially his songwriting, and grew to love many of his songs over the years, including “So Long, Marianne” (from SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN), “Bird On The Wire” (from 1969’s SONGS FROM A ROOM), “Famous Blue Raincoat” (from 1971’s SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE), “Chelsea Hotel” (from 1974’s NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY), “First We Take Manhattan,” “Tower Of Song” and “I’m Your Man” (from 1988’s I’M YOUR MAN), “Democracy” and “The Future” (from 1992’s THE FUTURE), “The Letters” (from 2004’s DEAR HEATHER), plus 1988’s “Everybody Knows” (from I’M YOUR MAN) and 1984’s “If It Be Your Will” (from VARIOUS POSITIONS; both songs were prominently featured in the excellent 1990 Christian Slater film, PUMP UP THE VOLUME).

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Apart from being a big success in Scandinavia, Austria and the U.K., Leonard’s 1984 album, VARIOUS POSITIONS (his first album in five years), was not a popular album at the time, and had mixed reviews.  One of the nine songs on VARIOUS POSITIONS (and the first song on Side Two), was a song called “Hallelujah.”  It apparently took Leonard Cohen five years and 80 draft verses to write the song.

hallelujah-7%22Of the song, Leonard Cohen said, “Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means ‘Glory to the Lord.’  The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist.  I say, ‘All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value.  It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion’.” 

“Hallelujah” went relatively unnoticed for several years until Welsh singer / songwriter John Cale (a founding member of The Velvet Underground) heard Leonard Cohen sing an updated version of the song live in New York.  John Cale enjoyed the song so much that he decided to record his own version.  That version appears on the wonderful 1991 tribute album, I’M YOUR FAN: THE SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN, which features 80s and early 90s Alt-Rock royalty like R.E.M., Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, Pixies, That Petrol Emotion, James, The House Of Love, Lloyd Cole, and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. 

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John Cale’s 1991 reworked version features just vocals, piano and lyrics that Leonard Cohen had only performed live.  He asked Leonard Cohen to send him those lyrics, and Leonard did -15 pages’ worth!  According to a 2010 piece in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, John Cale claimed he “went through and just picked out the cheeky verses.”  It is this version – used in the first SHREK film in 2001 – that has inspired most of the covers of “Hallelujah” that you know and love today, including one I’ll come onto in a moment.

Prolly the best Leonard Cohen tribute album I’ve ever heard, 1991’s I’M YOUR FAN was not purchased by many, but, according to a piece I saw online today, one person who purchased the album was a woman from Brooklyn, New York, and the person who used to house-sit for this woman was a singer named Jeff Buckley, the son of multi-genre singer / songwriter Tim Buckley, who died in 1975 at the age of 28.

He loved the version on I’M YOUR FAN, and reworking the song from John Cale’s own rework, Jeff Buckley performed “Hallelujah” in a bar in the East Village of NYC, where an executive from Columbia Records (Leonard’s Cohen’s longtime record label) was in the audience, heard the song, and signed Jeff Buckley right away.  Jeff’s studio version appeared on his 1994 album, GRACE.grace

GRACE would turn out to be Jeff Buckley’s only album.  In late May 1997, while in Memphis, Tennessee, Jeff Buckley went for a swim – fully clothed – in a channel of the Mississippi River and died of accidental drowning at the age of 30.  His version of “Hallelujah” took awhile to find an audience, but when it did, you couldn’t escape it.  It’s been widely used in television shows and films, and on April 20, 2013, just days after the Boston Marathon bombing, it was played at Fenway Park at the home opener for the Boston Red Sox, for a tribute honoring the victims of the bombing.  Jeff Buckley’s version has sold well over a million digital copies. jeff-buckley-hallelujah

On my little 20-year-old radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), in 2006, to mark the tenth anniversary of the show, I compiled a list of the 80 BEST 80s COVERS (1980-2005), and both the John Cale and Jeff Buckley versions were tied at No. 3 on the list.

A long way from Leonard Cohen’s dirge and gospel-influenced original version of  “Hallelujah,” the song has been covered over 300 times in 32 years, including covers by Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Bob Dylan, Regina Spektor, Willie Nelson and Bono of U2.  In 2010, as part of the HOPE FOR HAITI NOW benefit album, Justin Timberlake, Matt Morris and Charlie Sexton took a version of “Hallelujah” to No. 12 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and most recently, the Texas A Cappella group Pentatonix took their version to No. 32.

Leonard Cohen has an incredible amount of accolades which spans decades, and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008 by Lou Reed, who said that Leonard Cohen was in the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.”  Of Leonard Cohen’s songs, Matt Johnson of The The said, “When I listen to his songs, it’s a simple, stripped-down naked soul.”  On Matt Johnson’s Twitter page for The The, he said, “I was lucky enough to have dinner with #LeonardCohen when I was a young songwriter of 22.  He gave some great advice. RIP x”

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A photo of Leonard Cohen via Matt Johnson’s tweet tribute on The The’s Twitter page…

Leonard’s also in the Rock And Roll Songwriters Hall Of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame, recipient of a 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2011, was named a Companion Of The Order Of Canada, which is Canada’s highest civilian honor.

Back in the early 80s, Leonard Cohen once said of himself, “I get tagged as an art-song intellectual, but I’ve always tried to have hits.”  Well, Leonard, within the next couple of weeks, you’re gonna get your wish.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least a half-dozen versions of “Hallelujah” flood the Top 50 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including his original) and other singles charts around the globe.  Hallelujah indeed. 

R.I.P. Leonard, and many, many thanks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttEMYvpoR-k

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