Can you believe that MTV launched on this date in 1981—a mere 37 years ago???
I kept going back and redoing the math on that, because it just doesn’t seem possible. I can’t remember exactly when MTV arrived at my house. I know we had cable at some point, and I remember watching MTV for hours and hours. I just don’t know when we finally got it, although I’m sure it was before Live Aid in 1985. What I do remember is that my friend Marsha had it as soon as it became available to residents in Covina, California. I began spending many hours of my day planted in front of her TV as a result. (Thanks Mrs. W!!)
My musical tastes were formed by two things: playing clarinet, and MTV. As a clarinet student, I learned far more about classical music than I ever thought possible. In the years before MTV, I knew more about classical composers than I did contemporary 1980’s-era artists on the radio. By then, I’d cultivated a deep appreciation for Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart, along with many others. That list is long, my friends. Benny Goodman was and still is my hero and spirit animal, right alongside Pete Fountain and Artie Shaw. On the other hand, I really didn’t know much about pop music. I discovered a local radio station – KROQ – before MTV came along, but once the videos got started, there was no stopping me. I relished every single video that came on the screen, along with juicy bits of music news and background information that VJ’s such as Martha Quinn and JJ Jackson diligently doled out in between.
I cut my New Wave and Alternative teeth on artists like Wall of Voodoo, Burning Sensations, The Motels, The Fixx, Visage, Soft Cell, Joy Division—I could go on and on and on, and you’d likely know every band and artist.
It blows my mind that this all began 37 years ago. Can it really be possible? Sadly, I know it is. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.
I wouldn’t mind sitting down in front of the TV to watch an MTV video marathon direct from 1981, even if only for a day. It is a shame we can’t step back in time, for even just one moment. The innocence of youth, hope for what the future might hold, and seemingly limitless energy all seem very appealing right now.
I haven’t given a book recommendation in a long time, but I’m about to offer up a good one! As most know, I grew up in Southern California, probably about an hour from where I live now. If you really want to look it up on a map, the name of the town is Glendora. I lived in the far-less-than-wealthy, southerly section of the town.
At some point during the summer between fifth and sixthgrades for me (1981), I discovered KROQ 106.7. I don’t really remember much about how that happened, except that it might have been my friend Kristy who kind of led the way.
I had an old clock radio in my bedroom starting in fifth grade. When I got it, I had no idea about radio stations – so I just turned the dial until I found one that came in clearly playing music. Nearly every morning I’d be woken up hearing “My Sharona” by the Knack. I still twitch funny when that song comes on the radio! Even so, I left the radio untouched because I had so much trouble finding a station that came in, let alone one with music I recognized.
During that summer between fifth and sixth grades though, I started becoming more interested in music. I asked my friends, and Kristy piped up with “Listen to K-West!” I didn’t know what K-West was, but I figured she’d know, and so when I went home, I fiddled with my clock radio, adjusting it to the 106-area. It was so hard to fix the dial to get something to actually come in, back then. Move the knob a teensy bit too much and it would be static or you’d not get the button exactly on the right station. It would appear to be on 106, for example, but it would actually be 105 or even 107-something. Annoying.
On that day, something did come in, and it was music I really liked. I had no idea what it was, but I stuck with it. I carefully placed the radio back on my dresser and didn’t touch it, assuming I was on K-West, and that Kristy was right. I never listened for that long, just when I was waking up in the morning. At that point, I wasn’t spending a lot of time in my room listening to music yet. I must have had that clock radio set to that station for a good year before I realized what channel it was. Richard started working at KROQ in 1982, and it is just about that time when I remember hearing his voice on the air. My memory might be a bit faded and mixed up (I’ll admit having to come back and edit this post well after I first wrote it!), but I can remember Richard giving out the call sign for the station like it was yesterday!
From that time on, Richard Blade was a constant part of my life. I listened to him nearly every morning, and he had everything to do with helping me shape my musical tastes. If radio weren’t enough, I watched him on MV3 which became Video One, and later on, once I was 18, if he guest DJ’ed at clubs in Los Angeles, I went. (The Palace in Hollywood, and Fashions on the Redondo Beach Pier to name a couple!)
Most readers might also know that I hold Richard Blade responsible for me meeting my husband. Richard was a near-constant figure at Fashions for years. On his fifth anniversary, I went to the club and met Walt. Sometimes I want to thank Richard for that, and other times—well, being married has its challenges, doesn’t it?! Even so, I have a beautiful family, and my children might not be here had it not been for Richard Blade, which is wild when I think about it! I don’t know that I would have ever known Duran Duran beyond being an obscure band from the UK, and I definitely wouldn’t have had my eyes opened to alternative music. Who knew a DJ could subtly influence the direction of my life?
Since those days, I guess I’ve followed Richard. If he’s DJ’ing somewhere, Walt and I try to go whenever we’re able. He plays the music my husband and I listen to, and the weirdest thing happens when we are dancing (and yes, he and I LOVE to dance. It is what brought us together to begin with). I forget about the tough stuff, and we both get transported back to those beginning days downstairs at Fashions. It is like we remember what is really important, and get back to the basics if only for a few hours. Those hours have somehow saved our relationship over the nearly twenty-six years we’ve been together! We’ve had the opportunity to meet Richard a few times, have had a photo or two with him, and now my friend Steven works with him quite often, which is really cool to see.
When Richard announced his autobiography, World In My Eyes, I was excited to get my hands on it. Richard markets the book by saying that we’ll read about the bands we all know – including Duran Duran – but the truth is, at least for me, I wanted to read his story. It’s not his knowing Duran Duran or Depeche Mode that makes the book interesting – although for many, I understand it’s a true selling point. I haven’t even downloaded his interviews with some of the bands I know, I’ve been too busy reading! I’m not even halfway through it yet and I can honestly say – the man has LIVED. It is no wonder why he’s so successful, or why he’s been a constant source of inspiration and learning to me personally. He has had a life well-lived.
The book is outstanding so far, and I have just barely gotten to the point where he moves to California. It is easy to fangirl Richard Blade, and I don’t want to seem too gushy. To many in my generation, he is (in a very vague sense) our Dick Clark. We can leave American Top 40 to Ryan Seacrest—we don’t need him. But Richard Blade? He taught me nearly everything I know about New Wave and 80’s music. He’s open, honest, and cares about people and living things. He has no problem arguing his feelings and concerns, and while I might not always agree, I fully respect him.
Richard is the real deal, and I want to congratulate him on such a wonderfully written representation of his life. I know the diligence required with writing a manuscript, much less an autobiography. It isn’t enough to just want to do it, you have to want to do it more than anything. Richard wrote every single word, no ghost-writers involved, which is rare!
I have no problem highly recommending World in My Eyes. As I said, I haven’t even gotten halfway through it, and I would easily put this on the same shelf with Mad World. We are so lucky to have books about our music and the people who influenced us. I hope everyone grabs a copy. With the holidays coming, I think it would make a great present for anyone who loves music, Duran Duran and New Wave/80s alternative, or knows of Richard Blade! At over 500 pages, it’s the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.
(And no, I wasn’t asked to write about his book, and I’m certainly not being paid to do so – this is all straight from me)
I can’t wait to get back to reading – so I’ve got to wrap this up for now.
*edited because as I could have predicted this morning when I first wrote it – I got the dates all wrong. 🙂
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!