ROCK OF THE 1980’S
These guys were as weird as their music. Accomplished jazz musicians, they almost created the group as an insult to the music industry. Very fun to talk to, they relished their mystery. Mystery is something missing from today's art in general. Movies especially. So here I am destroying it. Their real names are Don Fagenson and David Jay Weiss. There was a certain elegance to physically exhibiting an artist's product. There I am with it in my hands. No more.
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by Debbie Leavitt
Wendy O. Williams, of the electrical taped-nipples and porn past, was the perfect front woman for a punk outfit. They would destroy things. Cars, TVs. Wielding a chainsaw with a chainsaw voice, she always had political sentiment whether it made sense or not. I can find this poster nowhere online.
photo Debbie Leavitt
photo bt Debbie Leavitt.
This reminds me of when I got in trouble with a girl I'd just broken up with. She got so mad at me she emptied a vacuum cleaner bag into my car, two weeks in a row. You see, the girl I'm with is her sister. I always liked hanging out with Joan Jett. I was in the studio with The Runaways one time when Kim Fowley was producing. On another production, Kim, directing me on the synthesizer, told me to do my dog urine.
Rodney and I both took credit for supporting Adam Ant. This was probably the day of a show at Perkin's Palace. Since I arrived in 1978, this mural was the only permanent evidence of the radio station's existence. I would describe his mood during my interview that day as charmingly pretentious. The now-defunct Independent Media Center describes Old Town Pasadena in 1981 as “a burnt-out bastion of dive bars, porno parlors and low-end department stores and thrift shops.” Welcome, ADAM ANT!!
I must have met with Richard Butler a half-dozen times, and we always had laughs. One night before a show at the Forum he asked if I had decent seats, and I said, yeah, not bad. When he came onstage and saw me dead center in the front row, his eyes jumped out of his head. Later he said, he remembered me saying I had decent seat, but he never expected me to be right under his nose whilst singing. I explained that, yes, I can always get free seats, but if I really want to see, I always purchase tickets. On this occasion, I actually asked Goldenvoice if I could buy front row center and they let me, knowing I never ask such things. Note long-time Music Director Lisa Worden on right, left below me is Assistant PD Gene Sandbloom, who today runs Roq of the 80s.
photo by Debbie Leavitt
When we were on a listener vacation to Hawaii, Danny and buddy Jed The Fish had truly a blast. Partying in one of the suites at the Reef, a few days later 300 KROQ listeners went to see Oingo Boingo at Aloha Stadium.
During the Whammy tour, if you took a photo backstage with the B-52s, you had to wear a hat, a wig, or otherwise be goofy. Their last time out with Ricky Wilson, left.
Warren Zevon I miss. Alcoholism. Just adore his music. To Warren's right is KROQ Music Director Larry Groves. Larry was Program Director Rick Caroll's Music Director. He was known for the saying, "Ricky don like it." That's what he would say to promotional people to signal that he had played it for the Program Director, and it got a thumbs down. I call that KROQ logo the party hat logo. 1985. I just added banjo to Werewolves of London, so if you have me dj for you you get mutations like that.
At least I stood up for this one. Erasure with Jed The Fish.
This was a group actually grateful for their success. This was when they were touring extensively with groups like Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, and INXS. Animotion was from Los Angeles.
Once established as Talking Heads members, Chris and Tina ventured out with a solo project. Tom Tom Club had an instant hit with Genius of Love, and I was still wearing free tee-shirts. This was their first son.
Jed The Fish and Dusty Street at a party in Santa Monica. Photo Debbie Leavitt.
Don't be fooled by the smile. This was torture for David Byrne, and he's only smiling because the interview was over. He is one of the truly fascinating artists I have ever spoken with, and I am a huge fan. Not necessarily of the Red Momo album, which he was there to promote, but his work continues. I can't say that about all the greats. Sometimes being a fan does not serve the discussion.
Backstage at the Bowie Glass Spider tour, the most amazing guitar player Adrien Belew, entertains KROQ DJs Lewis Largent and Jed The Fish, Dodger Stadium, 1987. This was the tour Peter Frampton played guitar as well.
I wish you had a color photograph so that you could see how hideous these curtains were. Always drawn, they hid all kinds of secrets. Here, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, at this point were seven albums into their career. Subterranean Jungle interview.
Whadday know. Amazing who you run into in the KROQ control room. I can't figure out why Bonnie Raitt was there, other than to sniff something with our program director. I'm sure he did her the courtesy of actually playing her album for a week. She was sweet.
The one that almost got away was Elvis Costello. A fan since 1977, I thought of him as this elusive, difficult artist that would have nothing to do with me. Along came Trust and that changed a bit. True, the LP needed help, but I have rarely met such a gentleman. He brought albums, each cover in a plastic sleeve, and each sleeve in its own velveteen slot. I was impressed with just his record box! So much for the angry young man.
I think this was for the True Stories album, as David moved closer to a solo career. Always an impeccable dresser. Pasadena control room.
A rare photo of early 1980s KROQ Program Director Rick Carroll to the right of Lou Reed. Jeff Naumann, in the blue shirt, was a promo guy for Virgin in the 80s. Oh, my god. He got so yelled at by Lou that day when he asked him to sign his copy of Metal Machine Music. "Don't you EVAH, EVAH, show me a picture from my past AGAIN!!" Evidently Lou was a little sensitive in early sobriety. In a private moment, he looked at me and could tell I was having problems. He gently assured me if I went to a meeting it would make me smile. Awww!
It's rough for the American radio listener to hear a heavy Liverpudlian accent. Paul McCartney learned to clean his up a bit, Ian McCulloch not so much. His subdued voice does not help. At least he left a sizable souvenir booger on the wall of the Burbank men's room, which remained for nearly a year.
Eddie Money and Bryan Adams
Day on the Green
The thing I remember most about this interview is I got Bono to imitate Naked Lunch author William Boroughs. Evidently, the greatest lead singers are adept at imitation. I also remember they smoked like chimneys and brought a case of Guinness, promptly consumed by off-air KROQ staff.
The Ramones were seven albums into their career when Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone visited the Pasadena studio in 1983. Never afraid of the hard work it takes even an established band to live on, I did tons of appearances with them, sometimes nights for in a row. Maybe you saw them at Knott's. Johnny lived in Los Angeles for several years and I would regularly see him at gigs I announced.
In a world seemingly obsessed with diversity and individuality, it's somehow harder to stand out. One area making this easier is the legal trend toward protecting hairstyle. Do you have a story about new wave hair discrimination from the 80s?
In a world seemingly obsessed with diversity and individuality, its somehow harder to stand out. One area making this easier is the legal trend toward protecting hairstyle. Do you have a story about new wave hair discrimination from the 80s?
— jedthefish (@jedthefish) June 30, 2019
The Weird Science/Dead Man's Party synthesizer. Danny actually asked for this back, and I tried several times to return it. I think it was Leon of Oingo Boingo who sewed the cover for it. If this isn't cool memorabilia, I don't know what is.
Kate and Fred stopped by for an interview after I had carved a jack-o-lantern in the KROQ control room. It was a sad time for the band with Ricky having passed just months before. They did not tour for the album. Warner Bros. Promotion person Paul V. was outraged at my criticism of the album.
One of the bands I had forgotten I interviewed, Big Country, except for this Debbie Leavitt photo. The Scottish must find it oppressive in the US these days, particularly if they smoke.
I know, how many photos of me in the Pasadena control room can you stand. But there I was with INXS shortly before the first US Festival in 1982. Great smile on Michael Hutchence.
The day I asked him about the lyrics for Hungry For You. The part in question says “Mais non pouvons faire ce que nous voulons.” I asked him why the line said must I pooo poo fester on the poo poo lawn. The way he corrected me indicated it was a serious question. Very English, he said, “No, no, no...,” dramatically descending in pitch. This was before their September 6, 1983 appearance at Hollywood Park, Synchronicity Tour.
Gary Numan on air with me at the KROQ studio. This picture is copyright (C) 2019 Joel Gelfland Photography, and is presented here with kind permission.
Before they got huge, Wang Chung stopped by the KROQ studios to promote Points on a Curve. I always thought Jack Hues was an odd sort of good-looking, like he was genetically modified. They actually made themselves into a verb, as in "everybody Wang Chung tonight."
Girl harvesters Depeche Mode with three winners at varying stages of innocence. I'm sure at least one wound up at the Sunset Marquis that evening. A truly legendary KROQ group -- and a favorite of Richard Blade's -- they did perhaps the most concerts for us. If guys thought they were gay, it was just fine with them.
Now this was audacity that could never happen today. KROQ took 200 listeners to Hawaii. Twice. The first time the GoGos played and Richard got hired. The next time Oingo Boingo played at Aloha Stadium. April Whitney, R, next to Freddy Snakeskin. Then Danny Elfman, Steve Bartek comically peering in over Vatos. Dale Turner in the shades looking at me, behind him Kerry Hatch and Richard Gibbs in the striped shirt. The hotel was very angry.
Just after the interview, the station was swarmed with fans. Here is the boldly-named Elvis, before he got in his limo. Pasadena.
This guy is as genteel as Peter Gabriel. Steven Patrick Morrissey, in his solo years. When Johnny Marr was playing with the Smiths, he grabbed a drumstick and bashed his guitar with it during The Queen is Dead. He then threw it right to me. A security guy was --I thought -- trying to grab it from me, but assured me that unless I immediately took it to my car, it would indeed wind up snatched.