ROCK OF THE 1980’S
exclusive photo sesh
by Debbie Leavitt
photo by Debbie Leavitt
One of my true heroes, Zappa wasn't especially kind when I interviewed him. I honestly was not great at it. He insisted I got into radio to get laid, and actually it was because even as often the best qualified journalism graduate, the news stations were obligated to not hire white men. I simply did not know what else to do. When you meet your heroes, you're often let down. This did little to diminish my admiration and enthusuasm.
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.
Jed The Fish and Dusty Street at a party in Santa Monica. Photo Debbie Leavitt.
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.
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."
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.
Getting away with murder, Part Two. The second and last of two annual trips with KROQ listeners to Honolulu. I love it when Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo grabs me by the hair.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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!
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 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.
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.
Just after the interview, the station was swarmed with fans. Here is the boldly-named Elvis, before he got in his limo. Pasadena.
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.
I think this was for the True Stories album, as David moved closer to a solo career. Always an impeccable dresser. Pasadena control room.
Eddie Money and Bryan Adams
Day on the Green
He was always such a genteel person. Shortly after this interview in 1982, he led a crowd of people from the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach across PCH into the Pacific Ocean. His last encore song that night was I Go Swimming, to be release the next year. Here, he's like a scraggly-headed vampire.
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.
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.
I can only describe my ridiculous hair as a follicle fountain. Depeche Mode has been in the station more times than I can count. Andy Fletcher is probably the member least like a tempermental artist.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
By 1986, Depeche Mode were about to be huge. Here we display a listener license plate in the KROQ control room in Pasadena. Despite claims to the contrary, I played Just Can’t Get Enough the week after it was released in London. I played it because I had heard of the producer, Daniel Miller, who also produced the double a-side single TVOD/Warm Leatherette. Mike Zampelli of Zed Records in Long Beach gave it to me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.