Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rock Over London

Oh the free-wheeling days of one's youth. When I was about ten or thereabouts, I began listening to quite a bit of music. MTV had already launched and at that time, the music video channel was still all about music [and videos]. I loved watching MTV and rapidly gained a whole new knowledge base of bands and singers from the US, the UK and Down Under. I was introduced to artists like Duran Duran, the Eurythmics, Split Enz, and The Police through MTV. A little later on 120 Minutes, the alternative music video show on MTV, introduced me to more obscure names. I was enchanted and enthralled by the mix of music and visuals, many of which were very creative and cutting-edge for the times.

As a child of the 80s, I must admit to overwhelming feelings of nostalgia when I hear music from that era, no matter the genre. I was pretty open-minded about pop culture, and there wasn't much I wouldn't listen to or watch. In 1984, children were given another avenue to watch music videos and you can bet I took NBC up on it. Kidd Video joined the Saturday morning cartoon line-up on the major network, combining cartoon characters and gripping plotlines with music videos. Gripping plotlines. Heehee.

But despite my love for television and thusly music television, there was one program on the radio that I looked forward to every week. Rock Over London cemented my fondness for British new wave musical acts, which was and continues to be my ultimate favorite musical genre, and as an easily-influenced youngster heading into her tweens, I was instantly hooked. I had recently become enraptured by British culture from watching British television programs, mainly on PBS via cultural powerhouses Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery. Doctor Who had also come into my life during this time. Needless to say, any movie [Oxford Blues], television show including American ones featuring English actors/characters [Ian on Fame who apparently was not English in real life], and musical group or performer of the British persuasion garnered my serious attention, and perhaps adoration?

The things that I loved most about Rock Over London was number one, the show was broadcast from England! My sis and I would huddle over our little portable radio, with its antenna up and ready to receive transmissions, and eagerly anticipate hearing Graham Dene's cheery voice begin the broadcast. Dene's voice was instantly recognizable and with great wonder, we would wait to see what he would play and who. At the beginning, there were so many artists we knew nothing about because, although he would play new releases from established acts who we were familiar with from MTV or mainstream radio, mostly Dene would introduce songs from British acts that were relatively unknown to most Americans. But as we became loyal listeners, we became "in the know", and could spout off a few dozen names of bands and singers that would make our friends from school raise up their arms and shrug their shoulders, as fifty jelly bracelets in a rainbow of colors slid down to their elbows.

So who were those British artists, whose poetic prose and dreamy instrumentals inspired us so? Well there were many and quite sadly, I've forgotten alot of their names over time as it was more than 20 years ago, and my memory is not good. Some of them became well-known in the States, while others became popular to only those of us "in the know", and others still were one-hit wonders never to be heard from again. That's probably not true, but unfortunately we never seemed to hear anything else from them. I do remember taping songs from Morrissey - Every Day is Like Sunday, Indigo Eyes from Peter Murphy, Its My Life from Talk Talk, Angel Eyes from Wet Wet Wet, Pop Goes the World from Men Without Hats [who are from Canada but I think the song was played on Rock Over London] and...I can't think of any more!

But ahh, from my savvy Internet research, I've gathered some additional names of British alternative artists who were featured on ROL. And they are in no particular order: China Crisis, Nik Kershaw, Madness, Housemartins, Big Country, Alison Moyet, Scritti Politti, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, Style Council, Bryan Ferry, New Order, Dream Academy, Julian Lennon, Big Audio Dynamite, Cutting Crew, Pet Shop Boys, The Mission [UK], PreFab Sprout, Erasure, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Aztec Camera, Johnny Hates Jazz, Squeeze, World Party, Maxi Priest, Psychadelic Furs, UB40, and Everything But the Girl. Wow. I remember, I remember! I love all of these guys and gals, and I love the Internet. Thanks, Internet, for helping to jog my poor memory. I got the majority of these names off of Ebay selling descriptions - people are really selling Rock Over London-related stuff! Cool.

Although this was a whole bunch of names, it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of all of the British alternative artists I have listened to and enjoyed over the years. Just typing up this short list brought waves of fuzzy wuzzy nostalgia over me, and I'm feeling better for it. Dream Academy...those were the days...

Read a bit more about Rock Over London here at Popdose.

[Photo of Rock Over London is from Strawberry Switchblade, photo of Kidd Video is from Branded in the 80s! and photo of Dream Academy is from Choppercat's Civilian 2007]

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