Saturday, January 13, 2024

That 1981 KROQ Doodle

Someone posted this notebook doodle in a Facebook group that I'm in.  It appears to be a transcription of the playlist on Los Angeles' famous KROQ station overnight from 10:15pm - 04:15am, one random night, long ago.  It's kind of captivating.  I set out to decode it and recreate it on a playlist, with pretty good success.

First - the doodle itself.  (Click for the original version as I found it.)

I don't know who created this, but I kind of love it.  It's like a time capsule into the broadcast FM punk & new wave scene of Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1980s.  Most of it was pretty straightforward, but there are some errors in it and some oddities.

First, though, here's the playlist as best I could recreate it.  Then I'll go into the challenges, guesses, and 
errors I came across trying to reconstruct it (noted as orange highlights below).

Youtube Music playlist:  KROQ Doodle

I don't have spotify, but if you recreate this playlist on Spotify (or other services) feel free to shoot me a link and I'll add it.)

Artist - Title (Year)
Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick (1978)
The Go-Go's - Lust To Love (1981)
Squeeze - Tempted (1981)
The A's - A Woman's Got the Power (1981)
The B-52's - Strobe Light (1980)
Elvis Costello - Five Gears in Reverse (1980)
The Rolling Stones - Stupid Girl (1966)
Flowers (Icehouse) - We Can Get Together (1980)
The Tubes - Talk to Ya Later (1981)
Human Sexual Response - What Does Sex Mean To Me (1980)
The Specials - Ghost Town (1980)
Eye Protection - Take Her Where The Boys Are (1980)
Lene Lovich - Lucky Number (1979)
Ramones - We Want The Airwaves (1981)
Ron Wood - F.U.C. Her (1979)
Foreigner - Urgent (1981)
Lene Lovich - New Toy (1981)
Adam & The Ants - Antmusic (1980)
Rick James - Super Freak (1981)
Blondie - The Hardest Part (1980)
Led Zeppelin - Friends (1970)
X - Adult Books (1978)
Rush - Tom Sawyer (1981)
Tim Curry - Summer in the City (1981)
The Jam - Funeral Pyre (1981)
The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like (1980)
Devo - Jocko Homo (1977)
The Pretenders - Message of Love (1981)
AC/DC - Live Wire (1975)
Brian Briggs - See You on the Other Side (1980)
Spider - Better Be Good To Me (1981)
Suburban Lawns - Janitor (1981)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - A Woman In Love (1981)
Pink Floyd - Run Like Hell (1979)
The Go-Go's - This Town (1981)
Pat Benatar - Promises in the Dark (1981)
Oingo Boingo - On the Outside (1980)
Cheap Trick - Reach Out (1981)
Dr Feelgood - Nothin' Shakin' (1977)
Foreigner - Juke Box Hero (1981)
Caution - UFO (1981)
The Crystals - Then He Kissed Me (1963)
Jefferson Starship - Stranger (1981)
AC/DC - Let Me Put My Love Into You (1980)
Rachel Sweet - Fool's Story (1981)
The Doors - Back Door Man (1967)
Killing Joke - Follow the Leaders (1981)
Joe Walsh - A Life of Illusion (1981)
Metro - America In My Head (1980)
Squeeze - Is That Love? (1981)
Ramones - Beat on the Brat (1976)
The Kinks - Better Things (1981)
Dion & The Belmonts - Kansas City 
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Kings Road (1981)
Missing Persons - Mental Hopscotch (1981)
Alice Cooper - You Want It, You Got It (1981)
The Boomtown Rats - Up All Night (1981)
Talking Heads - Take Me to the River (1978)
Oingo Boingo - Nasty Habits (1981)
Hermin Brood - Rock & Roll Junkie (1978)
Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty - Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (1981)
Tonio K. - I Handle Snakes (1986?)
Robert Gordon - Rock Billy Boogie (1979)
Stray Cats - Rock This Town (1981)
The Motels - Danger (1980)
The B-52's - Give Me Back My Man (1980)
Led Zeppelin - Hot Dog (1979)
Foreigner - Urgent (1981)
Romeo Void - Talk Dirty To Me (1980)
Electric Light Orchestra - Hold On Tight (1981)
Spandau Ballet - To Cut a Long Story Short (1980)
Pat Benatar - Heartbreaker (1979)
The Cars - Touch and Go (1980)
David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes (1980)
Devo - Working in a Coal Mine (1981)
The Who - Happy Jack (1966)
Human Sexual Response - Jackie Onassis (1980)
The Rolling Stones - The Last Time (1965)
The Easybeats - Friday On My Mind (1966)
The Go-Go's - Our Lips Are Sealed (1981)
RHPS - The Time Warp (1975)
Elvis Costello - This Year's Girl (1978)
Queen - Rock It (1980)

Human Sexual Response is hard to find.

This was tricky, but I'm pretty confident after listening to a bunch of candidates that this is "See You on the Other Side" (1980) which was written by John Holbrook but released under the name "Brian Briggs".  Right genre, right sound, right year, and the hook really does earn the moniker of "that goddamn Goodbye Frankie song"

Nope.  "Then He Kissed Me" was the breakaway hit by The Crystals, who were basically the successors to The Shirelles.  AFAIK The Shirelles never covered it.

Almost left this out entirely, because Kansas City has been covered by more than 300 artists according to the Wikipedia article on the classic.  But it's a favorite of mine.  I (fairly arbitrarily) picked the Dion & The Belmonts version from the 1950s because it has a rockabilly vibe to it that fits the station... but who knows which version this was?

This was the temporal oddity.  Every reference to this Tonio K. song I could find has it being first released in 1986.  Clearly this playlist was played in 1981 (or very early 1982 at the latest), as it has lots of summer of 1981 hits on it and not a single song from 1982.   I can come up with only three explanations:  1. Tonio K recorded a demo of I Handle Snakes four years prior to his next album and KROQ had it (but no one else), 2. The Internet just completely failed to catalog an earlier release by Tonio K., or 3. This whole list is a fraud and this is the mistake that proves it.

Honestly, given KROQ's amazing history for things like this I think #1 is the most likely.

Another speculative guess, but I'm pretty sure this is the 1979 Robert Gordon song "Rock Billy Boogie".  Of the candidates with similar titles, this is the one that best fits the genre and timeperiod.

Another artist mis-identifier.  Rock This Town is, of course, The Stray Cats 1981 big hit.  The LA band the Nu-Kats never did it.

I just wanna brag that I figured out that this was "Missing Persons - Mental Hopscotch".  I just stared at it and realized that all the letters for "MISSING PERSONS" were in there, subtracted those out, and worked out that what was left made "MENTAL HOPSCOTCH".  It was only after solving it anagram-style that I realized it was written in a two row vertical column format. 

And a shout out to all of Los Angeles' famous / infamous hole-in-the-wall burger places (it really does have more than any city in the world, I'm confident).  This may be the most authentic Los Angeles expression of angst ever:

Anyway.. That was a fun scavenger hunt.  I hope you enjoy!  And if you have any information, disagreements about my random choices, or ideas about the origin of this doodle by all means let me know!

- K.C. (A KROQ fan who never lived in Los Angeles.)

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