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From The Digital Sweatshop
The Music, Art and Travels of Alan D. Oldham a.k.a. DJ T-1000.

Detroit History.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

If you read my last entry, you can tell I've been in a nostalgic mood lately, musically. I was listening to Martha and the Muffins' "Danseparc" and it put me in mind of a great musical influence that I had growing up in Detroit that you might not be aware of.

It was a great radio station called WLBS.

LBS started out around 1978 as a disco station owned by the same people who owned WBLS in New York. "Disco and More" was its slogan. They used to play all the 12-inch extended versions of Village People, Chic, Gary's Gang, GQ, Sylvester, ESG ("Moody"), all the big disco groups of the time. I particularly remember that they played the whole A-side of Village People's "Y.M.C.A." album. It was all beat-matched. I was a kid back then and didn't realize that disco was gay. I just liked the music.

As disco died, LBS morphed into a New Wave station by the early '80s. That's when it really got good. All the new music that was coming out of the USA and UK had a home on LBS. Off the top of my head, I remember them playing Missing Persons, Heaven 17, The Psychedelic Furs, Adam and the Ants, New Order, Shriekback, The Fixx, Scritti Politti, Bow Wow Wow, P.I.L., XTC, Gary Numan, The Cure, Kraftwerk, Martha and the Muffins, Suburban Lawns, Haircut 100, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Lords of the New Church, Romeo Void, Translator, The Go-Go's, The Motels, early U2 ("I Will Follow"-era) on and on. Mind you, this was back when these bands were all brand new.

There were some bands that were so obscure that you can't even find them on the Web today. Try Googling Combo Audio for example (a Police sound-alike band with a black bass player).

There was also a New Wave show on TV called "MV3" that used to show videos. It actually ran on the black TV station, TV 62. This was way before Detroit got cable. Only people out in the country had MTV at that time. Because of this show, LBS, and the early Prince ("Dirty Mind" and "Controversy"-era) influence, there were a lot of black New Wavers in Detroit. I was one of them.

People today can never get their heads around the fact that Detroit was once super-cool like that. It was NOT a "murder capital," it was a great place to live and grow up back then.

Towards the mid-'80s, there was talk of WLBS changing formats. I remember me and some friends piling into my friend Eric's car and driving up to the station in Mt. Clemens for a "Save WLBS" rally. There were like 100 people there. Mt. Clemens is basically the middle of nowhere. I haven't been back there since.

I think it was '85 or so that LBS finally gave up the ghost. It turned into a classic rock station. As if Detroit needed another one.

When I got my own show in '87, I used to do WLBS tribute nights. WDET's library had all the stuff that LBS used to play. I should have stolen all those records from the station. Lord knows where they are now.

Electrifying Mojo was good and all, but there were other influential radio shows and stations and clubs as well (WDRQ, WDET, the club Todd's and its resident New Wave DJ Charles English, and on the house music side, Ken Collier among others). All of these factors and great people helped to create the open-minded musical landscape that birthed Detroit Techno, and possibly the reason that there will be no more generations of true Detroit Techno artists, is because that world is gone now.

It's this deep and eclectic musical history, though, that keeps Detroit electronic music artists in the forefront and relevant.

-AO :: 11:25 PM ::


  • Growing up as a child of the 80s in Detroit at the same time as Alan (hi!), I also remember WLBS. Every Monday, they would play the Boomtown Rats as a tribute to that day of the week. As for MV3, Richard Blade was a VJ on that show and I now know you can hear him on Sirius Radio on the New Wave channel.

    There were many great places to go to for music, like Todd's and the Liedernacht, but what made it for me was the way all types of music could be listened to by anyone at anytime, bringing an eclectic mix of people together for music enjoyment.

    Too bad it's gone, or I'd still live there.

    By Blogger MonaLisaOverdrive, on Wednesday, February 08, 2006 1:22:00 PM  

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