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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—R.I.P. Larry Lujack Edition

Born in Iowa and raised in Arkansas, Larry Blankenburg dreamed of going into wildlife conservation when he entered the University of Idaho. He got a job at a local radio station just to pick up some cash. His original dreams were put on hold as he worked his way up the ladder to become perhaps the biggest rock 'n' roll DJ in Chicago history. Along the way, he changed his last name to Lujack, after the star Notre Dame football player. Nine years after he got his start in radio, he made it to Chicago, ending up on both sides of the dominant rock stations of the late '60s and early '70s, WCFL and WLS. He started at CFL, quickly moved to WLS (both during 1967), and then jumped back to WCFL, where he was their afternoon drive time star. By the fall of 1976, he was back at WLS and became a morning star, and eventually created his popular Animal Stories feature. What made Larry Lujack great? In an era of fast talking, jiving DJs and nice guys, he dispensed with all apparent artifice. His style was relaxed yet commanding, as he'd praise songs he loved or go off on tangents about things bothering him. He mastered the skill of making it seem like he was talking one-on-one with the listener. This conversational approach became very influential and arguably paved the way for shock jocks, though Larry was merely irreverent. Larry Lujack passed away last night after a long bout with cancer and I went back and listened to some airchecks. Back in the day, he wasn't my go to DJ, but listening now I remembered how great he really was. Let's pay tribute to this Chicago radio legend by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians – Madonna Of The Wasps (The Kershaw Sessions): The video for this single off of the Queen Elvis album includes a little vocal coda from Hitchcock, accompanied just by a keyboard, but it’s not on the album version. However, for this BBC session, Robyn includes that passage which is very effective on this catchy and cryptic jangle rocker.
  2. The Posies – Help Yourself (Dear 23): To think that when this album originally came out, I was disappointed because it was more mid-tempo and not full of punchy power pop tracks. I’ve outgrown that foolish thinking. This is epic pop with the amazing harmonies of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. Moreover, producer John Leckie helps the band realize an epic sound. The drums on this track pound, the guitars fill all of the space, yet Auer’s lead vocal never gets swallowed. An awesome track.
  3. Dumptruck – Secrets (Positively Dumptruck): One of the ultimate ‘80s college rock albums, with crackling production by Don Dixon. Dumptruck perfected a sound that was part jangle, part Velvet Underground with a melancholy vibe that never gets too resigned, as there are so many catchy parts. This song sounds like The dB’s meet The Embarrassment, which is a high compliment in my book.
  4. The Godfathers – Just Like You (Birth, School, Work, Death): While The Godfathers were at their best on four on the floor rockers (like the title cut of this album), they managed to pull off tender material well enough to justify it as a change of pace. The Troggs had that ability too. This is a sweet song of infatuation.
  5. Django Django – Introduction (Django Django): One of the members of Django Django is related to a member of Beta Band, and I’m catching up on Beta Band and seeing more and more connections. This track is sequenced electronics, sound effects and pounding drums with the band’s airy harmony vocals.
  6. Pulp – I’m a Man (This Is Hardcore): A deep track from yet another great Pulp album. This is one of those numbers that has a real ‘60s pop feel, with a bit of a Phil Spector grandeur, but with Jarvis Cocker added to the mix, it’s not merely retro. The song is catchy and poppy without quite being pop.
  7. Too Much Joy – Unbeautiful (Mutiny): While known for their jokey songs and videos, Too Much Joy did have a sincere side. This is one of their more straightforward songs with an actual stab at mild social commentary. Lyrically, the song really doesn’t succeed, but the anthemic power pop overwhelms this lack of content and demands fists be raised in the air.
  8. The Lighting Seeds – Pure (Cloudcuckooland): In the U.S., Ian Broudie and his aggregation are a one-hit wonder for this swirling slice of pop magic. The drum sound gives away when it was recorded, but it still sounds just as good today.
  9. Nick Lowe – Hope For Us All (At My Age): One of my favorite things about Nick Lowe’s transformation into a mellow crooner is the clever way he fits R & B into his warm acoustic pop. This is a prime example. Lowe and his band find the right low key groove which augments his wonderful vocals. The horns just are the finishing touch.
  10. Aerosmith – Rag Doll (Permanent Vacation): Wow, this is an ‘80s production through and through. Here, the big drum sound works to perfection, as this hits the Aerosmith basics, with some bluesy riffing giving Steven Tyler a chance to scat and rhyme in rhythm. They were painted as guys who ripped off The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds, but they really developed their own sound, and Tyler’s personality is a big part of that.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, larry lujack, mp3

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