For the past 23 years (with a 3-year hiatus), The Ongoing History of New Music has been the premiere musical knowledge authority for new rock and alternative fans.
Alan Cross, and his passionate dedication to providing quality content for listeners, has resulted in a phenomenal program that both educates and entertains in equal measure. Informative content is not always so easily translated into great entertainment, but The Ongoing History is tremendously adept at delivering captivating storytelling and great music, resulting in both success and longevity.
In the early nineties, there were no search engines to satisfy our collective curiosity with regard to the new and exciting music we were hearing, and monthly magazine articles served as the primary source of musical discovery for many of us. The Edge was the coolest radio station on air, and in 1993, the landscape changed as Alan Cross began to carefully select subject matter for his new show and deliver us with a routine healthy dose of exactly what we were looking for – a history lesson.
Alan connected the dots and became a cartographer of sound – mapping out the roots of the music that would define our generation. Reflecting upon countless hours of listening to The Ongoing History, I have compiled a list of interesting facts I recall learning about vintage Edge artists and songs:
As one of The Ongoing History’s “Ten Bands That Mattered” episodes, Alan Cross delved into The Cure’s origins, previous band names, and the band’s wonderfully absurd vocalist Robert Smith.
Alan explained the connection between the understandably controversial Cure track “Killing An Arab” and the noted French philosopher Albert Camus. The song captures the story told in Camus’ existentialist novel The Stranger. An Arab man is shot on a beach – exactly as depicted in the song, but without knowledge of the novel, the reason for the murder is not provided.
The Moor Murders
Alan once explained the dark inspiration behind The Smiths’ song “Suffer Little Children”. According to the story, the song was written by Morrissey and Marr after Morrissey read a book about the notorious crimes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. The couple murdered five children and buried them on the Moors overlooking Manchester in the 1960’s. Particularly haunting, and met with some controversy, the song mentions three of the child victims by name.
Nirvana stories rightfully earned a lot of airtime on the program. Similar to The Smiths’ “Suffer Little Children”, the story behind Nevermind’s brilliant stripped-down sixth track “Polly” is a dark tale that was recounted during an episode of The Ongoing History. Kurt Cobain read a news story about a 14 year old Washington girl who was kidnapped, raped and tortured after attending a rock concert in 1987 which inspired the lyrics to the song.
Tragically, Ian Curtis of Joy Division suffered greatly in life and committed suicide in 1980 at 23 years old. In the 1993 Joy Division episode of “The Ten Bands That Mattered”, Alan explained how uncontrollable epileptic seizures tortured the artist in life, and how after his death, New Order evolved from the remaining members of the band.
Beyond the name change, the band agreed to completely reinvent their sound and image – a simultaneous farewell to both Joy Division and Ian Curtis. Also mentioned – the classic New Order track “Blue Monday” is rumoured to have been recorded while the band was high on psychedelic drugs.
The Ongoing History’s list of bands that mattered would not have been complete without the Ramones. “Pinhead”, a track released in 1977 on the band’s second album Leave Home, originated the popular Ramones phrase “Gabba Gabba Hey”. The phrase originates from the 1932 motion picture Freaks.
Prior to his lengthy involvement assisting Depeche Mode on their path to commercial success, Mute Records founder Daniel Miller recorded a very strange (yet compelling) single of his own under his stage name The Normal. The first time I heard “Warm Leatherette”, I was introduced to the track during an episode of The Ongoing History – I doubt I would have discovered this vintage Edge recording by myself, even as an avid Depeche Mode fan.
Happy 20th anniversary to The Ongoing History Of New Music!