CJSW Gold: Radio Free Transylvania

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The year was 1981 — Blondie’s “The Tide is High” was topping the charts, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, and CJSW was just a campus radio station pining for an FM license. In these simpler times, CJSW provided almost nothing by way of formal training for on-air hosts. Legend has it that “CJSW Gold” – a photocopied list of “essential albums” – was the closest thing to training new recruits received before diving into the world of live radio.

CJSW Gold proved to be nothing more than a brief moment in CJSW history. However, in the spirit of honouring the past, we decided to resurrect CJSW Gold as a list of multi-decade spanning, genre-bending essential albums, curated by the programmers at CJSW.

For our first iteration, Baron Mark Von Frankenstine XIII gave us his picks. For more music like this, check out Mark’s show Radio Free Transylvania Monday nights from 11:00 p.m. – midnight on CJSW 90.9 FM or online at cjsw.com. Interview by Alex Moher. 

Mark’s Picks:


1. Rocket to Russia (1977) – Ramones

2. Suzi Quatro (1973) – Suzi Quatro

3. Ultraglide in Black (2001) – The Dirtbombs

4. Muerte Del Toro (2000) – Huevos Rancheros

5. Teenage Head (1979) – Teenage Head


1. Rocket to Russia – Ramones

Mark: “Over the last decade or so the Ramones have reached heights of trendiness that they only aspired to when they were still alive and touring.

Despite how fashionable they’ve become, it is important to remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when all their albums were all out-of-print in North America and they were generally seen as a corny footnote in musical history.

Although their self-titled debut LP gets all the glory, no album showcases their minimalist pop perfection better than this one.

Don’t worry about the debates regarding who started punk – that’s just smoke and mirrors.

Your time is better spent listening to this album and trying to figure out how a handful of living cartoon characters managed to create such a perfect checklist for everything that matters in rock’n’roll.” 


2. Suzi Quatro – Suzi Quatro

“Suzi pioneered the template of the tuff, leather-clad female rock’n’roll singer when Joan Jett was still just a teenage dreamer with delusions of grandeur.

Unlike Jett, Quatro actually managed to write more than one good song on her own.

In North America, Quatro is mostly famous for her recurring role as Leather Tuscadero on the ’70s sitcom Happy Days – ask your mom, or maybe grandma – but if you talk to any real rock’n’roll fan from Europe or Australia, they’ll fill you in on Suzi’s status as the undisputed queen of ’70s glam rock.

Her first four albums are all worth a listen too, but she never quite managed to reach the same heights as her self-titled debut LP.”


3. Ultraglide in Black – The Dirtbombs

“Every Dirtbombs album is a concept album, and sometimes their twin-bass/twin-drum/single-guitar formula works better than others.

Ultraglide in Black, their second full-length LP, is devoted almost entirely to covers of ’60s and ’70s soul, R&B, and Motown hits from the likes of Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye – but there’s nothing mellow going on here.

You can still dance to it — one could argue that you HAVE to dance to it — but it’s heavy enough to satisfy even the most jaded punk rocker’s sense of propriety.

The way the Dirtbombs’ savage, garage-punk delivery re-invents the classic tracks on this LP is a master class on how to take another artist’s work and make it your own.”


4. Muerte Del Toro – Huevos Rancheros

“When it comes to Canadian instrumental acts, these guys often take a backseat to the undeniable greatness of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, but Huevos Rancheros’ mastery of the genre is no less astonishing.

On their third full-length album they pull together disparate, scattered influences from the entire history of guitar-based music to create something entirely new that defies being pigeonholed.

You’ll catch familiar bits and pieces of classics and obscure favourites, but even before your puny human brain can manage to identify that bit of melody, or that guitar hook, all the fragments get mashed and twisted beyond recognition into a beautiful patchwork monster that cannot be stopped.”

5. Teenage Head – Teenage Head

“On their debut LP, Hamilton, Ontario’s finest assemble a lyrical crew of the usual suspects — fast cars, girls, substance abuse, mental institutions, etc. — over the sort of swaggering punk/glam/pop/rockabilly that is almost NEVER executed well.

It shouldn’t work, but it works here, and there’s a very good reason that this album occasionally pops up on critical lists of the best Canadian albums ever made.

Although financial success always eluded them, Teenage Head managed to parlay their superior live chops into a career as one of Canada’s hardest-partying touring bands throughout the 1980s – so after you’re finished listening to the album, track down your coolest uncle and get him to tell you about the time he got drunk while watching Teenage Head play at a tractor pull just outside of Portage La Prairie back in ‘86.”