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Frost Bite

by Stephen Kelly

So I'm listening to a popular San Francisco radio station the other morning, a very good, AOR-oriented station that caters to a demographic that is probably 30 and up. Every day this station's morning show concludes with a very popular segment called "10 at 10", or as the promo goes: "Ten Great Songs From One Great Year". You've probably already guessed the concept. Take a year and play 10 songs from that year.

The host of 10 at 10 is also the host of the morning show, and he has a vast musical knowledge and the type of soothing voice and quick wit that I enjoy in any morning radio personality not named Howard Stern. While I have I deep respect and admiration for him as both a person and an expert on music, I'm not quite as enamored with the company he keeps on his show, which consists of the obligatory woman, an intensely liberal news guy/sidekick who you can just envision sitting there in his poncho and Birkenstocks, running his fingers through his graying ponytail as he ponders a run for Berkeley city council (of course, in real life he looks nothing like this. That's the thing about radio personalities. The faces and voices never match), and some Irish guy who should be banned from ever talking in public, mainly because ever word uttered from his mouth is usually 1) inane, 2) uninformed or 3) just plain stupid.

Anyway, last Friday's year was 1969 and featured some of the usual suspects, like Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl, The Youngblood's Get Together and Santana's Jingo, as well as some gems like Les McCann & Eddie Harris doing Compared to What, Nothing But A Heartache by Flirtations and one of my all-time favorites, Israelites by the great Desmond Decker and The Aces.

But they also played a song called Mystery Man by The Frost. At the end of the segment when our host was reading back and commenting on the ten great songs he had just played, he boasted proudly that Mystery Man was from his personal vinyl collection, as the song was never released on CD "except perhaps on some obscure Japanese version."

I found this very odd. Never released on CD? Could he mean the single version of the song, or the song itself as it might be found on a CD release by the band? I immediately thought of my friend Gary, who has this amazing vinyl collection. He's one of those guys, who when hearing an obscure song, can boast, "I've got this one on vinyl", because he probably does. I think he actually owns every vinyl album EVER released. That may be an exaggeration (one he would no doubt be proud of) but still he has an absolutely amazing vinyl collection. I’m sure he would have a ready answer for my question.

But being the type of person who doesn’t like taking the easy route, I decided to do a little investigative digging, starting with a Google search on The Frost, a short-lived band who released three albums between 1969 and 1970. They were led by songwriter/arranger/guitarist Dick Wagner, who I was surprised to learn has an impressive pedigree in rock music, having played guitar on albums as diverse as Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, Kiss’ Destroyer, Peter Gabriel’s first album as well as albums by Air Supply (hey, a guy’s gotta eat), Etta James, Tina Turner, and Flo & Eddie. He was, and continues to be, Alice Cooper’s right-hand man, having played on, composed and arranged what looks like nearly every Alice Cooper album since 1972’s classic School’s Out. Talk amongst yourselves as to whether that’s a good thing, but there it is.

Having established just who Dick Wagner and The Frost actually were, my next stop was an Amazon search, which revealed that they’re not the only The Frost in town. But I had a feeling that albums with titles like The Frost’s Greatest Joints (Explicit Lyrics), Smile Now, Die Later (Explicit Lyrics), and Still Up In This $#*+! (Explicit Lyrics), probably belonged to late-nineties rapper The Frost and not The Frost I was looking for.

(A quick question: does any sentence that contains “$#*+” really need an exclamation point? I think they’ve made their point with the $#*+, don’t you?).

Finally, like Indiana Jones closing in on The Holy Grail, I found the three albums recorded by The Frost, each of which contained Mystery Man. We’re squarely in 70’s-rock country here, folks, because the album covers are glorious examples of 70’s cheesy design. There’s the obligatory close-up montage of the individual band member’s sweaty, exhilarated faces (a/la Creedence’s Chronicle Vol. 1: 20 Greatest Hits) that graces the cover of Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. When an album calls itself rock n roll music it had better be a rockin’ album. Otherwise you’re making false claims. Having not actually heard the album, I’m taking The Frost’s word that this album indeed rocks.

The two other The Frost albums I uncovered were Frost Music, whose cover is rather unremarkable, some black and purple medieval design that could have been lifted from early Jethro Tull. But my absolute favorite is the cover of The Frost’s Greatest Hits (Live), which features an illustration of the mugs of the (now) four band members chiseled into the side of an iceberg! Just in case that isn’t transcendental enough, there’s a pod of orcas splashing around in front of the iceberg. I don’t even have to hear the music to want to own this one. This one measures a 9 on the Cheesometer and I must own a vinyl copy of this awesome example of cheesy 70’s album design. And the fact that it’s live just makes it that much more exciting, doesn’t it?

At this point you may be asking, what’s the point? Why so much ado about nothing? Well, there's no point, really. Besides being downright Mulderesque in it’s dogged pursuit of the truth, my approach to finding an answer to my question perhaps reveals something deeper about my anal-retentive personality and a deep need to prove other people wrong.

So what gives. Mr. Radio Host?