I like to read autobiographies (most recently “Heart and Soul” by Carol Decker of T’Pau) and biographies. When I was listening to an episode of the Don’t You Forget About Me – The New Wave Music Podcast, during which they did a review of “Science Fiction” as well as “Transcendance” by Berlin, they mentioned how the person on one of the tracks of “Transcendance” was Richard Blade. They also mentioned how he had had a relationship with Terri Nunn of Berlin and that this was discussed in his autobiography. This already got me interested, but when it was mentioned that people such as Terri also provided their voice to the relevant part of the audiobook, I decided that it was the audiobook that I should get. I have just finished listening to it and absolutely loved it.
Let me begin with a bit of context. Other than a few passing mentions of Blade (such as in Pet Shop Boys versus America), I was not familiar with Blade at all. Berlin was never that popular in the UK (for reasons I will never understand) and so I don’t think there was ever much mention of him and his relationship with Nunn in the music magazines that I bought (Berlin hardly got any press over here). I have never lived in LA, where Blade became primarily based, never heard one of his radio shows, and never, as far as I’m aware, seen one of his TV shows. I realise, from listening to the autobiography, that this may seem odd to many people – not just in the US, but also in other countries. But for whatever reason, Richard Blade was just not a name or a person that I had been aware of. For me, that he had had a relationship with Terri Nunn and his surname is about the same as the nickname of my favourite football team, Sheffield United “The Blades” was all I had to work with.
I deliberately didn’t look at Blade’s website or Wikipedia entry until after I finished the book. The summary Wikipedia entry is as follows, however:
Richard Blade (born Richard Thomas Sheppard; May 23, 1952 in Bristol, England) is a British-American Los Angeles-based radio, television, and film personality from Torquay, England. He is best known for his radio programs that feature new wave and popular music from the 1980s. He was a disk jockey at KROQ in Los Angeles from 1982 to 2000 and has been a host for SiriusXM’s 1st Waveclassic alternative station since 2005https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Blade
And so I embarked on the autobiography not really knowing what to expect. Just a few minutes later I was hooked. After Blade introduces the book and how it will work, we get the first contribution by another person – his wife – and it’s hilarious. Blade has such a wonderful voice and I can understand why he would have been (or still is) such a popular DJ. He, and the other contributors, speak with such enthusiasm and clearly try to recreate how the words were said at the time, not just what was said.
In a wonderful bit of coincidence, the day that I started listening to the book, I had just taken my mother away for a weekend break; she lives in Bristol (where Blade was born) and we went to Torquay (where Blade grew up). This is not the only coincidence that would happen.
All of the chapter titles (and the book itself) are named after some of Blade’s favourite songs. I do this with many of novels (e.g. “Tokyo 20/20 Vision” and “FOUR“) as I have written about in a post “FOUR” and its Swedish Links. The titles help hint a bit at what is to come in the chapter and in the case of Blade helps us gain a further understanding of his musical tastes.
Let’s be clear – Blade has had an exciting life and it’s worth listening to the audiobook for that reason. Even the parts when he was a child and before he got to the US are really interesting and full of great stories. Once Blade is in the US and starts to get roles on the radio, it’s possible for me (as someone who was growing up with music in the 80s) to be more appreciative of the acts and music that is referred to. But it’s not just the music. Blade starts doing adverts on the radio. And this is where the connection to “Show Me Tonight” on Berlin’s album “Transcendance” comes in – as I commented in my review for that album:
“Show Me Tonight” – This track features Richard Blade, a Los Angeles-based radio, television, and film personality, providing a fake advert which pretty much sums up what many of us imagine life for many in Los Angeles itself revolves around… Anyway, the track is a lot of fun.Transcendance by Berlin – Contemporary New Wave at its Best
When I first heard the album and this song, I remember thinking “Who is this guy?” I enjoyed the song and even Blade’s contribution – but didn’t appreciate it’s significance. I’m sure there would be many (particularly from the LA area) of my age who absolutely adore Blade’s contribution to the song and the nostalgic element it would add.
Soon after Blade is on the radio in LA, he starts to promote Berlin and comes to meet Nunn. Not only that – they date and he asks Terri to marry him. I’m not sure I knew this bit of Terri’s history. I certainly didn’t know the bits that came next. What he ends up doing to Terri is awful. I was so mad listening to it (though given that Blade contributed to “Transcendance”, I realised they must have worked things out in some way, so I kept open a route for me to also forgive him).
Anyway, moving on from Berlin, what comes next is pretty much a who’s who of 80s music. “Mad World” by Tears for Fears gets a special mention and connection (which I won’t spoil here) – but note as the next time I was listening to the radio (Absolute 80s), that very song came on. This was followed by Adam Ant – who had also recently got a mention in the book. In fact the radio station felt as though it may just as well have been KROQ, but was missing Blade himself. Everyone seemed to be connected to Blade (just wait until you listen to the Acknowledgements at the end of the book).
Only one band, for me, was missing. My favourite – Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Not a a total surprise as Frankie never really made it in the US. And then, in the book, Blade goes into detail about how he first listened to “Two Tribes” – not the 7″ version, but the definitive 12″ version, the Annihilation Mix (in my view (and the view of many others) the greatest 12″ song ever – as is discussed in my book “Frankie Fans Say“). Not only did Blade describe to the radio audience every detail about the vinyl as he opened it & put it on, he loved it, and promptly played the full version (about 9 minutes) not once, but again and again. Wow. I can’t imagine this ever happening anywhere. OK, so he’s forgiven for the mistake with Terri (if she can forgive him, after this “Two Tribes” moment, I’ll give him a pass).
Throughout the rest of the book we learn more about Blade’s interactions with Duran Duran (love the stories about “Rio”, and then the “Girls on Film” being played on a plane) , Wham!, INXS, and especially Depeche Mode. Depeche Mode were never a favourite group of mine – but I did see them on the tour which culminated with the 101 concert. They were great. And as I’ve got older, I’ve appreciated just how great they were/are. I just watched the 101 concert video – and there’s Mr Blade! (I also watched INXS live at Wembley after its mention in the book – what an amazing concert, shame I never saw them live myself as they were, for a while, my favourite band).
The book, like so many autobiographies, has gaps – not least of which is that Blade is still alive so every year there are surely more stories to be told that had not happened at the time of completing this book. I want to know more. The book finishes on a slightly sad note – and I listened to it during a journey to and from my aunt’s funeral, which made it all the more poignant. But it’s such a great book. I want to get the albums that were a collection of Blade’s favourites. When I go to California this year I want to hear Blade on the radio. I want to meet this guy.
You have to get this book. You have to get the audiobook. The audiobook doesn’t have the photos, but I have the eBook too – so at some point I will try to go back through and take a look at the photos (shame they aren’t grouped together, from what I can tell, to make it easier to find or Kindle doesn’t have a way to skip to photos). I am sure this will be a book that I will read & listen to again and again. Hopefully it will also inspire Terri Nunn and others in the book to do their own autobiographies.
See also Richard Blade’s website at: https://www.richardblade.com/